York native brings hope to teens with free novel


Before it becomes available for purchase, Nicole Watt's book, "Walking Out of Night," the coming-of-age story of a young teenager who faced sexual abuse during her childhood, is available for free online.

Watt has been serializing her book on her website, posting several chapters a week since the beginning of the month so it might reach those less likely to purchase a novel. Eventually it will be posted in its entirety and will remain online until it hits the shelves of major bookstores in December.

"I really hope to reach teenagers," she said. "Sometimes they don't have that pocket change to get a book, and there's also that group who just doesn't want to buy books. But I am hoping to reach that age group; I'm just throwing it out there, and to be honest I am hoping in my heart that it will reach someone somewhere and touch their heart."

The story: "Walking Out of Night" is loosely based on Watt's own history of sexual abuse. It is interwoven with the stories of those who have shared their own experiences with her, making the novel more fiction than biographical, Watt said, noting there is still a strong element of truth present throughout.

"I have just met so many people with a similar story," said the York City native. "Originally it was going to be a memoir, and then it slowly morphed into a fiction piece that I think ultimately will make a lot more sense to a lot more people."

The story follows a young girl named Melissa and explores how the abuse of her childhood follows her as she strives to become a woman in a difficult world.

"The story doesn't dwell on (the abuse) but strings it into the plot to show how this wound has affected and will continue to affect her," Watt said. "It's a coming-of-age story, you know. It's called 'Walking Out of Night' — it's about walking away from that shame and that ignorance."

The book touches on a variety of difficult issues including abuse, racism and abortion, Watt said. She added that in spite of the heaviness of the topics, she hopes the book "is written in a hopeful way."

Local readers may even recognize a few locations, as the book is set in York County.

"It is also about the double-edged sword of living in a small town," she said. "You know, little pockets like Dover where everyone knew what was going on with you. And there are always going to be people, no matter where you go, looking to gossip and hurt, but at the same time in these smaller places there are these strong bonds made. This book is also about all these relationships she made that helped her through."

Watt, who now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children, said she does miss her hometown and hopes to move back to the area in the future.

Read it: "Walking out of Night" is the first in a trilogy, and Watt is nearly halfway through the second installment, she said.

"Even though it's been written in between changing diapers, it's coming along much faster," she said of the second book.

Watt said she hopes her book will inspire others to talk about difficult points in their pasts.

"With this kind of abuse, it tends to be somebody we know, a pastor at church, a teacher at school, someone at home, a next-door neighbor," she said. "That can make it difficult to believe, and it can be hard to get onboard and do something about it, simply because you know that person."

To read Watt's book, visit thescarletcord.co.uk/walking-out-of-night.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.