Davis Bunn, T. Davis Bunn
T. Davis Bunn and Isabella Bunn have been collaborating on his books for many years. Her creative plot ideas, in-depth research, and attention to detail are part of nearly every story he has written. In this HEIRS OF ACADIA series, Isabella shares a by-line and provides another level of contribution to these engaging historical novels.
Isabella, an international lawyer, is affiliated with the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. She lectures and writes on topics related to justice and ethics.
Davis, an award-winning novelist, is an extraordinarily creative wordsmith whose talents move between high drama such as THE GREAT DIVIDE to heartwarming stories like THE QUILT. His collaboration with Janette Oke on THE MEETING PLACE, the first novel in the SONG OF ACADIA series, was honored with a Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, 1999.
Back to top.
Internationally acclaimed author Davis Bunn has sold more than six million books in 16 languages. Equal parts writer, scholar, teacher and sportsman, his latest novel, LION OF BABYLON, is an international drama about a man who must unravel the truth when two CIA operatives are kidnapped in Iraq by Taliban forces. In this interview, Bunn discusses his profound interest and experience in the Middle East, his hope that LION OF BABYLON will give readers a new perspective on the United States' involvement in Iraq and Iran, and how the power of faith has become a motivating force in his creative life.
Question: How did you develop the initial story idea/plot line for LION OF BABYLON?
Davis Bunn: Some years ago I worked for a company in which I was the only non-Muslim. I studied with an imam for a while to better understand their history, culture, and religious beliefs. That job caused me to travel often to Africa, Asia, and almost every country in the Middle East, revealing the very distinct divisions represented by the word "Muslim," which to most Westerners conjures up only images of terrorists and violence. So LION OF BABYLON has been at work in my heart and head for a while. Along with visits to the region, I have friends and acquaintances both in the U.S. and other countries who have been invaluable resources for "insider information" on government policies, national security, religious issues, cultural norms, the setting, and so on --- all the parts and pieces that go into creating authentic characters and plot.
Q: Did you have other motivations for writing a book of this nature?
DB: I have a passion for faith-based peace initiatives. The role I play is very small compared to the amazing and heroic work done by others. But it has remained something very dear to me, and perhaps someday I might take on a greater responsibility. The entire effort, which is taking place in every country in the Middle East and North Africa, comes down to the simple act of sharing our faith in the midst of these peace initiatives. Also, I can still remember the first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia, and all the mysterious beauty of this region came to life. Ever since I began writing, I have sought to reveal some small fragment of the wonder and astonishing richness I have discovered through my own travels. Both elements certainly played a role in shaping this story.
Q: The original title of this novel was THE GREEN ZONE. Why the change to LION OF BABYLON? What is the historical significance of the title?
DB: Just as I was completing the first draft of my novel, the film Green Zone was released. Nothing could have been further from what I hoped to achieve in my story. The title had to be altered. LION OF BABYLON is an expression from the very early days of human history, around the time that Abraham was instructed by God to leave the idolatrous land of Ur. The title LION OF BABYLON comes from that same period, derived from the epic poem "Gilgamesh." It refers to a hero of the people, one who can be trusted to see them through perilous times. What better way to describe the gift that Jesus holds.
Q: Have you witnessed or experienced reconciliation between Muslims and Christians? Or is the reconciliation that occurs in LION OF BABYLON mostly wishful thinking?
DB: This sort of reconciliation goes on every day. Witnessing such events with people who know firsthand the tragic conflicts threatening to overwhelm the countries of the Middle East is nothing short of miraculous. And yet it happens, over and over again. And each time it occurs, it is living testimony to the power of faith.
Q: Your writing also has been a journey. You wrote for nine years and produced seven manuscripts before the first one was accepted for publication. How were you able to retain your passion during that time?
DB: I admit it was not easy, and I could have given up at many points along the way. But probably the most significant event was meeting someone who believed in me and my creative gifts. A lawyer, this friend, offered to represent my work and find a publishing home for me. That occurred with the release of my first novel, THE PRESENCE, and I very wisely married her! Isabella is an acclaimed attorney, doing work for the UN related to human rights and ethics, but she also is a beloved wife and partner with me on the writing. Her touch in some way appears in everything I write.
Q: What final thought would you like to leave with your readers?
DB: LION OF BABYLON is being called a thriller, and I do hope readers experience a ride they won't forget. Beyond that, though, my desire is that readers will have a new understanding and appreciation of West vs. East, of the highly complex issues related to the United States' involvement in Iraq and Iran, and possibly a new way of thinking about solutions for peace in the Middle East. I feel that we as believers need to glimpse a world beyond the dark headlines and the fearful strife. We need to gain a higher perspective. I would very much like to have this story help readers rise up to a new vision of this region.
© Copyright 2011, Bethany House. All rights reserved.
Click here now to buy this book from Amazon.com.
Back to top.
In this interview, award-winning author Davis Bunn discusses his latest novel, MY SOUL TO KEEP, and describes how its plot was inspired by his experiences in the movie industry. He shares his thoughts on what Christian literature and film must achieve in order to reach a wider audience, explains how he overcame certain difficulties he experienced as a writer, and credits discipline and determination as key elements to his success.
Question: In your new novel, MY SOUL TO KEEP, you write with authority about the filmmaking industry. Can you tell us about your experience with Hollywood?
Davis Bunn: I have worked on five projects in Hollywood, though none of them have actually made it onto the screen as yet. There are two very different systems in movies --- the independent system and the studio system. Studio-based production has an average cost of $60 million per picture, while indies average about $10 million. I have worked in both areas, though most of my experience has been in the indies. I’m a British Academy of Film and Arts member. It’s been seven years since my first contract in Hollywood.
Q: The novel’s main character, Brent Stark, is a former leading man who has fallen from his pedestal. As the novel opens, Brent is a recovering addict who found Christ in prison. You definitely have a gift for creating compelling “wounded heroes.” Why is it important to you to create imperfect characters?
DB: It’s a really important issue to me. I feel that for Christian fiction to move into the next level of entertaining a wider audience, one of the things we have to do is mature in our story structure. Good writing requires imperfect characters. The strongest Christian has faults. Also, the definition of hero is important, but a little different from what mainstream audiences are used to --- one who triumphs, not necessarily wins. Like Sampson, who died in the end, but was triumphant. A hero is self-aware --- and these are changes that come through faith.
Q: In MY SOUL TO KEEP, an ambitious Hollywood producer makes it her personal mission to destroy the upstart Christian film company in a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath. In your experience, is Hollywood as cut-throat as you depict? What would you like to see change in Hollywood?
DB: A lot of MY SOUL TO KEEP is based on personal experience. The David and Goliath issue is absolutely taken from reality. Mel Gibson’s experience with The Passion is very similar to this story. There are several things that need to happen to make Christians feel at home within the community of filmmaking. It is not just the issue of the message, it is the issue of the hero. The post-modern ethos says that effectively every personal path is equally good. The classical definition of the hero is someone who shows a better direction and, through that, challenges others. This is one reason why there is a growing disconnect between what’s happening in Hollywood and the viewing public. Films with a Christian worldview may be able to provide this missing element. The job of the entertainment industry is to provide hope and comfort, and entertainment that has a positive perspective. In this context, faith could be a natural element. Right now, this is not happening, these stories are not getting the same treatment.
Q: Does the recent success of movies like Facing the Giants give you hope about the future of the entertainment industry?
DB: This is a perfect example of what can happen. Other movies have experienced this remarkable support and success. There was a gathering of Christians in Hollywood soon after Shadowlands was released. That movie did very well.
Q: Your novels have received numerous accolades, including three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction. How have you honed your craft?
DB: I feel one of the reasons that I have had success has been because I have been very honest about my own weaknesses and failings as a writer. One example is in developing dialogue. When I first started off, all of the characters sounded the same. I started carrying a tape recorder with me everywhere. I would secretly tape conversations, and write them out later, to learn the cadences and peculiarities that make up each individual’s method of expression. By the time I finished, I could take that structure and turn it into anything I wanted.
Q: You have written more than nineteen national bestsellers and your books have sold in excess of six million copies in sixteen languages. To what do you attribute your high level of success?
DB: I started writing at age 28, when I came to faith and two weeks later felt an intense calling to write. I wrote for 9 years and finished 7 books before my first book was accepted. Discipline and determination were needed to see it through. The writing is first, success is secondary. Part of the success is the responsibility of living up to the audience.
Q: You have traveled and lived abroad a great deal. How have these experiences shaped your writing?
DB: Personal experiences do generate a great deal of emotional content, particularly when it comes to developing characters. This background has enriched both me and the books.
Q: You currently serve as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University. What does that position entail?
DB: I lecture on writing and creative direction and current trends. It means I am treated as a member of the faculty (Baptist Seminary at Oxford). I have access to all the classes, libraries and faculty at the school, and for research it has been wonderful.
© Copyright 2017, Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved.
Click here now to buy this book from Amazon.com.
Back to top.
For T. Davis Bunn, God is in the details. Nowhere is this more evident than in his carefully researched historical novels, including his latest series, "Heirs of Acadia." For nineteen years Bunn has been a world traveler who lives abroad, has visited more than forty countries, and is fluent in three languages. His experiences and adventures are rich soil for his stories to take root and develop. Here, FaithfulReader.com contributing writer Cindy Crosby talks to Bunn about his life, his collaboration on the "Heirs of Acadia" series with wife Isabella, and the recent hurricane that found him seeking solace --- in books, of course.
FaithfulReader.com: I confess that until I read your books I didn't know what an "Acadian" was.
T. Davis Bunn: The Acadians were French settlers who founded the first towns and villages along the eastern Canadian coasts. During the British-French wars that preceded the American war of independence, the British feared having such a large population of potential enemies on their rear flank. In one of the great tragedies of our continent's heritage, the French were expelled. They were shipped all over the globe --- the Caribbean islands, up and down the American coast, Africa, and some back to France. Over the next twenty years, they gradually began to gather in the backwoods of Louisiana, where they came to be known as Cajun. The "Heirs of Acadia" series continues with the family lineage that was begun in the last series of books I did with Janette, but now two generations removed from those harsh events.
FR: In THE SOLITARY ENVOY, and book two, THE INNOCENT LIBERTINE, you take an interesting look at North American settlers during the birth of the United States as a fledgling nation, England, and the unrest of the times. How does living "on the other side of the pond" in England color your writing?
TDB: These books have granted us a wonderful opportunity to put to good use our love of history and culture. So much of Britain's contemporary life, particularly away from the big cities, still contains elements from its rich heritage. Writing these stories involves hunting down such hidden treasures and putting them to good use. One example has been coming to know William Wilberforce and his mark upon both American and British society. Wilberforce was both a politician and a social reformer. His efforts were driven by his love of God and his sense of calling. We have been immensely challenged and inspired by what we have learned, and what we find still alive and strong today.
FR: For example?
TDB: One example of this is the International Bible Society, which works with several other groups to translate the Good Book into every language and make it available to all peoples of the world. Wilberforce was the founder of this project, more than a hundred and eighty years ago.
FR: The settings and some of the events in your series are rich in detail. Did you base your characters on any particular "real" family in history? Or are they entirely fictional?
TDB: In all of my books, the settings and major events are all both real and carefully researched. The families involved are fiction, but where possible based upon people who lived and impacted their world. William Wilberforce was an exception, and created a great challenge for me. I wanted to be close as possible to the truth, and honor the person and his remarkable abilities as a speaker and a servant of God. I have to say, I feel the writing of those scenes is some of the best I have ever done.
FR: It's refreshing to find such strong female characters in your novels, such as Erica in THE SOLITARY ENVOY and Abigail in THE INNOCENT LIBERTINE when usually it's the men who take the spotlight in this time period in our history books.
TDB: Creating solid female characters in my books has really taught me a great deal about women, let me tell you. It has also been a great growing point for me as an individual. My first lessons actually came from an opera singer and member of our church, who occasionally played roles as a young man where a woman's voice actually sounded better. She said the only way to be convincing was to honestly come to terms with the masculine in her own nature, or the feminine nature in my own case. I think this is very frightening to a lot of people, and it proved an immense challenge for me. But I do feel that the results are clear, a greater depth and genuineness to these people on the pages.
FR: What are the challenges --- and satisfactions --- of writing historical fiction as compared to writing contemporary fiction, such as THE GREAT DIVIDE and WINNER TAKE ALL?
TDB: So much of our society and culture is based upon what has come before. I relish this study of our past, as it teaches me so much about today. But more important than this is my own love of romance and adventure. There are certain stories and emotional concepts that are just better framed within a historical setting. I love writing these books. Love it.
FR: You've been collaborating on novels with Isabella for many years, although her name appears for the first time with yours on the "Heirs of Acadia" series.
TDB: Isabella has been my partner in the writing venture since the very beginning. She acts as my agent, and more importantly she has been the source of many great ideas. She helps with the research and every stage of the editing process. It is wonderful to finally see her receive the credit she has long deserved.
FR: In previous novels in the "Song of Acadia" series leading to this new series, you co-wrote with Janette Oke. Why the switch in co-authorship?
TDB: Janette's health has not been very good recently. After the last of our books together, she finally decided that she needed to completely retire. This was expected, as she had been talking about it for years. But it was still a great disappointment. We have co-authored nine books together, and become close friends in the process. I find a great deal of joy and wisdom in the co-writing of books. The sharing is very intense, a true act of co-creation. It has been truly wonderful seeing Isabella step into this process.
FR: You've written almost two dozen novels --- is there any particular one that is your favorite?
TDB: The first time I was interviewed with Janette Oke, she was asked this same question. She replied that her books were like her children, favorite one moment, and then irritating and troublesome the next. But loved all the time. I thought that was a great answer, and one that still rings true eleven years later.
FR: What are you reading at the moment?
TDB: I read all the time, and from a multitude of sources. But recently we have been going through a very tough period. Our home (in Florida) was in the eye of Hurricane Frances when it hit landfall. For the week leading up to this and the week after, things have been extremely tense. Our home survived with minimal damage, a true miracle. We had so many dear friends who suffered far more than we did. During this period I was reading Beverly Lewis's newest book, a lovely quiet story with such a fine voice. It was a great source of comfort and solace. As was a book I used during my morning quiet times --- RENEWAL by Andrew Murray, written over one hundred and fifty years ago and recently re-edited for today's audience. A small and precious gift.
FR: What are you working on now? And what's next for Isabella?
TDB: We are just in the process of completing the first draft of book three in the "Heirs of Acadia" series, entitled THE NOBLE FUGITIVE. God willing, the book is due for release next spring.
© Copyright 2004, Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved.
Click here now to buy this book from Amazon.com.
© Copyright 2017, FaithfulReader.com. All rights reserved.