An eye to the future: Tony Davis, an interview by Fran Knight
Preparing himself for a writing future has meant combining his
writing columns for Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Drive) and
The Financial Review (Motoring) with recently completing a PhD which
will further establish his writing credentials. But why does a
successful children's author need to 'futureproof' himself?
Having always written stories and novels, and wanting to be an author, Davis worked for the Sydney Morning Herald as a journalist working as the paper's feature editor, back page columnist and chief of staff. He hedged about taking a redundancy when they were offered some years ago, eventually accepting one in 2015, but promising himself that he would use this money to support himself while he writes.
Fairfax published several of his non fiction books, but after Random House published Total lemons (2004), Step on it! A wild ride through the motor age (2006), Are you for wheel , the most amazing cars ever (2007) and You must be skidding: The greatest losers of the motoring world (2007), they published his books about Roland Wright.
This was his first series of novels, aimed at younger readers, (Brand new page, Future knight and At the joust). Davis spent a great deal of time researching medieval times, even going so far as joining a Medieval reenactment group donning armour to act out some routines. It was worth it as the Roland Wright books are impressive in dealing with the medieval era and were popular, although the sales of the third book didn't quite encourage the publishers to back a fourth in the series. I was most impressed with this series and its accurate presentation of the times. The detail of Medieval life was engrossing and the series also had a strong moral theme, one which Davis felt was self evident for the younger age range being aimed at.
Columns for SMH, FIIN and The Age still proceed, but with the publication of The big dry, Davis has established a niche for himself with those upper primary people looking for something a little meatier. This book concerns itself with the impact we have made upon our environment, using the American Dust Bowl as a clear example. Aimed at those kids no longer reading Roland Wright, but wanting something with more depth before moving to the Young Adult genre, this book hits the mark.
The sympathetic trio of protagonists, combined with a recognisable background, and a seven year drought makes for a book which impels its readers to keep reading. And as the first in a trilogy, he is assured of a continuing audience.
Davis was in Adelaide as a Fellow of the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust, staying in their flat in Norwood when I met him over coffee. The May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship allows an author or illustrator to have a month's residency in Adelaide where they can work without interruption. The down side is that Davis had to write some twenty articles for his newspaper columns before leaving Sydney.
With an ever watchful eye to the future, Davis has a PhD in writing, something that will ensure his writing career continues. The future of print media is in a state of flux, with digital and online news taking over the ground traditionally concentrating on newspapers, so with The big dry receiving such acclaim, a new novel written while in Adelaide, and a play based on The big dry being produced in Sydney next year, his future looks very safe, combining the world of children's literature with journalism.
Quick bibliography for reading other books by Tony Davis:
Total lemons: 60 heroic failures of motoring (Random House, 2004)
Step on it! A wild ride through the motor age (Random House, 2006)
Splat: The madness and magnificence of the world's most dangerous sport (Allen & Unwin, 2007)
F Scott, Ernest and me (Random House, 2007)
You must be skidding: The greatest losers of the motoring world (Random House, 2007)
Roland Wright: future knight (Random House, 2007)
Roland Wright: Brand new page (Random house, 2008)
Roland Wright: At the joust (Random House, 2008)
Are you for wheel, the most amazing cars ever (Random House, 2008)
The big dry (Harper Collins, 2013)