Kent Davis, a MSU professor, author and improvisational actor, is releasing his debut novel “A Riddle in Ruby” on Sept. 22. Last Saturday, he directed two events for the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, an idea hunting workshop for kids ages 8-12 and a Young Adult Fantasy panel in which he discussed his writing process and led a world-building exercise with three other authors.
During the idea hunting workshop at the Missoula Public Library, Davis led the kids through his “Yes, And” improvisational exercise. Yes, And is a popular idea from improvisation practices, urging participants to say “yes” to everything and add something else to the story. Davis has used the exercise and taught Yes, And in his Honors College seminar courses.
In Davis’s book festival exercise he used this practice to help the kids create a story idea, starting simply with any object in their homes. One child chose a mushroom; another chose a toothbrush. Then, Davis asked the kids to make the object magic, create someone who wants to steal it, and create a side kick. Participants left the workshop with an outline complete with protagonist, antagonist and conflict — the classic elements of a story.
Davis’s own novel was fashioned similarly. “I think [Yes, And] makes things easier; you don’t have to have a fully formed idea to move on. For example, with this book, I didn’t have to just write it straight through. I could work my way through it. I don’t think ‘How do I get to the very end of this?’ I just think ‘What’s the next step?’”
“[It started with] a girl with a tricorne hat, in a barrel with metal ostrich legs. That image popped into my head, and then the world of The Chemystral Age came tumbling after,” Davis said. “Interestingly enough, that girl in that barrel? She isn’t Ruby. Her story’s still out there.”
“A Riddle in Ruby” is the first in a young adult trilogy. Davis said he’s been working on the upcoming second novel for the past nine months and expects a finished project in about four months.
The novel and the upcoming fantasy series come complete with alchemists, antique locks and keys and pirates. Kirkus Reviews summarized it; “This tale of revolutionary intent, self-discovery and double-crossing cross-dressing is worth the trip.”
Signed copies of “A Riddle in Ruby” can be pre-ordered from Country Bookshelf.
On Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. there will be a launch party and book signing with Davis at Country Bookshelf on Main Street in Downtown Bozeman.
More information on Kent Davis as well as a reading sample of “A Riddle in Ruby” can be found at kentishdavis.com.