Once again, in honor of the release of Jurassic World, we are spotlighting another dinosaur novel! Please help me welcome Max Davine, the author of the thriller Dino Hunt.
The story is about Jimmy Reeves, a down on his luck wildlife wrangler, who unexpectedly receives a massive advance payment to go back through time to rescue dinosaurs.
A fun and thrilling ride for all of us dinosaur lovers!
1) What gave you the idea for your book Dino Hunt?
It’s difficult to trace it right back to where it actually began. Every child is crazy about dinosaurs, and there’s a great philosophical discussion I’ve been having with myself for years about cellular memory, the memories we get passed down to us by the energies and life force we inherit when we come to earth, and that they fed our mythologies for centuries until we discovered these giant bones in the ground, then suddenly all our fantasies had truth to them. As with any contemplation of life on earth, there’s the scientific and the spiritual aspects of it, the seductiveness of mythology comes from us either attuning to the dreams and fantasies implanted in us by what the indestructible aspects of our being bring to our mortal bodies and minds…but stripping all that back, you’re a kid, they fascinate you, you want to see them. I spent a lot of my playtime as a kid trying to figure out not just what it would be like to see a dinosaur, but how it would happen. I’ve always known all that would eventually culminate in a story, and with each new contemplation, there were pieces which travelled forward and developed; time travel, interdimensional travel, the Gulf of Mexico. Then there was the why, and of course the biggest reason people do anything is profit. So if a giant corporation figured out how to travel to another planet, or dimension, where dinosaurs still roam the earth, they wouldn’t necessarily go for the dinosaurs, but there’d be a wealth of natural recourses to exploit; oil deposits, gold, diamonds, iron ore, everything. That in turn would destroy or endanger the natural world, and if people knew about it, and also had the means, they would try to stop it.
Cut to years later, and Terra Domina and Angel Valence have been released through ASJ Publishing, and I’m thinking, wow, there are two really dark, quite violent novels. I didn’t want to have my head down all the time, with my work, so I started looking for ways to lighten it up, do something for kids as well as adults. I had a nephew by then, I wanted to do something for him. Off The Map was the first manuscript I went to, because it was already written, so I finished that off and submitted it, but I wasn’t satisfied. It’s a story I love very much, but as far as making children, and children at heart, go “oh my God, this is amazing”, it’s not that. I turned back to dinosaurs, because they really gave me that feeling of a thrill, a rush, something I hadn’t done with my work yet was focus on the entertainment, the thrill ride. I knew I could do it with dinosaurs, but I didn’t join the dots to what I was thinking about before; the first story I came up with had no people in it, and it still made it into the final edit of Dino Hunt, it’s the story of the chick tyrannosaurus, minus humans. I was ready to go with that, but there was still something missing. It was one night, after a few drinks with my confidant Georgia (Chara, Australian actress), that we watched The Land Before Time, and I told her I had a story like that, except the dinosaurs aren’t anthropomorphized, they’re animals and they think and behave like animals, and it’s for kids. She said “but they don’t talk, or anything”, I said no and she suggested that there should be people, then, because a kid wants to stand in awe of a dinosaur, and to relate to that we have to have characters that are in awe of dinosaurs, and dinosaurs aren’t in awe of dinosaurs. Humans would be.
It was a funny revelation, because I already had that in mind, I just didn’t click until she said it. I was shopping around for toys for my nephew, and kept seeing dinosaurs and helicopters, people catching dinosaurs to save them from whatever, and that seed was already there. Then there was the Thunderbirds, something I grew up with, and that always made me think of dinosaurs, for some reason, so it was really just a landslide after that, everything came together, and the painstaking research began. That was the next big thing; my dinosaurs had to be accurate, according to science, to the minute. I chose the late Cretaceous period, because I wanted a tyrannosaurus in there, obviously, but there was a big debate going on about whether tyrannosaurus was an active predator or a scavenger. I didn’t just say “no way” and do it anyway, I actually dug around, looked into research at every major paleontological University department in North America, until I found proof in an experiment done by some guys at Florida State, proving once and for all that tyrannosaurus was not just an active predator, but a formidable, apex predator. Then there was anatomy, I was never happy with their skeletal heads, in Jurassic Park and Walking With Dinosaurs, they have their teeth on the outside of their mouths. I thought that couldn’t have been so, they must have had fleshier heads and faces, so they’d be able to cover their teeth behind lips and jowls. I did that level of research with every single animal featured in the book, and then climate, and geography…everything was different back then and I was determined to become a paleontologist myself to make them as real and true to life as possible, including the effect these elements would have on humans who travelled there.
2) How many books have you published? Which was your favorite?
Dino Hunt is my fifth novel, and while it’s an obvious favorite, and my most successful since Angel Valence, which it actually surpassed by a great deal, I still love Off The Map. I don’t know, I guess it’s the amount of time I spent with Off The Map, ten years, I had it since I was fourteen and kept working it and refining it, that I grew so enamored with it. When I think best book, I think Dino Hunt, but when I listen to my heart and think for myself, I say Off The Map.
3) What got you into writing horror/sci-fi/fantasy?
I don’t write horror, Dino hunt isn’t meant to be scary. Thrilling I wanted, but not scary. I wanted the kind of adrenaline that kids love, I think they resent being scared, but they love to cheer for someone. Actually the only thing that gets me to write any particular genre is the intention of the story being facilitated by it. So Terra Domina is a western, because it had to be, and Angel Valence is a noir and The Red Legion is an adventure and Off The Map is a fantasy and Dino Hunt is a sci-fi. That’s just coincidence, I don’t write genre, I write characters. My characters are always the most important element, even when there’s dinosaurs, the humans have to be living, breathing humans, with all the problems and issues humans have. I guess that makes me unconventional, and critics have said Terra Domina isn’t a western, it’s a horror…okay, then it’s a horror, whatever, I don’t care if they call it beef stew. That’s not important to me.
4) Did you self-publish or go through a traditional publisher? Which do you think is better and why?
My traditional publisher is ASJ Publishing, and I think its better that way because there’s support, and I don’t just mean emotionally, although its good to know that at least two other people love the work enough to put their time and effort into it before it goes out there, but professionally. I always want a lot of feedback, and I want as many second opinions as I can get, I don’t care if its good or bad or whatever, I just want true and honest opinions, and you don’t get that self-publishing. You might get it through friends and family, but they’ll love anything. You want professional feedback.
5) What are you doing next?
Right now there’s a playbook going through the proofs. It was something that I wanted to do, nay longed and yearned to do, was write this play, but I also knew nobody would want to perform it, at least not in Geelong or Melbourne, so I went all out on making the script as dramatic and readable as it could be, and am calling it a novel in dramatic form. So it’s a play script, that can be read as a book, and its called Forget Me Not. It was another big discussion with Georgia, she was telling me these stories she had in mind, and I just thought of each of them, wow…they were so beautiful but I couldn’t think of what to do with them as individuals, and then I went to Europe for a month and it came to me there; combine them. So we have the story of this young woman who lives in Melbourne, whose grandmother dies and she inherits the old lady’s journals. Her relationship with her mother is bad, and she never really knew that much about old Johanna, but being that the journals are written half in German and half in English, the mother can read German and the woman can’t, so they come together and slowly repair their relationship as they read them to each other. That connects the three stories; Johanna lived in Milwaukee with a husband in the fifties, but she was lost and love with the ghost of someone she knew before, and as they unwrap the layers they discover that Johanna was a guard in a Nazi death camp, Ravensbruck, and she fell in love with an inmate, which caused her to change her ways and turn against her own. They all synchronized really well that way, and they were all just so beautiful, I couldn’t sleep until something came about from them, so I’m really exciting about it because nothing has ever haunted me so much as those three stories.
6) What advice would you give aspiring authors?
It’s all about persistence. Not just insisting someone publishing your work, but persistently striving to challenge yourself and do something better. Make your stories something that you want to say to people. Don’t say them, scream them. Seek advice everywhere you can, seek feedback from everyone, if your vision is clear, you will know how to make any feedback work for you. Don‘t get categorized, don’t over intellectualize, human connection is primal and simple. Master the seduction; it doesn’t matter how great he ride is, if I don’t feel it, then its not going to do it for me. You’ve got to make the reader want to go with you, and that means connecting with them on that base level; attraction. That come from truth. Tell the story that’s true to you.
For more information on Max Davine, please visit this website http://asjpublishing.com.au/authors/max-davine/