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What challenges did you face in the creation of The Pages in Between? How did your family feel about turning these experiences into something for publication?
It can be very difficult to write about real people. I feared at every stage that I would tread on someone’s feelings or that by printing my version of events, I would trample everyone else’s. As a result, the book might not be quite as candid as it might have been if all of the characters were dead (or fictional). On the other hand, I wanted to write an honest account of what happened to me as I confronted my mother’s past – and the many ways that that past was still making demands on the present. As a result, I have, in fact, angered some people who appear in the book. My family has largely been welcoming of the book, or at least I think they have. (Then again, they may all be working on their books of their own to dispute my version!)
As you did your research, did you learn anything really interesting or surprising that didn't make it into the book?
Many, many things have happened over the past 8 years as I’ve tried to manage the consequences of finding the family that saved my mother. There are, of course, countless fascinating details and perspectives that just didn’t make into the book. I wanted the book to be fluid and accessible and if I had included everything, it would have been far too much of a slog.
There were things I learned years after I returned from Poland -- like how the photo my mother had given me of herself at three with her father and Honorata Skowronska (the image on the cover of the book) -- was not the only print. When I asked one of my cousins to send me old family photos that I could use in my book as it was getting ready to be published, she sent me her copy of that picture. She had a copy on which my grandfather had written "my daughter," in English, on the back.
Who do you feel the book is for?
I really wrote the book for everyone. We all have a family history. We all come from somewhere and we all inherit a folklore that means something to us, that’s a part of who are and who we are trying to become. Anyone who attempts to go below the surface is bound to make surprising discoveries, as I did. I wanted everyone to think differently about the stories they think they know. I also just wanted to tell what I thought was a pretty interesting story about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
The Pages in Between has been making the rounds on the blogosphere; what response have you had from readers?
I’m told I’ve made a lot of people cry! I’m actually really proud of that because I love a good cry – it’s very cathartic – and because I was crying when I wrote certain chapters. This was a very personal story for me and it was difficult to put it out in the world for strangers to read. Knowing that the tears I poured into the writing came through for readers makes it all seem worthwhile.
Thank you Erin for a wonderful interview!