welcomes as our guest, Danica Davidson. Danica is the author of the Minecrafter novels with such titles as Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down Into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, Battle with the Wither, Adventure Against the Endermen, Mysteries of the Overworld, Danger in the Jungle Temple, Clash in the Underwater World, Last of the Ender Crystal, and Return of the Ender Dragon; the how-to-draw manga books Manga Art For Beginners and Manga Art for Intermediates; the comic book Barbie Puppies: Puppy Party; and Picture Perfect in the graphic novel Tales from the Crypt.

She was one of a small group of writers to receive a Webby honor at MTV for Best Youth Writing. More than two thousand articles of mine have been published by MTV, The Onion, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and about fifty other publications. 

Norm: Good day Danica and thanks for participating in our interview.

Why do you write, how long have you been writing and how long did it take you to get your first major book contract?

Danica: I started writing at the age of three. I always loved stories, and I would either dictate short stories to my parents or follow them around, asking how to spell every word.

I wrote my first chapter book at seven -- let's just say it was a learning experience that will remain unpublished.

I was writing novels regularly in middle school, and that's when I started querying agents. They mostly ignored me or told me I was too young. I got an agent for a while, but he didn't end up doing anything, so I had to start all over again. Starting from the time I was in middle school, it took fifteen years to sell my first book to a New York publisher. 

Norm: What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?

Danica: The book world is a business world --- it goes for what sells. There's this romantic image of the book world being all about art, and a lot of good books get published, but a lot of less-than-thrilling ones do too. Ultimately it's about business. It follows trends and big names. 

Norm: Do you believe that networking in conventions and other places where writers gather is essential to long term success these days?

Danica: I've done a lot of networking, but rarely at conventions. When I was in high school, I was living in a rural community and had to work to bring in an income while getting my diploma.

I didn't have the money or time to travel. I used websites like Linkedin and have sent probably thousands of emails at this point. There's something special about talking face-to-face, but that isn't always an option, and I've improvised. 

Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your career as an author?

Danica: Just getting books out there, and more than one book. Selling one book to a publisher is very difficult if you don't have the connections, and making enough sales to get more than one book contract does not happen to everyone.

So far I've signed 16 book contracts. I have my Minecrafter books, my books on manga, and my graphic novels. 

Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today as an author?

Danica: Getting published. When I first started sending out queries in middle school, I thought an agent would snatch me up. When I was fourteen, the Los Angeles Times wrote a whole story about how I was a teenage novelist. Then I was sure a publisher would want me! But since so many people want to get published, it's an incredibly competitive business. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. 

Norm: Many people have the skills and drive to write a book, but failure to market and sell the book the right way is probably what keep a lot of people from finding success. Can you give us 2-3 strategies that have been effective for you in promoting your books?

Danica: Here are some things I do: I reach out to any places I see that cover books similar to mine. I send short, friendly emails explaining who I am, what my book is about, and why they'd be interested in covering. (Most places don't write about -- publicity isn't easy!)

I maintain a website, and I direct people there.

I also give talks at schools and tell kids about my early love of writing. I show them samples of my work over the years and how I turn a rough draft into a finished book. It gives them concrete steps and lets them know I was once in their shoes, dreaming of the future. I like to work hard, pay it forward, and see how I can fit into places. 

Norm: What would you like to accomplish as an author that you have not?

Danica: I would like to write a lot more books. So far I've written for children and young adults, and I'd like to expand on that and write for all different ages and genres. And of course I want to grow as a writer and get better. There is always room to improve. 

Norm: What inspires you?

Danica: My dreams. My stories. Exploring life, trying to understand it more. 

Norm: With your experience as an author, is it difficult for you to read a novel just for the pleasure of being the reader?

Danica: Not at all. 

Norm: For your writing, does the story come first, or the world it operates in?

Danica: It depends. For my Minecrafter books, the first image was of a Minecraft boy finding a portal to Earth and being shocked by what he saw. Then it grew from that. It usually starts with a subconscious, half-image. 

Norm: Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Please summarize your writing process.   
Danica: It starts with intuition. Writing a fictional book purely on logic, I think, would make it too stiff and formulaic. There has to be some intuition. But then logic can come in and help find the arc of the story and the plot points.

I like to plan out my books in advance in my head before I sit down to write them. It doesn't always happen that way, though. Sometimes the words are just coming and I need to get them written down. Then I always take a break from it before I come back to revise.  

Norm: What are the Minecrafter novels all about and who comprises your readership?

Danica: These books are aimed for ages 7-12. They take place as if the game Minecraft is real, but they're ultimately adventure stories, so you can read them whether you play Minecraft or not.

The main character is 11-year-old Stevie, a boy in a video game world who accidentally finds a portal to Earth. There he befriends Earth friends and they go on a series of adventures in different worlds, both real and digital.

They have to fight monsters, but they also deal with real issues kids face, like going to a new school or dealing with cyberbullies. So far I have twelve of these books out. They can be read in any order, but if you want to get the most out of them, I recommend starting with the first one, Escape from the Overworld. 

Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing the Minecrafter novels?

Danica: They're fast paced. So when the story is really flowing and I'm trying to keep up with it, feeling the excitement of the moment, knowing there's about to be another chapter cliffhanger -- that's a lot of fun. 

Norm: What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your Minecrafter books?

Danica: The biggest thing is that I just hope they enjoy the books. That it spreads the love of reading.

After that, I hope some of the real kid talk I have -- you know, dealing with a new school or cyberbullies --- can help them feel less alone if they've experienced it, too. Or if they experience it after reading my books, they think, "Oh, I remember this from those books. The characters were okay, and I'm going to be okay, too. I'm strong." 

Norm: Which of your novels would you like to see made into a movie?

Danica: Any of them! Or an animated TV show. I love animation. 

Norm: What upcoming projects are you excited about?

Danica: I have a few things I'm working on, but nothing is official yet and I'm superstitious about talking about something until it's completely real. 

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your novels?

Danica: They're welcome to check out my WEBSITE  and  AMAZON.COM

Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your books, but nobody has?

Danica: It'd be fun if people asked more about my influences for the book. For instance, my talks in the books about cyberbullying and researching a subject before having an opinion on it are both holdovers from my days working as a journalist.

I was really alarmed by the amount of nastiness I saw on the web each day -- some aimed toward me, the rest aimed in any direction you can name. I avoid staying on social media long because of it -- I'd rather read a book or go outside.

I want kids to know the internet can be fun, but it also has a pointless, petty, cruel side to it too, and they can better spend their time doing things other than reading everything on Twitter. The importance of research comes up briefly in my book Last of the Ender Crystal in this scene:

I think we just need to watch and learn,” Maison said. “My mom always said you can’t jump to conclusions and you have to learn all about something before you have an opinion on it.”

Yancy snorted. “Not in the days of the Internet. The more knee-jerk your reaction, the more the Internet seems to reward you for it.”

I would encourage kids -- and everyone -- to follow the advice of Maison's mom and not jump on the bandwagon the way Yancy notes a lot of people do. In a time of rampant non-fact-checking and where the loudest arguments win, we are not in for a fun ride. But it doesn't have to be that way. Time and again, it's the kids who save the day in these books. Kids have more power than they realize, and they're smarter than a lot of adults realize. I hope these books can speak to them. 

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Danica: Thanks for having me!