Sharon Maas (‘character is destiny’) Preserving our literary heritage
By Petamber Persaud
Guyana Chronicle
September 24, 2006

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SHARON Maas has experienced life on three continents in a storybook format of pleasure, pain and triumph. She was born in Guyana, a sort of tomboy soon outgrowing her backyard, making the wards of Cummingsburg and Kingston her playground. And she was not confined to ordinary pastimes; for instance, ‘my friends and I really did get hold of an old-fashioned hearse, painted bright blue, hitched it to a horse and rode through the streets of Georgetown picking up all our friends…two weeks of havoc’.

When Maas was only 20, she (and two friends) hitch-hiked through South America, stopping at Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. A wicked twist of fate forced her to abort the adventure; robbed of her money, she returned home.

That misadventure acted as catalysis for Maas. The following year, 1973, found her travelling overland to India from England via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. India became a source of inspiration and a second home for her in body, soul and mind. Her first visit to India expanded into two years of living in an ashram in Tamil Nadu.

India led her to Germany for it was on the sub-continent she met a German-born cellist who was to become her first husband. In Germany 1975, she married for the first time, and divorced. After spending a year in Paris, Maas returned to Germany where she studied Social Work in Freiburg and met her second husband while working as a Probation Officer in Mosbach, South Germany.

In Switzerland, she gave birth to a baby boy named, Miro, meaning peace. Sort of completing the circle, the year 1999 found her back in Guyana. That year marked the publication of her first novel. She now resides in England.

Her first published novel `OF MARRIAGEABLE AGE’ was set on three continents and was published by HarperCollins. This massive book explored the complex Indian psyche in varied locales and tells of the strength of woman. It also holds up for ridicule racial stereotyping and class differences.

Her other two novels are `PEACOCKS DANCING’, 2001, and `THE SPEECH OF ANGELS’, 2003, both published by HarperCollins. `PEACOCKS DANCING’ was set in Georgetown, Guyana and in India. And once again, Maas has created some more memorable characters, as she explains her stories are always character-driven. `THE SPEECH OF ANGELS’ was set in India, Germany and England and is another search by another young lady for her identity, her roots.

How did it all happen, where did it start? Maas in her own words explains, “I just always had these stories inside me, ever since I was a child. I wrote my first ‘novels’ when I was eight! I’m a typical dreamer, so all I’m really doing is finding a practical use for my dreaminess!”

Sharon Maas started her education and dreaming at St. Margaret’s School in Camp Street. She was an avid reader but it was the books by Enid Blyton that fuelled her imagination and even influenced her attending boarding school in England at a time when the idea was impractical.

In a way, what happened next was in keeping with her story book existence. In 1961, when she was only ten years of age, she went to Harrogate Ladies College, UK, travelling all the way there on her own. In 1964, she returned to Guyana, attended Bishops’ High School, then in 1967, it was back to Harrogate.

Higher education came by way of travelling to various countries of the world and experiencing different cultures. And what an education; leading to three successful novels, one in progress and more in the offing.

Maas was a columnist for the Sunday Graphic, Lama Avenue, Bel Air Park, and the Sunday Chronicle when it was located in Main Street, Georgetown.

At the Chronicle, she wrote the ‘Agony Aunt’ column where she created complex questions to replace normal, predictable ones, another step towards her entry into the world of fiction.

It is evident that she’s got the right formula – writing what she knows! She is a wonderful storyteller and an artist of suspense. Her books are well written and her prose beautiful. She’s doing Guyanese literature a great service by offering to the world such writing of excellence.

Sharon Maas was born in Guyana in September 1951 to the late David Westmaas, who made significant impact on the politics of our society and to Eileen Cox who continues to make sterling contribution to the social wellbeing of Guyana.

After baring all of the above, Maas still has a few skeletons in the closet; some good enough to share. Like she has two secrets to good health – yoga and coconut oil. And her secret to successful writing – don’t talk about it, just write it.

Sources: * Interviews with Sharon Maas, Georgetown, Guyana, 2004

* Online information