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Author Q & A: 48 States – Evette Davis

The year is 2042, and the United States is recovering from a series of terrorist attacks that uprooted the government, revoked civil liberties, and erased two states from the map.

Widow, single mother, and Army veteran Jennifer “River” Petersen drives trucks for a living in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota. Forced to enlist after her father’s death, the lines of River’s life have been redrawn, much like the United States’ map has changed. Living in a motel room with nothing but her books and a Glock handgun for company, River is weeks away from returning home when an injured man standing in the middle of the highway upends her plans. 

From the moment he encounters River, Finn Cunningham knows he must choose between concealing his identity as the son of the president of the United States or be left for dead. His deception draws him and River into a megalomaniac’s deadly conspiracy to ignite a civil war and overthrow the government. 

If River and Finn are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another and themselves.

Fast-paced prose, with vivid narrative and rapid-fire dialogue, 48 States is perfect for readers who loved novels like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, California by Edan Lepucki, and Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins.

Purchase links: http://evettedavis.com/48-states/

Evette Davis is the novelist who created the “Dark Horse” trilogy, including novels Woman King and Dark Horse. The final installment will be published in 2023. Davis also co-owns BergDavis Public Affairs, a San Francisco-based public affairs firm. Before establishing her firm, Davis worked in Washington as a press secretary for a member of Congress and as a reporter for daily newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2014, she founded Flesh & Bone, an independent publishing imprint. In 2015, Dark Horse received honors at the San Francisco Book Festival. In 2017, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library named Davis a Library Laureate. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and Book Country. In 2021, 48 States was honored in the San Francisco Writers Conference Writers Contest. Davis splits her time between San Francisco and Sun Valley, Idaho, with her husband, daughter, and their American Labrador retriever. For more information, visit evettedavis.com, or follow her on Pinterest (@evettedavis399), Instagram (@evette1364), Twitter (@SFEvette), Facebook (@evette1364) and Goodreads (@evettesf).

Congratulations on your latest novel, 48 States. Please share a brief synopsis.

Widow, single mother, and Army veteran Jennifer “River” Petersen works as a truck driver in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota. Forced to enlist after her father’s death, the lines of River’s life have been redrawn, much like the United States’ map has changed. Living in a motel room with nothing but her books and a Glock handgun for company, River is weeks away from returning home when an injured man standing in the middle of the highway upends her plans. From the moment he encounters River, Finn Cunningham knows he must conceal his identity or be left for dead. His deception draws them into a megalomaniac’s deadly conspiracy to ignite a civil war and overthrow the government. If River and Finn want to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another and themselves.
Where did the idea for this novel originate?I may be dating myself but there is a funny scene in the movie Working Girl where the young assistant has to prove she didn’t steal a business plan and is asked how she came up with the idea. In response, she pulls out a collection of seemingly random news clippings, that when strung together, validate her plan. 48 States is similar. I’d interviewed a panel of women veterans for a literary festival around the same time I was reading about the explosion of fracking in North Dakota. National Geographic had a feature about people who had left their homes and gone to North Dakota for work and one of them was a mother who left her family behind to drive a haul truck because the pay was so much better. I’d also been reading about Japanese Internment camps and had been surprised to know that the entire effort to relocate Japanese Americans had been done by Executive Order… that was the genesis of how I came to write 48 States. The book took five years and went through several major plot revisions, but I became interested in the issues of executive power, domestic refugees, and, of course, women who transform themselves.  

The book examines the dangers of extremism. What do you want readers to take away from this story?

We’ve lost the capacity to listen to opposing points of view with an open mind. In 48 States, a number of the characters run away from things they don’t want to hear or know about, which is wholly impractical. My books transmit a strong dislike for extreme politics–on both sides of the aisle. If I can accomplish anything, I hope it’s to help people remember that listening to ideas and understanding other people’s points of view is not dangerous. It’s also OK to forgive someone for making a mistake. We are human beings and humans need love, understanding and compassion to thrive.

In addition to writing novels, you work in public affairs. How does your day job influence your work as an author?

I’ve got a front row seat to political dysfunction and other interesting forms of human behavior every day. While I don’t model my characters after any specific individual, the collective experiences and personalities do inform my writing. I have an urban fantasy series–The Dark Horse Trilogy–that is set in San Francisco and despite the fact that all of the characters are supernatural beings, close colleagues ask me all the time if they are in the novel. To which I reply, “not unless you’re a vampire.”

How does music influence your writing and storytelling?

I have playlists for all my novels. Certain songs remind me of characters or play into the mood I’m trying to set in my novels. In some cases they become part of the story, like Duran Duran who performs in Serbia in my novel Dark Horse. The band actually does perform there somewhat annually as part of a summer music festival. 

You’ve had a few career pivots in your life, from journalism to political consulting to author. What advice do you have for anyone looking to change paths or those looking to start writing? 

What I like to share about myself is that I didn’t come to writing novels early in life. I’m not an MFA graduate. I’ve had a book in front of my face one way or another since I was able to read. Other kids won awards for sports, I won them for the number of books I read from the library. I started my career as a newspaper journalist because I have an overwhelming sense of curiosity about people. But I left journalism to work in politics in Washington DC and then I left DC to come back to the Bay Area and eventually I started my own public relations firm. 

I’ve had my “day job” for 23 years and along the way been a wife and raised a daughter who is off to college this fall. Not long after my daughter was born, I felt like something was missing in my life and I started writing. That writing became the novels I’ve since published. Not coincidentally, the characters in my books are usually female and often going through major transformations where they come to understand themselves and their skills. So I guess I’m saying I write what I know…I know that women are often transforming themselves and finding the source of their power. I’m at a point now in my life where I feel very powerful intellectually and it’s a pleasure to sit down and see where my imagination takes me.

I hope that joy creates books other people want to read and can relate to. I think life is a series of “acts” and you don’t have to stay in one place. If writing is something you like to do, then there is no time like the present to get started.

What have you read lately and loved?

Jesse Mihalik has a new series involving a female bounty hunter and veteran who is forced to work with an old nemesis from the war. The first book is called Hunt the Stars and it’s another captivating space opera involving kick-ass women and their alpha men. I just pre-ordered the second book which is due out in July. I devoured her other series The Consortium Rebellion and have reread them twice, because I love the sisters in the stories.

What’s next for you?

My next novel is coming out early 2023. It is the third and final installment of the Dark Horse Trilogy, with the working title, Death Wish.

Where can readers follow you and your work?

Contact – Evette Davis visit evettedavis.com, or follow on Pinterest (@evettedavis399), Instagram (@evette1364), Twitter (@SFEvette), Facebook (@evette1364) and Goodreads (@evettesf).

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