Friday, November 11, 2011

Author Spotlight ~ Maria Sutton

Christy here. Happy Friday, all. I'm excited to welcome debut author Maria Sutton to FAITH today! I love to read stories of a new author's journey to publication.

Give Maria a warm welcome and please leave a comment. We'll be drawing the winner of her book A Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back.  This book has received some fabulous reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I'm thrilled to offer an opportunity for you to win a copy today. Thank you Maria!!!

About the Author:

 Maria 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 or 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. 


Maria, how long have you been writing?  Is The Night Sky your first book?

In a way, you could say I’ve been writing since the time I first learned how to write, probably about the 2nd or 3rd grade.  One of my earliest memories of school is whenever a teacher announced we would have an essay test, I could hear moans and groans from the other students, but I was delighted because I knew I would do well.  In college, I wanted to major in English or Journalism, but one of my profs told me I was already making more money than most writers and journalists, so I switched to Accounting because I knew I could always making a living as an accountant.  Writing helped me break through the glass ceiling for women.  I began writing the monthly newsletter for my agency, and that led to writing speeches for high-level federal government officials, press releases, etc.  I attribute my writing skills to my promotion into management.

The Night Sky is my first book and I wrote it because my friends and family told me it was an important story that should be told.  It could inspire other people to “Seek and Ye Shall Find.”  The Psalm applies to more than just finding people—it’s also important to finding whatever it is you are searching for:  A good marriage, career, education, and happiness, to name a few.

Do you have an agent? Can you share your journey to publication?

I was under contract with three prominent agents.  The first one I didn’t feel comfortable with after a telephone conversation; the second one bailed when the publisher bailed; and then I was under contract with the last one for about 18 months before I decided it was taking too long.  One of the things I’ve learned about agents is that they have a few publishers that they work with, and, if those publishers don’t work out, they put your book on the back burner.  My last agent informed me the big publishing houses (Simon Schuster, Harper Collins) aren’t accepting memoirs unless they are by a celebrity.  The publishing industry is in turmoil and publishers don’t want to take a chance on first-time authors.  I wanted my book to be published while my Mother was still alive, and quickly found a regional publisher, Big Earth in Boulder, Colorado.  They did a beautiful job on the jacket design and layout.  Unfortunately, my Mother passed away before the book was published, but I’m sure she’s smiling down on me because the book is becoming successful.  My Uncle Wasyl is still alive (age 90 now), and the published book brought tears to his eyes.

What has been some of the best advice you’ve received during your publication journey? What’s some of the worst advice?

Without a doubt, the best advice I’ve received is to aggressively market the book.  I spend about 2-3 hours every night contacting bloggers about my book, and this opportunity Christy gave me for a guest post is enormous!  The worst advice I got was to put the book on Amazon Kindle and I would sell a million books automatically.  Intuitively, I knew that wouldn’t happen, and after my friends and relatives (who had Kindles) bought the book, I made #8 in Kindle sales, but then sales started decreasing, so I knew I had to do something.  I researched “how to market a book” and every website said key to selling books was through bloggers.  The big publishing houses have a huge international distribution network, with thousands of sales staff that can “get the word out” on a book.  With a small press, the author has to be a one-person sales force.

What’s a fun quality or quirk you have that no one may know about?

I love this question.  I guess a quirky thing about me is that I have an eye for symmetry and organization.  I can tell, just by scanning a room, if something is out of place—and I automatically rearrange stuff until everything is symmetrical.  Organization is my other quirk – as a writer, it’s easy to have stacks of paper and books all over the place.  Not me!  Every piece of paper is alphabetized in binders with tabs.  Even the vegetables in my freezer, and the canned goods in my cupboard are alphabetized and in order.  (Now I’m sounding like an eccentric.)

About the Book:
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.

Feel free to leave Maria a comment, ask questions. She'll be popping in as soon as she can today. We'll announce the winner on Sunday, November 13th!



  1. Maria, thank you so much for being with us today! Your book sounds amazing. I wish you the best on the marketing!

  2. Hi Missy,

    It's great to be here on this wonderful Blog. I'm looking forward to this conversation, and Hooray, it's Friday and a Holiday --good blogging day.

    Please feel free to fire-away with any questions. In between preparing for an Author Discussion at one of the local bookstores in the metro-Denver area, I will be periodically checking this blog for any questions or comments.


  3. Maria,
    Thanks for visiting the blog today. What a fascinating interview. I pray your book does well.
    Do you have any other manuscripts in the works.

  4. The Night Sky was the book I had to write,and didn't think about writing any other story. One of the amazing and unexpected outcomes of getting the book "out there" is that I am receiving wonderful reviews and emails from people who have said "please write more books -- you are a gifted writer." I could write a lot of non-fiction books because I'm a researcher, but nothing, so far, has piqued my interest. My husband thinks I should write a fiction book. Fiction requires a special talent that I'm not sure I have, but might try it. Something did grab me for fiction--a book that starts with America in the 1950s and ends with the protagonist walking towards the Twin Towers on 9/11. It's just in the conceptual stages and may never come to fruition. I want to be able to say something important about 9/11. Maybe I should stick to research and non-fiction. Thanks for asking the question -- it's got me thinking.

  5. Maria, those of us writing fiction, never tire of good accurate non-fiction for research. I hope you'll keep writing in some capacity!

  6. Maria,
    I know where you are coming from with your statement "but nothing, so far, has piqued my interest." I really have to 'feel' a situation--and it has to 'strike' me to give me a passion to write about it. I mean you spend months working on something--and you need to be passionate about to sustain the interest.
    I think your conceptual idea sounds interesting---and you'll know when and if to pursue it. :)

    Thanks again for being here on the blog.

  7. Lindi,

    Your statement regarding the need to feel passionate about something to write about it struck a responsive chord in me. There are many wildly successful writers out there who whip out a formula book every few months. I have read some websites stating that quantity is more important than quality, and they flood the market with ten "junk" books a year, selling them for 50 cents -- and people buy them because they're cheap.

    To me, writing has to come from the heart, and should evoke some emotion, whether it's laughing out loud, or crying. A good book should make you feel something, and learn something from the story.

    One of the creedes I've tried to live my life by is from Ecclesiastes: "Whatsoever Thy Hand Findeth To Do, Do It With All Thy Might." I try to apply that to whatever it is I'm doing -- whether it's accounting work, research, cleaning the house, gardening, or writing a book. A book especially has to have heart in it, otherwise it adds nothing to the betterment of humanity.

  8. I would love to win and review this book to help her get started. It sounds interesting.
    jrs362 at hotmail dot com

  9. Hi Squires,

    Thank you for wanting to win my book and do a review. What adds to the hardback is the photos. There are close to 100 photos in it, some very rare, like the Prisoner of War Certificate for my father from the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Displaced Persons Card issued by the UNRRA to keep track of the refugees in Germany. There are also photos of my Mother's ancestral home in a small, primitive village in Ukraine.

    Are you a writer and have you done any genealogical research? Family stories are important, because that is what we are remembered by.

  10. Congratulations, Squiresj! You are the winner of The Night Sky!

  11. I want to thank Ms. Tippens, Lindi, squires, and Christy for participating in this blog, and a special thanks to Christy for giving me the opportunity to be a guest. It was my first spotlight, and I didn't know what to expect, and a little nervous about the tech part of it, but it was fun and easy, and I learned a lot.

    I'm happy to be sending my book to squires, the winner of the giveaway. Congratulations! If you have any questions about the book, please feel free to contact me. I hope the book will inspire you. There is no doubt in my mind God was with my Mother during her journey.

    Thank you everyone -- and best wishes to you in all of your endeavors.

  12. Maria, we appreciate you being with us!

  13. Thanks for being on FAITH Maria! I hope we'll see you here again soon!