Title: Breaking the Silence
Author: Maria Nieto
Genre: Historical Thriller
On a sweltering summer day, the streets of Old Madrid that once resonated with the laughter of children playing are empty and silent. But inside the apartment buildings there is life as families faithfully wait for updates about an army uprising in Spanish Morocco. Before long, their greatest fears come true. As rebel troops storm Madrid and chaos fills the streets, six-year-old Mari wonders why she cannot go outside to play. Unfortunately, she has no idea she is about to be trapped inside the abyss of what is rapidly becoming a ruthless civil war. Already emotionally wounded by the absence of her mother, Mari attempts to go about her fear-filled days living with her father’s family, which includes a grandfather who lovingly teaches her about the history leading up to the conflict. As she embarks on a coming-of-age journey submerged in the darkness of war, Mari somehow stays alive despite the decisions of an intimidating, ruthless dictator, starvation, and brainwashing by the new Fascist regime. But when circumstances lead her to inadvertently commit the ultimate betrayal, Mari must face the horrifying consequences of her actions. Breaking the Silence shares the compelling tale of a little girl’s experiences as she attempts to survive amid the horror and death surrounding the Spanish Civil War.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
When Spain's dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, Spain went into a two year period introducing a Constitutional Monarchy. The new government passed a law of silence called "El Pacto del Silencio." This law mandated no talking about the past years under a dictator, no legal actions against anyone who had engaged in the violent murderous executions and the tortures of thousands and thousands of Spaniards under the dictatorship. Franco's political butchers were never brought to justice, or made to pay for their atrocities.
I wanted to break this silence and write about what happened to the people of Spain during their Civil War, and after the war under Franco's dictatorship. Thus, Breaking the Silence seemed an appropriate title for the book.
What is your writing environment like?
I live in New Mexico with eight chickens, one rooster, two geese, one cat, one dog, and one horse. We all get along and my days are peaceful.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
I suppose the internet, although I seldom use it.
What inspires you to write?
My never dormant imagination and my feelings for all of the suffering people in the world.
Did you learn anything from writing this book?
I learned quite a bit! Writing is hard, but harder when personal feeling and memories are involved in what we write.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
The feeling and need to be independent and alert to the needs of others as well as myself.
The author spent her childhood in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the post war years that followed the war under a brutal dictatorship. As an adult, and after four years in the US Navy, Maria graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia with degrees in nursing and nursing education followed by graduate and post graduate degrees in mental health education and counseling psychology. After teaching psychiatric nursing in Philadelphia, the author moved to New Mexico where she worked in mental health services for the Indian Health Service, and later worked for the University of New Mexico in the department of Emergency Psychiatry. Now retired, Maria still lives in New Mexico with her horse.