Professor Kent Davis’ words on writing


“The Great Unravel,” the third book in MSU professor Kent Davis’ “Riddle in Ruby” series, was released on November 7th, wrapping up roughly five years worth of work. The first book in the series, “A Riddle in Ruby,” took three years to write, with the following two books being released one and two years later, respectively.


“The third one was a bit of bear, actually” Davis said, when asked about the experience of writing the last book in his trilogy. “I finished it in about nine months. I had a screensaver that said ‘Sit down, shut up, and write the book.’” There is a certain freedom in that sentiment, according to Davis. The ability to write without having the luxury of criticizing himself as he writes makes for a large pile of material that he is then able to return to, reshape and polish. That temptation to look back and wonder if what has already been written is any good is a strong one, but allowing himself to indulge in it serves only to slow down the writing process. Hence the screensaver.


“It’s not that I’m just sitting down and typing random word vomit on a keyboard. Like anything, there are writing and imagination muscles, and as you use them more often, they get stronger. [My daily word count] was two hundred words, maybe, and a poem about my coffee. Right now though it’s around two thousand words a day.”


To put that in perspective, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) occurs every November and challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Per day, that equates to only 1,667 words.


As for which book was the most fun for him to work on, Davis says he has fond memories of both the first and the third books; “A Riddle in Ruby” and “The Great Unravel” respectively, for different reasons. “In sort of an open playground, jungle gym sort of way, the first book was really fun—just throwing spaghetti against the wall. But the third book I really loved, because I felt I had gotten to a place where I could finish the story strongly. It’s great to tell a story and finish the punchline.”


The “Riddle in Ruby” books are classified as middle-grade, a genre aimed mostly at upper elementary school and middle school. Middle-grade, according to Davis, is about concretizing your chosen family and setting down the pillars of who you are, as opposed to young adult novels, which tend to focus on the idea of who we are in the world and who we want to be with.


That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the books if you’re outside that age range, though. If you’d like to check out the “Riddle in Ruby” series, head down to the Country Bookshelf on Main Street, where Davis held his meet the author event for the release of “The Great Unravel.”


Davis teaches in the Honors College as an instructor for Texts and Critics, as well as in the upper division Honors Seminars, one of which is the world building class that he started last spring. He also performs improvisational comedy at the Verge Theater, the schedule for which can be found on the Verge’s website. He is also one of the creators of the Epic Roleplaying System, which he created as he felt that Dungeons and Dragons was just a little too simple.


Photo courtesy of Kent Davis