Heather Siegel was six years old when her mother disappeared, sending her father into a tailspin that took Heather and her siblings down with him— from a comfortable suburban home to a barely habitable basement apartment, a dark world they soon found themselves fighting to return to from the exile of foster care, then fighting even harder to escape.
Forty years later, Heather Siegel tells the remarkable story of how she and her siblings, Jaz and Greg, banded together to find out what happened to their mother and fight their way Out from the Underworld with nothing but their wits, determination, unbreakable bonds and gifts for humor and compassion to sustain them. A wrenching, inspiring story filled with heartbreak, hope and love, Out from The Underworld will move you to laughter and tears.
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Heather Siegel holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from The New School. Her work has appeared on Salon.com and in The Mother Magazine and Author Magazine, as well as in various trade publications. She was a finalist for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Award in Nonfiction Writing, the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference Nonfiction Writing Award, the Carolina Wren Press 2012 Doris Bakwin Award and the 2012 Kore Press First Book Award. A multi-creative person with interests in the arts, nutrition, health and beauty, she has founded several independent businesses, including a coffeehouse, a café, an organic juice bar and a natural beauty bar. She currently lives with her husband, Jon, and daughter, Julia, in the woods of Long Island in a house filled with light.
What genre do you write and why?
To date I’ve been working in creative non-fiction, writing essays and of course, this memoir. I chose to study and eventually work with this genre mainly because I had this one story in me that I wanted to tell. I ended up falling in love with the form. Reading about people’s lives—and their interpretations of events—continues to fascinate me. This isn’t to say that I could never see myself working in another genre.
How long have you been writing?
Hmmm. I would say…over 25 years. My first inclination to write happened when I was about fourteen years old. I remember riding in the back seat of a taxi in a suburban town on Long Island and people-watching, wondering where everyone was going and what they were thinking. And here’s the strange part: I remember feeling like I knew all about them. Of course I knew nothing about them. I was making up my first stories. And I suppose got just enough praise from my teacher and peers that I decided to keep going.
Do you write every day?
I would say that even when I’m not writing I’m writing in my head, thinking about the next thing. Also, between texting and emailing and tweeting and Facebook messaging—yes, I am writing every day.
What is the last great book you read?
I’m reading a good novel now, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. A friend recommended it. Though it’s fiction, I am enjoying the first person narrator, and I think Fowler’s flash forward and backward technique works really well to sustain tension.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
I don’t know about writer’s block so much as writer’s insecurity. Especially in this non-fiction genre, I sometimes write something and think, “Who Cares! Really, Heather, who wants to read this drivel?” The bummer with working in this form is that you really are exposing yourself and not able to hide behind a character. Usually getting out of my head helps—having some wine with some friends, or seeing a good film. Going to parties helps too—really, anything social. Because in a social setting I reconnect with people and sometimes even test out my material in conversation. And you know what, sometimes people aren’t interested in what I have to say. Hell, a lot of the times, I bore myself! That’s not a good sign—when you bore yourself in the middle of speaking. But then there are other times in conversation—just as in writing-- when the spark ignites. I try to remember those times to keep me motivated.