Christian Retailing

Davis Bunn’s ‘great storytelling’ appeals across markets Print Email
Written by Ann Byle   
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 03:43 PM America/New_York

Christy Hall of Fame author and four-time winner plans to enter new phase of his writing career

DavisBunn-ChurchDavis Bunn loves his job. He writes from his Florida home, his home in England, on airplanes, in airports, hotel rooms and waiting rooms. A best-selling author with nearly 8 million copies sold and books translated into nearly 20 languages, he has more ideas than time to write them into books.

“I came to faith at age 28 and started writing two weeks later,” Bunn said from his Florida residence. “There was an absolute certainty that this was what I would do for the rest of my life.”

He and his wife, Isabella, were on their way to California for talks about movie rights and screenplays, then on to England where they live for half the year. Isabella Bunn teaches at Oxford’s Regent’s Park College and at a college near their U.S. home in Vero Beach, Florida.

When Bunn began writing novels, he was managing director of an American consulting group and running its European operations. He has worked in 40 countries and made homes in six.

“I wrote seven books in nine years before the first was accepted for publication, all while I continued to work,” he said.

His first book, The Presence, was published by Bethany House in 1991, and Bunn has never looked back. Since then, he has published with River North/Moody Publishers (The Turning), Howard Books (The Sign Painter) and others.

He has written with Janette Oke, known for her prairie settings, and set other stories in countries from Russia to Syria, from Greece to the United States. He has ventured into such unusual subjects as breakthrough energy devices in Unlimited, the dangerous aftermath of the fall of communism in the USSR in Winter Palace and messages from God in The Turning. Ancient antiquities, bribery in the United Nations and nuclear war—there is little on the world stage that Bunn hasn’t plumbed for plotlines and characters, from the ancient world to modern times.

His current work, released by Bethany House (Baker Publishing Group) in November, is The Patmos Deception, a modern suspense yarn that pits a reporter, antiquities expert and Greek fisherman against unscrupulous thieves who will do anything to acquire a long-hidden scroll that may exist only in legend.

David Horton, editorial director at Bethany House, appreciates what the author brings to the publishing table.

“Davis—who has a long history with Bethany House, including his first published work—has a keen interest in—and knowledge of—issues of national and international scope,” Horton said. “Paired with his prolific capacity for great storytelling, that makes for an attractive combination.”

Bethany will support The Patmos Deception with print and online advertising, and work toward word-of-mouth outspread via social media and blogger reviews. Bunn will add to the efforts with his own promotions.

Co-op options for independent Christian stores remain vital, and the company will put money toward the book appearing in catalogs from Munce Group and The Parable Group.

“We are hoping Christian retailers will love the book and hand-sell it like crazy,” said Noelle Buss, Bethany’s marketing manager for fiction. “There is nothing like having a sincere personal recommendation from someone to [persuade] a customer to buy.”

ThePatmosDeceptionNever content to stick with the same-old, same-old, Bunn is entering a new phase of his career in early 2015 with the first of two new series to be published by Revell, a sister division to Bethany House.

Emissary, the first in the “Legends of the Realm” trilogy, is a classic fantasy that “will definitely appeal to the evangelical reader of fantasy,” Bunn said. “But it’s not exclusive to that community. It will appeal to all believers and fantasy readers.”

Another new series, which he calls “real-time sci-fi,” begins in August 2015 with Trial Run, first in the “Fault Lines” trilogy. Bunn writes both series under the pseudonym Thomas Locke, a change he’s not trying to hide, but instead is using as a way to differentiate his fantasy and science-fiction writing from his other work.

“This is a big step to launch two new series under a pen name,” he said. “It’s a new direction for me and a new direction for Revell.”

Bunn said Thomas Locke was the name of his first forebear to immigrate to the United States in the early 1700s.

“These are two categories that haven’t been a staple for Revell, but now it’s the right time and the right author,” said Jennifer Leep, fiction editor for Revell. “Davis is tremendously talented, and he’s got a real passion for these books. We’ve dubbed it as writing classic fantasy for a modern reader. One thing to his benefit is the general darkness in fantasy writing these days. Davis offers fantasy in which the light is brighter than the darkness.”

Part of the fun is that he’s already been contracted to write the screenplay for Emissary. Nicholas Burgess-Jones, the most successful producer of music videos in Europe, will produce and direct the film, which is to begin in April 2015 should investors be found.

“We knew the movie potential,” Leep said. “When I read Emissary, I could understand why he was able to capture the interest of the film world.”

Bunn also wrote the screenplay for Unlimited (B&H Books). The movie stars Fred Thompson and will be released by Provident Films in March or April of next year. Bunn is also working on two screenplays based on novels that will become made-for-television movies.

He served as emcee of the 2014 Christy Awards held during the International Christian Retail Show and as an inductee into the Christy Hall of Fame. He was inducted after winning four Christy Awards in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2013.

“The word most often used to describe Davis Bunn is ‘gentleman,’” said Donna Kehoe, executive director of the Christy Awards. “He holds the position of statesman in the Christian publishing world.”

Bunn recalls the first time he ever walked into a Christian retail store. He’d been a believer for just over a year when his sister told him about Sign of the Fish in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“The store was just magic,” Bunn said. “The owner, Joanna Hicks, came over, and we got into a conversation about how much I wanted to be a writer and how much my faith meant to me. The high point of my trips home was to visit the store.”

Bunn sees bookstores as vital to sales.

“It’s absolutely crucial in this market to hand-sell, but for the Thomas Locke books it’s going to be even more so,” he said. “Christian retailers do this better than anyone out there.”

Leep said Revell will tap into fantasy markets with ad placements and other opportunities but also expects full support from Christian retail.

“Davis walks that line very well,” Leep said. “He understands the sensibilities of the Christian market and doesn’t alienate it, but also feels relatable and interesting to the general market.”

Despite Sign of the Fish closing, any visit to a Christian retail store is an event for Bunn.

“I go in and spend way too much money,” he said with a laugh.