Posts Tagged ‘Christian thriller/suspense’

JAN: Today I’m interviewing Canadian author, Sara Davison.

Sara, how long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Sara Davison

SARA: I have been seriously writing for about 14 years, but it is something I have done informally all of my life. In grade 4 my class took a trip, and my write-up was chosen to go in the school newsletter. I can still remember the feeling of seeing my words in print and knowing others were reading them. I believe I knew from that moment on that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.

JAN: The power of affirmation. Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

SARA: Definitely my grade 9 English teacher who read several of my pieces of writing to the class and was a huge encouragement to me. My husband and family have also been a tremendous source of support – without them I never would have had the courage or tenacity to persevere in what can be a difficult and discouraging business. I’ve been a huge bookworm all my life too, so many, many authors have influenced me to want to imitate them and their incredible ability to take me away to another world. Writers like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, Louisa May Alcott, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, to name a very few.

JAN: What’s your preferred genre?

SARA: I never made a conscious decision to write inspirational romantic suspense, but every time I sat down to write, those are the stories that came out. I guess because it is my favourite genre to read. I definitely prefer contemporary to historical, and am always looking for a story that keeps me on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding, so romantic suspense is my preferred genre both for reading and writing.

JAN: Why do you write?

SARA: It’s a bit of a cliché, but true nonetheless—I write because I can’t not write. God gives me stories and story ideas and I feel as though I have to get them down on paper or I will burst. I completely understand Eric Liddell’s assertion that God created him fast, and when he runs, he feels God’s pleasure. I feel exactly the same when I am writing, as though it is exactly what I was created to do and the way that God wants to use me to bring glory to him, which I pray all of my writing does.

JAN: What a great feeling to know that God wants you doing exactly what you’re doing. How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

SARA: I love to write in coffee shops, but I do most of my writing in my office at home. I can’t write longhand as I am so out of practice that my hand quickly gets tired, and I can’t write nearly as fast as the ideas come to me, so I always use a computer. As for being a plotter or pantser, I’m actually more of a plotser or a pantter – somewhere in the middle of the two. I like to have a fairly good idea of where I am going with the story before I begin. I like to know the beginning and the end and to have a sense of how I am going to get there, but I don’t outline so tightly that the story and the characters aren’t free to take me where they will, because for me, that’s the fun of writing. I often sit down at the computer, as interested as any of my readers will be in seeing what is going to happen next. I also consider myself a reasonably lazy writer, so I only do enough research to ensure that what is included in the story is credible and accurate, but then I basically just like to make stuff up.

The Seven Trilogy by Sara Davison

JAN: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

SARA: In the introduction to Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says he enjoys getting together with other author friends because none of them ever asks where the ideas come from – they all know that none of them know. I was very relieved to read that, as I find this an extremely difficult question to answer. I have a lot of author friends who are inspired by what is going on around them. They get excited when we’re out when something happens or they see an interesting person and they immediately start scribbling notes down to use in their stories. I don’t see the world that way. Pretty much everything I write comes from inside somewhere, not outside me. I know that God gives me the ideas because I feel closer to him when I am writing than just about any other time – writing is a deeply spiritual experience for me in that way.

JAN: I guess I don’t agree with Stephen King on that! I’ve asked this question in countless interviews and received some fascinating answers, including yours! We’re all unique.

How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

SARA: I’m not sure I understand the question – if it’s on the Internet, it has to be true, right? Ha ha. Okay, the thing is, as I mentioned above, I really don’t enjoy research and only do what I need to do in order to make sure that what I am putting in the book is accurate. I check more than one source (other than Wikipedia) online, but my preference is to have someone who knows more about a certain field or occupation than I do read it over. For example, since one of my main characters in The Seven Trilogy is in the military, I not only did research online, but one of my editors had been in the military herself, which was incredibly helpful. For Vigilant, since one of the heroes is a cop, I had a friend, a former police officer, read over the manuscript to ensure accuracy. For me it is easiest to just write the story and then have someone with more expertise check over it for me which, so far, has worked out quite well.

JAN: What do you like most / least about writing?

SARA: What I like most about writing is putting a book out there and then having readers respond with positive comments. The absolute best are the readers that tell me the book really got them thinking about God or examining their relationship with him. If I hear that anything in my books got people thinking or discussing anything, particularly spiritual matters, that is the greatest thrill of all. The downside of writing, of course, is that it can be an incredibly discouraging business that constantly undermines self-confidence. Over and over I have to remind myself that I am not writing for sales numbers, awards, accolades, or positive reviews. I am writing in obedience to God – to his calling on my life. I believe that because he gives me the stories, he has a purpose for them. If that purpose is for five people or five thousand or five million to read them, that’s up to him. I have to trust that if I write the books to the best of my ability and market them as much as time and resources allow, God will take care of ensuring that the purpose he has for them will be fulfilled. And at that point, whatever the response from others has been, I have to consider them a success.

JAN: Well said. What are your favorite / most effective social media?

SARA: Facebook is actually my favourite method of interacting with readers and promoting my work. Like most writers, marketing and promotion are the least appealing aspects of the writing business, but I do find an Author page on Facebook, or a closed launch team group, or writing or reading-themes groups are excellent ways to interact with other writers and readers, not only about my work but about the work of other authors I enjoy.

JAN: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

SARA: Not very well, to be honest. I love what I do – I write and I also have an editing business, both of which I do from home. The positives of that are that I don’t have to get up and go out in the morning, so it doesn’t matter to me what the weather or traffic is like. I love being home and being available to my three teenagers, and I am comfortable working in my office. The downside is that there is no way to punch out of work. Even when I do take a break to spend time with family or to watch something on television (usually sports), it’s in the back of my mind that I should be working. I have to be really intentional about taking breaks and about trying to let go of thinking about what I could be doing if I was back on my computer.

JAN: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

SARA: I am just about finished Lindsay Harrel’s The Secrets of Paper and Inkwhich is really good. Next on my TBR is Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner. Actually not the genre I typically read, but I met both of them at the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat this year so I was interested in reading their books. I definitely prefer paper, but I am also slowly warming up to reading on my Kindle. It’s handy when I am out somewhere and waiting for my kids to come out of school or appointments, or sitting in a waiting room. And if the power ever goes out or I don’t want to disturb my husband when he’s sleeping, it’s great to be able to read without turning on a light. So I do enjoy it, but will always prefer the feel, smell etc. of holding an actual book in my hands.

JAN: Same. I’m getting more into Kindle because it’s so handy. What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

SARA: Some of my favourite things are: live theatre; watching sports (especially hockey and baseball); chocolate; reading and writing, of course; going out for coffee with friends; movies, especially old black and white ones and most especially anything with Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant; relaxing on the shore of a lake, road trips, spending time with my family, especially weekends away with my husband. I’m not really sure what makes me unique – I lead a fairly quiet life, by choice, so maybe what makes me unique is that I am never bored and, for the most part, I am deeply content.

JAN: I get that. What keeps you going in your writing career?

SARA: Three things keep me going—the deeply-held belief that it is what God has called me to do and it is how he uses me to bring him glory and to do ministry; the support and encouragement of family, friends, and other authors; and positive feedback from readers.

JAN: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

SARA: While I have a dread fear of writing anything that sounds preachy, I do hope and pray that clear spiritual messages emerge from my writing as readers read my books. Different books have different themes, but the one constant truth I pray all my readers take away with them is that they are never alone. God hasn’t promised us that we won’t have trouble or even suffer greatly in life, but he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that is underlying theme of all my books.

JAN: I’ve certainly “heard” that theme in your books. What are some things you learned from your own writing?

SARA: I strongly believe that Christian fiction needs to be rooted in solid theology, so I am very careful about what I include in my books. I check my own theology against the Bible and against the teaching of hundreds of years of church history and against solid contemporary theologians. If I can’t prove what my characters are saying or experiencing on a spiritual level from the Bible, I won’t include it in my books, so I have learned a lot of theology and doctrine since I have started writing, which actually could be included in my list of favourite things to do.

JAN: What is your ultimate writing goal?

SARA: My ultimate writing goal is to produce works of excellence that glorify God, draw others closer to him, and fulfil whatever purpose he has for them.

Sara Davison’s latest book

JAN: Any advice for beginning writers?

SARA: A writer I admire once said that we have no idea what we don’t know when we are starting out as writers. Personally, I have found that to be true, so the two biggest pieces of advice I like to offer beginning writers are 1) be teachable. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Accept constructive criticism and try to learn something from negative feedback. Be humble and always, always strive to go deeper and achieve greater excellence with every piece of writing you produce. And 2) if you believe in your work, never ever give up. Perseverance is the key to making it in this crazy business, so take every rejection as an opportunity to learn and grow and to improve your writing and then submit it somewhere else until you find someone who believes in it as much as you do.

JAN: Great advice. Thank you so much, Sara, for taking the time to answer these questions so we can get to know you and your work better. I wish you all the best as you continue on in your writing career, as God has called you.

To learn more about Sara, check out her website. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter



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blog-hop-for-writers imageMy favorite genre is historical fiction. Of course, if you know me you might expect me to say that since I’ve read scads of them and have had three complete historical novels published, as well as one being released in installments (shameless self-promotion here).
River volume 4

However, I also love reading mysteries such as Anne Perry’s Victorian series (William Monk / Charlotte and Thomas Pitt), The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun, and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache stories. I could list countless others (Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books are another example), but these are books I read. I have yet to publish a mystery of my own, although I am currently editing a cozy mystery.

That brings me to another favorite genre: cozies. If you are unfamiliar with the term “cozy,” it is a subgenre of the mystery category in which violence is limited and mostly off-stage (my own definition). Something you can curl up with on a dark and stormy night without subsequent nightmares ensuing.

Speaking of genres, I recently read a great romance set in Scotland that made me want to hop on a plane to Skye to see the place for myself. Thanks to Carla Laureano for the experience. So although I don’t usually read dedicated romance novels, this one provided a lovely balance of character, plot and setting to keep me hooked from the beginning.

I also have a dear friend who writes gripping Christian suspense, which is a good balance to some of my other reading. Janet Sketchley’s Heaven’s Prey is a recommended read, but I couldn’t write suspense either.

Sometimes we all need a good belly laugh, a book that will make us forget our troubles. I love to read humor, but it’s a challenge to write.

So if I was forced to reveal my favorite genre, I would have to say, “yes!”  To all the above and more. Fiction has “food groups” and I like to have a balanced diet. I think it’s important for readers and writers to read widely. As they say: so many books; so little time.

my library photo

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Review of Heaven’s PreyHeaven's Prey

Author:  Janet Sketchley

Genre:  Christian suspense

Format:  print and digital

Publication date:  2013

Ruth Warner, a middle-aged woman whose niece was brutally murdered, has been praying for the murderer in an attempt to find peace. The perpetrator, a well-known racecar driver named Harry Silver, has become a serial killer, and is about to claim another victim in a convenience store when Ruth unknowingly walks in. In the chaos, Ruth is mistakenly abducted. During the harrowing hours that follow, the characters face situations they hadn’t anticipated, as the story of Harry’s past is revealed and God continues His work in their lives.

Author Janet Sketchley tells this story with grace and skill; this is an amazing debut novel. Her characters grow and change in a realistic manner, in fact, at one point I found myself sending off a quick prayer for Ruth as she faced the darkest of times. The characters’ dialogue is realistic and natural, easy to follow, and the point of view is clear and expertly handled.

The plot offers unexpected twists and turns, but moves smoothly and efficiently, a success in cause and effect. Sketchley uses strong action with all the right beats to make this story a movie in the mind of the reader. Conflict appears on many levels from the very first page: between characters and nature, character against character, character against God; and the tension escalates through to the final page.

In my opinion, the research is stellar. The world of the racing circuit comes alive as Harry learns the ropes and wins more and more races. Also, the police procedures seem valid and reasonable. It is my belief that if the author takes such care to dig for background facts, she can also be trusted to present credible spiritual truths and take-aways.

The entire story of Heaven’s Prey is presented as a well-formed unit. The beginning offers all the necessary facts without telling, the middle holds up well as tension increases, and the ending brings the whole to satisfactory completion. Technically speaking, I had a general impression of the author’s expertise and commitment to excellence.

This is a story of faith in the face of darkness, of trust in a God we don’t always understand. It is a story of inhuman cruelty, but also of forgiveness and peace beyond human understanding. It’s not a comfortable story, but one well worth reading, with inspiring values. Once you’ve finished reading the story, check out the Author’s Comments at the end of the book.


Also, check out my personal interview with Janet Sketchley at www.janicedick.com for January 14.

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Today I’d like to introduce you to author, Janet Sketchley:


Janet is a Canadian author with a passion for story. She’s also a wife, mom, daughter, and friend who balances relationships and responsibilities while learning how faith applies to real life. Combine all that with her quirky imagination and love of fiction to get inspiring novels about everyday women in suspenseful situations who discover more strength within than they could have dreamed.


Janice: Hi Janet. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. First of all, tell me why you write. What’s your motivation, what keeps you on track and when did you start on this path?
JANET: Thanks for inviting me, Janice. I’m looking forward to our chat. Most of my life, I’ve made up stories, so writing fiction was a natural progression. Non-fiction is a bit different. I have things I want to say, but for me conversation can be like a first draft—jumbled and in need of organization.

So I write to express what I’ve learned, or to share the story in my mind with others. One of the things that keeps me going is the desire to bring my “imaginary friends” to life in others’ imaginations. As long as there’s a better way to do that in my fiction, I keep working at it. I played at writing as a child, but fell back into it almost 20 years ago.

Janice: Do you have a specific audience in mind as you write?
JANET: I think it’s me! Not to be self-centred, but I want to discover the characters and their stories. To broaden that, my revisions aim to appeal to women who enjoy suspense and characters they can relate to, and who are either Christian or comfortable reading about Christians. I work to keep churchy jargon out, though, so readers won’t be confused or feel preached at.

Janice: As a writer myself, I know this requires self-motivation and discipline. How do you approach your daily writing? Do you work on more than one project at a time, and do you edit as you go?
JANET: I’m always writing content for my blog, but until now fiction has been one story at a time. I edit as I go, but there’s plenty more editing to be done at the end of the draft. I don’t think I could create two stories at once, but now that I have a series contract, once I turn in the story I’m currently revising, I’ll be writing a new story while doing edits on the other one.

Janice: Your debut novel—Heaven’s Prey—was released in November of 2013. Can you give us a brief summary of the storyline and what inspired the original idea?

Heaven's PreyJANET: A grieving woman is abducted by a serial killer—and it may be the answer to her prayers. Despite her husband’s objections, 40-something Ruth Warner finds healing through prayer for Harry Silver, the serial killer who brutally raped and murdered her niece. When a kidnapping-gone-wrong pegs her as his next victim, Harry claims that the chance to destroy the one person who’d pray for him proves God can’t—or won’t—look after His own. Can Ruth’s faith sustain her to the end—whatever the cost?

The original idea was a question: it’s one thing to pray for an offender locked away in jail, but what would you do if you met the person face to face?

Janice: How did you create / develop the characters? Are they based on real people or totally figments of your imagination?
JANET: They came out of my head, but my imagination drew on my own character and on impressions I’ve picked up from real and fictional people along the way. They’re not based on specific individuals or situations, though.

Janice: The book is set in Canada. Why did you choose that setting?
JANET: Canada is my home, and the story fit here. Plus, in dealing with an escaped convict etc, I wanted to work within a justice system I more or less understood, with easy access to input when I had questions.

Janice: What was the most difficult part of this project for you?
JANET: You know, there’s a bit of reflected shame when you’re writing about a serial rapist-murderer. At least that’s been my fear. How will people react when I tell them it’s a redemption story of someone this bad? As Ruth’s pastor says in the novel, there are some villains we just don’t want to see saved. [And yes, it was also difficult writing about him. I tried not to think too much about what he’d done, and he didn’t “volunteer” any information I didn’t ask for.]

Janice: And your favorite part?
JANET: Every so often, an aspect of the story would spring to life spontaneously and I’d write as fast as I could to keep up. Those moments are rare, but I love them.

Janice: What is your take-away value from Heaven’s Prey?
JANET: Whatever happens, Jesus will be there. Ruth discovers this, and it’s something I’ve learned along the way too.

Janice: I know you are an avid social media user. How did you learn to use it and what do you think is the most effective social media for you as an author?
JANET: I was a reluctant starter, but for a shy person with limited local contacts, it’s a great way to connect with people. My website/blog is my main focus, and I started small and learned as it grew. Other than that I like Facebook. It’s not as restrictive length-wise as Twitter and it incorporates links and images into the posts. I’m on Twitter but don’t know how effective I am. Haven’t risked Pinterest yet, although it sounds fun. There are lots of free resources online for authors wanting to learn social media. The two that have helped me most are Author Media [http://www.authormedia.com/]

and Kristen Lamb [http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/].

Janice: Do you write in other genres besides suspense fiction? Any non-fiction?
JANET: I’ve been dabbling a bit in speculative fiction for fun, but that’s on hold right now. And I have a non-fiction story, “The Road Trip that Wasn’t,” in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. The only non-fiction I’m writing these days is for blog posts: reviews, devotionals and Christian living.

Janice: Tell us a little about yourself: home, work, hobbies, interests, talents…
JANET: I live in Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast. I’ve just finished a few months’ full-time work, so I’m a writer-homemaker, learning to set boundaries between work-at-home and free time. I love reading, music, knitting and cross-stitch… and tea. TV isn’t on my radar, except for Doctor Who and Babylon 5. A year ago I joined a gym, and actually enjoy the group exercise classes. Who knew? So I feel stronger, and a bit more confident. I sing in our church worship team, too.

Janice: Can you give us a hint as to future plans in your writing career?
JANET: There are two more books in the Redemption’s Edge series: Secrets and Lies and one to be named later. That’s my focus right now, and beyond that I have a few ideas for other stories, but nothing clear. I love writing novels, though, and hope to keep it up long-term.

Janice: Is there anything else you’d like to include here for our readers?
JANET: Thank you for the chance to chat, Janice. I’m a long-time fan of your historical fiction, and it’s so good to see your newest story out. Readers who are curious about Heaven’s Prey can read chapter 1 for free at http://ow.ly/smyDU.

Janice: Thanks so much for your time and for giving us a glimpse of you and your work. I wish you all the best in your future writing.

Check out Janet’s social media sites below:

Website: http://janetsketchley.ca
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanetSketchley
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanetSketchley
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/janetsketchley

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Mishael-Austin-Witty-Author-Photo-199x300Mishael Austin Witty is a professional editor and the internationally bestselling author of SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME, a Christian thriller/suspense novel, and BELIEVE IN ME, a sweet contemporary romance/women’s fiction novella.

In addition to these books, she has newly released a zombie fairy tale, CAMPANULA, which marks a departure from the usual for her, but it was great fun to write, and she already has plans for another.

Her latest project is the soon-to-be released short story PROTECTING ZOE, published by Helping Hands Press.

She lives in Louisville, KY (where most of the action of CAMPANULA takes place), with her husband, two cats, and two daughters.

Connect with Mishael online in the following places:

* Website: http://www.bluebrownbooks.com

* Facebook: www.facebook.com/MishaelAustinWitty

* Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/woweditor12

Here are the cover images for her novels Believe in Me and Shadows of Things to Come:

shadows of things to come

Mishael Witty's book

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