Joy H. Davidson’s debut book, Witch’s Cat Wanted Apply Within won the coveted 2015 Joy Cowley Award followed by a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2017. Joy is also the author of The Tree Hut, and Titan the Truck. Joy lives in Auckland with her husband, and a little black scruffy dog named Charlie. Joy talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Nowhere in Particular.
Nowhere in Particular is a middle-grade fantasy about 10 year old Milly’s adventures in a place called Nowhere in Particular. It is a story of loss, friendship, resilience and self-belief.
The story begins when Milly’s beloved grandmother dies and bequeaths her a mysterious necklace. Soon after, Milly and her parents must leave their home in the city and take over her grandmother’s remote family farm.
Sad and isolated, Milly spends her days playing alone – until one day, as if out of nowhere, Max and Poppy appear. The three children quickly become inseparable. But Max and Poppy aren’t what they seem, which Milly finds out one stormy night when an anxious Max tells her that Poppy is missing.
To save her best friend, Milly must cross the mysterious Bridge to Nowhere and enter a land filled with spirits, gremlins, gargoyles and sorcerers. Here, she will start to uncover the truth about her own destiny – and her grandmother’s secret past.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was when I was on a road trip one day with my husband, having taken a wrong turn we seemed to end up in the Middle of Nowhere!
To fill in the traveling time, we started exploring the idea of a place called Nowhere, and of how children when they have been up to mischief or just exploring are questioned about where they have been, often answering, “Nowhere!” or when asked who they have been with, answer “Nobody!”
I then started to think about it being an actual place and about the types of things that might come out of nowhere. The unexplained things in our lives, like Gremlins, Ghosts, Imaginary Friends etc.
What research was involved?
There wasn’t a lot of research involved because it is a fantasy story, conjured up in my own mind. But there were certain things interwoven into the story that needed researching, like where the traditions of Christmas trees originated, Pagan rituals, beliefs about Gargoyles, and why children have imaginary friends.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
It was a long process. This was my first chapter book, so it was quite a learning experience for me. It took 4 years to write, and sometimes it just got put away and forgotten about when it all got too hard!
I am not a big planner when I write. I had an idea and couldn’t wait to start getting it down on paper and the story started to evolve from there.
Then there were a lot of rewrites involved to get the structure of the chapter’s just right. Things like the rise and fall of action and suspense, the characterisation, the description and the grammar all needed to be developed, worked on and then polished. I will always be grateful for the help of Janice Marriot for assessing and mentoring me through the process, to India Lopez for her expert final editing, to Nina Kudinova for bringing the book to life through her amazing illustrations, and to my husband for keeping me focused. It’s like the saying – “It takes a village to raise a child” – Well it certainly takes a village to produce a book too!
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
I would love an original soundtrack written by someone like Hans Zimmer who writes amazing movie soundtracks. But if I had to use some existing songs, I think songs like ‘The place where the lost things go’ from Mary Poppins returns (when Milly is sad and missing her grandmother) ‘Let it go’ from Frozen (when Milly starts to get in touch with her inner strength) ‘That’s what friends are for’ (when Milly knows she must go on with Max) ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from the Wizard of Oz (for when the rainbow appears)
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
That’s a hard one. I’m a little out of touch with current child actors and actresses.
However if I think of films I have seen over the last ten years, I think of Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) as Milly. The young Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as Max, and maybe Emma Watson as Poppy. And of course if I had to pick a knight in shining armour it would be the late Heath Ledger when he played William Thatcher in a Knights Tale.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
Developing another fantasy world - a place where all the unexplained things that come into our lives seem to live.
Trying to portray Milly’s inner and outer journeys as she grew into a strong young lady who believed in herself.
The writing process of a chapter book. As I mentioned, it was a big learning experience for me. Quite different to writing a picture book.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
It was certainly a relief when the first copies were being printed. I didn’t really do anything to celebrate, because at the time we were leaving for The Frankfurt Book Fair. I’m hoping in the near future to have an official book launch when the publisher’s trade print run arrives. I will certainly be celebrating then!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
Modoc by Ralph Helfer – A heart-warming book based on a true story about the greatest elephant that ever lived. A story of adventure, friendship, and the loyalty and love between an elephant and his trainer that lasted throughout both their lifetimes. I love reading stories about Elephants, they are such amazing animals that are a lot like us in many ways, and in some respects we could learn a lot from them. I’m looking forward to the remake of Dumbo which will be released in theatres soon.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Currently I am writing the two sequels for Nowhere in Particular. I always saw it as a trilogy, and writing them will certainly keep me out of mischief for a while!
I also have another picture book that Jenny Cooper is excited about illustrating, which I hope will be released later this year. And I’m working on another two picture books which are in their early stages at the moment, so I’m starting the process of polishing those manuscripts.