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I’m so excited to be back with another author interview! This time it’s with Evette Davis who’s telling us all about her newest book, 48 States, a near-future dystopian novel set primarily in North Dakota and Wyoming.
I read this as soon as I got it in the mail because, if you’ve been here for a while, you know dystopians are one of my favorite book genres, if not my favorite.
I read 48 States in just a couple of days and I really enjoyed it. It even made it onto my list of favorite dystopian books (and not just because of the interview, I actually really liked it.)
So, here is the wonderful interview with Evette Davis, author of 48 States! Enjoy!
48 States synopsis
“In 2042 the United States is recovering from a series of terrorist attacks that upended the government, rewrote our civil liberties, and erased two states from the map. River, a widow, single mother, and veteran of the Caliphate Wars, works as a waste hauling trucker in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota.
Living in a dingy motel room with nothing but her books and a semiautomatic pistol for company, she is weeks away from the end of her contract and returning to her young daughter. Finn Cunningham, a hydrologist with the United States Geology Survey (USGS) in Montana, is suspicious of environmental changes he’s seeing in nearby western waterways and decides to investigate.
His decision sets him on a collision course with River, sending them both on the run. One a fugitive, the other a reluctant participant, they develop an affinity for each other, sharing stories of past loves, loss, and hardship.”
Let’s start with the fun questions
The first question, and my favorite to ask anyone, if you were a tree, what kind would you be and why?
I would be an aspen tree. I like how they shimmer in the wind, and their leaves turn colors in the fall.
If you could only visit one country forever, which would it be and why?
Ugh. That is so tricky, but I would probably say Croatia. I’ve toured the country from coast to coast and inland, and I love the people, the food, and the culture. (Apologies to France.)
What is your favorite book? Or top five if you can’t pick one.
This is tough: Dracula, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, The Historian, The Hobbit. (I’m glad the rest of my bookshelf can’t see this.)
What is a question you always wish you were asked in interviews and what would your answer be?
Why did you decide to become an indie writer instead of looking for an agent? I ask myself that question often when I see the marketing dollars put behind traditionally published books, but the short answer is that the gatekeeper aspect of agents turns me off and their “I can’t sell this” mentality.
I write because it makes me happy, and I can support my creative endeavors myself. I would happily work with an agent if one approached me, but the query letter process, the back and forth, and the publishing hierarchy are a turn-off.
Now onto a little more about you
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
I like to walk, hike, visit new places, cook for friends, and ride my e-bike around San Francisco.
Do you have a curly hair routine or is it naturally that fabulous?
I do spend some time getting my curls into shape. I swear by Moroccan Oil’s curl cream. My secret is that I don’t wash my hair every day.
What is your favorite part about being a PR maven when you’re not writing?
I like helping people and organizations tell their stories. Communication is much harder than it looks. I have a diverse portfolio of clients that range from private developers to non-profits that raise money for libraries. I love learning about their work and helping get the word out about what they do.
Finally, more about writing and 48 States
Have you always wanted to be an author or was that a later decision?
I started writing poetry and plays in elementary school but pivoted to journalism in college and started my career as a newspaper reporter. I drifted away from that into politics and PR, but at some point, my brain started reminding me I was a writer.
I began work on a play about a down-on-her-luck political consultant who suddenly has an ancient female warrior appear and insist on giving her advice. It turns out I’m not a very good playwright, but the work became Woman King, the first installment of a fantasy trilogy I’m working on.
That is a long-winded way of saying I have always been a writer, but it took me some time before I became an author.
What was your favorite part about writing it, and what challenges did you face throughout the process?
My favorite part of writing a novel is the worldbuilding and character development. The challenge for me during 48 States was that my father’s dementia became increasingly worse, and I had to stop writing and use that time to care for him and his personal affairs.
What was the hardest part of the book to write?
For 48 States, the central plot of River, a woman trying to figure out who she wants to be after years of tragedy, and Finn, the man she finds standing in the middle of the road, who disrupts her plans stays constant throughout. I had a clear vision for the two of them from the beginning.
What was tricky and changed over time was the villains and their motivations. Previous versions included more than one aggressor, including foreign terrorists on US soil. Ultimately, I decided to keep it simple, and of course, the world changed.
Red is over the top for a reason, but his outlandish actions drive the book’s drama, and they are plausible. But the plot for 48 States is much more intricate than Red. It’s a series of two-person relationships that each evolve (or devolve) until the six converge.
And what was your favorite part to write? Favorite character to write?
I like writing dialogue. I want to be a fly on the wall, imagine the discussion, and try to draw the reader in. River and Elizabeth share my favor. I’m tempted by female characters who live in a constant state of evolution.
Women are rarely recognized for how much change they endure: girl to woman, woman to wife/partner, or wife to mother (or caregiver). Our bodies change profoundly, yet we endure and evolve and shoulder great responsibility.
We’re marvelous creatures, and I like to develop strong female characters who embody that conflict and thoughtfulness in my books.
When you write, do you plan everything out in advance or fly by the seat of your pants?
I usually write a chapter plan by hand – in pencil – mapping out points of conflict along the way to ensure readers are kept on the edge of their seats. I did a lot of research and map reading for 48 States.
I knew the story would take place in the west and that I would need to get a good handle on streams, rivers, highways, and hiking trails. I also spent time learning about how the United States monitors energy production.
I developed character profiles and spent time writing down their backstories and thinking about the territories and what they would be like if they existed. The plot flowed from that rich backstory.
How did you get the idea for 48 States? Was it inspired by current (or semi-recent) affairs at all?
There is a scene in a classic ’80s movie called Working Girl where the young assistant has to prove she didn’t steal a business plan and is asked to explain how she came up with the idea. In response, she pulls out a collection of seemingly random news clippings that, when strung together, validate her concept.
48 States is a similar story. I interviewed a panel of female veteran authors for a literary festival at the San Francisco Main Library, around the same time I was reading about the explosion of fracking in the United States. National Geographic published a feature about people who moved to North Dakota to work.
One of those highlighted was a mother who left her family behind to drive a haul truck in Williston, ND because the pay was so much better. I’d also been reading about Japanese Internment camps and had been surprised to know that the entire effort to relocate Japanese Americans had been done by Executive Order, meaning without congressional approval.
If you put all of that in the blender of my imagination, you get 48 States. The book took five years and went through several major plot revisions, but the central themes I was interested in: extremism, domestic refugees, and of course, women who transform themselves remained the same.
Is this a genre you would like to write more of?
I have some ideas about not necessarily a sequel to 48 States but companion novels that explore other dystopian themes (drought/reproduction) – more like a cycle.
I’m also finishing the third book in my urban fantasy trilogy and a spinoff series from that, about a supernatural detective agency.
Have you read 48 States? Do you want to read it?