Sara 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?
Bookstore 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.