Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis at www.davisbunn.com
You’ve written books solo, with your wife and with Janette Oke. What are the pros and cons of co-authorship?
The most important issue facing anyone who is considering a co-authorship is this: First and foremost, establish your own voice. It is very much like a marriage.
It is important that you know who you are, and what is most vital to you and your world, prior to entering into this. Why? Because a partnership requires both give-and-take, and change. You will both have to bend. And if you enter into this without a clear awareness of your own true voice, you risk giving up too much, or being unwilling to bend. Knowing your voice is crucial. Maintaining it, even in this process of change, is vital.
Where do you write – an attic, a nook, or an office?
My writing life is focused upon solitude. Because of this, I like to have a broad open space before me. My desk faces a window, and the window looks out over sky. I had a dear friend once, another author, who said he couldn’t stand such a position, he would not ever get anything done. I feed off the sky.
Why is your official name now “Davis Bunn” rather than the former “T. Davis Bunn”?
Eight years ago, my friends and publishers at Thomas Nelson felt that my writing had undergone a huge shift to the positive – greater depth of character, a more seamless plot development, stronger stories, more powerful themes. They wanted to mark this in a big way, and suggested that as I always went by Davis, I should make the name on my book cover represent this.
Isabella, my wife, and I had some serious doubts about this, fearing the exact sort of confusion that your question represents. But the Nelson team had just gone through a big change in personnel, and we wanted to be seen as team players. So I agreed.
To be honest, I feel as though my writing has been continually growing, just like I hope is true with all of my personal walk. But there you have it. The change is done, and T Davis is now just plain old Davis. I hope you continue to enjoy my books, regardless.
For you, what has been the most difficult aspect of the craft? How did you or do you overcome it?
The one issue that most challenged me was dialogue. There were two problems. First, giving each character a distinctive voice. And second, understanding that the motives of my characters needed to be separated from the over-arching direction of the plot. In other words, I had to make my characters live and breathe apart from where the story was going.
For the dialogue, I began taking a pocket recorder with me into all types of meetings – dates, conferences, coffee meetings, prayer groups, and recording everything that was said. I then went back and wrote out everything I heard. This taught me the individual rhythm of people, and how they expressed their internal desires, even when they thought they kept everything hidden. It was a very difficult, and very beautiful, exercise. At the end of a long month, I had it nailed.
Your journey to publishing was long. Did you ever think of giving up?
Many times. I wrote for nine years and finished seven books before my first was accepted for publication. During this time, I ran a small consulting business in Germany, and travelled to two and sometimes three countries EVERY WEEK.
Every successful author I know has faced the fact that there was no time, nor any real reason to go on. But from this came the valuable lesson of DISCIPLINE. This has proved to be of crucial importance. Because the pressure does not end with success. It only changes form.
There has been much talk on our ACFW writers loop about writing guidelines and “rules.” What’s your advice on this for the new writer? What about the advanced writer?
When I attended a panel discussion with Jerry Jenkins, I spoke about how vital it was to outline. When Jerry started speaking afterwards, the first thing he said was, “I disagree with everything he just said.”
This to me exemplifies the difficulty in establishing rules for authors. What is vital is that you find a means through which growth continues. The issue is crucial. You must be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, yet do so in a manner that fosters positive change.
Too often, a would-be author comes face-to-face with a flaw, and feels this is so great, so difficult, that they might as well give up. We all face flaws, all the time. Growth is the key. Nurturing this, establishing an inner process through which the story is strengthened and we with it, is vital.
Though you have published two dozen novels, Lion of Babylon seems to be a seminal work for you. Tell us where the idea began and how all the complexities of the story came together.
While crafting Lion of Babylon, I was repeatedly struck by how I had spent much of my life in preparation for this joyful task. During my earlier career in the business world, I worked four years for a company in which I was the only non-Muslim in the company’s entire management. I studied with an imam for a while to better understand their history, culture, and religious beliefs.
That job caused me to travel often to Africa, Asia, and almost every country in the Middle East, revealing the very distinct divisions represented by the word Muslim, which to most Westerners conjures up only images of terrorists and violence.
So Lion of Babylon has been at work in my heart and head for a while. Along with visits to the region, I have friends and acquaintances both in the U.S. and other countries who have been invaluable resources for “insider information” on government policies, national security, religious issues, cultural norms, the setting, and so on—all the parts and pieces that go into creating authentic characters and plot.
The original title of this novel was The Green Zone. Why the change to Lion of Babylon? What is the historical significance of the title?
Just as I was completing the first draft of my novel, the film Green Zone was released. Nothing could have been further from what I hoped to achieve in my story. Everyone at Bethany House Publishers who saw the film agreed. There was no question. The name had to be altered.
Lion of Babylon is an expression from the very early days of human history, around the time that Abraham was instructed by God to leave the idolatrous land of Ur. The title Lion of Babylon comes from that same period, derived from the epic poem Gilgamesh. It refers to a hero of the people, one who can be trusted to see them through perilous times. What better way to describe the gift that Jesus holds.
Have you personally witnessed or experienced reconciliation between Muslims and Christians? Or is the reconciliation that occurs in Lion of Babylon wishful thinking?
This sort of reconciliation goes on every day. And to witness this, especially by someone who knows first-hand the tragic conflict threatening to overwhelm these countries, is nothing short of miraculous. And yet it happens, over and over and over. And each time it occurs, it is living testimony to the power of faith in Jesus.
You have a passion for faith-based peace initiatives. How did that passion play into the writing of Lion of Babylon?
The role I play is very small, compared to the amazing and heroic work done by others. But it has remained something very dear to me, and perhaps someday I might take on a greater responsibility. The entire effort, which is taking place in every country in the Middle East and North Africa, comes down to the simple act of bringing the presence of Jesus into the heart of these discussions.
Did you have other motives for writing a book of this nature?
I can still remember the first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia, and all the mysterious beauty of this region came to life. Ever since I began writing, I have sought to reveal some small fragment of the wonder and astonishing richness I have discovered through my own travels. This certainly played a role in shaping this story.
What is the take-away message you want readers to receive after reading your book?
Lion of Babylon is being called a thriller, and I do hope readers experience a ride they won’t forget. Beyond that, though, my desire is that readers will have a new understanding and appreciation of West versus East, of the highly complex issues related to the United States’ involvement in Iraq and Iran, and possibly a new way of thinking about solutions for peace in the Mideast.
I feel that we as believers need to glimpse a world beyond the dark headlines and the fearful strife. We need to gain a higher perspective. I would so very much like to have this story help readers rise up to a new vision of this region. One where Jesus reigns.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website, blog, and interactive discussion group are at http://www.davisbunn.com
Twitter: @davisbunn – http://twitter.com/davisbunn
Lion of Babylon
Marc Royce has been a State Department agent involved in covert operations–that is, until personal issues lead to his dismissal.
When Alex Baird goes missing in war-torn Baghdad, State comes calling again. Alex is a CIA agent–and a close friend of Royce. Three others have also dropped out of sight–a nurse, an aid worker, a wealthy young Iraqi. Are these cases linked? Rumors circulate about a kidnapping conspiracy, yet both American and local officials refuse to pursue it.
Blocked at every turn, Royce eventually unearths a trail of secret encounters between sworn enemies. What he discovers could transform the course of rivalry and reconciliation throughout the Mideast. As the human and political drama escalates, can one man summon the courage to make a difference?