Sarah Kades unearths the wild nature within us
by Timothy Pike
The helicopter should’ve been here by now, she thought.
Watching the sun sink lower in the sky, Sarah Kades and her research team stood waiting—and waiting—to be picked up from the remote archaeological site they’d been working at, with no sign of the aircraft, and no idea when it might arrive.
As hope faded, and the sun slipped below the horizon, Sarah steeled herself for staying the night. “I wondered if it was my turn to experience an unexpected work overnight in the bush,” she says. “Sometimes crap happens and the helicopter isn’t able to pick crews up until the following day.”
That’s when she saw it. Not the helicopter, but a scene for a novel, suddenly playing out in her head. “I wondered what kind of characters would need to catch a ride via helicopter in a remote setting,” she says, “and the story spun out of that.” It was the idea that sparked the novel Kiss Me in the Rain, the first book in her Hearthstone series.
Although Sarah was born and raised in the American Midwest, mostly Wisconsin, she immigrated to Canada in her early twenties and now lives in Calgary, Alberta. When she’s not writing, she works as an archaeologist and indigenous knowledge study lead.
Sarah set out on the path to this fascinating field early on, and never turned back. “In university, I had a geography prof suggest I go to Canada for an archaeology field school,” she tells me. “I met my husband, and kept getting hired onto academic digs, which led to a career in consulting.”
It’s this deep well of knowledge that Sarah brings to her latest eco-thriller, Wild Not Broken, the second book in the series. The story explores the way humans relate to the planet we live on, while helping us uncover our primal connection to nature.
It also seeks to unite people, whatever their viewpoints or political opinions. “Our world is so polarized,” Sarah observes, “but I don’t think it has to be like that.”
So what better way to bring people together than with a romantic suspense story set in the great outdoors? “Wild Not Broken has a jaded vegan war correspondent and MI6 courier whose career and nearly life was destroyed by a double agent,” Sarah says, “and a good ol’ boy—but kind-hearted—professional bull rider grappling with dark family secrets starting to leak out.”
What better way to bring people together than with a romantic suspense story set in the great outdoors?
By creating two characters that are polar opposites, Sarah wanted readers to see that beneath the surface, we have more in common with each other than we think. “I thought, ‘What are two of the craziest characters I could bring together for a thriller adventure that could entertain readers while also raising a dialogue of finding common ground and opening their hearts and minds enough to understand each other?'” she explains. “I also wanted to place them in natural settings to let Momma Earth work her magic on them.”
Sarah talks a lot about “Momma Earth,” even declaring our planet the biggest influence on her writing. She insists we all have a strong kinship with the natural world, and nurturing that connection can help us lead more grounded, fulfilling lives.
It’s certainly worked for her. “Momma Earth dares me to live my dreams,” she says, “then dares me to fly higher. She is fierce and loving, wild and tame.”
It was with the same daring spirit that Sarah jumped into writing to begin with. “A published author friend from Winnipeg suggested I give writing a novella a go for an anthology,” she says. “I thought she was nuts, but wrote a manuscript. When it was accepted in the anthology I realized this was really a thing, and that I loved writing.”
She was hooked. “After my first novella was accepted for publication, I realized how much I wanted to make writing work,” Sarah tells me. “I joined writing and critique groups, attended workshops and conferences.”
It turned out to be too much of a good thing, though. “I spent all my attention listening to others that I lost my own writing voice,” Sarah recalls. “That is, until a wise, gracious angel took me aside and reminded me to trust my voice, that I know what I’m doing, and to quit dithering and just write my stuff already. Solid advice.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, even Sarah’s writing habits are rooted in the rhythms of nature. “My writing process is like a seasonally impacted, tidal ebb and flow,” she explains. “There are times I compulsively binge write. Other times I need to incubate ideas. Learning to trust my process has been huge.”
“A wise, gracious angel took me aside and reminded me to trust my voice,” Sarah recalls, “and to quit dithering and just write my stuff already.”
And all that hard work has paid off for Sarah. “Earlier this year,” she says, “I was awarded a $25,000 Canada Council for the Arts grant to write book four in the Hearthstone series. I reread the email three times before I started shaking—realizing I had been accepted by the national arts granting agency as an artist, and that the granting team valued my project enough to support it and me, was overwhelming in all the best ways.”
In the end, Sarah’s mission is to help each of us unearth our own wild nature—and entertain us at the same time. “Wanting to share the natural world with others hugely influences my writing,” she says. “As I strive to do that in the best way possible, my connection with Momma Earth has deepened significantly. I am in awe and empowered all at the same time.”
Thankfully, you won’t have to wait long for Sarah’s next two books. “Not an Easy Truce comes out in June 2022,” she says, “and Loyal to You early December 2022. More family dramas unwinding against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountain foothills, and international characters, both friend and foe, crashing into the mix.”
“Stay tuned,” she adds, “for wild rides.”
Sarah Kades has studied in the United States, Canada, and Scotland, and for the last twenty years her day job has been as an archaeologist and indigenous knowledge studies and engagement facilitator. In 2020, she received her first literary arts grant and was a two-time Energy Futures Lab Banff Summit storyteller. In 2019, she presented at the British Society of Criminology conference on the effectiveness of using arts-based approaches.
She writes action adventure thrillers with strong environmental themes as Sarah Kades, and socially responsible narrative non-fiction as Sarah Graham.
When not writing, you can find her running, bumping into her next adventure, or trying to figure out where in the garden to put the makeshift wood-fired pizza oven.
Keep up with Sarah on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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