In 2002, Turlock resident Carrie Dugovic began an endeavor she never could have predicted: authoring her own novel. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – after all, she could often be found at her children’s bedsides throughout the years, responding to the ever-present request of, “Mommy, tell me a story.”
But, with a job as a full-time database administrator at Stanislaus State and three school-aged kids, pressing pen to paper as she wrote her book, “The Lens of God,” was both a challenge and an accomplishment in itself.
“Stories have always easily flowed from me, and it was a wonderful way to spend time with my children,” said Dugovic.
“The Lens of God” is a Christian fiction novel that takes aspects of Dugovic’s everyday life, like her love for photography and the states of Colorado and Washington, where she was raised, and places them into the story of Tasha McCleary and Stephen Banks – two photographers who cross paths as adults and experience tragedy, forgiveness and healing through God’s truths.
The book begins with the pair meeting in Stephen’s photography studio, where she coincidentally discovers her own photographs hanging on the walls, then dives into the two characters’ backstories, weaving the story together until they meet again as adults. Though the story is not a romance novel, said Dugovic, there is a romance involved.
“The most enjoyable part about writing my book was finding out what was going to happen next to my characters,” she said. “Along with my reader, I also laughed and cried while writing. It’s hard to type while you’re crying!”
The idea for “The Lens of God,” came to Dugovic in a wildly vivid dream – something that happens frequently, she said, but this time, the dream was begging to be shared with a larger audience.
“One day, I awoke from a nap with this story so strong in my head, I felt compelled to write it down,” said Dugovic.
So, she wrote. Despite having written around 200 pages of “The Lens of God” as she first began her novel in 2002, difficulties in her personal life caused Dugovic to step away from writing – until now.
“I put the book aside, though the book kept calling to me over the years,” she said. “The characters were unfinished, waiting impatiently for their story to be told until last year when I finished it.”
Today, the three children who inspired Dugovic to start her journey as a storyteller are grown up, but the small trio who used to beg for stories at bedtime would be proud of their mother. She finally finished writing “The Lens of God” and the book was published in July, with her daughter’s 1965 Volkswagen gracing the front cover.
“I’ve had many people tell me that they feel like they’ve entered in and ‘were part of the story,’” said Dugovic. “The characters were very real, and even after putting the book down, they kept thinking about them and couldn’t wait to start reading again to see what would happen.”
Dugovic’s college-aged son was among the first to read the book, and during a car ride, the story toyed with his emotions.
“At one point while he was reading, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘Mom, how could you?’” she said. “I told him that not everything in stories is always happy.”
Reviews on Amazon.com, where “The Lens of God” is available for purchase, have come pouring in for the novel, which has earned a four-and-a-half-star rating on the website.
“Regardless of your religious beliefs, this story touches on the kindness and compassion we all have for each other,” wrote one reader.
Another fan of Dugovic’s book described it as a “beautiful novel,” adding that she felt “as much a part of the lives of the characters as if you were right there with them.”
Though she expects to write more novels in the future, it won’t be a sequel to “The Lens of God,” said Dugovic. She plans to retire from Stanislaus State next year, giving her plenty of time to pursue her other hobbies like making red wine with her husband, creating masterful mugs from clay or tending to her backyard chickens.
Perhaps in her next book, she said, another one of her interests will take center stage, as photography did in “The Lens of God.” For now, Dugovic hopes that her first novel keeps readers thinking about it, even after they’ve turned the last page.
“My characters go through some very tough situations, similar to many that people go through every day. Yet, they persevere and have the courage to pursue their ambitions,” she said. “Many of us would like to try something new or get back to a hobby or activity we once enjoyed, but life circumstances or our insecurities hold us back. Perhaps this book will inspire them to give it a try.” ■