Thursday, May 18, 2023

Q&A with Dana Killion




Dana Killion is the author of the new memoir Where the Shadows Dance. She also has written the Andrea Kellner mystery series. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Q: Youve said of your memoir, “I wrote because to not write would be another silencing of me.” Can you say more about that?


A: I didn’t set out to write a memoir. I was journaling as a supplement to therapy. Trying to find a way to sort through all the complex and contradictory thoughts running through my head about my marriage, the pain of my husband’s alcoholism, and how I had become collateral damage in his self-destruction.


It wasn’t long before I realized there was a story to be told. Initially I used those journal entries as material for a manuscript, but my purpose was still therapy. I was writing to help myself understand and heal, not intending to publish.


As I wrote, I was stepping back from the individual moments of trauma and telling my experience in its entirety. Through that process I saw how often I had held my pain close, how often I had chosen silence as a protective mechanism when I was overwhelmed with emotions. My husband’s alcoholism was not obvious to the world, and I protected that, believing it was marital loyalty, and a way to keep my children shielded from his disease.


But in writing the experience of living on the sidelines of addiction, I knew I was far from alone in being the loved-one of an addict. And I also knew how lonely that experience is. So, as I finished the manuscript, I had a decision to make as I found myself uncertain of what was more terrifying, sharing the most vulnerable moments of my life with the world or not sharing them.


I came to view my past silence about the turmoil in my life no longer as protection, but as something that had instead festered inside me. To heal I needed to publish my story; if I didn’t, I would be choosing silence yet again, staying in a place of anguish.


I couldn’t control the hurt that had been inflicted on me, but I could control whether I used it to make myself stronger. And more importantly, I believed that I could help other women feel less alone in their pain if I published.

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


A: During my heavy journaling stage, I was dealing with insomnia and often awake at 3 a.m. staring at the living room ceiling as shadows flashed from the cars 13 floors below me. The shadows felt as if they were taunting me, showing me that others were living a life while I lay in a dark room feeling empty and forlorn.


But I also came to see the numerous meanings of the word shadow. Shadow can be intimidating or protective. It can be a hint of danger or a place to seek refuge. A shadow can incite fear or dance with joy. So, I applied the word in my story, as I personally transitioned from fear to a place where I can now dance with joy. A place where the shadows of my past no longer haunt me.


Q: Over how long a period did you work on the book?


A: It was almost exactly three years from when I started journaling to the publication date of this book.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write this book and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: I’ve always been an extremely private person. Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined sharing my most private thoughts.


Although this is not my first book, it is my first memoir and the only way I can describe this is, it’s the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done. And what I believe is that because of that vulnerability, it will turn out to be the most important thing I’ve ever done.


In my acknowledgments, I thank my former husband. Not for the pain he caused me, but because of it I am now a woman strong enough and confident enough to step forward into my fear.


What I hope for readers is that if they see parts of themselves in my story, if they too have been women who’ve set themselves aside because what someone else needed was more important, they’ll take comfort in my courage and perhaps find comfort in seeking their own.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: In addition to writing articles on the themes within my memoir, I’m also working on book six of my mystery series.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You are not alone. Silence is not the protection you think it is. And vulnerability can be beautiful.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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