20 Questions with April Dávila


Los Angeles Local Author April Dávila is a fourth generation Californian and Pushcart Prize-nominated author of the debut novel, 142 OSTRICHES. She has lived briefly in places as far-flung as Ecuador, the Caribbean, and the Marshall Islands, but always comes back to California. The daughter of an artist, Dávila studied marine biology at Scripps College before studying writing at USC. An attendee of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a past resident at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, April runs LitWeekLA, a weekly newsletter covering Los Angeles area literary events. Her website AprilDavila.com was named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest.
(Photo credit: Rob Greer)

What part of Los Angeles do you call home?
After 10 years in Silver Lake we moved north a bit to La Cañada. We love it. It feels very suburban and kid-friendly, but it’s just a quick shot down the 2 to the city.

Are you a native of L.A. or a transplant?
I grew up in Northern California, and I met my husband when we were both living in San Francisco. Three years later, when we moved down to Los Angeles, we swore it was temporary. Like all good Northern Californians, we had well-developed opinions about our home’s superiority over Southern California. We loved the fog. We loved the compact size of the city and how we could get around without a car. We said 5 years. 5 Years for me to go to grad school and for us both to build our careers, and then we would move back.

But we really came to love Los Angeles. We found a wonderful community of writers and filmmakers, all working to create their art on a professional level. It was exciting. Five years passed quickly, and when it came time to enroll our eldest in school, we decided to stay. I do sometimes miss the fog, but I don’t regret our choice at all. We’ve built a great life down here.

How many books have you written?
142 OSTRICHES is my first book, but I am already nearing completion on my second. I hope to introduce it to the world before too long.

Did you publish traditionally or independently?
I decided to publish traditionally. There are pros and cons for either route, but I knew I didn’t want to be in charge of marketing. I just want to write, and having a traditional publisher seemed the best way to stick with what I know.

What inspired you to write this story?
The first question I get, when people learn the title of my debut novel, is usually some variation of “why ostriches?” Short answer: they’re fascinating, which, when I started this project, I didn’t even know. All I knew back then was that I wanted to tell a story set in the California desert. As an ecology major at Scripps College I’d fallen in love with the Mojave’s explosive sunrises, its defensive flora and hardy fauna.

The trouble was, my protagonist was based (loosely) on my mother and her experiences growing up on a dairy farm in the Sacramento valley. After being assured by my mother that it would, under no circumstances, make sense to plunk a dairy farm in the Mojave, a fortuitous combination of search terms lead me to the OK Corral Ostrich Ranch, just sixty miles from my home in Los Angeles. I immediately emailed the owner, Doug Osborne, to ask for a tour.

Within minutes of arriving I knew I’d found something special. The birds were so strange, with their prehistoric skin and Lancome eyelashes, and Doug spoke of them with such affection, even while swatting away their invasive pecks. This was a place for contradictions. The perfect setting for a story about a family torn between love and hate, loyalty and abandonment.

Which characteristic of your protagonist do you most admire?
Tallulah is super tough. She doesn’t see anything as impossible. She can figure it out, whatever it is. I really admire that about her.

Which characteristic of his/her/their nemesis do you enjoy?
I really didn’t enjoy writing my main character’s nemesis. To make “bad guys” believable, you have to find their humanity, and I found his to be so painful. He’s such a damaged person, and to touch into that was difficult. To find sympathy for it was even harder.

What’s the best part about being an author?
My greatest disappointment in life is that I will never get to be or do all the things I wish I could be and do. I will most likely never go to space, or fight for survival in the wilderness, or work on an ostrich ranch. But as a writer, I have the best of excuses to dive into all the things that spark my curiosity, to steep myself in them for as long as they hold my interest, then move on. It’s the best.

And the worst?
The hardest part about being an author is touching into the emotional truth of damaged people. Because happy, well-adjusted people don’t make for a very good story. And, as the author, if you aren’t willing to get deep into what makes a character tick, you’re only ever going to write the surface level of their interactions. So I dive in. And some times (a lot of times) I only really capture a character when I can tolerate being uncomfortable long enough to write a scene as they would experience it.

How do you keep the momentum of writing/editing/publishing/promoting?
It’s hard, especially during a pandemic. I’m not feeling super creative these days, and it’s disappointing that I can’t be out doing my book tour. That said, writing is a job. I sit my butt down and do my best at all of it.

The thing I find most helpful is to set intentions. Every time I sit at my desk, I decide what I’m going to work on, and how long I’m going to work on it. I find I’m more creative in the mornings, so I try to set aside an hour or so to write before lunch. After lunch I send emails, write blog posts, check in on social media… all of it.

What’s your “writing ritual”?
I wake up before anyone else, pour a cup of black coffee and drink it while I write one page in my journal. Sometimes I can go immediately into writing fiction after that, but more often I turn my attention to waking children, making sure everyone is fed and (in pre-pandemic times) off to school. Then I sit down to write.

I expand my Scrivener window (I’m a huge Scrivener nerd) so that I can’t see anything else on my screen. I set the Do Not Disturb on my phone for 1 hour and put it face down. After one hour, I allow myself to get more coffee, use the restroom, and then, if it’s a good day, I’ll do it again and get one more hour in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Follow the enthusiasm. Technically, it wasn’t given to me, I just overheard it, but it’s great advice. I wrote a blog post about it: https://aprildavila.com/enthusiasm/

What’s the best advice you could give another author?
I have three bits of advice I give when people ask:
1. Follow the enthusiasm (see above)
2. Writers read. If you want to be a writer, you must read. A lot.
3. Don’t give up. Keep writing. Success is 10% talent and 90% work.

How do you interact with your reading audience?
I’ve been blogging at aprildavila.com for 10 years. Sometimes it feels like writing into the void, but when I was out on my book tour (before I had to cut it short and scurry home due to Covid 19), I was really touched by how many people stood in line to get a book signed because they were fans of my blog. It has really proven to be a wonderful way to connect with fellow writers and readers. I’m also big on Twitter (@aprildavila).

Where are you most social online?
Twitter. Hands down. I quit Facebook a while back, because duh.

Where are you most social in real life?
Probably in the bleachers at my kids’ sporting events. Most of my friends these days are other kick-ass moms I’ve met at some sort of kid-related thing.

What’s your favorite place in Los Angeles?
There are some beautiful trails near our home in La Canada. Usually, when the kids are in school, I drop them off, then take the dogs to a trailhead for a quick walk in the woods. There’s this one trail that dips down to follow a little creek through some oak trees and it smells so good, like damp earth and anise seeds. Then you pop out at the top of the trail and can see all the way to the ocean. It’s only about a mile loop. I can usually walk it and still be at my desk by 8:45. It’s a great way to start the day.

Do you have a hobby or go-to that helps you recharge?
I love a good long walk. Usually, when I walk, I listen to audiobooks, but if I’m stuck on a story, I’ll leave the earbuds at home and, I swear, it works every time. Something about just being outdoors and moving my body sets everything straight and gets the creative juices flowing.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading DEPRIVATION, a mystery thriller by Roy Freirich, and listening to EDUCATED, the memoir by Tara Westover.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on my second novel. It’s an epic adventure story spanning three centuries. That’s about all I can say about it just yet, but I’m very excited about it. Please check out my website for more information (that’s where I’ll post it when I have it) and say hello. I love connecting with people online and (someday, fingers crossed) in person.

142-Ostriches-cover-high-resSet against the unexpected splendor of an ostrich ranch in the California desert, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut conjures an absorbing and compelling heroine in a story of courage, family and forgiveness. April is currently offering a free copy of 142 OSTRICHES to share with a friend for those who have already bought her book or are planning to purchase. Click here for details.

20 Questions with Nina Sadowsky

[In a new series, we ask local authors the same 20 questions to get a glimpse into their personalities and processes.]

Sadowsky headshot 2019Nina Sadowsky is an author, filmmaker and educator. She has written numerous screenplays and produced such films as “The Wedding Planner.” Her debut thriller, JUST FALL, was published by Ballantine in 2016 and her BURIAL SOCIETY series launched in 2018 with the second book in the series, THE EMPTY BED, to be published on January 28, 2020. Nina currently serves as Program Director of NYU Los Angeles, a “semester abroad” program for advanced students considering careers in the entertainment and media industries. Sadowsky also serves as the Director of Educational Outreach for the Humanitas Prize, is on the Leadership Council of Creative Future, and is a founding member of the Woolfpack, an organization of women showrunners, writers and producers committed to community and mentorship.

What part of Los Angeles do you call home? Westwood.

Are you a native of L.A. or a transplant? A native New Yorker.

How many books have you written? Four: two published and two coming in 2020.

Did you publish traditionally or independently? Traditionally.

What inspired you to write this (your most current book’s) story? Anger at an unjust society.

Which characteristic of your protagonist do you most admire? Badass fearlessness.

Which characteristic of his/her/their nemesis do you enjoy? Defeating them.

What’s the best part about being an author? Writing. And when people respond to my work and “get it.” Also the ability to make a real difference as I’m doing by donating a portion of the pre-orders for THE EMPTY BED to benefit the Violence Intervention Program and the Alexis Project. (More details on my website.)

And the worst? The cycle of thinking I’m a genius before I recognize I’m an idiot before I think I’m a genius again. And repeat.

How do you keep the momentum of writing/editing/publishing/promoting? No sleep! The promoting is a shocking amount of work.

What’s your “writing ritual”? I set asaide the hours and then treat that commitment with the utmost respect. I also blast a little music and dance before I work.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? The author is the doctor. The editor or other reader is the patient. It’s their job to tell us where it hurts, but our job to diagnose the problem and treat it.

What’s the best advice you could give another author? See above. And persevere!

How do you interact with your reading audience? Conferences, workshops, book clubs, virtual appearances and classes, a monthly newsletter (“Dispatches from the Cheerfully Dark Mind of Nina Sadowsky”), which is filled with writing tips and other tasty content. (Sign up for it on my website.)

Where are you most social online? I use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Where are you most social in real life? Everywhere. My philosophy is “Be the light.”

What’s your favorite place in Los Angeles? The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City ranks high.

Do you have a hobby or go-to that helps you recharge? Dance, meditation, Pilates, cooking, collage art.

What are you currently reading? SOMETIMES I LIE by Alica Feeney; just finished BIG SKY by Kate Atkinson.

What’s next for you? Edits on my new book, CONVINCE ME, plus an original TV pilot.

Empty BedAbout THE BURIAL SOCIETY and THE EMPTY BED: The Burial Society series is in development for television. THE EMPTY BED is the latest in her Burial Society series, in which a woman with a dark past runs a “private witness protection program,” helping whistleblowers, abused women, and other desperate people escape their dangerous lives and find safe new ones. The third in The Burial Society series, CONVINCE ME, is to be published in summer 2020. Find her at www.ninarsadowsky.com

20 Questions with Brian Finney

[In a new series, we ask local authors the same 20 questions to get a glimpse into their personalities and processes.]


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Brian Finney is a Los Angeles local author who spent the first half of his life in England, where he became a lecturer in English Literature at the University of London. In 1987, he immigrated to Southern California where he was a Professor of English at UC Riverside, UCLA, USC, and California State University Long Beach (where he remains Professor Emeritus). He has written seven nonfiction books, including a biography of Christopher Isherwood that won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Britain. After retiring from full-time teaching, he wrote and published his first novel, MONEY MATTERS, in 2019 that was a Finalist in the Best American Fiction Awards (2019).



What part of Los Angeles do you call home? Since immigrating here in 1987, I have lived in the same 1908 bungalow in Venice that I and my wife added on to in the rear in 1992-93, just before the Northridge earthquake. Despite the inroads of tech companies, Venice is still a unique neighborhood that I love.

Are you a native of L.A. or a transplant? I moved here 32 years ago and have been a naturalized American citizen for 30 years.

How many books have you written? Seven nonfiction books and one suspense / amateur detective novel.

Did you publish traditionally or independently? All but the last of my nonfiction books were published by major publishers in Britain and America. For my last nonfiction work I went outside my academic field. Titled Terrorized: How the War on Terror Affected American Culture and Society, I felt compelled to write this socio-economic-political book and self-published it to avoid all the hurdles that would be raised for daring to write outside my specialist field.

What inspired you to write this (your most current book’s) story? Having spent much of my adult life teaching students how to read and interpret works of fiction, once I was free of the compulsion to publish academic book, I eagerly turned to practicing what I had been preaching (or teaching), by writing my own work of fiction.

Which characteristic of your protagonist do you most admire? Jenny, my 27-year-old narrator and major character, resists succumbing to the money culture of the time (2010) and is determined to find her own response to a society where money trumps everything else.

Which characteristic of his/her/their nemesis do you enjoy? Jenny has to learn that she needs to come to terms with her materialist society, and her arguments with her high-earning sister offered me some of my greatest pleasure.

What’s the best part about being an author? Having complete freedom to invent whatever you want. Compare that to writing a biography where every assertion has to be backed with a source.

And the worst? Having to publicize your work (even when it is accepted by a major publisher), particularly the need to post regularly on social media.

How do you keep the momentum of writing/editing/publishing/promoting? Once I have a subject I want to write about, the rest follows naturally.

What’s your “writing ritual”? I don’t have a ritual. I write when I feel creative, and I do other things when I am not in the mood to write.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Employ a professional editor, even though they cost a fortune.

What’s the best advice you could give another author? Never be afraid to delete – entire sections if necessary. Nothing is ever perfect, and any piece of writing can be improved – and improved again.

How do you interact with your reading audience? Mainly through social media – posts, interviews, blogs, newsletters.

Where are you most social online? Instagram

Where are you most social in real life? With friends and neighbors.

What’s your favorite place in Los Angeles? The Venice canals, followed by the Venice walk-streets. Both are traffic-free.

Do you have a hobby or go-to that helps you recharge? Once a week I attend a life drawing workshop that I find totally absorbing.

What are you currently reading? I am about to start Jeanette Winterson’s FRANKISSTEIN. She is a wonderful stylist whose sheer writing skill always thrills me.

What’s next for you? I don’t yet know. I’m still busy publicizing Money Matters. I don’t even know whether the next book will be fiction, fictional biography or nonfiction. I am leaving it to my unconscious. When I know I’ll announce it on my website: bhfinney.com

MMAbout MONEY MATTERS: At once a painful coming-of-age novel, an exciting amateur detective tale, and an intriguing narrative engaging with social issues (immigration and wealth disparity), Money Matters has mystery at its core. This emotionally charged debut novel is firmly embedded in Los Angeles culture during the 2010 mid-term election. Jenny, the 27-year-old protagonist, faced with the tragic disappearance of a friend, assumes the role of amateur detective, and finds herself battling financial tycoons, corrupt politicians, and the treacherous Baja drug cartel in her search to uncover the truth.

Jenny’s investigation also takes her into the liminal world of undocumented immigrants, which leads her to seek the help of the handsome director of an immigrant rights organization to whom she is strongly attracted. But will the deadly enmity of the rich end her budding romance?