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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spotlight Saturday: Author Interview and Giveaway with Maria Sutton, author of The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back

Hi, everyone!

Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books!

We will be joined today by Maria Sutton. 

About Maria:

Maria Sutton was born in the barracks of Germany’s former Wehrmacht command center, which had been converted to house Europe’s Displaced Persons after WWII.

In 1951, Maria, along with her Mother, Step-father, and sister immigrated to America and she has lived in the greater Denver metro area since that time. Her book, The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back, is the culmination of her 43-year search for her biological father, who disappeared shortly after her birth in war-torn Germany. Without knowing the spelling of his name, nor his date and place of birth, Maria was able to find him – proving that with unwavering determination, anything is possible.

Maria graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting and has also attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has been employed by the U. S. government in several capacities throughout her Federal career, receiving many awards for her writing and investigative skills.

The above title is available from Johnson Books, an imprint of Big Earth Publishing. Her memoir will be translated into several languages, including German, Polish, and Ukrainian.

Maria and her family reside in Golden, Colorado. 


Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Maria! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Whenever I am invited to an Author Reading/Discussion at a local bookstore or library, invariably someone will ask if I majored in English Literature. They try to contain their shock when I tell them I am an accountant and I get the feeling that what’s going through their mind is the image of accountants being good at numbers, but not necessarily words. My response is that there is not a disconnect between numbers and words – accountants must use the right numbers to develop correct financial statements, and writers must use the right words to precisely convey a thought, emotion, or place, to put the reader in the scene, or the character’s heart. My goal with writing is for readers to see, hear, touch, and feel what the people in the book are seeing, hearing, and feeling. I’m not a big fan of fiction, although it’s nice to get lost in a make-believe world occasionally. I know that fictionalized characters are usually based on composites of people the author knows, but in the end, these are not real people-- I may be able to relate to certain aspects of their personalities, but in the end, the heroes and heroines of the story are make believe. I prefer real heroes and heroines—with their honest imperfections.

Your memoir, The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back, chronicles your 43 year search for your father. How did you start your search with such little information?

Looking back at the 43-year search, I too am amazed at how I was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It started with me looking at movie and TV credits for any name sounding like my biological father’s surname. I know that sounds ludicrous, but hey, I was only 13 years old! Not knowing the spelling of my father’s name didn’t stop me – whenever I sent letters out to archives I would give them every possible variation of the spelling. Surprisingly, there are a lot of conscientious people out there in the world who will patiently look up every variation before they send the “no record” letter. I never once got a bureaucratic brush-off or admonition from any archive in a foreign country. I’ve always had the philosophy that the worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t get a response from them. That’s what it takes to solve a mystery – not being afraid to ask.

Was there ever a point in your journey where you felt frustrated and wanted to give up?

There was only one time that I wanted to give up: When I learned Piotr’s father was not my father. I had come so close, and this was the Jozef Kurek I had dreamed of as being my father—a real-life hero. I wanted to ignore the evidence that he could not be my father. I stepped away from the search for a few weeks after that and then was bemoaning the lack of progress online when I got an email from someone in the early hours of the morning stating, “Seek and Ye Shall Find.” That inspired me to keep looking.

Were your mother, step-father, and sister supportive of your search for your father?

Jozef was a forbidden subject in our house, so I didn’t get any support from my immediate family. My step-father didn’t know I was searching for my father – I didn’t want to hurt his feelings because I didn’t want him to think he had somehow failed me as a father. It wasn’t until my mother was in her 70s that she began trying to help me find Jozef, by giving me the names of places she and Jozef had been, but she didn’t know the spelling, so I had to base my research on phonetics.

Do you have plans to write any more books? If so, please tell us about your current or upcoming writing projects.

A lot of people have stated “please write more books.” That is the highest honor any writer can get. I want to write more books, but only about real people and something that I feel is important for readers to know.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to read. Gardening is also something I like to do. There’s nothing like taking a patch of weeds, debris, and parched soil and turning it into a paradise of brilliantly-colored flowers, moss rocks, and a park bench to sit in the shade under lush green trees, reading a good book.

What book(s) are you reading now?

At the moment, I hate to admit I’m not reading any books. My TBR list includes Night, by Elie Wiesel.

Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?

The Internet is winning the war for readers’ attention. I will forever be grateful for the Internet because without it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to find my father. The downside is that I think too much time is spent in front of a computer instead of reading newspapers, magazines, and books, and these forms of information and entertainment are slowly disappearing from our lives. My books are my friends, and I like to touch them every once in a while, reminiscing about the story and the people in it.

*Fun Facts*

Favourite music? My favorite song is “Wonderful World.” The lyrics make me feel good and add perspective to life.

Dog-lover or cat-lover? Cats – I like their independence and snootiness (as well as their cuddliness).

Vanilla ice cream or chocolate? Chocolate – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Chocolate.

If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be and why? I should probably pick someone famous, like Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Hillary Clinton, or Tom Cruise, but, truly, if I could meet anyone in the world, it would have to be my grandmother Maria. She had an amazing life and I have so much admiration for her quiet courage and how she was able to cope with everything without falling apart. Also, I’d like to see my Mom again. She passed away in 2010 and want to be able to hug her one more time…

My dearest possession is my... Without question, my 47 gold-embossed leather photo albums containing family pictures.

If I could take an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, I would go to... This is a tough question. The world is full of magnificent wonders – sparkling white beaches, mountains reaching above clouds, and the stunning monuments to humanity’s brilliant architecture such as the Taj Mahal, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Acropolis, Coliseum, and the Sydney Opera House, to name a few. So…I guess my answer is that I would like to take an all-expenses paid trip all around the world!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Maria!

Two lucky winners will win hardcover copies of The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachua to Denver and Back.

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.

Ultimately, the quest to uncover a painful truth becomes an inspiring and absorbing journey of the heart.

To enter the giveaway, you must complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.

This giveaway is open to Canada/US addresses only until 12:01 AM EST on April 28, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I would love to read this book. Thanks for the chance to win!

  2. A fascinating story. I love this sort of memoir. I have also added it to my Goodreads to-read shelf. Thanks!


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