Sarah Latchaw’s teachers in the Benton Community School District aren’t surprised that the Van Horne native grew up to be an author.
“Sarah was a student who was not afraid to take risks in her writing. She has a very creative mind and grew as a writer because she was willing to research a subject thoroughly and experiment with different writing styles,” says Benton Community Middle School English Teacher Denise Nottger.
Latchaw says she always had a love for reading, but it was her English teacher at Benton Community High School and a creative writing course at Iowa State University that sparked her desire to pen her own stories,
Her debut novel “Hydraulic Level Five” began as a fan fiction online. It was released by Omnific Publishing in September of 2013. The sequel “Skygods” will be out in August.
The settings and the characters in both books are pulled from real-life experiences growing up in small town Iowa — playing on the porch, riding bikes on the black top, playing at the city park — and people she has met.
Latchaw, who now lives in Des Moines, also is a wife and mother of two young children. She writes during nap time and after the kids go to bed.
We spoke with Sarah about her life and her current book as well as what is coming next for this Iowa author.
Q: Robert Frost said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Were there any surprises for you in either book?
A: When I start writing a book, I begin with the end scene so I have something to work toward. I like to outline the plot of the story with pivotal moments throughout. I meander along until I get to those points and let the story take its course. In “Hydraulic Level Five,” I wanted a narrator women could relate to and a hero with real flaws. Kaye’s character has a rash personality. Samuel likes structure and labels and being in control of situations. Kaye is his complete opposite. For example, when Kaye does something rash and storms the bookstore during Samuel’s book signing, it has a domino effect on the rest of the story. I am working through that process now with “Skygods.” As I am editing and thinking about changes, everything has a domino effect that could change the rest of the story.
I also wanted to challenge myself by writing a book within a book. I wanted to experiment with different prose styles, which offers surprises in itself.
Q: What is the best part of being a published author?
A: Being able to be home with our children is such a joy for me. But, just as important as that, is having something that is just for me. I love to write. Having the opportunity to express myself and stretch my brain and create something is just as important. It is wonderful being a mommy, but it is just as wonderful doing something productive.
Q: The characters in your books are Mexican Americans, why is that?
A: I originally had “Hydraulic Level Five” set in Washington state. When I changed it to Colorado, it opened up a new dimension of the book. Since the Hispanic culture is so prevalent in Colorado history, its culture and family life, I wanted to make that part of the story. The Latin culture is often neglected in many novels, especially women’s fiction or if it is portrayed, it is done in a negative way. I wanted to share the positive, beautiful parts of the Latin culture through the Cabral family. They are such a close knit, traditional Hispanic family and Kaye wanted to be a part of that family. She needed their structure, their loyalty, and bond of family so badly. It just seemed natural to have a Mexican-American family in this story.
Q: Is there an author or book that influenced your writing?
A: Not really. I have always read. “Jane Eyre” is one of my favorite books. She is a strong heroine and led me to want to write more books with strong female characters. As a child, I also loved “Anne Of Green Gables” because of the nostalgic aspects of the story. You can find the influence of both of these books in my writing. I wanted to touch that nostalgic corner of my reader’s minds, capture that feeling of flipping through an old high school yearbook or photo album to explore “whatever happened to that beautiful boy?” What woman hasn’t walked in Kaye Trilby’s shoes at some point and had her heart battered a bit by someone she cared for? I’ve had many readers contact me sharing how cathartic it was to read Kaye’s story; the pain of her collapsed marriage touched them, as did her healing and her eventual triumph over heartbreak.
I still love to read and will read pretty much anything with a good plot. I’m currently reading the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon. I’m loving it because of the great research, the historical aspect, the strong setting, and strong characters. All things I love in a good book.
Q:In “Hydraulic Level Five,” your characters are into extreme sports. Are you?
A: No, not like Kaye is. I did go on a whitewater rafting trip with my sister in Colorado. After surfing the hydraulic, the adrenaline rush helped me forget that I almost drowned.
Q: So what is on your bucket list?
A: I intended to go skydiving for my 30th birthday, but I ended up being pregnant with my son. I love to travel and explore new cultures. I haven’t been to Japan, China, or the Himalayas even though I have done a lot of traveling in the past. I love to explore other cultures and people. Maybe once our kids are grown I’ll go back to the skydiving. Right now, the most important thing to me is raising our children to be good people, have a strong relationship with God, have love and compassion for others and grow up to be responsible people.
Q: I think readers like to know what you do in your spare time. Do you have any guilty pleasures?
A: I don’t watch much TV, but I do have two favorite shows that I try to catch. I really enjoy “Ghost Hunters” on Sci-Fi. I love scary stories and getting creeped out. On Wednesday nights, after I put the kids to bed, I love tuning into the “Duck Dynasty” marathon.
Q: what’s next?
A: I’m currently doing final edits for the sequel to “Hydraulic Level Five.” “Skygods” comes out in August and will be set around Kaye and Samuel’s relationship and will focus on the extreme sport of skydiving. I do have the idea for the third book in the series sketched out. It will focus on mountain climbing. But it is on the back burner right now while I finish up “Skygods.” I also want to write a series of books set in Iowa, but need to finish up the Colorado series first.