David Johnson has done it all. After an unsuccessful attempt at making the Sacramento Kings, the 26-year-old author and father of two has started his own publishing company, Davis Boy Publishing. In November, Johnson wrote and published Lost and Found, a memoir of his struggles growing up in Davis. In light of his success, the California Aggie sat down with Johnson to discuss the author’s take on Davis, basketball and life as a writer.
Q: What was life like growing up in Davis?
A: I lived in Woodland, when I turned five I moved to Davis. I’ve been here ever since. I have three older brothers, we all play basketball. We were pretty much the only black people here. And that was actually pretty tight, because you get a lot of attention. You get a lot of attention from girls growing up in Davis, just being different over all.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time on the UC Davis campus?
A: Everyday. Ever since I was about eight, we would ride our bikes across town to Hickey gym and we would play [basketball] there after school. We’d play with a bunch of old guys. And we got to know them. They showed us a lot of the technical part of basketball. But as far as real ballers, we played at parks. People would come from everywhere. Especially at Chestnut Park, we played with so many different people. The best ballers were people we met at parks.
Q: Where does basketball play into your life today?
A: Right now, I go to my son’s school at their lunch time and direct little basketball games. Once I get involved in basketball, it’s all my brain thinks about. So I don’t even dribble the ball when I go out there. All I do is call fouls, tell them to line up for free throws. Because once you get involved and start holding a basketball, it’s like a drug. But I go over there and help the kids work on the things they need to work on. We just have fun, because once you start taking basketball too seriously, it’s not fun anymore.
Q: How did you get into writing?
A: I was working as a counselor, but [because of] budget cuts I got laid off. So I started my own company, which is Davis Boy Publishing, and now I publish books. But I had a screwed up childhood: It wasn’t loving, so I’d write all of the time. Writing was part of me. And finally, when I was sitting here with nothing to do, and I couldn’t get hired, I said ‘I’m gonna write a book’, and I wrote it and now it’s doing very well.
Q: What is Lost and Found about?
A: It’s about my life, the struggles in my life, overcoming things, no matter what it is. About my family now, how different it is from my family growing up. I had to learn to determine what’s right and wrong in the process of [raising my] family.
Q: What other books are there by Davis Boy Publishing?
A: Right now I’m working on Light as a Feather. A lot of it has to do with people not worrying about what people are doing in their lives, which I think is wrong – I think people should worry about each other. [It’s mainly] about a Broadway director. And I don’t know exactly where I’m going to take it, but she is really neat – she directed a show that performed at the Mondavi Center. Our kids go to the same school and we just talked, and I said, ‘I’m gonna write a book about your life’. It’s difficult to write a book. Lost and Found was therapeutic, but this one’s got to be more proper.
Q: Do you participate at all in the Davis literary scene?
A: I don’t have very much time. When you have kids, they take up your whole life. My daughter turned six on [Saturday] and my son is seven. But I’m not that old-I’m 26, turning 27 in June. Everybody that I know, they’re having fun. Doing the things I should be doing at this age.
Q: Would you consider yourself more of an author than basketball player?
A: I express myself through basketball. You can always watch somebody play basketball and determine their personality. But in writing, I actually say it. You don’t have to watch it, I tell you. And I think I’m a better writer than basketball player.
Q: What’s coming up for you now in your career?
A: Now, we’re talking to different movie producers, trying to turn Lost and Found into a movie. I wrote a script for it as well and we sent it over to [directors]. I’m not getting my hopes up, and then I’m just writing like crazy.
Q: Who do you see playing you in the film?
A: I thought Omar Epps, because people say he looks similar to me, but he’s old. I have no idea who would play me, but whoever plays me, they better look nice.
BECKY PETERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.