Tag Archives: The Watcher

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.]