Marissa Bell Toffoli

Interview With Writer & Editor Tod Davies

In books, editors, fairy tales, fiction, writing, young adult (YA) on May 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Tod Davies

Tod Davies. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2011).

An introduction to Tod Davies, author of Snotty Saves the Day: The History of Arcadia (Exterminating Angel Press, 2011). Tod Davies is also the founder of Exterminating Angel Press (EAP), which she started “to find people who were really passionate about an alternative point of view.” What Davies looks for in an EAP writer is someone who has “a practical orientation to life, who says, wait a minute, it’s not working.” Davies will tell you that “stories are living things,” and her author bio in Snotty Saves the Day states that she “firmly believes in the truth of fairy tales, and that if you know who you are (and what made you that way), you can change your world.” Her artistic pursuits are rooted in the philosophy that people ought to think about the world and their place in it, and that everyone may be an advocate for truth and an agent of change.

Quick Facts on Tod Davies

  • Editor and publisher at Exterminating Angel Press
  • The Tod behind the TodBlog
  • Home: Colestin Valley, Oregon
  • Comfort food: roast duck
  • Top reads: In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen, Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Current reads: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle, Why Fairy Tales Stick by Jack Zipes, The Prisoner by Marcel Proust, A History of the English Church and People by Bede Venerablis, and On the Discovery of Biological Truths in Fairy Tales by Dr Alan Fallaize

What are you working on at the moment?  

I’m editing the second book of the history of Arcadia, which has come to me by water: Lily the Silent: The True History of the First Queen of Arcadia.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

“Fairy tales are really true,

and they’re important.”

Fairy tales are really true, and they’re important. Fairy tales are not just little children’s stories or things to be exploited by Walt Disney.

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?

Really, what I want is someone who was an intelligent 15-year-old, is an intelligent 15-year-old now, or will be an intelligent 15-year-old soon. I want someone who has that intelligent 15-year-old still in them, and that 15-year-old is saying, “Who am I? What am I doing here? What should we be doing? What should we be doing for the world? Who can I talk to to find out who I am, what I should be doing, and what I can bring to the world?” I was that 15-year-old, and with all of the EAP books I try to edit them so that they are accessible to that 15-year-old. And, EAP designer Mike Madrid is always trying to create a cover for the books that a 15-year-old would not be embarrassed to be seen reading on a bus.

Where and when do you prefer to write?

In the afternoon, at home with my dog in the room, when the phone is shut off and I’m not on the computer.

Where would you most want to live and write?

Right where I am.

Do you listen to anything while you work?

No, silence. I love silence.

How do you juggle your writing projects with editing work for Exterminating Angel Press?

I split it up. The morning is for the press and editing, and the afternoon is for my own work. Saturdays are for cleaning the house and doing everything else I haven’t been able to get to all week. Sundays, I shut the Internet off entirely and let my mind wander. I think that’s really important: letting go and not treating yourself like a machine.

Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?

“I don’t understand why

we are all so unhappy.”

Why, because I don’t understand why we are all so unhappy when we have so much to make ourselves happy. For a philosophy, I think that you have to continually try and think about what you know to be true, and say it as truthfully as you can.  How it is received is not up to you.

How do you balance content with form?

I always think that form comes out of content. I love playing with form, but it is never first for me.

Why did you decide to include footnotes as part of the story in Snotty Saves the Day?

That is completely form coming out of content, because essentially that story (and almost everything I write) is about paying attention. Think for yourself. Look at things—what actually is true? Why do people lie? What does it mean if people tell you things are really good or really bad; what forces go into that, what interests are behind that?

We are in a cul-de-sac culturally—we have hit a dead end. I’ve noticed that fairy tales and books of fantasy actually do manage to get through that dead end, whereas stories that we are telling that we’ve all agreed are good stories are not getting through anymore. Ideas are being endlessly regurgitated. We need to find new ideas. The footnotes are about that. I’m always trying to put things together that you wouldn’t expect to go together. I want to see what comes out of that, rather than just doing the traditional thing.

“I’m always trying to put things together

that you wouldn’t expect to go together”

Is there a quote that inspires you?

Goethe: “Where is the man who has the strength to be true, and to show himself as he is?” That’s been on my wall since I was 19.

Van Morrison: “The only requirement is knowing what’s needed, and then to deliver what’s needed on time.” That’s one I usually teach my students. It doesn’t matter how brilliant it is, if you don’t deliver it on time, forget it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Be really practical. I know that’s the opposite of what other people tell you. They always say follow your dream. But, be really practical in following your dream, and do not whine when other people do not support you in it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself; be glad you’ve got a dream and go for it. And then, the most amazing things happen—forces that you never could have predicted would come to your aid do, but you have to throw your heart over the fence first. Don’t wait for permission.

“You have to throw your heart

over the fence first.”

What do you find most challenging about writing? Editing?

The first draft. I love rewriting.

The most challenging and the most fun thing about editing is to maintain the integrity of the voice of the writer, to suggest ways to support it, and make sure that their voice comes out as clearly as it can. I love to edit and work with writers who haven’t necessarily had much experience, so a lot of my editing work is to help them find their voice. I love that. It’s the biggest job, and it’s really challenging.

What book do you wish you owned in a first edition?

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

Is there a question that you wish people would ask more often about your work?

Are fairy tales true?

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Hang out with my family, which is my husband and my dogs.

About Tod Davies

Tod Davies is the author of Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got. Inspired by the work she did with teenagers in England, Snotty Saves the Day is her first book of fiction. Unsurprisingly, her attitude toward literature is the same as her attitude toward cooking—it’s all about working with what you have to find new ways of looking and new ways of being, and in doing so, to rediscover the best of our humanity and work toward a better world. Davies lives with her husband Alex, and her two dogs, in the alpine valley of Colestin, Oregon, surrounded by a mountain forest.

Buy the book, preferably at your local independent bookstore.

[Toffoli, Marissa B. “Interview With Writer & Editor Tod Davies.” Words With Writers (May 10, 2011),

Snotty Saves the Day cover

Snotty Saves the Day by Tod Davies (Exterminating Angel Press, 2011).

  1. What a joy to find someone else who thinks this way.

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