Danica Davidson has published thousands of articles over her career as a journalist. After having written for MTV, The Onion, CNN, and over fifty other publications, Davidson is moving into the world of novels. Inspired by the videogame Minecraft, her novels Escape from the Overworld and Attack on the Overworld are set in the world of the game. Wanting to learn more about her career and novels, Scifipulse was lucky to be able to interview Davidson.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to become a professional writer? Was there a specific book that particularly inspired you?
Danica Davidson: I wanted to be a writer before I could really read – I’ve always been interested in stories. When I was three I’d dictate stories to my parents. That continued until I got confident enough to write them down myself. I think sometime in elementary school I realized I could make a career out of this, because I remember being in first grade and telling adults that I wanted to be a children’s author. (I don’t think many of them took me seriously.)
Yanes: Your novels Escape from the Overworld and Attack on the Overworld are inspired and largely set in the world of Minecraft. Why did you want to tell stories set in Minecraft?
Davidson: This was the craziest thing! I’d sold a book to my publisher about how to draw manga, because I’m a big manga fan and have been reading and writing about manga for years. I’ve also written the English adaptation and edited some manga titles. So I sold this book, and the publisher came back and asked if I had any ideas for Minecraft books. At the time I didn’t even know that there were fictional Minecraft books. I came up with a pitch that the publisher liked and I began to realize how awesome Minecraft is to write about. The game gives you some parameters, but it really lets you stretch your imagination – both in playing and in writing about it.
Yanes: On this note, how do you explain Minecraft’s continued popularity to people who have never played it?
Davidson: I think the popularity is that you can do whatever you want with it. You can play battle sequences and fight off zombies and walking skeletons – or you can build whatever you want. It’s like Legos with no limit because you’ll never run out of supplies. I know adults and teachers often like their kids playing Minecraft because Minecraft can also be educational. You can learn math, science and even English skills by playing.
Davidson: Some of it was practical, because I saw the other Minecraft books from my publisher were for middle grade and young adult readers. But when I was brainstorming ideas, an eleven-year-old Minecraft character named Stevie just sort of stepped out of my unconscious and said, “You’re writing about me.” So he and his best friend Maison ended up becoming the main characters of middle grade novels because of their ages. I’m just along for the ride at this point.
Yanes: Attack on the Overworld deals with the serious issue of cyberbullying. Why did you want to address this topic in your novel?
The first book in my Minecraft series, Escape from the Overworld, deals with real-life bullying from Maison’s peers at school. I wanted to build on that, especially because cyberbullying can be so brutal and it’s also really new to us. I’ve worked as a journalist for years, and journalists sometimes get cyberbullied really badly. We’re public figures and if we write about news someone doesn’t like, sometimes it’s the whole “shoot the messenger” thing and the journalist gets trashed online. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to coworkers of mine. I think it’s really scary when it happens to kids and they don’t know what to do about it. I’m hoping this book can get kids and adults able to talk about cyberbullying and how to prevent it and how to deal with it.
Yanes: Attack on the Overworld is an unofficial Minecraft story. What are some of the difficulties you encountered trying to get this novel published?
Davidson: There were no difficulties for this particular book, thankfully. (That’s not true for everything I’ve written.) The publisher was already selling Minecraft books and my first Minecraft book was selling well, so they wanted a sequel.
Yanes: You are currently represented by the James Fitzgerald Agency. What are some suggestions you can offer for writers looking to get an agent?
Davidson: One piece of advice I would have liked to have gotten is that it’s normal to get A LOT of rejections. I’ve heard writers say, “Oh, poor me, I got rejected ten times before I got an agent.” And I’d feel like a loser because I’d been rejected way more than ten times.
I think the advice of the right agent for the right writer is really true. Agents might sound like the perfect fit on their website and you submit to them, but then they reject you. It could be something going on at their end and nothing to do with you.
For me, I never stopped submitting, and I never stopped working on my platform in the meantime. I was querying agents and sending articles out at the same time and also networking online. My agent was impressed when he saw how much I’d published and that I’d been published by places like MTV, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, etc.
Yanes: Building on this point, how did your non-fiction writing career help you get an agent?
Davidson: After he got my query, he took a look at my website. I’ve published a couple thousand articles, and I have a percentage there. It was enough to impress him and he wanted to talk on the phone after that. He saw that writing wasn’t a hobby for me and I was really serious about this. I recommend writers who have novels also try to publish shorter works because it shows someone out there is willing to publish you, and you can keep building up.
Yanes: When people finish reading your Minecraft novels, what feeling do you hope they leave with?
Davidson: First off, I hope they enjoyed it for the story! I also hope they got some meaning out of it or related to it, like with the cyberbullying angle. And I hope they want to read more Minecraft books, because I have more coming!
Yanes: Finally, what are some projects you are currently working on that people should look out for?
Davidson: Thanks for asking! I just turned in the third book in my Minecraft series, called The Rise of Herobrine. Is Herobrine real? In this book, he is!
My manga book will be released in the spring, and it’s called Manga Art For Beginners. I work with an amazing artist named Melanie Westin, who had been at the manga publisher VIZ Media, and we show people how to draw manga characters.
I want to write in all different genres for all different ages, so hopefully there’ll be more to that list soon!