Hi everyone, and today on the blog I’m delighted to welcome Drew Davies. Drew writes women’s fiction and book club reads. His new novel With or Without You is out on 31st July. I was really pleased when he kindly said yes to answering a few questions on his writing journey.
Over to you, Drew…
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with any particular book that made you go ‘Wow!’
I loved animals growing up, so Gerald Durrell was a big favourite. New Zealand has incredible forests and countryside, but – it has to be said – the animals are pretty boring. The more exotic birds, like the kiwi, are so rare you never see them, and so mostly it’s a lot of sheep and cows. I dreamed of Corfu and a Mediterranean menagerie.
Speaking of menagerie’s, the books that still stick with my from my childhood are actually detailed picture books – one’s like Anamalia and The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base. The one that stands out most is The Ultimate Alphabet by Mike Wilks – I spent days pouring over those pages. Each image depicts as many words as possible corresponding to each letter. I actually just bought the book again now, it’s so incredible…
2) Did you enjoy English at school?
I did – I had an English accent in a small New Zealand town, so being good at English was expected! I loved writing stories. When I was 13, we had to create a fictitious short story and illustrate it. I wrote mine about a pear tree that grew in my grandfather’s garden. After I handed it in, I was called in by the teacher who said he had to mark me down because the story was obviously based on fact. I replied it was all made up, but he didn’t believe me, and my mother had to get involved. After this incident I thought, ‘hey I might actually be good at this writing malarkey…’
3) Are you a full time writer? If so, what was your ‘life’ before turning to writing full time?
I spend more time writing each day, than anything else. I also run a consultancy – search engine optimisation – which I’ve been doing for over ten years, and still love. Whereas before, writing was my side hustle, now I need to make sure I have the support to makemy business run smoothly. Fortunately, I have a great team, and everything (mostly) runs like clockwork.
4) What advice would you give to the unpublished author?
Finish. That’s the toughest thing. Just get a complete first draft down. Everything can be edited and workshopped and worked on, but only if you have the raw materials. We can hold ourselves back wanting to attain perfection, but writing is re-writing, as they say – it’s always going to need more work. So get it down, look at it with fresh eyes, get someone good to help you mould it, and don’t give up!
5) Did you dream about being an author as a child? Did you often wander round bookshops thinking ‘That will be me one day’?
Yes, I was definitely one of those kids. I loved books, I wanted to eat them.
6) Through lockdown, have you found that your reading habits have changed?
Not hugely. I still read as soon as I wake up (after making a coffee and getting back into bed). Reading first thing grounds me. I like a combination of memoir, spiritual books and diaries. Diaries are great at the start of the day, because you realise everyone gets up, just like you, with varying levels of trepidation, and then stuff happens. Whether its Anne Frank or Michael Palin, everyone is wondering what they’ll have for lunch.
7) Through lockdown, what are you currently watching on television? Do you have a favourite drama that you watch religiously?
I’m watching I May Destroy You, which is incredible and challenging, and feels like a very particular anxiety device for me, because Bella is a writer and has deadlines looming, as well as everything else. I tried to get into Normal People, but I think I was the only person in the planet who couldn’t. I enjoyed the novel though.
We’ve been watching more films – especially re-watching Studio Ghibli movies on Netflix. They have the right level of logic to magic ratio for lockdown.
My favourite drama, recently, has been the HBO series Watchmen. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It’s on par with The Sopranos.
8) Can you name one fiction author that you admire, and why you like their particular style of writing? Why do their stories intrigue you?
I love Elizabeth Strout (author of Olive Kitteridge and My Name Is Lucy Barton amongst many others). There’s an ease to her writing, a flow, the way character and story merge – it’s sublime. I also love how “unlikeable” a lot of her protagonists are. It’s a very fine line to tread – you don’t want to put off and alienate your audience, but you also want to create complex, interesting characters. Reading Elizabeth Strout is always a masterclass.
9) When you leave your desk on a Friday, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/the weekend, what do you do to relax?
I usually go for a run around Leyton Flats. Having worked from home for a decade, I understand I have to change my energy from work mode to relax mode. I gave up drinking 8 years ago, so there’s not a beer to help me unwind – so I exercise, or have a bath, or sing while I do the dishes.
10) If you could only listen to Rod Stewart, Freddie Mercury or Brian Johnson (AC/DC), who would you choose and why?
Freddie Mercury hands down. The songs, that voice, and those performances! (Fun fact: I used to have a pretty decent moustache for a time, and I would often get called Freddie Mercury by drunk people on the Central Line on a Friday night).
Thank you for visiting the blog today, Drew. It was a real pleasure to interview you. I can’t wait to read your new novel!
Bio: Drew Davies was born in London and grew up in New Zealand. He attended the Unitec School of Performing Arts in Auckland and won a Playmarket New Zealand Young Playwright of the Year award in 2000. After a brief stint on a kiwi soap, he has worked in Search for the past 15 years. Drew’s other claim to fame is that Stephen Fry once called him droll. Either that, or he got his name wrong. He now lives in Wanstead, London – and is the author of three novels: THE SHAPE OF US, DEAR LILY & WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.
Drew can be found at https://www.drewdaviesauthor.com