Tag Archives: Sara Davison

Review: The Color of Sky and Stone, by Sara Davison

Book cover: The Color of Sky and Stone, In the Shadows, Book One, by Sara Davison.

The Color of Sky and Stone, by Sara Davison (Three Dreamers Press, 2023)

Part thriller, part romance, and part Christian women’s fiction, The Color of Sky and Stone is a beautiful story that’s clearly hard for me to categorize. (Although I’ve learned a couple of new terms: this can be called upmarket fiction or book club fiction, since it’s designed to stimulate thought and discussion.)

Thriller: Tane is a secret operative in a Canadian organization tasked with taking down drug lords and crime rings. The brief scenes from the enemy’s point of view had me very nervous reading this book. I’m left with an unanswered question, but as an increasingly-timid reader I don’t think I’ll be brave enough to read the sequel in search of an answer. If this is the last high-suspense novel I read, though, I’m glad to have ended with one so appealing. [Note that only portions are intense; most scenes engage the heart and spirit. Also, what I feared didn’t transpire… yet.]

Romance: Lia and Tane are both isolated by their roles in life. Their relationship begins as two strangers exchanging letters. In the honesty and vulnerability of what they write (they’re not expecting to meet) watching them fall in love is sweet.

Christian women’s fiction: Themes of forgiveness (of self and others), honesty, secrets, identity, faith, childhood trauma, risk-taking, and emotional healing make this a book where readers walk with the characters and perhaps find something that makes a difference in their own lives. Discussion questions at the end offer additional opportunities for personal reflection and/or group discussion.

Lia and Tane’s experiences leave them both questioning their chosen roles. What makes the story beautiful is the honesty they risk sharing and the way it frees Tane from hurts he’s carried for years. None of this is contrived or pushy; it’s an organic outcome of their shared experience.

The Color of Sky and Stone is book 1 in the “In the Shadows” series. Sara Davison is an award-winning Canadian author of romantic suspense. Visit her website to learn more about her and her books: saradavison.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Hidden Secrets Short-listed for Canadian Award

Hidden Secrets is one of three novels short-listed in the suspense category for The 2020 Word Awards (for work published in 2019).

Hidden Secrets short-listed for The 2020 Word Awards

Also short-listed are:

Scars, a novel by Kevin Dautremont, M.D.
Scars, by Kevin Dautremont, M.D.

Vigilant, by Sara Davison
Vigilant, by Sara Davison

I haven’t read either of these novels yet, but I’ve met both authors, and their work is highly respected. Hidden Secrets is in good company. The beauty of this is that when the winning book is announced, I can either celebrate for my “imaginary friends” if it’s my book or celebrate for one of my real-life writer friends (at least acquaintances!). Win-win!

The 2020 Word Awards winners will be announced June 13, 7pm Eastern Time (8pm Atlantic) online via livestream on Facebook and Zoom. It’ll be free for anyone to tune in. Link details TBA.

For the complete short-list, visit The Word Guild’s Media page and click on the short-list announcement link.

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Review: The End Begins, by Sara Davison

The End Begins, by Sara DavisonThe End Begins, by Sara Davison (Ashberry Lane, 2015)

In the year 2053, after terrorist attacks on Canadian mosques are blamed on Christians, martial law leads to increasingly strict restrictions on Christian behaviour and activity. Bibles are one of the first things to be outlawed.

For bookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly, this strikes at her livelihood as well as her faith. And if she can’t hold back her rebellious attitude, she’ll be in even more trouble.

On the other side of the issue is Army Captain Jesse Christensen, a decent man who, though he’s rejected his parents’ Christianity, doesn’t agree with what looks like the unjust treatment of law-abiding, church-going citizens – treatment he’s duty-bound to carry out.

Meryn and Jesse seem destined to meet at every turn, and neither can deny the unexpected attraction between them. But Meryn won’t consider a relationship with a man who doesn’t share her faith. Especially when, if he knew what she was doing, he’d have to arrest her.

The End Begins is book 1 in Sara Davison’s end times series, The Seven Trilogy. The writing is crisp, the plot tightly-woven and frighteningly plausible. The romance, plus a subtle thread of humour, keeps the tension from becoming too much.

What I most appreciate about the story is the way it brings its characters (and readers) to think about their responses to blatant hostility and aggression. Meryn is not by nature submissive, but she and her friends learn to choose their battles, and to return hatred with gentle strength. In other words, they learn to live like Jesus instead of insisting on their suddenly-trampled rights. Their grace-filled responses make a stronger impression on soldiers like Jesse than if they fought back.

Meryn struggles with anger toward the soldiers enforcing the government regulations. Prayer becomes her key to forgiveness, and she discovers that it’s “very difficult to bring someone before God and hold on to hatred at the same time.” [Kindle location 1450]

Canadian author Sara Davison’s previous novel is The Watcher. Book two in The Seven Trilogy, The Dragon Roars, is now available. For more about the author, visit saradavison.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Suspense Novelist Sara Davison

Canadian suspense author Sara DavisonSara Davison is the author of the romantic suspense novel, The Watcher, and the romantic suspense trilogy, Seven. She has been a finalist for three national writing awards, including Best New Canadian Christian author. Sara has a degree in English Literature from Queen’s University and is a member of The Word Guild, the largest organization for writers and editors who are Christian in Canada. She currently resides in central Ontario, Canada with her husband Michael and their three children, all of whom she (literally) looks up to. Her favourite way to spend the days (and nights) is drinking coffee and making stuff up. Get to know Sara better at www.saradavison.org and @sarajdavison.

Janet: Welcome, Sara, and thanks for taking time to join us. We chatted in 2011 about your debut novel, The Watcher, and I’m excited to find out more about your new novel, The End Begins. Would you tell us a bit about it?

Sara: Thanks for having me, Janet. I’d love to tell you a bit about The End Begins, Book 1 of The Seven Trilogy, which released on Sept. 1 as an ebook and releases in print on Sept. 15. Essentially the three books tell the love story of a Christian woman, Meryn O’Reilly, and Jesse Christensen, the army captain sent to her city to keep an eye on the believers after a radical Christian group claims responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Canada. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by the fiery Meryn. When she breaks one of the new, anti-Christian laws, he races against time to convince the authorities to show leniency to her, and to convince her that their love can overcome all barriers between them.

Janet: This is an uncomfortably believable plot. What do you say to readers who are beginning to fear this sort of thing happening?

Sara: It can be scary, witnessing the erosion of the freedoms we have always held sacred in this country, namely those of religion and free speech. And Christians do seem to be the one acceptable target of hostility (actually a good thing, because it shows that the world sees us as different from other religions). But it is far more encouraging and productive to view these developments as incredibly exciting, as the unfolding of God’s plan to bring all people and nations to the point where they must choose whether to accept or reject Jesus Christ. Persecution, while not necessarily something to seek out, would likely be the best thing that could happen to the church in North America as it very often serves to strengthen and unite believers, and draw them back to utter dependence on God.

Janet: Valid points! With a title like this, I have to ask if it’s an end-times series, or simply the end of religious freedom for Christians in North America.

Sara: I believe the two go very much hand in hand. Most biblical scholars and teachers agree that we are in the end times, and have been for a long time. The closer we come to the end, the more difficult it will become for believers. In fact, Revelation suggests that there will come a time when society believes the Christian church is dead, and will celebrate in the streets as a result. Of course we know this will not be the end of the church, that despite intense persecution, including the loss of religious freedom, the church will endure to the end.

Janet: Were you concerned that researching bombings and extremists might bring a visit from someone in law enforcement?

Sara: Ha! I am deeply aware as I conduct some of the online searches I need to conduct, that I am probably being red-flagged by CSIS. I won’t be a bit surprised if they show up at my door some day. I’m sure murder mystery writers face the same possibility of the police coming to question them about some of their research. It’s an occupational hazard, I guess. The great thing about being a writer is that all frightening or horrible things that happen to you are just fodder for the next novel.

Janet: What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Sara: This goes back to the question you asked earlier, about what to say to readers who are beginning to fear what is happening to Christians in our society. The theme of all three books is that, whatever happens, however difficult or even deadly things become, believers will not have to face any of it alone. God will be there to help them through whatever they are facing and will give them the strength to endure. Story after story of believers facing persecution in other countries bears out the truth that, when needed, Christians will be given a supernatural strength and peace to carry them through. In fact, this happens to one of the characters in The End Begins, and it is definitely what I hope readers will take with them when they’re done reading the series.

Janet: “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there” is one of my key themes in writing, too. It’s a truth that makes all the difference. Of course we can’t face our fears on our own. We were never intended to, but sadly, we forget that! The End Begins was a RT Book Reviews’ Top Pick in August. Congratulations – what a great kick-off! What else has been happening around the book’s release?

Sara: Thank you. I was thrilled with the RT review, and humbled and grateful for all the other positive reviews and endorsements the book has received. I will be doing two, fairly informal, launches in October, as well as a blog tour. Of course I am also looking into various ways to promote the book through social media. Like most writers, self-promotion and marketing are not my strong suits, but I am committed to doing what I can to get the word out about these three books, and the publisher and my literary agency are promoting them as well.

Janet: What was the best part of the story to write?

Sara: I love writing suspense, but I’m a sucker for the romance too, so I did enjoy writing the scenes between Jesse and Meryn as their relationship developed. Probably my favourite scenes to write, though, were between Jesse and his best friend and commanding officer, Caleb Donevan. Jesse and Caleb grew up together and are like brothers, but the fact that Jesse is Caleb’s subordinate means they have to balance those two roles very carefully. It was a challenge to have them be able to slip in and out of their superior/inferior relationship and their best friend one, but from feedback I have received, they achieve this balance well. These scenes add the most humour to the book too, which is always fun to write, especially after creeping myself out with some of the other scenes in the books.

Janet: A little humour definitely helps readers recover from the tense parts! This is book one in your new Seven Trilogy. Without giving spoilers for The End Begins, what hints can you give about the rest of the series?

Sara: Jesse and Meryn’s relationship will continue to face challenges and serious ups and downs throughout the series. While book one portrays the gorgeous but deadly Scorcher as the female antagonist, a new enemy will rise up in book two, The Dragon Roars. Each book introduces new characters and storylines, but it is Jesse and Meryn’s story, and the love story of God and mankind, that will thread through all three books, concluding in book three, The Morning Star Rises.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Sara: The absolute most important thing I always tell any beginning writers who will listen is to be teachable. I’ve written six books now and still learned so much through the editing process on The End Begins. It never ceases to amaze me how much you don’t know that you don’t know, especially when first starting out. The biggest mistake a new writer can make is thinking their work is good enough to go out into the world without having undergone serious, intensive editing by professionals. You aren’t doing yourself, the market, readers, or other writers any favours by putting out work that isn’t ready, and you may be doing serious harm to all of the above. Be patient. The journey is long but if you relax and enjoy it, instead of trying to take shortcuts, you will never regret it. Instead, you can look at everything you have produced and be proud of your efforts. Most of all, you will honour God if what you publish is excellent and the very best you can make it.

Janet: Well said, and so true! Tell us a bit about Sara the individual. What does life look like when you’re not writing? How do you like to spend your time?

Sara: I do a lot of editing work for people, especially fiction manuscripts, and really enjoy that. I love coaching/mentoring new writers especially. Apart from that, I try to spend as much time as possible with my husband, Michael, and our three kids. Our oldest son is leaving for college next year and our daughter in a couple of years so it feels like this time with them is so precious and fleeting. I don’t want to waste a moment of it. Michael and I are also deeply involved in ministry at our church and that takes up a lot of time. Any spare time I have I like to meet friends for coffee, read, watch the Blue Jays (huge fan!), and go to the movies.

Janet: Coffee or tea? And what’s your favourite season?

Sara: Coffee. Absolutely.  I recently found a mug that says, “I just want to drink coffee, create stuff, and sleep” which perfectly sums up my life.

My favourite season is fall, although there are aspects of every season that I like. I could never live in a place where the seasons didn’t change.

Janet: If you could go anywhere, to any time, what might you choose?

Sara: Mayberry in the 1950’s. Or at least the small town Canadian equivalent where everyone knows everyone and has a picket fence and a station wagon with wood panelling on the sides. I’ve always said I was born after my time. I love shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show because, although I’m sure it wasn’t as idyllic a time as we imagine, it does seem like the last age of innocence, in our part of the world anyway.


When your beliefs are at war, does love stand a chance?

The End Begins (The Seven Trilogy, Book 1) by Sara DavisonBookstore owner Meryn O’Reilly and Army Captain Jesse Christensen are on opposite sides of a battle. After a series of terrorist attacks in 2053, martial law has been declared in Canada and the military has taken over. When a radical Christian group claims responsibility, Jesse and his platoon are sent to Meryn’s city to keep an eye on the Christians and ensure they are not stepping outside the confines of the law.

Fiery and quick-tempered, Meryn chafes under the curfew and other restrictions to her freedom. Jesse is equally amused, intrigued, and terrified by her spirit. She could find herself in prison if she shows defiance to the wrong soldier, namely Lieutenant Gallagher.

Jesse watches out for Meryn when possible, although she wants nothing to do with him. His worst fears are realized when she commits a crime he cannot protect her from. Now they both face an uncertain future and the very real threat of losing everything, including their lives. With time running out, Jesse works feverishly to convince the authorities to show leniency to Meryn. And to convince her that love can overcome any barrier that lies between them.

The End Begins released Sept. 1 (digital formats) and releases in print on Sept. 15, and is available online or in print through your local bookstore.

For more about author Sara Davison, visit her website, Choose to Press On, or see the feature article on the Ashberry Lane site.

Friday Friends: Author Sara Davison (part 2)

Last Friday we chatted with Canadian author Sara Davison, whose novel, The Watcher, released in March 2011. [You can read part one of the interview here.]

Janet: Welcome back, Sara. You’ve persevered a long time on the road to publication. What hope can you share with those of us still slogging?

Sara: It is a difficult journey, and a tough business that is only getting tougher as a result of uncertain economic times and on-going developments in technology. When this book was rejected yet again a year and a half ago I launched a blog called Choose to Press On, emphasizing the fact that if you believe in your story, and believe that God gave you this gift and this calling (and you really, really have to believe that or I would strongly recommend looking into other career options) then you have to just keep going and not give up. The stories are given for a purpose, and that purpose will be fulfilled in God’s time and in his way, not ours. In the meantime, keep working on your craft, honing it to  continually become a better and stronger writer. To get published now, work can’t just be good, it has to be excellent which, as writers working for the glory of God, should be our objective anyway. After that, we have to leave the results up to God.

Janet: Sound advice. Thank you. Are you working on a sequel?

Sara: Good question Janet. And the answer is maybe. When the book was UnBroken, I had a sequel written. Now that it has all been changed I’m not sure if the sequel still works or is needed. However, people have been asking about one, so I am taking a hard look at the other book to see if it can be rewritten to follow The Watcher or not. I will have to keep you posted on that. I do have another suspense novel written, The Child-Snatchers, which was short-listed in the Word Alive contest, so I am currently looking into publishing options for that one as well, but that one is the first in a completely different series.

Janet: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Sara: The song “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns has had a big impact on me. The first time I heard it, a girl from our church was singing it at the funeral for her twenty-year old brother who had died suddenly in a car crash. Praising God is always powerful, but I was overwhelmed by how powerful it was that someone could be in the midst of devastation and heartbreak, and still praise God. I often thought of this song, and of the moment I first heard it, when I was writing about how Kathryn dealt with what happened to her in The Watcher. 

Janet: I think the choice to praise God in the hard times and in the pain is very powerful. And it’s something we all need to do at times. Next question: Are you a writer who likes to immerse herself in details of the setting while incubating the story idea?

Sara: Actually, that depends on what I am writing. The Child-Snatchers is set in a diner in Toronto, so I have spent a lot of time in diners in my town, trying to capture the feel, sounds, smells etc. Other than my husband questioning why I am suddenly spending so much more money on coffee and breakfast, I love being surrounded by everything my characters see and experience in the book. In The Watcher, the setting doesn’t play as big a role as the actions and interactions of the characters, so I did not end up spending extra time on a ranch, or travelling out to British Columbia. I do immerse myself in the dialogue, internal and verbal, of the characters whenever I write, however. I don’t tell this to many people, but I do act out a lot of the scenes, holding up both (or more) ends of the conversation and really putting myself into the action so that I can feel and think everything the character would be feeling and thinking. Like most writers, I find my characters become very real to me. In fact, I realize they are becoming too real to me when my poor husband says something to me and I find myself thinking “Nick would never say that to Kathryn!” That’s when I have to stop and remind myself that Nick is a fictional character and it’s not really a fair comparison.  

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Sara: Well, other than moments like that, they are unbelievably supportive. It’s not an easy thing to live with a writer, and to go through all the emotional ups and downs that come with that calling. It would be extremely difficult to pursue that vocation if your spouse and children (and, in my case, grandmother, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins etc.) didn’t support you and encourage you daily not to give up. My husband Michael is my biggest encourager, and tells everyone about the novel, whether they want to hear about it or not J. My kids think it’s pretty cool that I’ve written a book, and they seem to be impressed. My older two anyway. My youngest son, who is seven, recently said to me, “I’m glad you stay home with us and don’t work. Well, except for writing books, but that’s easy!” They make me laugh, anyway, and that goes a long way toward keeping me sane and keeping me going.

Janet: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Sara: At the moment I am reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for a book club I attend and it is a beautifully written book. I am also reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, another beautiful, poetic book that is teaching me to live with a perpetual attitude of gratitude, and an awareness of the grace of God in the ordinary and everyday things of life. I also recently read In the Company of Others by Jan Karon, as enjoyable as the rest of the series, and Rescued by Donna Dawson is next on my list. I try to read a variety of books and authors, and to expand my horizons beyond what is familiar and, sometimes, even comfortable, in a desperate attempt to learn how great writers tell a story that has a powerful effect on their readers.

Janet: What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Sara: Is that an option? It’s pretty tricky for me to get away from it all these days, as I have three kids and have moved away from my family and don’t know very many people in town yet. Mostly I escape up to my room with a book, and I walk every morning with a friend down to the lake or on one of the many trails around here. Now that my kids are a little older, my husband and I do actually get out for a meal or a movie once in a while, and an hour or two of uninterrupted conversation is pretty much as close to a getaway as we’re taking these days.

Janet: Uninterrupted adult conversation is nothing to sneeze at! What’s the most surprising/fun/zany/scary thing you’ve ever done?

Sara: Wow, after contemplating this question for quite a while, I have come to the conclusion that I mustn’t be a very surprising/fun/zany/scary kind of a person, as nothing significant immediately came to mind. I’m not a huge risk-taker by nature, so this whole journey of putting myself and my work out there has been an on-going process of pushing myself further and further out of my comfort zone, which is always a good thing. Flying is I guess the scariest thing I have done, mostly because I have encountered pretty much everything that can go wrong with a flight short of crashing – being lost in fog, landing in tornadoes and the plane almost tipping over, having the plane searched for a bomb after someone checked in and didn’t get on a flight loaded with Hell’s Angels. I will still do it when necessary, but it does require a leap of faith and trust every time. Oh, and one of the most fun things that ever happened to me was bumping into Donny Osmond – literally – on a sidewalk in Toronto one day when he was there performing in Joseph. 

Janet: Sounds like plenty of things that could work into future novels! Sara, thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.


Sara Davison blogs at Choose to Press On, and you can also find her on Facebook and on the Great Canadian Authors site. Visit her website, saradavison.org, for information on her current projects, an excerpt from and discussion questions for The Watcher, interviews, reviews and more.

Friday Friends: Author Sara Davison (part 1)

Sara Davison is a Canadian author, and the winner of the fiction category in Word Alive Press’ free publishing contest in 2010. Her entry, The Watcher, released from Word Alive Press in March 2011.

Janet: Welcome, Sara, and thanks for taking time to join us. Congratulations on the publication of your first novel!

Sara: Thank you Janet! It has all seemed incredibly surreal since I got the call seven months ago that I had won the contest, but it’s also been very, very exciting.

Janet: Tell us a bit about The Watcher

Sara: The Watcher is the story of a journey. After a traumatic experience that changes her life forever, Kathryn Ellison has to find her way back to God and to the man she loves. Along the way she learns the importance of forgiveness and is able to find healing and peace. Which she is going to need as she is about to face the greatest test of her faith and trust as the man who has haunted her dreams for twenty years begins his own journey to track her down and finish the job he started twenty years earlier. Her daughter is on a quest of her own, to find the father she knows nothing about, and her search threatens to thrust both her and Kathryn back into terror again. The story is told from the viewpoint of a unique narrator, one of the many characters in the novel that represent God’s passionate love for us and his promise that we are never alone.

Janet: One of the distinctive things about the novel is the unseen narrator—the Watcher—and her companions, Grace, Faith, Hope etc. I appreciated the Watcher’s humour and her observations about humanity. At what point did she join the story in your mind?

Sara: This book, then titled UnBroken, was actually shortlisted for The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award through The Word Guild in 2008. It didn’t win that award, and was subsequently rejected by several publishers. When the Word Alive Press contest came around again, I sat down to seriously consider how to handle the biggest problem with the manuscript, which was that it took place over twenty years, a timeline more suitable to a sweeping epic than a suspense novel. I wasn’t sure how to shorten that up, until one morning in church (a great place for writers to get their inspiration, apparently) the pastor was reading Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

It suddenly struck me that all of these things are the “states of being” God desires for us, and as I pondered that it occurred to me that maybe I could add a narrator to the book that wasn’t actually human. It was kind of a crazy idea, and I had no idea whether or not it would work, but I decided to just play with it and see what happened. Putting in the narrator meant chopping up the book and mixing the scenes all around and then fitting them back together like a jigsaw puzzle, but it enabled me to shorten the timeline from twenty years to six days.

All of that happened about three weeks before the deadline for the contest which was kind of scary because it meant I was working on the book right up until the day it had to be mailed in, and didn’t have a chance to have anyone else read or critique it, so even when I sent it in I had no idea whether or not it worked, but I guess (hope) it does.

Janet: I think the narrator and the looking back at key pieces of the puzzle works really well. It’s not the standard format these days, but a straight-time narrative of the 20 years would feel choppy—or be huge. This way accomplishes something else too. We don’t experience Kathryn’s trauma as a complete shock. There are enough hints and glimpses first that we’re prepared. The novel is pretty intense in places, but you did a great job of portraying the pain without traumatizing the reader. Where did the story idea come from?

Sara: I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. Thankfully not from anything I have ever personally experienced. I have completed three novels, and each time the story has been given to me. In this instance, the whole storyline, characters, everything came to me while in church one Easter Sunday morning. I went home and wrote out the first draft in a few weeks. When I showed it to an editor, however, I was reminded that, while God may give us the stories, he doesn’t do the work for us. It took five years of writing, rewriting, editing, polishing and more rewriting to get the novel to this point.

Janet: Definitely true, there’s a ton of work involved. Good thing most of it’s fun. Do you have a favourite character in The Watcher?

Sara: I think my favourite character, although not necessarily someone I completely relate to, is the narrator, or the watcher. She is a delightful, sprite-like figure (in my mind, anyway), with a deep commitment to her creator and her charge, Kathryn. She also lends humour to the novel and often makes me laugh out loud. I don’t really relate to her boundless energy and desire to always be moving and doing and active, although I completely get her obsession/addiction to coffee.

Janet: She makes a delightful narrator, and I really enjoyed her. She kept me guessing at her identity to the very end, and she had some great lines. As the author, as well as delivering a compelling read, what one key thing do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Sara: The truth that I would most like to see readers get from this novel is that, no matter what they may be going through, whether or not they can see any purpose or point to their suffering, even if they are doubting or questioning or angry at God, the one thing they can grasp hold of and cling to is that they are never alone.

Janet: I’m so glad God never abandons us, and that He can bring good out of horror if we let Him. I know the novel just released, but what has reader response been like so far?

Sara: You’re right, The Watcher just came out a couple of weeks ago, so most of the responses I have received so far have been from family and friends. Given that they are not the most objective readers, I’m still overwhelmed and grateful for the positive responses to the book. Many have said they couldn’t put it down and they were intrigued with the storyline, and by having to guess the identity of the narrator. Several have said the book made them laugh and cry, and any time an author hears that their reader has been moved to that extent it is extremely rewarding.

Janet: Rewarding indeed! What got you started writing?

Sara: As far back as I can remember, reading and writing have been two of my greatest passions. I practically lived at the local library as a kid (still do, actually). There are two defining moments that I can remember vividly that I think really ignited my passion to write. The first was going on a class trip in the fourth grade and having to do a write-up about it afterwards. Mine was the one selected to go into the newsletter, and I can still remember how it felt to see my words in print, and know that others were reading them and learning something from them. It was a powerful feeling and made me want to do more of that. About a year after that I can remember walking up and down the aisles of the library one day, running my hands along the spines of all the books and thinking, all these people published a book, it can be done. I can do this. Although it has taken a few years to realize this dream, I know that without a doubt God had planted it in my heart even then.

Janet: Thanks for taking time to chat with us, Sara. We’ll wrap this interview up next week. [Click here to read part 2.]

Review: The Watcher, by Sara Davison

The Watcher, by Sara Davison (Word Alive Press, 2011)

One traumatic night changed Kathryn Ellison’s life. Now, 20 years later, she has a chance at love and she’s ready to take it.

But first, she must confront a shoebox of memories.

Each item deserves a final look before she burns it. Each look takes readers into Kathryn’s past, to pain but also to glimpses of hope and healing.

Kathryn has raised her daughter, Lexi, with the help of her supportive family. Lexi is a young woman now, determined to find the father she never knew—and unaware that he’s a rapist.

I’m leery of reading about sexual violence, but I made it through the novel unscathed. The details come out in gradual doses, with nothing gratuitous or graphic. Kathryn’s pain is real, but so is her love for her daughter and for others in her life. After 20 years, she lives a normal, if solitary, life. She’s accepted what happened—though she’d never  have chosen it—and so found healing.

Because it’s been so long since the events of that night, Kathryn—and readers—have a bit of emotional distance. Extensive flashbacks aren’t widely favoured, but this novel wouldn’t work in straight time. There would be too many superfluous details to wade through.

We experience key moments from her past that reveal the progress she’s made, and that’s enough. We also trace her growing attraction to Nick, the man who’s calling her to leave the past behind.

The Watcher would have been a compelling read on these terms alone, but Sara Davison gives it a fresh twist. In a time when novels are mostly first- or third-person as told by strong, key players, this one is narrated by Kathryn’s invisible companion, a being who can watch and wait but not physically interfere. The watcher and companions like Grace, Faith and Love, operate under the Creator’s own watchful eye.

The watcher adds humour and compassion to what might otherwise be a difficult read. She’ll occasionally turn from the narrative to address the reader directly. Again, it’s not usually done these days, but it works really well. She had me on page one and kept me through the story.

Have a look at one of her pithier observations:

Although it’s almost always better when Truth shows up, he is a bit of a showman and I often wonder if it’s as necessary as he seems to think to burst onto the scene like Liza Minnelli sweeping onto the stage, arms spread, and singing at the top of her lungs. [p. 142]

The watcher’s brief comments to readers are clearly set apart from the regular text with italics and with small images. It works really well. The flashbacks are separated from Kathryn’s present time by a few blank lines, and this has its limitations. If the blanks fall at the end of a page, it’s not immediately clear that there’s been a break. I think inserting a mark of some kind would have made it clearer.

There are three main timelines woven through the novel: Kathryn’s present, events of 20 years ago, and significant developments bridging from then to now. Since all involve the same characters, at times I had trouble discovering which time I was in.

Two things I’d have liked to see cleared up were what happened to the man who planned Kathryn’s abduction (and why he never seemed to do anything else towards his intended victim) and why her boyfriend Ty didn’t rush to her side in the hospital. Despite that, and despite a key copyediting oops where the watcher clings to the inverted promise that “the darkness always overcomes the light” [p. 186], I highly recommend reading The Watcher.

Sara Davison’s (or is it the watcher’s?) voice is fresh and vivid, with strong descriptive skills. This debut Canadian author is worth checking out.

Read an excerpt from The Watcher here, and find discussion questions here. The unpublished manuscript won Word Alive Press’ 2010 publishing contest in the fiction category, and was published in March 2011. Sara Davison blogs at Choose to Press On. You can also find her on her website and on Facebook, as well as at the Great Canadian Authors site.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Word Alive Press and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available now from your favourite bookseller.]