Friday, February 26, 2016

A Bookish Conversation with Gudrun Mouw, author of 'From Ashes Into Light'

Gudrun Mouw was born in East Prussia (formerly part of Germany) in 1944. At the age of 7, she arrived in the United States as a displaced person. Mouw moved many times in the US before ending up in California in the 60s. There she studied at San Jose State University, receiving her Master’s Degree in English Literature in 1969. Mouw has worked as a college English teacher, a Stanford librarian, a columnist, a California poet-in-the-school, as well as a yoga and meditation teacher. She lives in Santa Barbara County, California and has for over thirty years.

Mouw wrote From Ashes Into Light beginning with a research trip to various locations in Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland (in the 1990s). Her research took her places like Dachau, the concentration camp, a Jewish graveyard in Prague, and the streets of Salzburg.

Mouw is a prolific and award-winning poet and her poems have appeared in literary journals such as Praire Schooner, Practical Mystic, The Chariton Review and others. Her collection of poetry called Wife of the House was published in April 2014. Mouw won first place in a short fiction contest at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1992. From Ashes into Light will be her first published novel.

For More Information

Title: From Ashes Into Light
Author: Gudrun Mouw
Pages: 240
Genre: Literary/Visionary Fiction
Publisher: Raincloud Press

From Ashes into Light is a transpersonal tale of epic tragedy, spirituality, family, and personal redemption. It is told through three distinct voices: the haunting story of Ruth, a Jewish adolescent during Kristallnacht in World War II Austria, Saqapaya, a stalwart Native American from coastal California during the time of the Spanish conquest, and Friede Mai.

Friede is born during WW II to a Bavarian soldier and an East-Prussian mother. As those around her struggle with the inevitable chaos and paradox of war, young Friede opens her heart to gruesome enemies, at times helping her family members escape atrocities.

With war behind them, the Mai family immigrates to the US, where Friede, her veteran father and ex-refugee mother, struggle with reverberations of trauma, suspicion and prejudice. Upon leaving home, Friede meets her spiritual guide and confidant in her fiancĂ©’s Rabbi, who helps her see that the voices from her past are teachers and the horrors of history also contain beacons of light.

For More Information

  • From Ashes Into Light is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a meditation and yoga teacher as well as a student of these practices for over 40 years. I’m a lover of nature and walking is one of my favorite activities.

When did you start writing?

I was given a diary as a 14 year old and found myself really enjoying the process of exploring my experiences, thoughts and feelings on the page.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

I was surprised by the powerful feeling of connection I experienced from reading my work to an audience. This gave me a lot of encouragement and confidence.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

This is a hard question, because I am quite content right where I am, close to one of California’s wilderness areas.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Perhaps I would clear out my office, or weed my favorite, private outdoor space—a desert-themed courtyard.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I envision a small, sunny clearing in the middle of a forest.

Back to your present book, From Ashes Into Light, how did you publish it?

After my first book, Wife of the House, was published by Raincloud Press, I shared some of my other writing with the same publisher, and we both agreed to bring out From Ashes Into Light next.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Yes, I traveled for six weeks to the former Czechoslovakia, the former East Germany, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I hadn’t been to Europe since I was sixteen so the trip really helped refresh my memory and helped my writing immensely.

Why was writing From Ashes Into Light so important to you?

Because I experienced persecution as a child, I wanted to write a story about historical genocide that would, hopefully, speak to the human potential for transcending suffering.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

Dreams, meditation, or being engaged by nature often bring forth new ideas. I believe that interrupting the mental and physical patterns of everyday, ordinary life is a good way to jump start the creative process.

Any final words?

Thank you for this opportunity to share my process. There was a time when I felt discouraged by the many rejections that I have come to learn many writers face at some point. Now, I see how important it is to find ways to let go of such frustration as quickly as possible, keep working hard and hold out for the potential of a good outcome.

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