Saturday 6 July 2024

The Story Behind the Story with Nicola Davison of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.


The Scribbler is beyond excited to have Nicola as our featured guest this week.

Her novel has garnered tons of rave reviews and we wanted to let you folks know.

She has graciously accepted our invitation to tell us the SBTS of the book.

Read on my friends





Nicola Davison is a professional photographer and the author of IN THE WAKE and DECODING DOT GREY. Her first novel won the 2019 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, The Miramichi Reader's Very Best Book Award and was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. DECODING DOT GREY won the 2023 Ann Connor Brimer Award for YA fiction and was nominated for the White Pine Award. Nicola is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. In 2016 she completed the Alistair Macleod Mentorship Program; polishing off the umpteenth draft of her first novel with her mentor, Carol Bruneau. Born in Nova Scotia, she has lived in too many places and done just enough world travelling to appreciate home. She lives in Dartmouth with her boat-crazy family and delightfully stubborn Basset Hound.


Title: Decoding Dot Grey


Eighteen-year-old Dot Grey doesn’t hate people; she’s just not especially fond of their company. It’s 1997, and she’s just left home in favour of a dank, cold basement, where she lives with several small animals, including a chorus of crickets, a family of sowbugs (they came with the apartment), a hairless rat, and an injured crow. Her job at the animal shelter is her refuge—so long as she can avoid her father’s phone calls. He’s trying to get Dot to visit her mother, but Dot knows there’s no point. No one ever understood her like her mum, who helped Dot channel her vibrating fingers into Morse code, their own private language. But her bright, artistic mother was terribly injured a year ago and Dot can’t reach her, even with her tapping fingers. Left with only a father who refuses to face the truth, she focuses on saving the little lives at the shelter. When Joe starts working there, everyone thinks he has a crush on Dot. Dot thinks he’s just awkward and kind. He shows his good heart when they rescue an entire litter of puppies together, and Dot finds herself warming up to him. But Joe waits too long to tell her his deepest secret, and soon she is forced to deal with two losses. In the end, Dot’s weird way of looking at the world is the one thing that will, against the odds, help her connect with it.

With clever wordplay and the most motley of crews—human and otherwise—Decoding Dot Grey is a tender and delightful novel from the award-winning author of In the Wake.


The Story Behind the Story:

I grew up in a house full of animals. We had all sizes–from hamsters to horses–and we always had cats and dogs. As a child, I felt more comfortable with animals than people. Still do.

In my early adulthood, just like my main character, I worked at an animal shelter. I witnessed a lot of suffering and was often frustrated by the system and how society treated animals.  Some employees were pragmatic about things while others harboured elaborate revenge fantasies. I’ve frequently thought about those people and wondered what they did after.

I’m a huge fan of coming-of-age stories. Most of the books and films on my re-read list fit that description. I especially like it when there’s a role for a dog/cat/donkey/bird/fish, told with a good dose of humour. Main characters who are decidedly quirky are also a favourite of mine. So, if I was writing a story in an animal shelter, it had to have those elements.

Early in the writing, I knew Dot had difficulty with human communication, preferring the company of animals and a few people in her close circle. I thought of Morse code; and how it could serve as an outlet for her anxiety as well as a secret language with her mother and grandfather. As Dot emerged, her identity wove into her name, like a dot: for her use of code, feeling insignificant, hopeless and unable to get through to the people in her life. But it’s also a source of fun for her, using it to communicate with the crow in the book and a way to make wry comments on things without people catching on.

As soon as Dot took shape and I had the setting of the animal shelter, I was madly typing. The only hiccup I had was that animal shelters have improved greatly in the past twenty-five years (phew!). So, instead of setting it in the present, I switched to 1997. I have since seen the book described as historical fiction. *snort*


Website – go HERE. 

A question before you go, Nicola:

Scribbler: What is the ideal spot for you when you write your stories? Music in the background or quiet? Coffee or tequila? Messy or neat?

N: The ideal spot? It’s an island in a temperate climate. Somewhere with horses, donkeys, scruffy dogs, lazy cats and fields of sheep. Early mornings, I’d write at a small table in front of a window with a view of the sea, taking frequent breaks for tea. A small stone pub is a half hour walk away - accessed by cutting through the field of horses/donkeys/sheep. There’d be large open hearth, a good dark beer on tap and locals who know when to keep their distance if I’m typing. But, late in the day when I’m letting the story rest, there could be poets, comedians, sailors who tell a good yarn. Maybe the occasional open mic night for everyone to share their work. A loose sort of writers group. In this scenario, I’d have a pen name because the popularity of my books have made it necessary to retreat from the public eye. The checks roll in and pay the bills while I keep on rolling out the stories.

My actual writing is done at a desk that looks out on a tree-lined city street. When I’m stuck with the story I head out for a walk around the nearby lake and record any flashes of insight on my phone with voice memos. I like working at coffee shops but I’m anxious about taking up table space and nursing a single cup of coffee for hours so I’m usually at home.

Last week I realized my son has outgrown his treehouse so I’ve claimed it as a writing spot. I have to climb a narrow ladder carrying my computer and there’s just enough room to sit with it on my lap but it’s quiet and I can stare off into the fluttering leaves and think. Yesterday, I surprised a squirrel who must frequent the little house, he did a double-take and sprinted off. Sometimes people walk past and I overhear snatches of conversation. We writers are shameless eavesdroppers so I suspect it will enrich my characters, reminding me that people have so many layers.

Your new writing spot sounds delightful, as does your new friend. 
Maybe he/she will be back.

Thanks for being our guest, Nicola. 

We hope you find that small table and view of the sea to write one of your stories.

And thank you, dear readers.


  1. A very informative interview right to the end. I did not realize the lengths authors go to enrich their characters. Thanks

    1. Nicola has done a fantastic job on her character development. Thanks for visiting and your comment.


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