Monday, September 16, 2019

Q&A with Sandra A. Miller

Sandra A. Miller, photo by Miranda Loud
Sandra A. Miller is the author of the new book Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, and she teaches English at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She lives near Boston.

Q: You've said that your book's inspiration began with an experience you had at five years old. How did that experience lead to your writing this memoir?

A: My first vivid memory is of seeing a crow land on my front lawn and picking up a white stone in her beak. Even at that young age, I was attracted to the idea of finding treasure, and always searched the ground for coins, broken jewels and small objects that people had dropped. When the crow flew off that day, I felt as though she took with her a piece of my heart.

I never forgot that moment, and it opened me to a lifelong search for treasure of all kinds and a chance to find the missing piece of my heart. This memoir is the story of me traveling the world trying to fill that hole in my heart. Everything goes back to that crow.

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: I've always collected found things, but it wasn't until I was 10 that I started to gather all my treasures together in a box that I called my trove. Throughout my life, I've kept an active trove, and I still pick up small found treasures everywhere I go. I'm a bit like a crow in that way.

There was nothing else I could have named this memoir because treasure hunting defines me, and my trove has been central and essential to life. In addition to searching for actual treasure, this book is about looking for symbolic treasure, too. It's about following our longing and filling the trove that is inside. 

Q: What do your family members think of the book?

A: My mother, now deceased and one of my main characters, would not have approved of me publishing this story. She was a devout Catholic and quite private about what went on in our home, and that's the problem. I was expected to keep up the pretense of a happy family life, when in fact my parents were both emotionally and physically abusive.

When memoir writers struggle with hurting people by telling their hard truths, I am very sympathetic. I only really started to write this book after my mother died. (My father passed away 34 years ago.) My sister, however, who is also a character in Trove, is my biggest fan and the one person who can verify that these experiences did happen. She loves the book and is even having her book club read it.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from Trove?

A: I want my readers to become more sympathetic and alert to their own journeys of searching for treasure, within and without. I want them to consider asking themselves the same difficult questions that I ask myself in the book: What am I looking for? And what do I need to do to feel whole? And why when I'm almost 50 haven't I found it yet?

I'm not suggesting that my readers aren't already happy and satisfied with their lives, but I feel like many people--particularly women--hit a place where they start to do serious some soul searching. Maybe they are stagnating in their careers and want a change, or maybe they are eyeing a creative path. Perhaps they are empty nesters looking at how to live their third act.

Ultimately, I want readers to connect with my story and then say, "Hmm. Maybe there's some treasure out there for me, too. Perhaps I'll have a look."

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am putting together a type of self-help book with the working title, "Dig Here." It's a playful guidebook for people who want to find that aforementioned treasure in their lives. I'm hoping it will inspire the treasure hunter in everyone and encourage those who are rudderless to strike out and look for their own gold. It's a fun project while I put most of my energy into launching Trove

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Treasure means something different to everyone, and it is available to all of us if we take the time to prioritize the search. When I say treasure, I mean anything from a pile of gold coins to becoming a parent to fighting global warming to living in your truth.

I think there is an epidemic of longing and uncertainty in this world, especially in these turbulent times when there is so much pain and destruction around us. For that reason, I think there is no better time to pursue that thing that you've always felt drawn to. In my case, I went on a treasure hunt, and it not only changed my life, but it led to this book. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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