Featured Image: Photo by Ray Fesenmaier – Author Becky Fjelland Davis visible through a walnut grove.
Authors Rebecca Fjelland Davis and Kirstin Cronn-Mills will both be presenting at the North Mankato Taylor Library Fall Author Series on October 22nd, 6:00 pm in the Police Annex.
When MankatoLIFE is preparing to interview someone for a story, we ask some questions ahead of time. Both Becky and Kirstin put so much of themselves into their answers that we’re going to step out of the way and let them speak for themselves!
A Little Background Information
MankatoLIFE: Where were you born?
Iowa. Born in Des Moines; grew up on a farm near Huxley.
MankatoLIFE: What do you want to tell us about your family, friends or pets?
I live in the country with my husband Tom and Newfoundland dog Freya.
We live in the midst of Tom’s extended family, so we joke that we live on a “compound.”
My adult children and their families live in Calgary, Alberta; and in Boston; Tom’s sons and their families live nearby. Together Tom and I have six grandchildren.
MankatoLIFE: Do you have a website?
About the Writing
MankatoLIFE: Tell us about what you do.
I’m an author and a cyclist. I teach English and Humanities at South Central College.
My novels are young adult, but have appeal to all ages (at least, that’s what I’m told).
Slider’s Son (2017), set in the 1930s in North Dakota, centering around a murder based on a true story, won the Midwest Book Award for young adult fiction.
Chasing AllieCat, about three mountain biking teens who find a body in the woods, is set in the Mankato area, using mostly real places, and was a Junior Library Guild selection.
Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged, which came out in 2003, is about a boy who’s been in trouble with the law, and his neighbor tells the story. How do you be someone’s friend when you’re also afraid of him, but you’re the only one who sees the good in him?
I’ve also written ten books for younger children, most recently Medusa Tells All: Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing.
I’m also a cyclist. The publishing world is so fickle and unpredictable. It’s nice to pour my heart into something else that has some more obvious and instant gratification.
MankatoLIFE: When and how did you start writing?
I started writing when I was six, as soon as I could write a sentence. But life gets in the way of writing–things like raising kids (the most important job in the universe) and having a full-time job. I wrote my first book in 1982, but I didn’t get one published until 2003.
MankatoLIFE: How did you learn to write?
Reading. Reading, reading, and more reading. But I also minored in Creative Writing at St. Cloud State, and I got an MFA in creative writing at MSU, Mankato. I learned tons from my teachers at both institutions.
“Applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and focusing on the story is the biggest hurdle”
MankatoLIFE: What is the process for completing a finished work?
Applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and focusing on the story is the biggest hurdle. Especially now when turning on the computer means the Internet, honing in on the story takes discipline. However, once I’m in the fictional world I am creating, I’m lost there and lose track of time.
Writing a first draft is fun and sometimes crazy, following the characters and their adventures.
Editing and rewriting is even more time consuming, but that’s the satisfying part. My former agent once told me, “Remember, Becky, revise, revise, revise. That’s when the music comes out.”
MankatoLIFE: How long does it take to complete a novel?
Years. For me at least. Some people crank out a novel a year. Since I teach English and have a few thousand pages to grade every semester, my writing grinds to a crawl during the school year. But summers, I write and ride my bike and usually get a huge amount accomplished.
It has taken me at least a year to complete the first draft of each of my books. Then, it’s taken more years to polish them into a publishable state. The average time span for me, from the first sentence until publication is seven years!
“I figured once you write a book, you’re almost there. And then once you’ve edited and rewritten, your work is basically done. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that.”
MankatoLIFE: What is your favorite part of the process?
Rewriting is my favorite part of writing. I love reading the story and characters I’ve created and being moved by them and at the same time, tweaking sentences and scenes to be the very best they can be.
MankatoLIFE: What has surprised you?
What surprised me the most is how much work everything besides writing is.
I figured once you write a book, you’re almost there. And then once you’ve edited and rewritten, your work is basically done. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. It’s a full-time job to find an agent, and/or to work to find a publisher. Then when the book comes out, the author is responsible to promote it–unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
On the happy side of surprises, I was thrilled when Filmmaker Steph Borklund from Columbia, Missouri, asked me if she could make a short film of “Chasing AllieCat.”
I wrote the screenplay, collaborating with her, and with her film students, and she directed and produced the film version a year ago. It’s a 14-minute short that has been entered in some film festivals. When that circuit is complete, it should be available for public viewing.
MankatoLIFE: Is your work available for sale? Where can we find it?
Slider’s Son and Medusa Tells All are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (might have to order it, not always stocked in the stores), and other bookstores.
All of the books are available online if used ones are acceptable. I’ll be selling Slider’s Son and Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged at the Taylor Library on October 22.
MankatoLIFE: Do you have any short stories to tell?
The research for Slider’s Son ended up giving me hilarious and amazing interaction with the folks who live in the communities where the story is based.
When I first came to Pekin, North Dakota, and asked the postmistress where I might find anyone who knew the original sheriff, she pointed me to one older gentleman’s house. By the time my friend and I talked to him in his driveway, two more cars pulled up with anecdotes to share. We went to the local bar, the “PeekIn” (the only place in town selling food), and the bar phone rang. It was for me! Small town research!
MankatoLIFE: How long have you been in the Mankato area? Where did you come from?
I’ve lived in the Mankato area since 1989, when I came here to go to graduate school. I got a job and stayed.
MankatoLIFE: What are your favorite things about living and working here?
The list is as long as life is. I love cycling (road bike, gravel bike, fat bike), hiking, walking, having bonfires with family and friends, having coffee, drinking wine, etc., etc. There are great people and delightful businesses that are community-centered.