Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Six Minutes with Maria Sutton, Author of The Night Sky

I took an interest in Maria Sutton’s The Night Sky because it is a compelling story about a quest. Young Maria had learned that her father was not her birth father and she set about to find him, to learn his story, and ultimately to re-connect with a portion of herself which had been lost in that great upheaval called World War II. The second reason I felt compelled to read the book was that it once again answers questions many people have about what really happened to so many people who were wounded by that terrible war. Sutton’s candid tale of persistence, hope, fear, confusion and pain makes for more than a good read.

The book's full title is The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back. There are many lessons here that we can all benefit from because she took the time to record and share them.

EN: Why did you write this book?

Maria Sutton: Millions of people are searching for something -- whether it be a new job, significant other, or something they think is missing in their lives. I wanted people to know that if they never give up, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, they will find that thing for which they searched. In the end, it may not turn out to be what they thought or hoped it would be, but it may be even something better. Many people have told me my story inspired them to continue reach for those stars – and that’s why I wrote the book, so that readers would know they can find their dreams.

EN: How many trips to Europe did you make in order to find your father and the rest of your family’s history?

MS: Europe is a fascinating, intriguing place to be solving a mystery. The history, architecture, culture, and friendly, helpful people, made me feel I was on a vacation instead of on a hunt. I sleuthed around Europe for fourteen years, covering four countries and six trips. The Internet helped me zero in on the places I needed to visit, but had I not been able to review documents in those foreign countries, the mystery would not have unraveled.

EN: What was the first clue that the image of your father was overly romanticized?

MS: There were so many clues along the way, but I dismissed all the ones that didn’t fit the image of what I wanted my father to be. A little voice inside my head kept telling me I was setting myself up for disappointment, but I didn’t listen to it – just like I didn’t listen to my mother’s comments that I should stop searching for Jozef. In the end, I knew no one could live up to the image I had conjured up in my mind, but that didn’t stop me from romanticizing about him. The picture of him that Angelica sent me still haunts me because it revealed his inner soul, and was the first of a series of shocking revelations.

EN: It seems that so many Americans are clueless about what Europe went through during the two World Wars. Your story helps bring understanding. What are the most painful truths you learned besides what you learned about your father?

MS: Man’s inhumanity to man was the most painful truth I learned when researching the tumultuous WWII era. The senseless killings, mass murders, and torturing of innocent people made me painfully aware of the evil that is within ordinary people, but the resilience of the human spirit is how I want my story to be remembered.

EN: What is the meaning of your title, The Night Sky?

MS: I love this question and get asked it a lot. From the time I first started writing the book, I knew I wanted to name it The Night Sky because all my life I have been looking at the stars of the night sky, knowing that somewhere beyond the stars of the night sky there was another world where my family was drinking coffee, eating bread, talking, laughing, and planting flowers and vegetables – and I wanted to reach out and touch them.

EN: How did the experiences that you share here change you?

MS: Finding my father was an epiphany for me. I had to come to terms with what I found during my search, and it could have shattered any illusions I had about myself. Instead, it made me a stronger person. It was a hard way to find out that only I have the power to define myself.

EN: How did writing this story change you?

MS: I am amazed at how many people have contacted me after reading my book. I get emails, letters, and phone calls from all over the world, people wanting to meet me, so I am humbled and honored that people feel my story has helped them with their life struggles in some way. If my story has made a difference in someone’s life, then I’m glad I shared my personal tragedies and triumphs. Many of the things I wrote about were embarrassing to me and I didn’t want to disclose them – just gloss over them, but I realized it would not have been an honest book if I had done so. I have also learned that truth, in all its ugliness, is a beautiful thing that sets you free.

EN: Where can people find out more about this book and purchase it?

MS: Thank you for asking! The Night Sky can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in most libraries. Readers can just Google “Maria Sutton The Night Sky” and about 14 million websites should pop-up.

Night sky photo courtesy Andrew Perfetti Photography

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