Saturday, April 15, 2017

0 J. C. Davis, author of CHEESUS WAS HERE, on being inspired by "holy food"

J.C. Davis was here, and we're excited by what she had to say about her debut novel CHEESUS WAS HERE.

J.C., what was your inspiration for writing CHEESUS WAS HERE?

Years and years ago, a co-worker and I stumbled across an article about a piece of toast with the apparent image of Jesus on it which sold on Ebay for a lot of money. Which raises the question - who buys holy food? And why? I have a curious streak wider than the pacific so I started researching. Turns out there have been a lot of religious symbol food items and a casino was buying up a lot of them and putting them on display. Still others were bought by personal collectors. And the very first was the image of Jesus on a flour tortilla that a New Mexico housewife, Maria Rubio, discovered in 1977 while making her husband a breakfast burrito. Maria built a shrine to that tortilla and in the space of two years, 35,000 people visited it! And this was in a time long, long before the internet and social media.

All of that got me to thinking: What would happen if a religious sign showed up today? Clearly a lot of them end up on eBay, but what if it didn’t? What if it appeared in a tiny, ├╝ber-religious Texas town? What if the person who discovered it didn’t believe in miracles? From there the questions kept spinning out, as questions do, and eventually I had CHEESUS WAS HERE. A lot of details changed over the years as the book evolved, but it’s still true to that first original idea.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I began querying with CHEESUS WAS HERE in 2014. I got requests from Twitter pitch contests, secret agent contests, Pitch Madness and a few others. I also sent out a ton of regular slush pile queries. All in all, I queried or received query requests from 63 different agents. And despite all those pitch contest wins and requests, the two agent offers I eventually received both came from slush pile submissions. My friends were thrilled when I got my first offer, but even though the agent was lovely, I knew we wouldn’t be a good fit and it broke my heart. Thankfully, Mandy Hubbard made an offer two days later and I gleefully accepted! She was on my dream agent list and has been a delight to work with ever since. Mandy and I signed a contract in March 2015 and a few weeks later my novel was out on sub with publishers. Within a month we had an offer on CHEESUS WAS HERE! I was so excited! It was kismet because I’d actually had a request from this particular editor in the past.

My book was fast-tracked for a summer 2016 launch. Things were moving so fast and all my publishing dreams were coming true. Until they fell apart. I was in the middle of extensive edits for my editor when I got an email letting me know my publishing deal had fallen through. I cried. A lot. I’d joined a debut group, met friends releasing the same year, built big dreams and it all went away.

I finished the edits on my book, gave it a few more tweaks and in September 2015, CHEESUS WAS HERE went back out on sub. The rejections began rolling in. The new year arrived and slowly I watched all my 2016 author friends release their books. There was more crying. My agent sent my book out on a second round of subs and we were down to the last publisher who had my manuscript. It was clear I’d have to shelve this book I’d spent years writing and loving. But then we got the call! CHEESUS had a new publishing deal and would be released in 2017!

Because of everything that happened I feel like the path to publication was both whirlwind fast and agonizingly slow. In the end, though, I don’t regret a thing. I haven’t taken one moment of this journey for granted and I got to work with an amazing team at Sky Pony Press. The writing journey will always have its ups and downs. The key is not giving up. And celebrating every tiny win!

What is your writing ritual?

The majority of my writing time is done during my morning and evening commute to work on the local transit train. I adore the sound of the rails under the wheels, the whoosh of the world going by and the subtle rocking of the train cars as I type. When I write at home or at retreats, I listen to ambient train sounds to help unlock my muse!

I always write my first drafts in Scrivener and while I’m a bit of pantser at heart, I’ve learned to work from a loose outline to keep my writing focused. I edit a lot as I type. But it’s the initial writing I love the most because that’s when the story comes to life and surprises me. There are so many twists and turns that I don’t expect and discovering them is as much fun as coming up with an initial idea.

When I’m under deadline and in editor mode, I like to head to the local library. Being surrounded by books makes me feel like I have a thousand friends looking over my shoulder, whispering encouragement as I work.


Cheesus Was Here
by J. C. Davis
Sky Pony Press
Released 4/11/2017

Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late-night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart. This is a book for anyone who loved Saved!

Purchase Cheesus Was Here at Amazon
Purchase Cheesus Was Here at IndieBound
View Cheesus Was Here on Goodreads


As a child, J.C. Davis spent her days inventing secret worlds and finding forgotten places. Busy reading her way through the local library, she never imagined writing books of her own until one day, all grown up, she fell in love with a children's book and decided to rediscover a few of those secret worlds she'd invented. Ms. Davis's first book is locked in a drawer guarded by attack trolls. Her second, CHEESUS WAS HERE, will be released in Spring 2017 by Sky Pony Press. A programmer by day, Ms. Davis lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, two kids and a pair of hedgehogs with nerdy names. Ms. Davis is an amateur photographer, runs a Harry Potter meet-up group, and is an unrepentant book addict.


Have you had a chance to read CHEESUS WAS HERE yet? Do you remember the Jesus toast? What is your favorite piece of holy food? Do you like to use Scrivener to write your drafts? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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