Tom Davis Interview
by C.J. Darlington
"I’m a firm believer that everyone who claims to follow Christ is called to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. That means when we bring justice where there is none, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. " — Tom Davis
Tom Davis is an author, consultant, and the president ofChildren's HopeChest, a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. Tom holds a Business and Pastoral Ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Master's Degree in Theology from The Criswell College. Scared is his first novel, but he’s previously published several nonfiction books, including Fields of the Fatherless, and Red Letters.
When did you first realize you wanted to write books?
I stumbled into it. There was a story I wanted to tell about God’s heart for the poor, the widow and the orphan. So I called a friend of mine who had ties to the publishing industry and I quote, “If I wrote a book and it stunk, could you make it look good?” The truth is I didn’t feel like I was capable of writing a good book at all. The only writing experience I had was writing theology papers in seminary. The short story is that Fields of the Fatherless was self-published and sold 70,000 copies.
Before you wrote your first novel you wrote several nonfiction titles. What was it that compelled you to write fiction?
I’m the CEO of an incredible organization called, Children’s Hopechest. Our focus is to helps orphans and widows in Russia and Africa, and to bring reality to James 1:27. We are inundated with statistics telling how horrible the world is. I know so many people who are overwhelmed by those statistics and feel powerless to do anything. I wanted people to read a story about a young orphan girl caught in a terrible humanitarian tragedy and experience life through her eyes. That’s what Scared does. It puts the reader in a position to feel what it’s like to go hungry, to be abused, to fear for your life.
This girl, Adanna, is loosely based on a real girl. Could you tell us about the real Adanna and what drove you to tell her story?
She’s a real girl living in Africa – beautiful, talented, sporting a smile that melts your heart. Her story is a tragic one like so many African girls. Both of her parents died from AIDS and her uncle took her in to his home, forcing her to be a slave. She was abused by him but nobody knew the extent until she was rescued. Her first few days at the community center we help support, she would wet herself during Bible studies and meals. The staff thought the poor thing had never been potty trained but on closer investigation by the doctor, they found she was incontinent because she had been raped so severely. Her story broke my heart in pieces. Then I heard similar stories everywhere we went. As difficult as I knew it would be to recount these stories, I knew it was something people had to be aware of.
The novel reads incredibly well—not at all like someone’s first foray into fiction! How did you teach yourself to write novels?
Thanks for saying that! I’m still teaching myself how to write, I am but a novice. Nobody bothered to tell me how difficult it would be to write a novel. I just jumped into it without realizing the amount of work it would take. I’m really more of a speaker, a verbal storyteller. There were some great people who helped coach and mentor me along the way. One of them was Lisa Samson who is a good friend and incredible novelist.Moira Allaby also helped me with the gaps in the story. Her editing skills were invaluable. I’m a firm believer that you need others to help you turn the book from something good to something great. Being able to bounce ideas off of someone and talk through character development was very helpful to me.
What was the hardest part about writing Scared?
There came a point in the book where I couldn’t let one more terrible thing happen to Adanna. The thought of these kids going through this kind of pain was a lot to bear. The truth is they go through things that are even worse than I wrote. I wanted a scene in the book where Adanna was forced to sell her body in order to feed her younger brother and sister. It happens all the time in Africa. I couldn’t do it.
Share with us about Children’s Hope Chest, maybe a little of its history, as well as the goals of the organization.
Hopechest was founded in 1994 by helping orphans in Russia. After the fall of communism, nothing was being done to help the millions of children who were institutionalized by the state. Most of the kids were kicked out at fifteen or sixteen and they didn’t have the ability to survive. In fact, 70% of the girls ended up in prostitution. The idea of Hopechest is to help these kinds of kids have the chance at the kind of life a family kid would have. We help to meet the same needs for orphans that you and I would meet for our own children – food and clothing, but also loving relationships, medical care, and perhaps most important, an education. We also specialize in helping kids make the transition out of orphanages and into young adulthood.
I love your answer to the question so many of us have, “Why d
oesn’t God do something about all the bad things happening in this world?” Could you share your response here with our readers?
God does do something. He sends me and you. I’m a firm believer that everyone who claims to follow Christ is called to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. That means we bring justice where there is none, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. With God’s help we engage ourselves in issues that matter like poverty, starvation, disease and abuse. We aren’t allowed to sit by and do nothing. As Edmund Burke said, “the definition of evil in the world is when good men and women see injustice and do nothing.” We are a huge part of the answer to the problems plaguing our world.
Because you didn’t experience a father’s love growing up, did you find it hard to accept God’s love? How did you come to realize He did indeed love you?
It was incredibly difficult. I’ve recounted most of the story in my book released by Thomas Nelson entitled, Confessions of a Good Christian Guy. This was the single most difficult issue for me to deal with. I couldn’t understand why a loving God, my heavenly Father, would allow so many horrible things to happen in my life. After a number of shipwrecks in my life I went to Christ for the Nations Bible School in Dallas, Texas. For the first time I genuinely understood God’s love for me through worship, prayer and digging into my Bible. Before that, I understood His love, I heard about it, but at CFNI I experienced it.
Tom, do you have any advice for guys like yourself who grew up without good fatherly role models but want to be great fathers themselves?
Find a mentor, an older man who possesses the kind of traits you want to exist in your own life. For me, that person is Wes Roberts. He is a true gift to me.
What authors or books have had the most influence on you as a writer?
C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ravi Zacharias, and F.W. Boreham have shaped my life and theology. Pick up almost any book by them and I’ve read it. The ones impacting me most would be: Can Man Live without God by Zacharias, Orthodoxy by Chesterton, and Chronicles of Wasted Time by Muggeridge.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Alone somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. As you can imagine, my life is extremely busy with seven kids and running an international non-profit. I have kids on the Olympic Development Team and ones who travel for sports tournaments all over the county. I’ll take any time I can get to write. I’ve learned that I have to make the best time now matter when or where I find it. Late at night in my office, early in the morning at the office, in the car on the way to soccer games, or at a local coffee shop. So, I’ll put on my noise-cancelling headphones and some Baroque music and transform any environment into a place I can write.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
From a fiction standpoint I would taken a creative writing class on point of view and character development. I still hope to do that!
I hear there’s another novel in the works! We’d love to hear about it.
There is! Scared is the first book in a series of three. The next, Sacred, will be released in the spring/summer of 2010, and is centered around the child sex-slave industry. The story takes place in Russia where the Russian mafia controls this disgusting billion dollar industry. The other main character, Stuart Daniels, finds himself thrown right in the middle of it and he’s forced with answering this question, “Do I walk away and pretend this doesn’t exist or do I force myself to do something about it?”
Who is Tom Davis?
The easiest way to explain myself is talk about who I am, not what I do. I am the father to seven amazing children. Two we’ve adopted from Russia and the other five are home-grown kids! We love to spend times in the mountains of Colorado. We moved here from Dallas eight years ago and love it. I’m also incredibly passionate about helping orphaned and vulnerable children as well as people who are broken and struggling. My wife and I have always had someone else living in our home we were trying to minister to one way or another. I love the beauty of God’s creation, a great book, and a hot cup of tea on a cold day, and spending time with my wife.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m saying it below, but I love to cook. It’s a cathartic activity in my life. If I’m having a rough day, or just want to relax, I’ll cook a huge meal – from scratch!
Number two, I’m an ordained minister.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Mountain biking, snowboarding, cooking, and watching my kids soccer games.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Coffee, the breakfast of champions. It drives my wife nuts, but it’s my staple diet.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Cheese, Orange juice (not from concentrate!), and grapes.
First, I drink Saint’s Coffee (www.saintscoffee.com), coffee that fights poverty! But if I were in a Starbucks line it would be a grande coffee of the day, no room.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Well the last one to be checked off was to write a novel! Still on the list is to help one million orphans in my lifetime, go on a cruise with my wife, and to see Les Miserables on Broadway.
When was the last time you cried?
Ouch, this is not a guy question. In a worship service at our church a few weeks ago. Certain songs just get me!
Three words that best describe you:
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Coldplay – LeftRightLeftRightLeft
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Lots of Classical Music, especially Baroque.
Brian Doerksen – Holy God
Brian Doerksen – Prodigal God
Hillsong United – Across the Earth: Tear Down the Walls
Podcast – Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippitt
Ravi Zacharias – Let My People Think
Fr. Thomas Hopko – Speaking the Truth in Love
Dr. Gregory Boyd – Woodland Hills Church