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Born At Dawn (Da’Valia Trilogy Book 1) by Christina Davis ~ Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
When a heist goes terribly wrong and the binding spell holding 17-year-old Neva’s powers at bay is shattered, the half-human thief knows she’s in trouble.
Neva has always hidden her Da’Valian heritage while working risky jobs to make a name for herself and serving at her family’s tavern, but she won’t be able to hide much longer. She can either risk the safety of those she cares about or seek out her mother’s people to gain control over her emerging powers.
The Da’Valia are beautiful, brutal creatures created by the god of war, and the austere Da’Valian soldier Astiand reluctantly agrees to take Neva to his clan under his protection. She makes unexpected friends, including the handsome fighter Emiliand, and a new enemy in the clan’s ruthless leader.
Spying on her guardian, the sly heroine quickly discovers just how deep she has stumbled into a dangerous, developing clan feud.
Will she be able to embrace who she is in time to keep her loved ones safe?
⚠ This book is about a race of warriors and contains violent scenes, which may not be suitable for all audiences.
Here’s what early readers of BORN AT DAWN had to say…
• “It’s so good!!! I’m slightly obsessed ♥ …I need more Astiand and Neva moments” ★★★★★
• “I always wanted to read more and struggled to put the book down” ★★★★★
• “I adored the book. It’s unique, and the characters are incredible.” ★★★★★
• “The pacing of the plot was one of the things that impressed me when reading this book: from the high-tension beginning, to the way world-building details were strung seamlessly … every chapter left me eager to read more without making me feel as if I was being constantly strung along by cliffhangers.” ★★★★
Christina Davis was raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and she spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals, embracing reading as an escape. After being home-schooled through high school, she graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University and attended NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute before embarking on a decade-long career in journalism. She enjoys chocolate, cosplay, coffee, and board games, but not necessarily in that order. She now lives in beautiful Monterey County with her husband and daughter.
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What inspired you to write this book?
The main thing that inspired me to write this book was Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. I know it’s strange to say an commercial urban fantasy series inspired you to write an epic fantasy series for new adult readers, but it did. Her story, the romance, and the imagery made me fall in love with an idea, which would be a spoiler for the third book of the trilogy, so I won’t go into that here. But, basically, reading good books is really inspirational for me.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I have the second and third books in the Da’Valia Trilogy drafted, and I am working on editing them with the intent to publish the second book, Blood, Fire & Mercy, in 2021 and the third book by 2022. Beyond that, I have so many ideas floating around in my mind… choosing one will be hard.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in BORN AT DAWN?
Yes! Neva Roberts is the main character of Born at Dawn. She’s 17 and working three jobs to help support her family. She’s super closed off, even from those closest to her, because she’s a half-blood and her mother raised her to hide the non-human side. But Neva is also pretty kick-ass. She moonlights as a thief, she enjoys competing in knife-throwing tournaments, and she operates in a moral gray area. Her biggest struggle in the first book is self-acceptance. The secondary characters are her human family and gang of thieves, and then as the book progresses, the Da’Valia, who are essentially battle demons that were created by the god of war.
There’s a couple of love interests, and each is really a reflection of some part of Neva. There’s her thieving friend, Adam, who she grew up with; her Da’Valian guardian, Astiand, who is your typical alpha male; and a Da’Valian soldier, Emiliand, who is your “gray shirt” guy. I don’t want to say too much about him because I know I’ll give something away, but he speaks to Neva in a way different from the other guys.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
OK, tell me if you’ve heard this one before – I started by pulling pieces of paper out of a hat. Seriously. When I finished college, I knew I wanted to write a book, and I needed some direction. I pulled out an occupation (thief) and a race (demon). Only I didn’t really want to write about a demon, so I decided to put my own spin on it. I wanted to create a people who complemented each other in a sort of yin and yang way. I also wanted them to be super honorable, courageous, valiant… And so the Da’Valia were born.
The hilans, the males of the race, have dark skin, hair, and horns. Their power is a night-sky black. But then on the other hand, the majilas, the females of the race, have white hair, skin and horns. Their power is sun-white and bright. They can use their powers together after a holy rite. I wanted the Da’Valia to be naturally fierce and brutal and purposefully proper and honorable.
Most of the Da’Valia characters were born out of these concepts. I didn’t even necessarily plan that Neva would operate in such a moral gray area, but I love that it worked out this way. She’s a half-breed, so it would only make sense that she does things a little differently.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
This question makes me laugh because I only recently realized what a name nerd I am. I have four different baby name books that I reference, and I owned them all long before I ever even thought about becoming a mom. The human names in the book were chosen to evoke a certain feel, one of high fantasy in a northern ice city. For the Da’Valian names, I built my own simple naming convention – guys have “and” on the end of their names and girls have “zhi” on the ends of their names. Surnames among the Da’Valia include a clan marker and a word derived from Spanish that often might hint at what type of person the character is.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Oh my. Titles are hard for writers, and I ran through so many options before I settled on BORN AT DAWN. Eventually, I asked myself, “what is the theme of the book?” and then I looked for a phrase that embodied the theme. Since majilas, female Da’Valia, were created by the god of war at dawn and Neva’s journey is one of self-acceptance, Born at Dawn became the title.
Who designed your book covers?
Ruxandra Tudorica of Methyss Art. She’s an artistic goddess. Her process is super interesting, beginning with a stock image of a model, progressing with 3D stock images of clothing, hair, weapons, etc. Then, she digitally paints over it to turn it into an illustration and she adds the background elements. I can’t recommend her highly enough. When I look at the cover of Born of Dawn, I feel like this character who I’ve gotten to know so intimately over the years, has truly come to life.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned a lot in the process of writing this book and this trilogy. I read so many books about plotting, took classes, challenged myself, asked other people to challenge me… My beta readers who tore into the first several chapters were perhaps the most helpful. I was able to learn from their constructive criticism and apply it throughout the book.
My husband also works in quality assurance and is one of the most critical people I know, so I asked him to be my consistency editor. During his paternity leave, we’d sit down at night or during nap time and go over his comments to troubleshoot them. In the process, I realized I couldn’t fake things or explain them away with magic. I needed to make sure every decision could be backed up if it was challenged. Rest assured, every decision in Born at Dawn can be defended! Haha. Anyway, now I feel as if my brain is wired differently, because as I write, I think to myself, could I defend this choice to my husband? And if the answer is no, I try again.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Just, thank you so much for trusting a new indie author to take you on an adventure. I hope you love the book as much as I do!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
So there are two scenes that I ADORE, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that the Da’Valia are a passionate race and Neva’s relationship with a certain hilan (a male Da’Valia) gives me all the good feels.
Disclaimer: The book is mild steamy – no actual smut takes place (and sorry if the word “smut” offended anyone. I think you either love the term or hate it, and I prefer to embrace it!).
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
It would absolutely be Neva. We’d hang out, throw knives, and maybe get into trouble with her invisibility glamour.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
I have one character in Book 3 who was largely inspired by a friend of my parents growing up, but everyone else is from my imagination.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Oh, yes, and they will never see the light of day! Haha. I wrote them when I was a teenager, so while I look back on them fondly, they really were the stepping stones to becoming the writer I am today.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Mmm… Something wintery or minty.
What did you edit out of this book?
I edited out two different beginnings to get things going right on Page 1. In one deleted beginning, Neva was meeting up with the crime lord who gave her a job, and in the another, she was on the job infiltrating a tower. The opening I went with, where she’s interrupted mid-job, seemed like a lot more fun.