Tag Archives: speculative thrillers

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.

Review: The Icarus Hunt, by Timothy Zahn

The Icarus Hunt, by Timothy ZahnThe Icarus Hunt, by Timothy Zahn (Bantam Spectra, 1999)

This is one of those novels that I loved on a first read and appreciate just as much (if not more) on subsequent visits when I can watch the hints and clues drop into place.

If Alistair MacLean were to have written a space thriller, it might look like this. Twists, turns, people who aren’t what they seem, and a protagonist I somehow trusted from page one even though his resume testified against him. (That might have had something to do with the way he dispatched three large, hairy aliens who picked a fight with him in a seedy spaceport tavern.)

Jordan McKell and his partner, Ixil, smuggle drugs for an interstellar cartel. (I’m very fond of Ixil, the alien with the two symbiotic, ferret-like “outriders.”)

The thing about McKell? You can’t stop him. So despite his unsavoury life, when he’s hired to lead a mismatched band of strangers flying a bizarre-looking ship across the galaxy to Earth, you know that somehow he’ll get it done. Despite increasingly strong opposition.

The Icarus Hunt is a chase. It’s also a puzzle, as McKell and his crew try to find out what makes this ungainly ship such a hot commodity.

This is a mainstream novel containing minor profanity, but otherwise what I’d class as a clean read. There’s violence, but it’s more punching or shooting than bleeding or screaming.

Timothy Zahn is my favourite science fiction author, and The Icarus Hunt may be my favourite of his stand-alone titles. He’s written over 40 novels, including some of the best ones in the Star Wars expanded universe, as well as numerous shorter stories. Along the way he’s won a Hugo Award and become a New York Times bestselling author.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Messages, by John Michael Hileman

Messages, by John Michael Hileman

Messages, by John Michael Hileman (Amlin Publishing, 2011)

David Chance is a journalism intern with the news team for a Boston television station. He’s an ordinary guy, married with two kids. One day he starts noticing random words and stringing them into messages. Messages that tell the future or that tell him what to do next.

Who’s sending them? David’s dead brother-in-law? God? Or David’s own mind?

All he knows is, the messages are true. And they’ve thrust him into a terrorist bomb plot.

Why him? Why now? If he obeys the messages, he risks his life and the safety of his family. If he doesn’t do his part, thousands may die—including the President of the United States.

Messages is a fast-paced suspense novel with splashes of humour. As a science fiction fan, I appreciated the character nicknamed Nerd’s references to Star Trek and Babylon 5. (Readers who miss those won’t miss anything crucial.)

The FBI are on the terrorists’ trail, but they don’t know what David knows—and how can he tell them without sounding crazy?

The messages, and the struggle to obey them blindly, rekindle David’s longing to know if God is real. His skepticism has always kept him from believing. Could the messages be the proof he needs?

Messages is a highly enjoyable read. It’s book 1 in the David Chance series, and as soon as I can clear a space in my to-read list, I’ll be into the sequel, Voices.

Author John Michael Hileman describes his novels as “contemporary pop fantasy with a spiritual twist”.  Visit his website to learn more about him and his other books.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Relentless, by Robin Parrish

Relentless, by Robin Parrish (Bethany House, 2007)

One morning Colin Boyd sees himself on the street heading for work. He, meanwhile, is wearing a stranger’s body. Lucky for him, his new persona comes with muscle memory and fighting instincts. He’ll need them all and then some, to survive the mysterious assassin who’s suddenly on his tail. And that’s just for starters.

A mysterious, barefoot girl warns him to leave town, but he needs to find out what’s going on. Apparently he’s now Grant Borrows: strong, handsome, owner of a luxury apartment and a sweet blue Corvette. And he’s wearing a fancy gold ring that’s bonded to his finger.

The novel’s pace is relentless indeed, and when the stakes look like they can’t get any higher, they do. Colin/Grant and his unlikely collection of friends try to stay one step ahead of the unseen Keeper, only to find him manipulating every turn. Everyone who has been “shifted”—and now wears a bonded ring—has some form of mental powers. Grant’s is the ability to move objects with his mind.

Grant is the Bringer, long prophesied to lead the ring-wearers into their destiny. He’s a reluctant hero, but he can’t break away from these people—and from his friends—who need him.

I didn’t have any better idea than the characters of what was going on. We learned together, and it was a fun ride with some very satisfying explosions. On a deeper level, the novel touched on forgiveness and on the question of who we are: defined by our circumstances, or by something inside us?

Relentless comes from a Christian publisher, but it could easily be a clean mainstream novel. Toward the end there’s mention of an Old Testament prophecy, and perhaps a spiritual thread will develop as the series progresses. If you like fast-paced speculative thrillers, this book’s for you.

I read the epub version as a free download from Christianbook.com, and there were some formatting glitches. Mostly they were just missing blank lines when the scene shifted from one group of characters to another. There was one page with a totally extraneous sentence, but that’s in the print version too. (Guess who bought a copy, then forgot and downloaded the ebook?)

The Dominion Trilogy finishes with Fearless and Merciless. You can learn more about American author Robin Parrish at his website.

Review: Eternity Falls, by Kirk Outerbridge

Eternity Falls, by Kirk Outerbridge (Marcher Lord Press, 2009)

Rick Macey is one of the best at tracking down—and shutting down—terrorists and other high-profile criminals. No longer working for the US government, he takes on projects that catch his personal interest. The novel opens with him in pursuit of a serial sniper, and the pace doesn’t slow as he jumps into a new case.

The year is 2081 and the future is a grim place where I wouldn’t want to live despite the technological advances. Cars have an auto-pilot feature. People have “neural nets” that sound like internet-enabled brains, only better. Science’s quest to extend human life has gone beyond cloning and cyborgs to the “Miracle Treatment” that lets people live forever.

The problem: one of the Treatment’s early takers has been found dead of natural causes. Macey’s assignment is to prove it’s the result of terrorist activity. He takes the job because the sole clue points to a memory from his own past.

Macey knows all the tricks, and he’s an excellent noir-type detective. He’s paired with the self-centred but attractive Sheila Dunn from the Miracle Treatment company’s head office, and as danger throws them closer together he tries to keep his distance. Macey has too many secrets for romance.

Eternity Falls has a satisfying number of twists, turns and revelations. The stakes start out high and get higher, masterfully woven by the author. This does not feel like a debut novel; it has complexity and depth and a detailed back-story that surfaces in bits and pieces as needed, to keep readers guessing.

I wasn’t sure if I liked the novel at first. The world is so dark. And the first characters to claim allegiance to God are either terrorists or seem like cult members. Knowing Marcher Lord Press, I reasoned there had to be more to the faith element than this. And I decided I trusted Macey even if he was surrounded by unlikely individuals.

Eternity Falls is billed as a cyber-thriller, dark PI fiction and cyberpunk. It’s high-tech, darker and more violent than I usually read, and Macey finds some interesting spiritual insights while he’s trying to keep himself and Sheila alive. He’s a fine story hero.

If you like thrillers and science fiction, and you’re not afraid of characters who mention God, check it out. I enjoyed it and I’ll be looking for more from Kirk Outerbridge. You can read a sample of Eternity Falls here.

You can read an interview with Bermudian author Kirk Outerbridge here. Eternity Falls is his first novel, and winner of the 2010 Carol Award for speculative fiction. A second Rick Macey novel is now out as well: The Tenth Crusader.

[Review copy from my personal library]