Sarah Kades writes action-adventure romantic eco-thrillers. Her alternate pen name, Sarah Graham writes non-fiction largely.
For twenty years her day job had been as an archaeologist and Indigenous Knowledge studies and engagement facilitator until 2020 when she received her first literary arts grant and became a two-time Energy Futures Lab Banff Summit storyteller. In 2019, she was presented at the British Society of Criminology conference on the effectiveness of using arts-based approaches.
Q: Why split your name into two pen names? Would audiences not accept you writing fiction and non-fiction? And is that a decision you are pleased with or wish you had not done?
I was strongly encouraged by industry reps to keep my fiction and nonfiction separate—pen names, websites, social media, everything—to maintain reader expectations. I’m cool with pen names for different fiction and nonfiction, though I now have a single website and my social media covers both so I can focus my time on writing.
Q: You were an archaeologist by day. Could you share some of the archaeology activities you do and how that ties into your writing. What drew you to that profession?
My career as an archaeologist has given me a lot of adventures, and maybe a few near misses, over two decades of working outside, in a lot of different landscapes, with a lot of different people. The land, and our stories, matter. Writing gives me a chance to share that with readers. That geography professor in Wisconsin who first suggested I take archaeology field schooling in Canada, turned out to be right. And the rest is history.
Q: What do you consider is the key to a great story and how do you find your way there?
For me, the key to a great story is unpacking fascinating characters—what makes them tick, what are their motivations, what are their fears, what is happening that cracks the shell(s) they’ve built around themselves?
I feel all of us, at some level, have a shell or two that could use some cracking. My characters seem to know this because they lead me on a merry adventure as they lay out their stories and character arcs. I also let myself feel when I’m writing. If I’m feeling it, chances are the reader will, too.
Q: What is an eco-thriller?
An eco-thriller is a novel that is a thriller with strong environmental themes. Much of the eco-fiction I’ve heard about has been described as apocalyptic (i.e. we’re all going to die on the planet we’ve made uninhabitable).
My jam leans to auspicious (i.e. we collectively turned the climate crisis around and live harmoniously with this incredible planet).
Q: In 2020 you were the Literary Arts Grant two-time Energy Futures Lab Banff Summit Storyteller. That’s quite a mouthful. Could you share what that was about and why it was important to you?
I received a Calgary Arts Development Literary Arts grant to write Not an Easy Truce—I can’t overstate how life-changing that community support was. A completely different—but also awesome experience was being a two-time Energy Futures Lab Banff Summit Storyteller where I was commissioned to write scenario-specific short stories to help Canadians conceptualize different energy futures. The arts can help make information accessible, and get us into a headspace that facilities being able to conceptualize new ideas. Both are crucial to moving forward. Yay art!
Q: You’ve also presented at the British Society of Criminology Conference on the effectiveness of art-based approaches to solving crimes. Could you elaborate on that? Crime thrillers seem to be as popular as ever.
I presented at the British Society of Criminology conference on the effectiveness of using arts-based approaches to bridge the gap between the public and the police. For some readers, the narrative nonfiction book I co-wrote with an active duty homicide detective has helped bridge that gap.
I love the literary arts as an effective and engaging medium to gently open dialogues, unpack different perspectives, and help make information more accessible.
And by the way, Lincoln, England was awesome!
Q: What are your long-term plans? What would you like to do that has not happened to date?
I was recently asked to write a TV pilot. Screenwriting has been on my radar for a while, but I always figured I would explore that medium later. Later might be sooner than I expected.
You can find Sarah at the following social media links:
Sarah Kades’ Chocolate Avocado Mousse
This is a super chill recipe. Texture and sweetness is super flexible. It is a “raw foods” recipe.
4-5 Avocados (chunked)
2 C Medjool Dates (pitted, chopped and soak in water)
1/2 C Water
1/4 C Cocoa powder
2 T Maple syrup or Agave nectar
Pit, chop and soak dates for ~30 mins, then blend in a food processor.
Add avocado chunks. Blend, adding water and scraping sides of processor as needed.
Add cocoa powder and maple syrup (+/- to taste).
[If there is any left, refrigerate in an airtight container. I am not sure how long it keeps, we’ve never had any left.]