1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I was born in Oregon, raised in Alaska, and have a beautiful wife and five fun-loving children that I adore. When I’m not writing, I’m probably at work where I am trying to make the world safer, or at home, hanging out with my family.
I’ve always wanted to write a book. Always. I didn’t know what type of book it would be, but I assumed that someday I would do it. As time marched on, my children grew up and stopped needing me so much. With the extra energy I had, I decided it would never be a better time to start, so I just started typing.
I probably should have taken a creative writing class, but I didn’t. It may have been wise to write a few novellas first, but I didn’t do that either. I’ve always been a, ‘go big or go home’ sort of person, so I just dived right into a giant epic fantasy novel prophetic super-project thing. It was a great choice, and I don’t regret it for a minute.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
In my day job, I work as a law enforcement officer here in Alaska. Most of my career has been supervising major crimes investigations involving child exploitation. In this kind of work, you come in contact with some pretty heartbreaking situations, where children have become victims of some selfish, broken person. As I’ve chased these villains and sought to protect the wee ones, the journey has made the pathos of the human condition powerfully real for me.
Pain is a big part of life, and fear of pain seems to hold so many people back. Selfish people spread the pain around, creating more pain. Faith, however, seems to have the power to overcome much of the negative aspects of these adverse experiences, often reversing, to some degree, the damage that is done. I’m talking about faith done right, not faith done wrong. There are plenty of examples of the latter in our world. I hoped that my book could touch on these things, and maybe help heal some hearts.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers are encouraged, most of all. When they see the characters struggling through difficult circumstances, encountering both victory and loss, I hope readers will take heart that their own circumstances might get better. There is no joy that doesn’t come with a risk of pain and all suffering has the potential to become greatness. That’s the way the world works. I also hope that my readers see the value in faith. I hope that they try it out, if they haven’t already, or at least that they don’t cast a skeptical eye on those who do. There is value when someone believes in something bigger than themselves, and we need all the help we can get.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I have always loved fantasy novels. Maybe it’s the escapism they allow, the complete freedom of participating in a completely different world, that breaks the chains of mundanity that hold us down. I consumed fantasy novels regularly as a teenager, along with an occasional sci-fi novel, and it was a magical time for me.
Young adult fantasy is a great genre to write in, for a couple of reasons. First, you get to write to the hearts of some very passionate human beings. As young adults, we seem to feel passion so much more strongly than we do when we’re older. That’s part of why we often get ourselves into trouble. It is during this formative time that we develop our ideas about who we are, and what our values and goals should be. As we grow, we see more, we suffer more, and are weighed down by the responsibility of employment and family commitments. It’s easy to close ourselves off to new ideas and stick to protecting what’s ours. In my opinion, the motivation to make positive changes in our world becomes gradually lost or at least more difficult.
There is no more fertile ground in which to plant hopeful ideas than the minds of our youth, and young-adult fantasy is, therefore, a very flexible genre to use as a foundation for such an ambition.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I was asked a very similar question recently, and I responded with a different answer than I am going to right now. Odd how that works. I wonder if it was the particularly yummy cup of coffee I just drank that has me tilted just so.
I’d sit down with Nikolas Vorick. He’s the main antagonist in the story, and a victim of some pretty horrific suffering, but his life doesn’t start off with him as a villain. I’d ask Nikky why he let his suffering overwhelm him–why he let it change him so much. I’d ask what might have happened if he’d found a mentor, a kind benefactor to guide his ways; would that have made him kinder? And I’d ask him what his mother’s name was. He never shared that with us in the story. I’m still curious.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Facebook. Hands down. I’m not much of a InstaTweetgrammer, and can’t snap any chats. I’ve tried, and I’m terrible at it. But I like books, so I signed up with one that has faces on it, and we clicked right away.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Writers write, so just do it. Write. Write a journal. Write a report at work. Write a blog. Write something. Practice your craft. Get used to seeing how words fit together, how they inspire, what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback. Don’t seek praise, because that doesn’t help you very much. Get critical feedback. Get disappointed in yourself and then struggle through it. I’ve never learned anything in life by doing it right the first time. Failure is your teacher, but you have to have the courage to fail. The courage to learn.
And there is no better time to start than right now. Don’t wait until you’re almost fifty years old (like me) to start doing what you always wanted to. It’s a marvelous journey, and the highs and lows of building a story are hard to describe other than to say that if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it forever.
Don’t let fear hold you back from doing what you want to do. Suffer. Heal. Grow. Then do it again. This isn’t just good advice on writing, this is good advice on how to live.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Looking for Dei has been built as the first story in a world I’ve called The Great Land. Looking for Dei ends at a great stopping point but pretty obviously begs for a sequel. And probably a few more books after that. I’ve already begun outlining the next book. I have a title, a cover, and have started writing it, but don’t have a specific timeline set out for completion. Might be a couple years before it’s done; I have big ambitions for this one. Stay tuned.
David A. Willson has worked as a restauranteur, peace officer, and now, author. Taught by his mother to read at a young age, he spent his childhood exploring magic, spaceships, and other dimensions. In his writing, he strives to bring those worlds to his readers.
Much of his material is inspired by the “Great Land” of Alaska, which he has called home for over 30 years. He lives there with his wife, five children, and 2 dogs. He is passionate about technology, faith, and fiction—not necessarily in that order.
Looking for Dei is Willson’s debut novel, set in a land where many more adventures will take place. Stay up to date with his ongoing efforts through the Looking for Dei Facebook page or visiting the website at davidawillson.com.