By Kathy Yanchus
Twenty-eight year old Sarah WaterRaven has relinquished financial stability for happiness.
“It was my life goal to publish before 30; it was the only thing I wanted to do.”
As such, the young writer made a 180-degree turn last year to devote herself to writing, editing and publishing Detective Docherty and the Demon’s Tears, her 325-page urban fantasy. Since its arrival on the market in August, the book has sold more than 200 copies.
“I’ve had great feedback so far,” said WaterRaven, her pen name.
Stories of fantastical creatures and magical journeys have enthralled her since her youth, but initially she followed another passion – the environment. After earning an environmental science degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, she worked for both Halton and Hamilton Conservation Areas and as an Earth Ranger educating children about wild and exotic animals.
“I guess I was unhappy even though I was helping the earth and I really liked connecting with children, loved working with the animals. I had a good pay cheque and lots to do, but I guess I felt something was missing.”
After entering an online contest, where participants the world over devote a month to writing their first novel, her life took a dramatic turn.
“And strangely enough, I’m happier,” said the Waterdown resident. “The contest (NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month) gives you a deadline that you wouldn’t otherwise have and it just forces you to do it. That’s how I wrote the first rough draft of this book.”
Influenced by the work of JK Rowling (Harry Potter) and Canadian contemporary fantasy writer, Charles de Lint, she literally sat down and began typing, reaching the 50,000 word minimum as required in contest rules with little trouble.
“Before you know it I’m thinking about characters, thinking about dialogue on my way to work. Each time you wrote, the characters became more complex, the story became more complex.”
Once completed, she hired an editor to critique her work, and self-published through Lulu.com.
“I was very determined. I wanted to make sure that I had something that was quality so I paid an editor to go through and chop it up. Just like anybody else who goes through an editor or publishing house, I had my heart broken because there were red markings all over the manuscript,” she said. “We brainstormed and I said, ‘Ok, you think I can do better, then let’s do better.’”
Detective Docherty and the Demon’s Tears is available at Indigo on Brant Street and Pickwick Books in Waterdown; there are even a few copies at Jitterbug Café, the Main Street North eatery where WaterRaven spent hours writing.
“Both local shop owners were very supportive,” she said. “I had my first book signing at Pickwick.”
As an eBook, it’s available at “all the big eBook companies.”
Her debut novel takes place in modern- day time after a fictional event called The Great Awakening.
“Basically no one knows why, but we woke up one day, all over the world, and fantasy creatures were real,” said WaterRaven of the book’s plot. “All these creatures from fairytales, from myth and culture, they were there, they were in the front yards and they were looking around like, ‘how did I get here?’ So here in Canada, we decide to accept them into our culture and assimilate them into our culture. So now you’ve got things like fairies and trolls and fawns and minotaurs and they’re all working and renting apartments, they have friends and they have lives just like we do.”
Detective Docherty is the “old fashioned, goofy, forgetful” detective, who investigates these creatures and the new crimes they commit.
“I decided that the police couldn’t necessarily handle it because what do you do when a shapeshifter robs a bank; you can’t dust for fingerprints, right? Fairies can change a whole room to look like something else and your mind sees what they want you to see. So they have all these powers and only somebody specialized in this field who would know how to dispel the power, see past it, or how to work with these fairies, would be able to solve these cases.”
Readers will no doubt recognize locales in and around the GTA throughout the book, a deliberate strategy to envelop them in her fantasy world, said the author.
“I wanted it to be where you could go, ‘this is where the goblins work or this is where Alexandria, which is one of the characters, did a painting.’”
What surprised WaterRaven most was the ease with which she invented an entire fantasy world.
WaterRaven calls her book a fairy tale for adults, but said she made it appropriate enough for young readers 12 and up.
“The main characters are older. It can’t actually be classified as YA (Young Adult), but it is open to all age groups. I tried to keep it as friendly as possible, adult enough for adults to enjoy, but not too crude that a younger adult couldn’t enjoy it.”
She is already working on the second of what she foresees as a three- or four-book series, while supplementing her income with a job in dog daycare.
“I love the dog daycare. It’s a great release; dogs have antics and they’re funny. I love animals and they inspire a lot.”
The pen name she chose incorporates her love for fantasy and science.
“Sarah is my birth name, but I love dragons, specifically water dragons and I love ravens. It’s kind of like a combination of my love of fantasy and my environmental background. Ravens are intelligent and there’s so much lore and mythology surrounding them.”
Readers can contact WaterRaven through her blog, Sarahwaterraven.blogspot.com.
Or they may just bump into her while walking down the street.
“I’ve moved a lot pursuing different careers, but I’ve always come back to Waterdown,” she said. “There’s something about the streets, the community, the little shops and you know everybody. I love it here.”