Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review Coming Soon - Author Interview

I have been asked to review the book "The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back" by Maria Sutton.

I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

Here is the book description from Amazon:

This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer s astonishing victories can be heard.

As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother s love and of tragedy, disillusionment, and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.

I had an opportunity to ask the author a few questions online and thought you might be interested to hear what she had to say:

1) At what point did you decide to write a book about your experiences?

MS: This is the book I HAD to write – no doubt in my mind. It started off being a story for my family, but many of my friends said the story was important and should be shared with the rest of the world. I thought about Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, two notable memoirs that brought us into the authors’ lives, where we learned of their family’s tragedies and triumphs and I wanted to add to that genre that exposed people’s vulnerabilities, weaknesses, strengths, and quiet courage. Moreover, it’s the resiliency of the human spirit that was the important part of their stories, and I wanted to share that message with readers beyond my family. When I was eight, my Mother watched the popular TV show Queen for a Day and oftentimes stated she should be a contestant because she was sure she would win the top prize, and that a book should be written about her life. At the time, I just rolled my eyes, but as her story unfolded to me during the search for my biological father, I realized she was a true-life hero and that a book should be written about her life. This book is for her, and all the mother’s out there who show quiet courage and strength in the love they have for their children.

2) How long did it take you to write the book?

MS: I have a complicated answer for this simple question. I searched for my biological father for 43 years – that’s over four decades of research material, so if you count that as part of the writing of the book, you could say the book was 43 years in the making. Once I decided to write this book, it initially only took four months for me to write it. But here’s the twist: I’m a fast writer, thought I had a final manuscript at the end of four months, ready to be sent out to literary agents. A little voice inside my head told me to have the book critiqued – so I did, by an Ivy League accomplished writer. When the critique came back, I was informed there was a lot of history in the book – and that history needed a strong voice to carry the reader through it, and that I had to be that strong voice because readers would want to know what kind of person would search for their father for 43 years, and WHY. I struggled with that concept for several months because I didn’t want to be the star of my book. I started thinking about the conversations I had with my mother about the War, Germany, her homeland, and immigrating to America, and the book began to emerge with me having these discussions with my mother. It took another six months to re-write the story in the new format. So, I guess you could look at the time frame for writing the book as 44 years, or just one. Aren’t you glad you asked this question?

3) Is there anything in the book that you considered leaving out?

MS: Oh YES, YES, YES! When I learned about the truth of my father, I glossed over it – and made a general comment about the horrific scene. My editor picked up the phone and immediately called me, stating I HAVE to describe what I learned – readers would get angry with me if I didn’t, and would not finish reading the book. She went on to say that the story had a beautiful ending, so I had to disclose, in graphic detail, what I found so that readers would continue reading the story through its ending.

4) Are there any parts that are NOT in the book that you now wish you had included?

MS: It was difficult for me to stop writing and re-writing the book, but there comes a time when an author has to say “Enough is enough!” An author has to be cognizant that what may be interesting to them may not be interesting to readers. One of the things that surprised me most about the book is that readers have become emotionally attached to Jozef, Julia, Paul, and Wasyl. My biggest concern in writing the book was that my family and friends really liked the story, but, that’s to be expected from family and friends, and would strangers who did not know us find the story interesting, and connect to the main characters? To my relief (and sometimes consternation), readers have become emotionally involved with the people in the memoir – some getting angry because I didn’t give more information about Paul, or that Jozef was the villain and why didn’t I paint him in a different light? Paul was a major influence in my life, yet one of my biggest failings is that I didn’t know very much about this man that I describe as a “Knight in Shining Armor.” It seemed like every reader had their favorite character, and perhaps I should have included more information on all the villains and heroes in my book.

5) Are there any other authors who have influenced your writing style?

MS: I love this question, and the answer will surprise you. My favorite authors are Steinbeck, Hemingway, Victor Hugo and Tolstoy. Steinbeck and Hemingway for their straightforward prose, Tolstoy for his complicated and sometimes convoluted stories, and Victor Hugo for his character development. Who could not love Anna Karenina or Jean Valjean? Writing has always intrigued me and the striking contrast between Steinbeck, Hemingway, Hugo and Tolstoy has taught me that the delicate balance between simplicity and abstraction is a huge consideration in how a book is written. Readers have to be given credit for their intelligence – you can’t over-simplify thereby insulting the reader, yet you shouldn’t make the reader second-guess what you’re trying to convey.

6) Do you have another book planned?


MS: One of the highest honors an author can get is for readers to say, “Please write more books.” I am thrilled that several readers have asked me to write more books, and I’m thinking that through. I need to feel passionate about a story in order to write it. Some marketing blog sites state “quantity is better than quality.” Not for me it isn’t. When I feel I have something important to say that I want to share with readers so they benefit in some way from my message, I will write that book.

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So does that get you excited about this book? It does me. I like history. I like family history. I like personal accounts. I enjoy suspense. Put them all together and this promises to be one delicious read. I'll let you know my impressions after I get it done.

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