Jonathan Hammel
Writer, physician, host of "The Creators' Podcast".

Heather Morris wants you to listen

Bestselling author of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” shares secret to her success.

Heather Morris is a born storyteller.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Mrs. Morris for over an hour in the context of my podcast (“The Creators’ Podcast”) and let me tell you, she is any interviewer’s dream guest.

Such is her ability to communicate with her fellow humans that during a recent speaking engagement in a maximum security prison, the inmates, tough individuals made tougher by years behind bars, suddenly mellowed, hypnotized by her steady mezzo-soprano voice. Before the day was over, they were asking her for help writing letters to loved ones, and – ahem – close hugs.

This power is what made her debut novel, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz”, an international bestseller, selling over 12 million copies worldwide and being translated into more than 40 languages. It also made her following novels (“Cilka’s Journey” and “Three Sisters”) bestsellers in their own right. Heather Morris is a beloved author.

But beyond her magnetic presence, there is a remarkable force that runs deep in Mrs. Morris: the power of listening. This power is what led Lale Sokolov, an 80-year-old Auschwitz survivor residing in Australia, to choose Mrs. Morris as the recipient of his life’s story. She had never written a novel before. But she listened, and listened some more.

Without this ability to listen (“and to shut up!” as she jokingly puts it), there would be no « Tattooist of Auschwitz », a book that has moved millions of people and is now part of the school curriculum in New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain. Without this ability to listen, there would be no “Cilka’s journey”, no “Three Sisters”, and no “Sisters under the rising sun”, Mrs. Morris’ new novel, due out later this year.

So how did this superpower appear?

In our conversation, I tried to find out.

Was it Mrs. Morris’ years as a social worker in a hospital? Perhaps. There is no better school of listening than working closely with patients, especially in an emergency setting. I was happy to settle on that, but later on in the conversation, the true gem revealed itself. A story – once again – about growing up on a farm in rural New Zealand. A cool summer evening, sitting out on the deck with her grandfather, gently rocking back in forth, and a simple question:

“What do you hear?”

“Nothing, grandpa, I don’t hear a thing”.

“Listen closely”, he said.

So, she listened. And heard the wind, singing a lullaby between the trees. She listened some more, and heard a dog, barking in the distance.

“Yes, that is a dog”, said her grandpa. “But what dog?”

“Hmm…wait…yes! Yes, I know! That’s Billy’s dog! I recognize his bark!”

“Very good, Heather, very good indeed…”

Heather Morris never forgot that silence, and the stories that hid inside of it.

So relax, sit down, close your eyes.

And listen.

What do you hear?

About the Author
Jonathan Hammel is a Paris-based physician specializing in vascular medicine. He's an accomplished author with three novels to his name, notably "Stéthos & Cie," recipient of the prestigious Hippocrates prize in 2008. In 2023, Hammel ventured into podcasting, launching "The Creators' Podcast." This captivating show features insightful interviews with top-tier professionals across various fields, including writers, doctors, actors, and philanthropists. Hammel's expertise, literary achievements, and passion for highlighting exceptional creators make him a prominent figure in the realm of medicine and artistic expression.
Related Topics
Related Posts