It Felt Like A Forbidden Topic

Tim Ritter Author Interview

Sarah Burning is an emotional memoir telling of the tragedy that your family endured when your home caught fire and the path to recovering physically and mentally from that night. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I heard bits and pieces of this story starting at an early age, but a lot of it didn’t make sense to me. Of course I knew Neil and Sarah (she was Granny to me, died just before I turned seven). But I didn’t know these other people who were involved. I wanted to ask more, but unfortunately it felt like a forbidden topic. As noted in the Introduction of the book, when I was in college I told my mother that I wanted to talk with Uncle Neil (one of the survivors of that night) and ask him about what happened. She said, “Don’t you dare. Don’t EVER ask that man about that night.” That set off a spark, so to speak, and I knew that one day I would dig into The Fire to find out what really happened, and then write about it as a permanent family record. When I began to research in earnest nearly seven years ago, the details that surfaced convinced me that I had to write the book and tell the tale of what happened to those people that night, and how the three survivors heroically struggled to return to something resembling “normal life”.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

By far the night of the fire itself was the hardest to write about. I knew I had to make it real and horrifying for the reader, so I got completely caught up in the sights, sounds, smells, and heat of that night. In my mind, I put my mind in a place where I burned with the people as they fought to escape the maelstrom. After writing Chapter Three, the fire itself, I was shaking and crying, and had to walk away from it for several weeks.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about disaster survival?

I think the biggest misconception is that when there is no visible physical trauma, the person is ok. That’s so wrong. Surviving a disaster leaves people scarred deep inside. It’s nothing short of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). So I felt it was important to depict Neil’s struggle with his nightmares, depression, and guilt. He bore few physical scars but his inner scars lasted his entire life.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

I hope it gives them a feeling of strength and courage in the face of a calamity. I hope they feel that, God forbid, if something awful happens to them, they can draw from the strength of Sarah, Virginia and Neil to keep going, keep striving to regain their life, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website | Instagram

Acrid smoke filled the valley with the odors of burnt home, burnt hopes, burnt dreams, burnt flesh.

On a cold night, in the short span of less than 5 minutes, the Ritter family crossed a threshold from which there was no return. Peaceful slumber in the early morning hours of October 27th, 1959, quickly became madness and horror.

Cruel blue, orange and yellow flames leapt high into the air casting an eerie glow on three blackened and blistered survivors huddled on the ground under a towering oak. Barely visible, save for the ever-present mist emanating from their nostrils as they panted and shivered, they suffered together in a singular wailing cry.

Nearby, barely conscious, broken and bleeding in the bottom of the overgrown and thorny ravine, lay another blackened and burned survivor. Worst of all, among the horrifying remains of the once-proud simple farmhouse, somewhere beneath the blaze and collapsed beams, lay two burning bodies, their screams at last silenced.

How do you continue with life when you’ve lost everything? How do you face each day when you know it means more pain from the burns? How do you get past the guilt, knowing you lived, and others died? How do you silence the echo in your head; the sound of him screaming your name as he burned alive?

After more than 60 years, the story of the survivors is ready to be told…

You’re invited to learn the history of this real-life tragedy, within the pages of Sarah Burning.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on October 16, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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