Interview 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.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Because of my background as a “displaced person,” whose German family belonged to a persecuted religion (Seventh-Day Adventist), I have always been fascinated by the subjects of tolerance, broad-mindedness and acceptance. I asked myself, what would be the impact if, as human beings, we knew ourselves to have lived before, in very different lives from our current situation. So the question of reincarnation began my journey to write From Ashes Into Light.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

It took a long time to finish this book, so my main advice is to be persistent and patient. When  a writer is deeply committed to a project, it’s helpful to have a universal vision in order to sustain effort for the long haul. Blunt comments the director of a writer’s conference once made to me, over 20 years ago, was to become curiously comforting. He advised, “You may be another Virginia Woolf  but don’t count on commercial success. Have a source of income for at least the next 15 years.” And it did take more than 15 years to publish.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Raincloud Press. My daughter founded Raincloud Press in 2014. She has always been an avid reader who had periodically helped me over the years—editing manuscripts and query letters, and giving advice on marketing. Several years ago, I mentioned that I’d given up publishing a book in my lifetime. She called me a few months later and said she would help me self-publish a book of poetry. I agreed.

Only, the more my daughter researched the field, the more she she decided to become an independent publisher herself. She now has two other authors besides myself and more in negotiations. I feel very lucky to have a publisher who respects my work and who gives me feedback in an honest yet kind manner. She’s a great publisher—the kind who stands up for work she believes deserves a broader readership.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I was surprised by the intensity of response to my first book (a collection of poetry called Wife of the House). I gave a reading after it was published, which was quite an inspiring experience. I did not expect that.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I have several writing projects—another novel (a sequel to From Ashes Into Light), a collection of poetry, a non-fiction work. My publisher has not yet decided on a specific publishing date, or which project she will focus on next.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Facebook and Goodreads

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

Reading, or reviewing the day’s events with my partner.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I wish to celebrate the human capacity for transcending suffering and healing.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience. I have been someone who has not  spoken much being a writer but, nevertheless, have felt compelled to write.

About the Book:

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 fiancé’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.

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