Sara Davison is author of The Watcher, a winning novel in the 2010 Word Alive Press publishing contest. The Watcher was recently shortlisted in the Best Mystery or Suspense Novel category for The Word Guild’s 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Awards.
Sara will be a panelist on the "My First Novel Has Been Published!" panel.
Sara, when did you first know you wanted to write novels?
We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but the first place I would head to in every new town was the public library and I would immediately feel at home. I have a clear memory of being eight or nine years old and walking up and down the aisles of the library, running my hand along the spines of the books, and thinking that if all those people had written a book, I could do it too. I could have a book published. So it’s been at least that long that I have dreamed of seeing my stories in print one day.
Do you consider yourself a plotter, outlining your story in detail before beginning to write, or a pantser, letting your characters or the situation carry you along? What would you consider the advantages and drawbacks of each?
I’ve never been able to fit myself comfortably into one category or the other. I usually have a rough idea of what each chapter will be about and often will write out a basic outline for each. So far I have always known how the book will end—except for the novel I just completed where I had three different endings in mind, which can be just as bad as having no idea how to end the book. I agonized for months over which ending to use.
However, once I start writing the chapters, the characters really do sometimes head down paths I don’t expect them to or develop personality traits I didn’t know they had. The storyline can change dramatically in one sitting. Sometimes I am blown away by what has just transpired because I didn’t see it coming. When I am in the thick of writing a novel, I usually sit down at the computer with a great deal of anticipation, anxious to see what is going to happen next.
The big disadvantage of being a serious plotter for me personally would be that it sounds like an awful lot of work. I have close friends, really great writers, who cover their walls in plot outlines and plans and charts and magazine cut-outs of their characters and blueprints of every building in their story and maps of every town. I admire them tremendously, but being a relatively lazy writer who doesn’t like to get bogged down in preparation and research but just wants to go ahead and make stuff up, that doesn’t particularly appeal to me.
I wouldn’t like to be a die-hard pantser either though–that is someone who just dives into the writing with no clear direction or destination in mind. For me, it would be way too easy to keep going down pathways that lead nowhere and have to back up and start again down another path. That seems like a lot of extra work in the long run. Both extremes stress me out. While I know and respect both types of authors, I’m much more comfortable with clear but flexible plot outlines combined with a great deal of freedom to let the story and the characters take me where they will.
What would you say are the #1 joy and the #1 challenge you faced when writing The Watcher?
The number one joy has definitely been the feedback I have received from readers and reviewers. I have had many people tell me that they found the novel to be a powerful story of grace, forgiveness, and redemption, and that, after reading it, they were compelled to acknowledge and deal with unforgiveness in their own lives, which has led to relationships being healed and restored. Knowing that my words have in some way brought glory to God and furthered His kingdom by touching people’s lives is the greatest joy I can possibly imagine.
By far, the greatest challenge has been getting people to even hear about, let alone buy and read, the novel. There is so much competition out there, so many great books and so little time to read them—as the ceiling-high pile on my bedside table can attest—that it is next to impossible to make a readership base of any significant size aware that The Watcher exists. I always say that writing the book is the easiest part; getting it published is significantly harder; and getting anyone to hear about it is the hardest thing of all.
This is particularly challenging as a new Canadian author publishing with a (relatively) small Canadian publishing company. It is extremely difficult to compete with American authors with big American publishing houses behind them, although, as William P. Young proved with the success of The Shack, it’s not impossible. It is essential if we hope to make any inroads into American and international markets, for Canadian Christian writers to persevere, to aim always for excellence, and to support and promote each other and our work at every opportunity. Thankfully, this is something The Word Guild does consistently and extremely well.
Read Part 2 of our interview with Sara on Monday.
Sara was interviewed by Steph Nickel, PR team co-lead.