Paul Saso’s new book Kootenay Inspired – Stories and Photos of Extraordinary Kootenay Lives will be launched tomorrow in Nelson at Touchstones. We sit down with the author to learn about the impetus for this book and what inspires him.

Kootenay Inspired author Paul Saso

Most people who know Paul Saso appreciate he’s a storied character who deserves to have a book written about his life. Instead, Paul has written one about others. December 7 marks the official launch of “Kootenay Inspired,” a 192-page, full-colour book in which are tales, photos and insights from 12 remarkable individuals who call the Kootenay region of British Columbia home. They include such people as organic farmer and ski lodge owner Brian Cross (seen above), Oso Negro Café founder Jon Meyer, actor Lucas Meyers, nursing instructor and activist Mary Ann Morris and photographer Ricardo Hubbs.

This has been a passion project for Paul over the past eight years in between his regular work in Nelson as an environmental consultant and shiatsu massage therapist. We caught up with him to learn more about his life, his book and what inspires him.

Hey Paul, congrats on Kootenay Inspired. How long have you lived here in the Kootenays?

I moved here in 2008. I had just returned from travelling around India for a year and before that I was in Ontario guiding canoe trips with at-risk youth. Before that I was outside Norman Wells (in the Northwest Territories) running a science camp and before that I was in Vancouver. So I was kind of all over the place. But I came here on a hitchhiking trip after India and ended up moving here.

What was the impetus for this book project?

I’ve hitchhiked all over the world including Canada and always felt like when I came back from these trips in which I had sat beside people for two hours or three days, that I had learned so much from them. But I could never remember the exact details of each ride. I just knew I learned more from hitchhiking than from attending university. [Paul took Geography with a Psychology minor at UVic.] Then I moved to the Kootenays and started hitchhiking to the ski hill and met all these interesting people and I thought I’d love to share their stories. But I didn’t have a medium yet or an idea about how to do that until I read Hope In Shadows by Brad Cran & Gillian Gerome, which profiles people from Vancouver’s lower east side. From that moment I just new I was going to write a book.

You ended up doing 12 profiles in the book. What made you decide on that number?

Actually, I interviewed a few more people than that but they didn’t end up being quite a fit for the book. These 12 fit together and made for a nice size book.

Were there any people who refused to be interviewed?

I was quite surprised that most people wanted to do it, actually. That said, I wanted to interview [Nelson artist] Wayne King early on but another writer had wanted to do a full biography of him and he had done all the interviews but nothing came of it. So he was understandably hesitant and we didn’t do it. Sadly, he died some years ago now.

What’s a standout moment for you during the creation process?

Hmmm. It’s been so long. Certainly getting a pallet of books dropped in my driveway this week was one. (laughs) Otherwise…it’s tough to choose just one. I’ve talked to so many people and it’s amazing seeing how things I’ve learned from each person now benefit me in my life. Like maybe I’m in a stressful situation and something pops into my head and I’m like, “Oh yeah, what would Ricardo do right now? He wouldn’t take this so seriously.” Mary Anne Morris is often in my head now because of the way she interacts with people to create this symbiosis that makes interaction empowering and engaging to everyone involved. It’s amazing how she creates space for people and empowers them to make changes in the world.

Ricardo Hubbs photographed by Louis Bockner.

Kind of like what you’re hoping this book with do for others?

Yeah. The whole goal is to inspire and empower. But something else I learned from Mary Ann is that you can only go so far with words; in order to really make a difference you have to give people something that helps put them in a place to act. That’s why there’s an important charity aspect with this book as well — 50 percent of the proceeds from this book are going towards Wildsight’s environmental educational program for kids as well as Tipi Camp’s W.I.S.E. program, which stands for “Wilderness Immersion for Self Esteem.”

Have you ever had someone say to you that your life has inspired them?

Maybe. A little bit. Not a ton. (laughs) Maybe I’ve inspired people in my ability to have a good time and to do things I’m passionate about. But with this book I hope to inspire people and then by sending someone to Tipi Camp for example, their life could shift and they’ll be put on a better, more empowering life path. That’ll be rewarding.

Mary Ann Morris.

Awesome. What are the details about your book launch?

The Nelson one will happen on December 7th at Touchstones between 6:30 and 9pm. Ricardo is coming to give a small talk about what the Kootenays mean to him. And the Creston one will be on December 9th at the library at 2pm. There are going to be some engaging activities for the crowd, people will be given some of the questions that I used to interview people and encouraged to chat with each other and learn something new. I’ll be doing some readings, representatives from Tipi Camp and Wildsight will talk about their programs, and some folks featured in the book will give little talks as well. It will be a celebration of the Kootenays and our community! And my mom is buying the snacks. I’ll also be doing a launch in Creston on December 9th at the library at 2pm. If people want more information or to find a retailer in their area, they can check out