Shawn Grady: Firefighter pens smokejumper thriller
In his third novel, firefighter Shawn Grady offers the reader an exciting look into the world of
smokejumpers— wildland firefighters who parachute into remote areas to stop fires near the
source. Informed by Grady’s firsthand knowledge of what it is like to face the flames and risk
your life for others, the novel is filled with gritty realism and unforgettable action. Falls Like
Lightning follows one smokejumper as he discovers what things are truly worth treasuring.
Q: What led you to write Falls Like Lightning?
In my first two books I wrote about city firefighting and paramedic work. Falls
Like Lightning is the first time I’ve portrayed the life of wildland firefighters. The
profession of smokejumping has always fascinated me, so I did a bit more
research this time around, not having launched myself out of airplanes in the past
to fight fire.
I had a seedling of a concept where a smokejumper is newly placed in charge of a
band of rough characters and a suspicious airplane engine explosion forces them
all to make an emergency jump deep into the wilderness.
Q: Being your third novel, was this book harder or easier to write than
This novel presented me with two main challenges. 1) This is the first book that
I’ve written in third-person. It was fun to write from four viewpoints and a neat
challenge to weave the timing of events and the different perspectives into one
cohesive narrative. And 2) Smokejumping is the first profession I’ve written
about that I don’t have first-hand experience with. Once the firefighters are on
the ground, I’m fairly familiar with the tactics and strategy employed. But it took
extra research and a personal interview with a friend who worked as a smokejumper
to give me the insider’s perspective on the job.
Q: What is the central issue you are dealing with in this book?
That where a person’s treasure is, their heart will be also. For the protagonist, Silas
Kent, and a burden of guilt he bears, jumping into fires equates to being cast to
the earth and banished from heaven. He’s drawn to the destruction and the
burning altar. He doesn’t realize that the truth he values is actually limiting him
and not allowing him to live beyond his past.