As always, talking with authors is one of the greatest perks to being a blogger. What a pleasure it was to interview D.A. Adams! After hearing his answers, I feel we could talk for hours about writing and teaching and what matters most in life.
Allison: What were your favorite childhood outdoor activities? Would you pick one highlight to elaborate upon?
D.A. Adams: A couple of friends and I used to take our dogs and BB guns and disappear into the woods for hours. In my neighborhood, we had hundreds of acres of unspoiled forest to explore, and we would spend hours just walking around the hills and enjoying nature. We also played a lot of games and sports, everything from football to volleyball to hide and seek. Hide and seek outdoors is a much different activity than indoors. We also rode our bicycles all over the place. Today, I couldn’t imagine allowing children to ride their bikes unsupervised on the roads, but back then, there was very little traffic.
I can’t really narrow it down to one activity because we did so much outside, but what I can say is that overall, we had a much different experience as children than many have today. In so many ways, we were much more connected to the natural order of life. I see too many children today tethered to their TVs and video games, spending all day every day indoors that it breaks my heart for them. They’re wasting the best years of their lives inactive and disconnected from the “real” world on which we live. I understand that our society and communities have changed, and it’s not practical today for children to roam outside without adult supervision, but something profound has been lost through those changes, and many children are growing up without a true sense of nature and life and food.
Allison: What kind of student were you? What is a good moment from school? How about a bad moment?
D.A. Adams: I was always a serious student. My family instilled in me an inherent curiosity about the world, so I always wanted to learn more about everything. My best memory as a student was probably taking Industrial Arts in middle school. We got to build things and play with tools and let our imaginations run wild designing cars and bridges and buildings. My worst moment was the shotput accident.
Allison: You played games like Paydirt and Bowl Bound to France 1940 and Boot Hill with your dad. Would you tell us about those games?
D.A. Adams: They were all board games that required a great deal of critical thinking to play. Paydirt was a pro football game, and Bowl Bound centered on college football. They had the same basic set of rules. Each team had a set of statistics for offense, defense, and special teams. The person on offense picked which offensive play they wanted to run, and the defensive did as well. Each player rolled dice to determine their team’s performance on that play. It required a lot of thought and strategy and imagination to play. France 1940 was a war game based on Germany’s invasion of France. It was a hex-based strategy game. To this day, I’ve never beaten my dad at it. Boot Hill was an RPG set in the Wild West.
Allison: What is a sad moment from childhood?
D.A. Adams: Losing my maternal grandfather when I was ten. He was a great man who left this world much too young, and I miss him to this day.
Allison: Before a head injury, your focus had been on athletics, and your goal was to become an officer in the United States Marine Corps. What were your favorite sports? Why did you want to become an officer? Do you still enjoy sports today?
D.A. Adams: Football, by far, was my favorite. There simply aren’t words for how much I loved the competition on the field. I wanted to be an officer in the Marines because I wanted to serve my country and make something out of myself. In rural East Tennessee in the 1980’s, there weren’t many economic opportunities, and I saw the Corps as an opportunity to do something special with my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to pursue that path. Today, I enjoy sports as a spectator only, but I still love football and wish I could still play.
Allison: You indicated that your Masters of Creative Writing stifled you. As an English professor, how do you avoid stifling the creativity of your own students?
D.A. Adams: Well, I teach composition, which is a far cry from creative writing, so I try to give my students a solid foundation in the basics of writing from which they can build their own writing process. By providing them with a foundation, I try to give them confidence to write more and trust their inner voice.
Allison: Despite your success as an author, you consider your sons to be your greatest achievement. What is one special moment for you as a dad?
D.A. Adams: There are literally too many to list. Every moment with my children is special. Because they live in Florida most of the year, I only get to see them a couple of times a year, and each time I get them home with me, there’s a moment on that first night when they start playing and laughing. Hearing their laughter, each and every trip, heals a little piece of my heart that’s wounded from not having them all the time. There’s no sweeter sound in this world than that of children laughing.
Allison: You are trying to launch an organic farm on your family’s property, but the land has sat unused for a few decades. What kind of work is involved in getting it ready?
D.A. Adams: A tremendous amount of brush clearing and cutting of fallen trees. Also, a lot of study in how to grow things naturally without reliance on harsh chemicals. It’s an arduous, slow process.
Allison: What is the best part for you about writing for young people?
D.A. Adams: The challenge of creating an engaging, entertaining story without relying on the cheap gimmicks of profanity and adult content. I love that aspect of writing for a younger audience. Too many stories and writers fall back on those devices to engage their audiences and don’t focus on the intricacy of their plot to keep people’s attention.
Allison: If you could redo anything about becoming a writer, what would you do different?
D.A. Adams: I would skip graduate school and just write, but that said, I really wouldn’t change anything because if I changed one thing about the past, I change who I am today. At thirty-nine, I feel much more comfortable with myself and my life than I ever have, and I’m proud of my skills as a novelist, so I wouldn’t actually change anything, even if I could.
Allison: Besides dwarves, what are your favorite creatures or places in the fantasy genre?
D.A. Adams: I really like it all, even elves. I love the endless expanse of possibilities that each writer brings to the table, and the richness of other worlds and the different shades of all the various races as seen through others’ eyes. It’s a reminder of just how rich and diverse our own world is, and how in a free society, all voices have a right to exist, especially those with which we disagree. Fantasy is such a powerful genre for mirroring humanity and all of our strengths and frailties.
Allison: Brotherhood of Dwarves was originally self-published and then picked up by a commercial publisher. What was the self-publishing process like?
D.A. Adams: The process was much different and more difficult in 2005 than today. POD technology was just coming into its own and wasn’t as easily accessible as it is today. E-books barely existed. Then, self-publishers still had to mostly rely upon offset printing, which is exceptionally expensive and wasteful. Then, on top of the basics of printing, there were countless hours of marketing and promotion, just to get noticed. That part hasn’t changed and won’t anytime soon. It was a valuable learning process that has helped me understand and appreciate the efforts of my current publisher.
Allison: How did you receive a contract for additional books?
D.A. Adams: From the beginning, The Brotherhood of Dwarves was intended to be a five book series, so when Seventh Star Press and I first began talks, that was built into our initial agreement. They had watched my efforts with the first two books and liked my writing enough to trust that books three through five would be worth publishing. Book three has been well-received, so far, and hopefully, the last two will continue to get better as I improve as a novelist and writer.
Allison: What’s next?
D.A. Adams: As far as writing, my entire focus is on completing this series. I do have the kernel of an idea for a trans-human, urban fantasy, but right now, that’s in the future. First, I have to complete this series. As far as the farm goes, we hope to launch our first hydroponic unit in the next couple of weeks and get our mushroom cabins finished before winter. Hopefully, all of that will continue to come together, however slowly, so we can at least produce enough food for ourselves. I’m ready to leave education completely and focus on the aspects of my life that matter to me. I’ve been ready for a change for a few years, now, and hopefully, between the farm and the series, I can make that transition sooner rather than later. Education is in shambles today, and the system, to me, is hopelessly broken. I’d much rather spend the second half of my life writing books and growing food than beating my head against a wall to fight against a system that undermines, burns out, and hinders educators. Personally, I will continue to focus on improving as a writer, growing as a human being, and being the best father I can be.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.