Local author tackles time travel and food deserts

There’s nothing quite as disheartening as being bedridden by an injury such as a slipped disc. Sarah Charles, a Toledoan who has spent years working in the mental health field, found herself not only injured, but completely and utterly bored as she waited motionless for her scheduled surgery. 

“I just thought I was going to go insane if I didn’t do something, so I started writing,” Charles said. “Because when else in my life was I going to have the time to write a book?’

Charles’ background is in psychology— and German— so she had some experience writing, but had never delved into the world of fiction. But with free time and a good idea, her first novel, Beneath the Destiny Stone, came to fruition.

“Writing a book was one of those things that I always thought would be cool, but I’m a pretty practical person,” Charles said. “If I wrote for a career, I wouldn’t want to do it because I’d be so nervous. You just don’t know if you’re going to succeed or not.”

Charles says, however, her injury was a blessing in disguise as it gave her an opportunity to go after this distant dream once and for all.

A trip through time
Beneath the Destiny Stone is what’s known as a ‘time slip,’ which is a plot device in which a person travels through time by unknown means. Charles was inspired by an event she happened upon when reading about Scottish history. The Battle of the North Inch was a staged battle in 1396 Scotland between the Clan Quhele and the Clan Chattan. The bloody fight was presented in front of spectators and even King Robert III himself. 

“It was the weirdest and most bizarre battle, so I did a ton of research,” Charles said. “Everything from simple Google searches to journal articles. I even contacted very helpful archaeologists.”

Getting published didn’t happen overnight. There was lots of writing, scrapping, re-writing and, of course, editing. Charles pitched her book during a Twitter writing contest and an editor reached out to her. The rest is history — although not as ancient as medieval times.

Author Sarah Charles.

Three Penny Project
And while time travel is exciting, Charles also is the founder of the non-profit The Three Penny Project, a charity that intends to plant fruit, nut trees, berry bushes and other fruit-berry perennials throughout Toledo — particularly in areas with food deserts. Charles plans to donate 10 percent of the profits from Beneath the Destiny Stone to the non-profit. 

“Produce can be so expensive and it’s so essential,” she said. “There have been studies where junk food had been replaced with fresh fruit and vegetables and suicide rates and aggressive offenses lowered. People’s brains are literally starving because they can’t get what they need.”

According to a study conducted and published by The Ohio State University, 24 percent of rural Ohio residents don’t live within a 10-minute drive of a retail grocery store. Charles believes it’s an issue that can be addressed right here at home in Toledo. 

“You start at home,” she said. “You take care of your family, your neighbors and your city. If we can give someone a boost when they’re in need, why shouldn’t we?” 

Because the Three Penny Project is in its early stages, a lot of help is needed to get it off the ground and running. Charles says she’s looking for donations, gardeners and grant writers to give their time and skills. 

Perhaps subconsciously, Charles has written Beneath the Destiny Stone’s protagonist, Fiona, to be just as headstrong and determined as she personally is. If characters could float off the pages of a book, we can only assume Fiona would be leading the charge to end food insecurity in Toledo.

To find out more about Charles, her book and the Three Penny Project, visit authorsarahcharles.com.

Charles with husband Kristopher.

Q&A with Sarah Charles
We asked Charles some rapid-fire questions about her favorite genres, authors and more

Favorite book
Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Favorite movie that originated from a book
The Princess Pride.

Favorite spot to read
In bed, although I listen to audiobooks when I’m cleaning or driving. It opens up your hands so you can multitask.

Do you dog-ear book pages or use a bookmark?
Dog ear.

Favorite author
Patrick Rothfuss.

Favorite genre
Fantasy with a romance subplot.

She’s Not Done Yet!
Charles plans to publish again in the future. She’s in the midst of writing her second novel, though it will not be a sequel to her first. 

“I was about 2/3 through a second book before the pandemic hit,” Charles says. “I kind of stopped writing since then because of kids at home and I couldn’t get anywhere quiet. But I’m picking it back up and finishing it because it brings me too much happiness not to.”