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Interview with Pamela Atherstone, author of … Like Footprints in the Wind


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…Like Footprints in the Wind is the saga of German-Russian farm people, overwhelmed by the conflicts of heritage, politics and religion in 1929.  It is a story of faith.  It is a tale of love and adventure set against the backdrop of political change, and the progressive disintegration of a tight-knit family at the hands of Soviet repression.  It is a tragic story full of deceit and pain, love and redemption. This book is rich in narrative and detail of rural Russian culture during the pre-WWII era of “The Purge of the Kulaks.”

So what’s the story?
When Johannes and Katerina Jahnle, and their two oldest daughters, are incarcerated in Siberian labor camps, the younger children are left to fend for themselves.  The story journeys with Anya, their ten-year-old daughter, who is selected by Sonia, an elderly disabled woman, to assist with her daily needs. Sonia takes Anya deep into the forest where she teaches the child a new way of life.  Here, Anya learns to be courageous and brave as time passes and Sonia’s health fails.

Through a set of circumstances guided only by the hand of God, Anya is reunited with her father, and together they set out across the vastness of the Russian steppe searching for freedom.

Hand of God? What genre is your book?
Historical Fiction with Christian content.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Anyone who is interested in little-known or unusual history.  I have had great reviews from all ages beginning with advanced 10 year olds, people who remember WWII, and many that fall in between those groups.

Complete this sentence for us: if you like _________________, you’ll love my book.
Anna Karenina.

Tell us more about the Jahnle family at the centre of your story.
The Jahnle family are Russian farmers of German heritage living in the area of the Black Sea (once known as Bessarabia.) They maintained their German culture, language and religion and were loyal to the Tsar prior to the Russian revolution.  When Lenin, and then Stalin, came into power, the German-Russians were considered enemies of the state.  Many were shot and killed, many more were arrested and sent to Siberian forced labor camps.

Johannes Jahnle and his wife Katerina will do whatever it takes to keep their family together, but the strength of the Russian army and NKVD (state police) are more than they can handle.  The family is separated and each must deal, in their own way, with just trying to live .  Faith is always a support for them, but even faith cannot see them through every situation, and faith takes on many different forms throughout the story.

A lot of research must have gone into this book. How long did it take to write?
I did copious amounts of research in order to “get it right.”  All in all, it took three years to finish the initial writing and another six months of rewriting and editing.  But this was time well spent, as I learned so much along the journey with my characters.

It’s not too research-heavy, is it? Does it still bring the reader along?
A reader left these words for me on, and I think it best answers your question:  “couldn’t put it down, but didn’t want it to end!  I grew to love the characters, their struggles, perseverance and faith. I hadn’t ever heard about what happened and it was great to read about it, remember this generation and discover new parts of the world. I felt like I was there. It inspired me to take more action and do what I can to help others.”

These words are so gratifying to me.  My biggest hope is that people who have never heard of the German-Russians become aware of this suppressed element of recent history.

Where does your interest in the subject come from?
I am the great-granddaughter of German-Russian immigrants and an amateur genealogist focusing on Russians of German heritage. I’m a member of the American Historical Society of the Germans from Russia and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, as well as the Genealogical Society of Stanislaus County. I attend the Writers Workshop at the Modesto Institute of Continued Learning (MICL) where I enjoy combining my love of family with my love of horses in the stories I write.

I am a mother and grandmother. A lifelong Californian, I live in the Central Valley of California with my husband, Jim, and my horses and dogs.

Do you have a website where we can keep up with your work?

Check out the “Books” page and watch the trailer. The music for the trailer is by a wonderfully talented young man named Grady Klein. He renamed the original piece to match the title of my book. His album “Fractal” is available, too.

How can we follow you on Twitter and/or Facebook?!/LikeFootprintsInTheWind

What’s next?
Book signings, interviews, or whatever it takes to get the word out about this story. I am passionate with regard to telling the world about these special people.

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