Professor, Mommy, Author--Balancing All the Things at Once
Kids have soccer practice at 6 and a science project due tomorrow morning. And oops, forgot to take out the chicken. Need a dinner plan ASAP. Twenty unread emails from the department dean. Oof, grades are due, and the reminder to update publishing credits. Word Doc and word count goal both sit empty. Coffee pot is filled again for the third time today.
And it all comes at once. It all comes at once.
So how do you slow it down and manage it all without dropping too many balls? Keep on reading to hear how author DeAndra Davis manages it all at once.
1. Welp, the first question is the one all in the writing community love to know! What’s the story of your writing journey?
I wish it was more interesting than it is but I’m pretty boring with this question. I was an English major (after being a pre-med major and realizing I didn’t like gross stuff) and then got my MFA. I wrote the book I sold as my thesis and queried it right after I graduated. It got picked up and sold. It’s the first book I’ve written to completion. Outside of that, I’ve been writing all my life! A lot of poetry and super embarrassing fan-fiction that makes me happy my mom didn’t really let me on the internet to upload it to Wattpad or anything.
2. Your debut, ALL THE NOISE AT ONCE, follows a Black neurodiverse teen who experiences too much stimulation at a football game and the event unfortunately ends in his brother’s arrest. As the Maya Angelou’s quote on your homepage states: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, can you tell us how long this story has been inside of you? What do you hope readers take from it?
This answer is less boring. This story has been aching at me for years, probably since 2015 or so. Outside of being neurodiverse myself, I also have neurodiverse children and my second baby is autistic. He inspired so much of the story, as did my husband as a football player. I considered the ways that he had to move differently through the world than his siblings, the same ways I had to move differently through the world, the way he couldn’t take opportunities offered to his siblings.
Then BLM happened, and the Elijah McClain incident happened, and I was so deeply afraid for my boys, but especially him, who could be perceived as a threat for simply being different and black. I considered how that threat impacted not only him but his siblings who so desperately want to protect him. This book started as a short story where my main character is walking home, and due to non-compliance, is shot and killed by officers. The story hurt me so badly I could never get through it without crying because I was just throwing my greatest fears onto paper.
I really hope that when people read my book they come to have more understanding of how people with neurodiversity move through the world. Beyond that, I want people to also learn to not other people who are neurodiverse as well.
3. Does your book title hold any significance to the themes or characters in your book? How did you come up with it?
Interestingly enough it wasn’t the original title. It got changed once I signed with my editor, but a friend of mine, Jordan, picked the title right out of the book once she knew I was looking for a new title. It’s a line that I wrote myself and kind of overlooked but it worked so well. My editor wanted to focus on the themes of the book and it takes into account that “noise” of overstimulation, the “noise” of social commentary, the “noise” of life. It very much was supposed to mimic that overwhelming feeling of being bogged down by everything until you snap.
4. As a mom and English professor, would you share how you fit writing into your life? When writers have day jobs and other personal obligations, what tips would you give about keeping up their writing?
I do a lot of night writing first off! A lot of night writing, which helps because my husband gets the kids down and I’m kind of free. I make sure to use my office hours at work effectively and try to grade then, so that my home time can be dedicated less to grading and more to writing. I also have the privilege of either having free summers or only teaching one class at a time in the summer, so I use a lot of that free time to draft. Working at the college level gives a lot of freedom—my last class ends at 12:20 and I don’t work on Mondays—so I plan writing time around my schedule and the kids’ schedule and just do my best to make it work.
My best advice though is to know that it’s okay when you don’t write every single day. I used to beat myself up and get stuck in a rut when I took breaks, or didn’t always get to write, and it didn’t help me mentally. I’ve learned to reward myself for any kind of progress made and not focus too much on how far I have left to go, or else I end up stalled. Carve out the time, for sure, I do that with a color-coded planner, but also know that missing a day isn’t the end of the world.
5. As an avid video game player, would you say that media form has any influence on your storytelling and craft? What do you think writers can learn from the video game storycraft?
Ah! I could talk about this all day but I won’t! I absolutely think it influences my storytelling because I tend to be very active in my writing and very present. I say often that my stories play out in dialogue that drives the story forward first, much like video games do, then I fill in everything else after. I find that video games are not just visual but are so text-based and conversation-based with every conversation serving some purpose to add to the story and I really try to bring that to my work. It allows me to show, not tell, and I do that so much through dialogue. In video games, you don’t get the internal monologue of the character, so it has to play out in a way that the audience gets it anyway without the internal thought processes. I try to use these same tricks to really enhance movement and expression in my books so that so much is on the page even before I add the internal thought processes.
5. When writing realistic contemporary, what would say are the most important elements? What do you think readers love the genre for? How do you keep a book feeling current but not dated (in a way that alienates certain audiences)?
I think that realistic contemporary has to have aspects that will feel true for readers no matter when they read it. It has to have struggles and concerns that will still be concerns even years from now—evergreen themes. I believe readers love the genre because they find it relatable or a way to relate to people they don’t know. In terms of not dating the book, I try to avoid pop culture references as much as I can. That isn’t to say that I do completely, but for the most part, I steer clear just in case that makes it super obvious that my book was set firmly in a specific time period, but it’s hard to do away with that entirely.
6. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?
I know I’m getting burnt out when I can’t focus on getting anything done. I know I’m on the road to there when I’m distracted and can’t even focus on the things that I enjoy—sometimes that means that instead of playing something new, I boot up Persona 5 Royal again and play through that because I can do it mindlessly (I have over 1000 hours logged in that game).
I really enjoy, for self-care, getting out of the house in some way. When people say touch grass, like that is real! Sometimes for me it may mean needing to get out of my city, go to the beach, go to a theme park, go to the park, go to a bookstore that I don’t know sometimes and walk around. Often I need a break from everything and just need time to myself. Sometimes I just need a series of naps, haha. It depends.
Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions!
8. The top three white noise sounds for blocking out all the noise at once are…
Rain—so cliché I know!
And it’s not white noise, but the Persona 5 Royal soundtrack. My fave! (When my Mother Was There is specifically a bop!)
9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?
Oh no, a way to get me canceled! Um, not having sex scenes in books is not the flex people think it is. Sex scenes don’t have to be there BUT bragging about your book being clean isn’t all that deep. *hides face and waits to be canceled*
10. The most hair-raising, turned the tide in television quality moments in Game of Thrones were…
OMG! Okay the Red Wedding! Watching Robb Stark and his whole army take that hit was just the worst. I still remember when I first watched it, I had never been so shocked. The Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards episodes were just another bar in fight scenes on TV, I think. They were amazing and movie-level quality and still some of my favorite battles in the show. Ned Stark losing his head will never stop being a stomach drops-to-your-ass moment. I didn’t expect it (I started the show before reading the books) and I just remember feeling so confused, like wasn’t that my main character? What do you mean he isn’t safe? I think early Game of Thrones really set this precedent of no character being safe from death which was amazing though they kind of changed that formula later on. And lastly, Daenerys burning down King’s Landing. I fully understood that she was going to it, and unlike a lot of other people I actually felt that I expected her to go that route, but the complete silence as she burned the city to nothing but ash was so masterful. And that shot of her after, with the dragon wings behind her? *chef’s kiss*
Bio: DeAndra Davis is a neurodiverse, Jamaican-American author who lives in the swampy heat of Florida. Her debut All the Noise at Once will release Spring 2025 with Atheneum (Simon & Schuster). She loves video games and reading fantasy worlds cooler than the one she lives in. When she isn’t watching anime or 100%’ing some game, she’s spending time with her five children, her husband, her English Mastiff, named Zeke, and her Goldendoodle, named Luna.
Website link: https://www.deandradavis.com