Merrill Davies spent 31 years teaching high school English. Retired, she spends most of her time writing now. Her fifth novel, The Best Version of Alice, was recently released by Nurturing Faith Books.

1. What story, verse or passage from your faith tradition’s sacred texts has significantly influenced / shaped your life?

Several years ago, my church asked us to choose a “life verse” and I chose Philippians 4:8—”…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things” (NIV). I memorized the verse, and when I’m troubled or worried and can’t sleep, reciting it seems to calm me and help me to get on the right track. Although many passages in scripture have influenced me, I think this verse has been the most influential.

2. Who are three people (other than your family) who have shaped your life and worldview? And why?

As a teenager, I was influenced greatly by a lady named Nola (Jones) Lucas, a leader in my little country church. She encouraged me as a young teen and on through most of my college years by just being available and caring. She taught me many Bible lessons both in church and out.

During my last two years of college, I lived with a lady named Mrs. Lee. Mrs. Lee had had a stroke at age 41, which had left her right side paralyzed. Her grown daughters arranged for me to have free room and board by living with her and assisting her with the things she was unable to do for herself (which were very few actually). I was amazed at how she had learned to do so many things and kept up with all the news in the community, state, and nation although she seldom left her house. She inspired me to be my best self.

I met Jane Tucker in 1974 when we moved to Rome, Georgia, for Bill to become Education Minister at First Baptist Church. Jane was a dental hygienist. After over 30 years of friendship, I learned that she had been a “Rosie” during WWII, welding on Liberty Ships in Savannah when she was 16 years old. My fourth novel (Becoming Jestina) is based on her experience. Jane has been a model of caring for others which has inspired and motivated me for years and at 95, she is still an inspiration to me.

3. List three of your “desert island” books, movies or TV shows.

This question is difficult for me, because I’ve never been one to read books more than once. However, having been an English teacher, I do love to read. Of course, I’d want to have the Bible with me, and in addition, I think I’d take along two other books, one American Literature anthology and one English Literature anthology.

4. What is one of the most critical issues people are facing today?

When I first looked at this question, I immediately thought of our democracy, climate change, political divisiveness, etc. However, I really think our most basic issues don’t really change. The players are different, but every generation struggles with who is accepted and who can have power. The culture changes, but we never really learn the lessons that Jesus tried to teach: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, … and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:38, NIV).

5. What are a few of your hobbies?

My favorite hobby is writing. I have always loved to write. Since retiring from teaching high school English, I’ve published five novels and one collection of poetry. I also love to sew (I made nearly 100 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic), and I love to read.

6. If you could freeze your life into an already-lived 10 seconds, what would they be?

Any one of those moments when I realized that I had made an individual (especially a student) feel respected, valued and loved. In the case of my students, I often felt that some of them were seldom told how important they were to anyone else.

7. Our tagline at Good Faith Media is, “There’s more to tell.” What’s your “more to tell”?

The older I get the more I realize how little I know about my parents and grandparents. I am currently doing research for a novel based on my dad’s experience in the 1930’s, when he disappeared for seven years and spent most of them in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There’s definitely “more to tell.”

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