Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash, Guest Post by Tammy Pasterick

It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

​When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America’s immigrant ancestors made.

My Family’s Past Held the Key to My Future

Writing a novel is a daunting process. The idea of creating a three-hundred-page story that entertains, informs, and elicits emotion from readers would cause anyone to sweat. In my case, it also gave me butterflies, twisted my stomach into a ball of knots, and made me downright giddy. In 2012, I was a full-time mom of a seven-year-old and a four-year-old in need of a new challenge. While I enjoyed caring for my children and taking frequent trips to zoos, museums, and parks, my days of shadowing little people were coming to an end. My youngest was only a year away from starting kindergarten, and I needed to figure out what that meant for me. Was the answer in the genealogy project I couldn’t stop thinking about?

It all started on a boring Saturday afternoon in March when I decided to make stuffed cabbages, a favorite dish in my Slovak family. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my mom’s recipe, so I turned to Google for some alternatives. I have no idea how it happened—my husband must have been watching the kids—but I went down an Internet rabbit hole and found myself on several Slovak and Hungarian cultural websites. One of these sites recommended for tracing your family’s history, and within minutes, I was searching for information about my great-grandparents, who immigrated to America at the turn of the twentieth century.

I found so many fascinating documents on and quickly became addicted to the site. I located the ship manifesto for my Slovak great-grandparents who traveled to Ellis Island from Austria-Hungary in 1905 as well as a World War II draft registration card for my Lithuanian great-grandfather who was in his early fifties at the time he signed it. I was in awe of his bravery, as his advanced age exempted him from the draft. These discoveries led to a fascinating conversation with my ninety-year-old grandmother, who rarely spoke of her childhood. I asked her several questions about her family and her in-laws, and she responded in the most unexpected way. She presented me with a scrapbook and a shoebox of old family photos.

I’m not sure why Grandma Pearl had never shown me these treasures until the final months of her life, but I am grateful nonetheless. She opened up to me that day about her childhood and showed me pictures of her Lithuanian parents as well as her Slovak in-laws. She recalled the days of running moonshine for her mother during the Prohibition era and mentioned a young Polish friend of hers who went by the name of Pole. I was fascinated by Grandma Pearl’s stories, but even more captivated by the images of my great-grandparents, who arrived in America at the turn of the twentieth century to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I wondered what they were like and what sort of challenges they might have faced. These imaginings inspired me to recreate their world in a novel and pay tribute to their sacrifices.

Writing a novel wasn’t easy, but luckily, I was already an accomplished writer. I was the editor of my high school yearbook and wrote constantly when I was an investigator for the National Labor Relations Board and while I was a student of German. It took me two and a half years to write the first draft of my novel and another two and a half years to query literary agents and revise my story. I signed with She Writes Press in early 2020 and feel so grateful to be part of its amazing community of authors.

My book’s release is only a few weeks away, and I’m so excited that readers will soon experience 1910s Pittsburgh where hopeful immigrants risked their lives in the steel mills and coal mines in pursuit of the American dream. The sacrifices of people like my great-grandparents are often overlooked, and I sincerely hope my novel gives readers a new appreciation for the bravery of immigrants, both past and present. As for me, I’ve uncovered a hidden talent for novel writing and am already at work on my next book.

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:
Amazon CA:
Amazon AU:
Barnes and Noble:

Meet Tammy Pasterick

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

Connect with Tammy

Amazon Author Page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *