Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Bryan Davis & Search for the Astral Dragon

Posted April 26, 2022 by meezcarrie in Author Interview, Bryan Davis, Christian, giveaway, YA / 12 Comments

Please join me in welcoming Bryan Davis to the blog today to talk about drawing readers into a story – and his new YA space opera, Search for the Astral Dragon!

Astral Alliance #1
GENRE: Inspirational Young Adult Space Opera / Science Fiction
PUBLISHER: Wander (an imprint of Tyndale House)
RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2021
PAGES: 436

This fast-paced YA space opera (reminiscent of Star Wars) follows a strong female protagonist, Megan, on an interplanetary search for her mother. On her journey, Megan witnesses the horrors of child trafficking and slavery and joins with a group of other teens to fight against corrupt systems and stand up for the vulnerable.

Full of unusual characters and daring escapes, Search for the Astral Dragon draws readers into a world of snarky spaceship computer systems, a variety of different sentient species, spaceship tech, and magical elements. Megan is smart and quick-thinking, competent with spacecraft technology, and a person of strong character whose experiences give readers difficult questions to consider.


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A Literary Tractor Beam

Drawing Readers into a Story

by Bryan Davis, author of Search for the Astral Dragon

Readers want to go on an adventure, a quest that will capture their hearts and minds. From the first hello until the final goodbye, readers love the sensation of riding along with the characters on an epic journey.

As a writer, I hope to enhance that feeling by creating an environment that readers can explore as if they were there, like a mental mirage—a wordscape instead of a landscape. Pulling off that feat can be an adventure on its own.

Here are some of the techniques I try to employ in the first few paragraphs:

  1. Grab the reader with a strong hook.
  2. Raise questions that demand answers.
  3. Provide a goal for the hero that communicates urgency.
  4. Set the physical scene with only essential details.
  5. Create an emotional connection between readers and the hero.
  6. Add anticipation to keep the connection thriving.
  7. Establish a feeling that a crisis is coming.
  8. Provide an intimate point of view.

To illustrate, here is the beginning of my newest novel, Search for the Astral Dragon:

The spaceship shuddered with a telltale rattle. We were nearing the end of the wormhole, and time was running out—probably less than an hour left until we landed. I pulled the chain attached to my shackled ankle, holding the hefty links with both hands and pushing with my legs against the wall with all my might.

As I strained, something creaked. I stopped tugging and crawled close to the wall next to my flimsy cot. Barely visible in the dimness, the chain’s wall bracket was slightly bent, maybe a couple of millimeters more than yesterday. I was getting closer. But how much longer would it take? This morning might hold my last chance to escape execution.

The hook is a shuddering spaceship, creating a sense of danger as well as a mental picture. Our heroine, Megan Willis, is chained to a wall, which further highlights the danger and raises questions. Why is she a prisoner? Is she a criminal? A slave? Where is the spaceship going? Such questions capture readers because mysteries beg to be solved.

A moment later, we learn about her goal—to avoid execution—and she is desperately trying to escape. The urgency is enhanced when readers realize that this morning might hold her last chance to survive. “Time was running out.”

Take note that physical descriptions are sparse. Readers learn she is in a spaceship, allowing them to imagine the environment. The words “flimsy cot” provide readers with an insight into the quality of her surroundings, and the imagination paints the rest of the details accordingly—a shabby hovel for a mistreated victim. This sparseness allows the story to move along without need for long descriptions.

The goal at the beginning is to draw readers in, not bore them with details that don’t matter yet. If readers’ mental pictures don’t match the author’s, that’s okay. Discrepancies can be corrected as the story progresses.

This damsel-in-distress beginning creates an emotional connection with readers, especially when more trouble is revealed:

I touched the two-inch-wide metal collar that encircled my neck and slid it off the burn inflicted by the court’s interrogator, still sensitive even after five months.

She has suffered greatly, and readers want her to escape. No one should have to endure this abuse. Anticipation builds as her execution draws closer. A crisis is coming, and it can’t be avoided. Readers can probably guess that she will survive, but how will she avoid the fatal deadline? They read on to learn the answer.

Once the hook is set and readers are drawn in, the story needs to immerse them in the environment through the use of an intimate perspective, a deep dive into the hero’s point of view (POV). The text describes only what the character can detect with her senses, and the story dives into her mind to read her thoughts, as in the following:

Tears crept to my eyes. A sob threatened. Fighting it off, I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I couldn’t give up. I had to be the fighter my parents taught me to be. I had to escape and find my mother.

Deep dives like this put readers inside Megan’s skin. They see what she sees, hear what she hears, feel what she feels, both physically and emotionally. Then, as the adventure races along, they run with her, sensing the joy of every victory and the grief of every loss. They also intimately understand the motivation behind every agonizing decision, such as in the following excerpt when the captain of the ship demands that she reveal her secrets in the presence of a lie detector or face execution.

“Last chance, Megan. Where is it?”

I steeled my body. Lying wasn’t an option. That blasted light on the remote would flash red. My only hope to avoid torture was to reveal the secret, but I couldn’t. Not now. Not ever. If I was going to die, at least I could go out in a blaze of glory.

I spoke with a firm tone. “Stuff it, Captain. I’m not telling you anything.”

Because of this intimacy with the character, readers can watch her grow. What does she learn about life? About herself? How does she respond to these revelations? All along the way, deep dives into her psyche reveal the answers, and readers learn and grow with her, as in the next excerpt, a moment after Megan has a vision of the Astral Dragon, the story’s draconic deity.

Either way, science couldn’t explain the dragon itself—the shape, the voice, the message. He showed me my purpose. Not exactly marching orders. More like a way of thinking. A philosophy. Love of family. Zeal for justice. Compassion for the oppressed. I could pursue those, without a doubt. But die for them? I breathed a long sigh. That remained to be seen.

Again, a deep dive in Megan’s POV reveals so much. Readers experience her growth and the pain that led her to this turning point, and they know that a rocky road remains ahead. They are with her, cheering for her, and enjoying the ride as she transforms from victim to conqueror.

This is what readers crave: a transformation that resonates in their own hearts as they hope to emulate the virtues that their literary heroes exemplify. And this is what authors long to write, stories that readers will remember, not only in the recesses of the mind but also through the changes of the heart.

Bryan Davis is the author of fantasy/science-fiction novels for youth and adults, including the bestselling Dragons in Our Midst series. Other series include the Oculus Gate, Reapers, Dragons of Starlight, Tales of Starlight, Time Echoes, and Wanted: Superheroes, several of which have been bestsellers. Bryan was born in 1958 and grew up in the eastern US. He is a graduate of the University of Florida (BS in industrial engineering). In high school, he was valedictorian of his class and won various academic awards. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and voted Most Likely to Succeed. Although he is now a full-time writer, Bryan was a computer professional for over twenty years. Bryan lives in western Tennessee with his wife, Susie. Bryan and Susie homeschooled their four girls and three boys, and they work together as an author/editor team.

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Tyndale House is offering a print copy of Search for the Astral Dragon by Bryan Davis to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What makes you want to read Search for the Astral Dragon by Bryan Davis? What draws YOU into a story?

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12 responses to “Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Bryan Davis & Search for the Astral Dragon

  1. Nick Battaglia

    I’ve read most of Mr. D.’s books, save for one, and I want to keep my mind clean, my heart pure, as commanded in Philippians 4:8. to present myself as a living sacrifice to the Lord, and his books haven’t let me down in this way!

  2. Megan

    My sons (11 and 16) have read many of his books and really enjoyed them! I wish I could find the book report (with illustration!) that my 16 year old wrote about Raising Dragons 5 years ago. 🙂 His younger brother asked to read it for years until we finally told him he was old enough. 🙂 This one I’d like to read–I’m kind of partial to the main character’s name. 🙂

  3. Kal Tomson

    I’ve read all of the Dragons in our Midst, Wanted: Superheroes, and a few of the Tales of Starlight. I’m really excited about Search for the Astral Dragon coming out. I love Mr. Davis’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more!

  4. Alison Boss

    My daughters have read many of Bryan Davis’s books and he is one of their favorite authors. They love his fantasy writings!!

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