Author Spotlight: Dana L. Davis talks Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
I'm so excited to be featuring the multi-talented Dana L. Davis on the blog! Dana's debut, Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, released May 1st from Harlequin Teen and Kirkus calls it "an honest, funny, and captivating examination of race, socio-economics, mental health, and family...A dynamic and honest coming-of-age novel with universal appeal that will especially speak to black girls questioning their place in the world."
And, get this-----before it even hit shelves, Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now sold rights to Kronicle Media, Rebel Maverick to develop it as a television series!
Check out the Q&A below and be sure to watch the official book trailer for Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now at the end of this blog!
All About the Author:
Dana L. Davis is a writer of novels for teens, and also a successful Hollywood actress with previous series regular roles as: Carmen Phillips on TNT’s Franklin and Bash, head Cheerleader Chastity Church on 10 Things I Hate About You; modern day mimic Monica Dawson on NBC’s cult series Heroes; and Felica Jones on ABC’s The Nine.
Dana has also starred in recurring roles on Code Black, Bones, Body of Proof, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, Scorpion, Boston Public, and the animated series Star Vs. the Forces of Evil and Craig of the Creek. She has guest-starred in over 20 prestigious primetime series, including Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Pushing Daisies, Cold Case and CSI: Miami. Dana made her film debut in Coach Carter with Samuel Jackson, followed by starring roles as Denise Gilmore in Raise Your Voice opposite Hillary Duff, and as Lisa Hines in the hugely successful teen thriller, Prom Night. She most recently starred in the SYFY movie of the week, High Moon.
In addition to her work on screen, Dana has become a motivational speaker for teens. Her stirring assemblies empower and encourage youth, gifting them the tools and steps to value their inner beauty. Extremely versatile, Dana is a screenwriter, a trained Violist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music from Loyola Marymount University. She volunteers for non profits like Empowering Lives International, which provides training, resources, and encouragement to underprivileged East African children. Dana also created her own non profit organization Aktive Prayer, which assists the youth of today in being pro-active about helping those in need. Once a month, they give scholarships for individuals to start their own organizations. If you are under 18, would like to start your own non-profit and are in need of funds for the articles of incorporation, request an application through the contact form on Dana's website.
Davis was raised in the Midwest and currently resides in Los Angeles with her 5-year-old daughter.
All About the Book:
"I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…” For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known. Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded. But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she has only seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.
And now, here's my chat with Dana!
Hi, Dana! Welcome and congrats on the release of Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi! Thank you! I’m so excited to chat with you. I love talking about Tiffany Sly and appreciate any opportunity to share the deeper messages of the novel. The story actually came from my own experience with trauma. I went through a trial in my life that lasted for years and years. I thought a lot about how in our society people put a lot of effort into creating a façade. It’s almost like it’s taboo to be… unhappy. So we hide. We portray ourselves on social media as happy and successful. And in real life we smile and say we’re well… even if we’re not. I wanted to present a girl who wasn’t able to hide behind a mirage of happiness. I wanted to present a pain that was bubbling to the surface. What does it look like when you have to admit… I am just not okay. But I wanted to present it in a way that kids could relate to. So I gave Tiffany a light and funny voice. She’s hurting. But she’s wonderful. You can’t help but love her and root for her.
Tiffany’s story is, in many respects, a coming-of-age. When you started writing, did you know exactly how you wanted Tiffany to grow/change in the end, or was it something that evolved as you wrote her?
Coming of age. Yes. That’s well said! I did know how I wanted Tiffany to change and grow in the end but I couldn’t write a 600 page contemporary. I mean… I could. But I don’t think anyone would want to read it! So I wanted to place her on a path to recovery without making it a nice and neat wrap up where all is well and wonderful and life is grand. That was challenging because people want conclusions and things to resolve. But life isn’t always like that. Especially when you’re dealing with mental illness. Sometimes our path to recovery is a process with many steps involved.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Hmm. This is a tough question! So many parts of the writing process are challenging. I think at times feedback on early drafts can be really challenging. One beta reader says change this. Another beta reader says don’t change it. One agent says one thing. The other agent says something totally contrary. How do you sift through all the opinions and connect to what will really help shape your story? That’s tough. But so crucial! The way I tackle this is I don’t give my early drafts to a lot of beta readers. I typically choose only one or two that I really trust and also ask my agent not to share the draft with any other agents or interns just yet. When I read acknowledgements and see an author had like TEN beta readers or more, my eyes bulge. I can’t imagine sifting through all those opinions.
As an accomplished actress, do you find that having the ability to tap into a personality on screen also helps you dig into your characters and write them more fully? If so, are there any tips you can share from your acting education that can also be applied to writing?
Such a great question! And yes. Absolutely. Being an actor definitely works in my favor when writing. One thing I’ve learned as an actor…less talk, more listening. And this can be applied to writing as well. Creating full characters requires you to listen to how people speak and pay attention to their mannerisms. I might even wager that your average great writer is a great listener. I think I create full characters because I draw their personalities from the people around me. And not just friends and family. Everyone I interact with has the potential to inspire a character in one of my stories. So my tip would be, don’t write what you think would be an interesting character, pick an interesting character you’ve interacted with in real life, and then build upon them. With something real as a foundation, your characters have so much potential to grow and evolve and your readers will easily connect with them.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now teach you?
Whew….this is going to be hard to admit. But writing this story taught me to love myself. I have always felt so ashamed of my secret pains. When my agent emailed me and told me he loved Tiffany Sly, it was like someone saying I was worthy to be loved. And that the pain we feel and the struggles we endure… is nothing to be ashamed of. It helped me to admit my own mental illness to friends and family as well. I’ll never forget the day I admitted to my mom that I was having panic attacks. I fully expected her to freak out. Only she said very calmly: “Dana, how can I help you?” That meant so much to me. I’m so thankful I’ve learned to be more open and honest. I definitely owe that to taking on this story.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I’m currently reading Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. I think that she will be one of the great writers of our time. I’m currently watching old videos of Bob Ross paint at night. Is that weird? Ha! I find it to be so relaxing. At night I watch him paint happy trees and brooks and mountains. It soothes me after dealing with a long day of parenting and industry stuff and writing too. Don’t judge me! I’m currently infatuated with the English countryside. I have no idea why. I just need to get there! I watch this awesome show called Escape to the Country on YouTube. Am I showing my inner nerd too much here? Ha! Tiffany loves the English countryside too. I wonder why… :)
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
Oh, this is good! I have so many lessons I’ve learned! One. Know when to abandon a project. Seriously. Don’t struggle with something that just isn’t working. Ditch it and start something new. Perhaps you can come back to it later. Two. Write a story that resonates with you…NOT a story you think will be a best seller. You can’t predict the success of a book no matter how original the storyline. So choose a story that you’ll want to curl up with for hours and hours a day for weeks or months or… maybe even years. Choose a story you love. A project created from love is so much better than a project created from a desperate need to be successful. Write a beautiful story you love. That’s like 90% of the battle.
Many thanks go out to Dana for taking the time to tell us more about Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, as well as sharing her personal connections to the story and how writing it taught her to love herself.
Be sure to add Dana's gripping novel your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore.
And, as always,