Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blog Tour/Promo/ Q and A: Unconquered by J.D. Davis

Hello Readers,


Today I'm pleased to be part of the blog promotion tour for Unconquered by J.D. Davis. I will also be including a Q & A with the author.


But first here is J.D.'s bio:


J. D. Davis has been a fan of the music of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley much of his life. He spent several years researching the lives of these men for this book.

Davis was raised in Quitman, Texas, a quiet community in the piney woods of East Texas. He earned a bachelor's degree (with highest honors) in economics from the University of Texas and later received a master's degree from SMU. A successful businessman and entrepreneur, he achieved the rare distinction of partnership in his twenties at a major actuarial consulting firm, where he continues to manage a large practice. He has three daughters and lives near Dallas.


You can reach  J.D. through any of these platforms: his website, his twitter account, or his Facebook account

Here's a summary of  his novel Unconquered which comes out today.


Three cousins, inseparably bonded through music. Each became a star; their story would become a legend. J. D. Davis's enthralling new biography of famous cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, born within a twelve-month span in small-town Louisiana during the Great Depression, draws from exhaustive research and personal connections with friends and family. Davis recreates the irresistible and life-changing power of music that surrounded the cousins as boys and shaped their engagingly distinct paths to fame. With three personal journeys set alongside important landmarks in pop-culture history, Davis presents a unique tale of American music centered on the trials, tribulations, and achievements of three men who remain truly Unconquered.

And now for the Q & A that is standard throughout the tour:


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have been a fan of the music of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley much of my life. I spent several years researching the lives of these men for my book. I was raised in Quitman, Texas, a quiet community in the piney woods of East Texas. I earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in economics from the University of Texas and later received a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University. A successful businessman and entrepreneur, I achieved the rare distinction of partnership in my twenties at a major actuarial consulting firm where I continue to manage a large consulting practice. I have three daughters and live near Dallas, Texas.

What do you do when you are not writing?
Professionally, I manage a retirement consulting practice that is based in Dallas, Texas and covers much of the Southern United States. Personally, I raise three daughters whose ages range from fifteen to eleven years, I generally exercise five days per week, and in recent years have traveled extensively to conduct research and interviews for the book.

Do you have a day job as well?
Professionally, I am an actuary – a business mathematician who is generally an expert in risk assessment and probability mathematics. I manage a retirement consulting practice that is based in Dallas, Texas and covers much of the Southern United States. I have worked at my current firm for 20 years, beginning there directly out of college.

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started researching and writing three years ago and just recently finished my first book. Its release is set for May 1st.

Where do you get your ideas?
One’s best ideas generally come from concentrating on topics in which he or she is interested. At least that is true for me.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
My working style is quite elaborate, owing to my ability to organize and pay close attention to detail. For my current book, I was able to create and then index over 8,000 note entries into a very elaborate, dynamic outline.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I enjoy a myriad of authors and books but wouldn’t say any one influenced me in a particularly noticeable way.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Being an unknown writer – which every author has been at some point – creates certain obvious challenges, particularly in today’s publishing environment. With so much in flux in the publishing industry, big-name publishers are understandably going to gravitate to better-known authors with better-established platforms.

In addition, because the subjects of the book have experienced some controversy, there was a fair amount of pressure from publishers who wanted more incriminating information in the story, which I was unwilling to provide.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
We are taking a detailed, multi-faceted approach to marketing and promoting this book. We are fortunate to have the budget to “do it right” and give the book every chance to reach a large audience. Our strategy includes author interviews, reviews, feature articles, book signing events, extensive use of online and social media avenues, as well as print and online advertising.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I particularly enjoyed writing the chapters that take place in the 1970s and 1980s, when all three men were experiencing dramatic high and sobering lows. Those chapters create a compelling story for the reader, whether he or she has been a fan of all or any of these men or not.

How did you come up with the title?
Conquered Unconquered was a game the cousins played as young boys.In Conquered Unconquered, one of the boys would perform a daring stunt and the others would have to follow suit or be “conquered.” Whether it was jumping from boxcar to boxcar or the executing the latest death-defying feat on their bicycles, each of the cousins was always looking for a chance to come up with a new, amazing feat that would best the other two.

Through the course of their lives and careers, these three men have experienced numerous peaks and valleys. Nevertheless, the same dogged determination to never give up – to never be “conquered” – has kept each of them moving forward, meeting new challenges and scaling new heights. Now, all three have passed the three-quarters-of-a-century mark, and each remains truly unconquered.

What project are you working on now?
Right now my focus is marketing and promotingUnconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilleyin anticipation of its release, on May 1st.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The primary criticism I encountered came from my lack of prior experience, which is to be expected and didn’t bother me. Many compliments from those close to the project touched on my instinctive feel for the subject matter, organizational skills, vast knowledge of the three subjects, and, most satisfyingly, the tenacity shown in pushing through every phase of this sizable undertaking. I’ve also been complimented on my writing, which is nice to hear.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I would tell them to make sure that they really care about the subject they are writing about, because they are going to be spending a lot of time with it. Secondly, depending on the complexity and depth of their undertaking, they need to recognize that they may be setting out on a marathon, not a sprint.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I want to thank them for their interest in the book and for all the encouraging and warm remarks and comments I have received. It is satisfying to produce a credible work on a topic that interests so many people and, beyond that, means a lot to them.

Do you prefer fuzzy or tub socks?
(Laughs) Neither, I suppose. However, I am a big fan of comfortable socks.

What inspired you to write your first book?
After reading extensively about these men, visiting their hometown, and getting to know their family members, I realized there was a fascinating story to be told. While much had been written about them – particularly about Jerry Lee Lewis – I found, to my surprise, no one had ever integrated their three lives together. The way their stories interlock really is the compelling story, in my opinion, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell it.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
This is a not a story of good and bad, or right and wrong. It is a deeply human story of aspirations and success and failure. It is a tale about family, music, and perseverance. The reader will be moved and inspired by the journeys of these three men, who came from nothing, rose to the top of their respective fields, and faced a variety of profound challenges along the way. My hope is that the reader will come away with a deeper appreciation of these three men and a fuller understanding of the many factors that shaped those unique individuals who came from the Depression and post-Depression era South.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
In my thirties, I decided to expand my knowledge on topics outside of my profession and immediate set of interests. So I pursued a Master’s degree at Southern Methodist University where I found a great deal of support from professors in areas such as theology, history, philosophy, and the like. It helped me challenge myself to explore new pursuits, which ultimately led to writing my current book.

Do you see writing as a career?
Writing for me is still an avocation, rather than a vocation. With continued development and the possible success of my first book, it is feasible that writing could become more of a career pursuit.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in undertaking the daunting task of writing a biography that would require weaving together the lives of three men developed from my interest in the men themselves. Also, the story of these famous cousins had never been told in this way before and I felt that it would be compelling to many readers.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
The research phase of writing the book required a significant amount of travel, based on the large number of people to whom I needed to speak and the wide dispersion geographically of the book’s key subjects.

Who designed the cover?
The design team of my publisher, Brown Books, designed the cover of Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The biggest challenge in writing Unconquered was creating a book that would be appealing, yet credible, to vastly different audiences. In writing about Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley, I wanted to write a book that appealed to the rock ‘n’ roll, country, and gospel music audiences; to secular and religious audiences; and to academic and non-academic audiences. It required striking a careful and unusual balance.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and if so what?
As a first-time author, I learned an enormous amount writing this book. Perhaps most importantly, I learned about the rigorous process of writing a book from start to finish. It is an extensive process, to say the least, and being thorough and organized during each step of the process is crucial.

Is there an Author that you would really like to meet?
At some point, I hope to meet Nick Tosches and Anne Seaman, the authors who have written the most-recognized biographies of, respectively, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart two of the three main subjects of my book Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart, and Mickey Gilley.

Do you prefer e-books, paperbacks or hardcover?
I prefer hardcover books. I don’t remember the last paperback I read and I have never read an e-book (although I will get around to it sooner or later).

Where do you prefer to buy your books?
I purchase books online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores. There are two large bookstores near my place of business in Dallas, Texas – one sells new books and the other sells used books. I enjoy perusing the shelves of both.

What book would you like to read again?
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Do you buy a book by the cover?
A cover can catch my attention, but rarely do I buy a book purely because of the cover.

Did you have a favorite toy as a child?
Nothing specific comes to mind, but it likely would have been sports-related – a football, basketball, or baseball glove, perhaps.

Do you ever write in your PJ’s?
(Laughs) I’m sure I’ve written in every type of attire I own, including my PJ’s.

What are your pet peeves? 
(Laughs) Good question. The first thing that comes to mind would be laziness. I believe in persistent, dedicated effort and have seen it overcome a variety of shortcomings and drawbacks.

Any pets that you would like to tell us about, share a pic?
My daughters and I have a cocker spaniel, Maddie, and a mixed breed, Max. They are well-behaved, excellent companions.

Your favorite gadget – 
(Laughs) Does a lawn mower count as a gadget?

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I typically write at home, in small increments of thirty to forty minutes each.

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
After reading extensively about these men, visiting their hometown, and getting to know their family members, I realized there was a fascinating story to be told. While much had been written about them – particularly about Jerry Lee Lewis – I found, to my surprise, no one had ever integrated their three lives together. The way their stories interlock really is the compelling story, in my opinion, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell it.

Thanks!

~Danica Page

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