Mid North Coast local, Michael Davies has a unique background as an author. He’s written and published several novels and now runs a foundation to improve children’s literacy by engaging them in the creative process of writing.
What is your background as a writer?
It’s a most unlikely one! I have a degree in Russian Studies, which played no role at all in my life until I started writing.
I worked in the information technology world for many years as a programmer, analyst, systems manager, etc. and after getting a Masters Degree in Business, moved into higher management as an IT Director, Chief Information Officer and high level consulting all over the world.
I started on a novel in my early forties after being challenged to write a book by friends. It was horrible! But five manuscripts and thirteen years later, I did get a psychological thriller, Dreamkill, published in the USA.
I wrote several more novels as a way of keeping my mind alert while living for many years in hotels and aeroplanes, but didn’t get anything else published.
Only after returning to Australia a decade ago after living in the USA for 15 years and finally retiring from the business world did I start self-publishing for the sheer fun of it and also started serious marketing of my works.
> Tell us about some of the books you’ve published.
My favourite work and my best seller is a political thriller, The Janus Conspiracy, which I wrote before Bush became President in the USA and while I was living in America.
To my astonishment, the story of a political conspiracy to take over the USA closely paralleled the events leading up to and after Bush took office, and many people have said that had I published that while in the USA, I would have been investigated by the FBI.
I have had numerous people calling and emailing me to say it’s the best book they have ever read.
Dreamkill, my first, is based on the experiments conducted by the CIA and the Soviet KGB to create a ‘Manchurian Candidate’, an agent with a completely false life history who cannot stop himself carrying out orders and then forgets the mission.
The story has been done before, but I always wanted to write a story of such a person from his own viewpoint who discovers his real identity and works to become ‘de-programmed’.
My other top work, The Nightmares of God is a sci-fi novel about the end of the entire universe, covering a period from the present to many millions of years in the future.
I also believe that the Mickie Dalton Trilogy (see below) is way better than the Harry Potter series, and the reaction I get from kids (and adults) justifies that opinion.
> What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
Getting published! All writers know how impossible this is, and I have seen many fine manuscripts by writers, far better than the big names, who cannot get a look in.
Dreamkill was rejected by 51 literary agents in the USA before one accepted it, and then by 22 publishers before it was finally published.
After that, the hardest thing is to maintain the passion. Like all writers and artists, I can get thoroughly disheartened by constant rejection and all drive to keep writing dies. Creativity declines; the fire goes out.
But just one book sale, one word of praise from a reader, anything positive can get everything going again!
> What is the Mickie Dalton Foundation?
Mickie Dalton is the hero of the kids’ sci-fi trilogy. I had always wanted to write for kids and believed the best way to do it was to write WITH kids.
I had written the first book of the series, about a badly treated English boy of 12 who learns that he’s not human, but nobody knows where he came from or what his species is. He gets to join a vast space-ship that travels the universe as a trader and sets out to discover the mystery of his origins.
With that manuscript, I was lucky and was able to start a project with 15 children aged 12/13 at a high school in Albion Park. It was a life-changing experience, as I found these kids astoundingly engaged, imaginative and creative.
Over three terms, we rewrote much of Book 1 and then developed Books 2 and 3. It was this work that persuaded me to self-publish, as I wanted to make sure the kids saw their work in print before they left school. And seeing their faces when I handed over their copies was worth everything!
I decided then to set up the Foundation so that when money did start to flow, it would be used for projects in children’s literacy and other creative arts.
I have done three more school projects, this time with small country primary schools and had the same wonderful experience of seeing children become excited by the creative process and engaging with me to write three adventure stories.
All three books are published by The Mickie Dalton Foundation, and several schools have bought copies. I have also had discussions with the NSW Department of Education about furthering such projects, because the improvements in literacy in those kids in my classes have been exceptional.
> What does your project with the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre involve?
This is a similar project, but with a difference. The Centre runs a Monday afternoon period for kids to assist with homework.
Gai Newman at the Centre asked me to do a project with a group of Burundi, Sudanese and Aboriginal children aged between eight and twelve. We are writing another sci-fi story and yet again, despite some initial cultural and language issues, the children are excited and engaged by the project and coming up with great ideas for the plot, the characters and the twists and turns.
We’ve had four sessions and will resume in the New Year – should have the book written by March.
> What are you working on at the moment?
A lot of stuff! At the writing class I run in South West Rocks, we have helped one of the class write her detective mystery book and the whole class is now working with a local tribal elder to write her family history.
I have two more works of my own under development, one a thriller left half-written some years ago, which I now want to redevelop and complete, and I have another sci-fi work brewing, though it will probably be another year before I can start serious writing on that one.
And I work with a number of writers helping them get their books ready for publishing.
> Do you have any advice for budding writers?
Keep writing. Write every day or jot down ideas. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, ever give up.” Read a lot of the sorts of book you are writing.
And by all means try the traditional path of getting published through a literary agent who sells your book to a publisher – but remember, it can take years and your chances of success are minute.
Publish it yourself – at least you will see your book in print, you can give copies to friends and family and donate one to the local library – they will be very supportive.
> Thank you Michael.