Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.
Ella loves to connect with her readers regularly through her facebook page and on her website.
"The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue"
Releasing today, July 7th!!
New York, 1938: Martha pulled the door of her Fifth Avenue apartment closed, her heart thumping, re-reading the telegram she’d been dreading. Her beloved sister Charlotte needed her help. She was alone in Paris, and the threat of Nazi invasion was growing ever stronger. The time had come for Martha to make the bravest decision of her life. She needed to bring Charlotte home.
As Martha looks out of her bedroom window at the blossom-covered trees in Central Park, she is a world away from Europe and the threat of war. But when a telegram arrives from her sister Charlotte telling of the death of their Jewish friend Anita, Martha’s quiet life changes in an instant. With the threat of the Nazi invasion growing, Martha knows she must travel to Paris to convince Charlotte to return home.
When Martha arrives, she finds a city preparing for war. Soldiers patrol Paris’ cobbled streets and families talk of packing up and fleeing with whatever they can carry. Clutching her sister tightly, Martha knows that Charlotte has already decided to stay. Charlotte’s heart is in France, and as an American in Paris she believes she will be safe.
When the Nazis march through Paris’ streets and raise their flags over the city’s most beautiful buildings, Charlotte is determined not to give in. She works for the Resistance with a Frenchman named Louis, carrying messages, and hiding Anita’s family’s precious art collection from the Nazis. Meanwhile, Martha vows to help a female Jewish professor to safety in America, only to be faced with impossible odds.
But as the war rages, Martha and Charlotte’s determination will be tested like never before. And when Charlotte uncovers a shocking secret about her family which threatens her own life, can she find the strength to protect those she loves the most?
From top ten bestselling author Ella Carey comes an utterly heartbreaking novel about the strength of sisterly love and the courage of the women of the Resistance. Perfect for fans of The Nightingale, All The Light We Cannot See and Fiona Valpy.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Four of my literary pilgrimages stand out for me. First, my trip to Sweetwater, Texas to visit the WASP museum (the Womens’ Airforce Service Pilots’ museum) to research my novel Beyond the Horizon, was an incredible journey where I was able to climb aboard some of the Second World War planes that the unsung women pilots of the Second World War ferried to military bases, flew for anti-aircraft target practice over the US coastline and flew to train military pilots, amongst other things. Coming from my home in Australia, I caught a bus from Dallas to Sweetwater, and then, the wonderful director of the museum drove me all the way back to Dallas the following day and took me to the Texas Womens’ University, where we saw the archives of the WASP’s. Another literary pilgrimage was to Charleston in Sussex, to research my novel The Things We Don’t Say, which is inspired by the Bloomsbury group. One of the most moving things I saw were the simple graves of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, and then, to Anlaby, one of the oldest merino sheep stations in Australia, to research my fourth novel, Secret Shores, where I discovered a huge coincidence linked to an old story in my family, and one that only deepened my connection to that book. Finally, my journey to New York where I spent time indulging in research for A New York Secret, The Lost Girl of Berlin, The Girl from Paris and The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue was amazing- as were the foodie tours!
Tell us the best writing tip you can think of, something that helps you.
I think the best writing advice that I was given as an aspiring writer, was not to submit your work to agents or publishers until it is the absolute best it can be. I still try to remember this when I’m sending my own work into my editors these days, and it helped me not rush the process of learning to write before I was published.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? Advice for young writers starting out.
I think a common trap might be not learning the craft, and perhaps, thinking that you don’t need to because you have read so many books. I think there is so much to learn about writing, just as there is about any other career. There are also terrific resources out there, whether it is learning from an author, or taking up a writing course.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
If I could tell my younger writing self, anything, it would be to have faith that I would get published after years of studying the craft and that self-belief goes a long way to success when embarking on a creative career.
Can you give us a quick review of a favourite book?
A recent book I’ve read recently was The Maid by Nita Prose. This book tells the story of a young maid, Molly, who is working in a grand hotel and finds the dead body of one of the regular guests. The story has some wonderful twists and a terrific ending, but throughout, it’s Molly’s charm and endearing personality that really shine through in this story.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
After my first novel, Paris Time Capsule was published, I started writing under deadline, so I had to become more proficient at producing work to a faster timeline than I was used to before I was published. However, I had to produce high-quality work. Therefore, I became more meticulous with first drafts, and over the years, I’ve continued to write my first draft more slowly, so that I take more care with it rather than just dashing it out. Now, I am able to submit my first drafts to my editors.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The best money I have ever spent as a writer has been on my research trips. Place is incredibly important to me in my books, and to be able to see where my characters walk helps me to imbue so much atmosphere into my work.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My mother read to me each night when I was a child. She had a wonderful reading voice, and she transported me far away to other lands and places. The simple act of her reading to me taught me that language can transform your experience of life.
What’s the best way to market your books?
My publishers take care of marketing my books, so I’m fortunate that I can just write. I love connecting with my readers, and I think that nothing beats the power of their word of mouth if they love your books.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I like to travel to the places where my books are set, first. Often I do this without any preconceived ideas about the nuances in the story. Then, I usually take home a lovely selection of books to read in order to dive further into the setting, the historical context, and the real people about whom I’m writing in the book. Then, I’ll make extensive notes. When I’m writing the first draft, I’m constantly researching and fact checking, as well as watching old videos and reading first hand letters or primary documents from the era to try and make my work as authentic as possible.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
As a child, I used to love stories about characters who travelled back in time. That really made me feel differently about fiction- the fact that a book could not only transport you to one world, but carry you and the character to experience something wonderful and altogether new in a secondary world was exhilarating for me as a child.
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
I think it’s important to treat their memory with respect. To that end, when putting them into a book, I avoid giving them any attributes or have them do things that are not authentic for them.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my reviews. I’m always grateful and appreciative of good reviews, and bad reviews used to hurt terribly, but I’ve realised that you can’t please everyone, and the important thing is to write the most authentic story that you can.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The most difficult, but perhaps also rewarding part of my process is coming up with a terrific twist in my novels. I’ve always loved a good twist, but I usually don’t work them out until I’m well into the book, and sometimes, they don’t come until I’m several drafts in!
Tell us about your novel/novels/or series and why you wrote about this topic?
The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue tells the story of New York sisters, Martha and Charlotte during the Second World War. Martha is content with her life as a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library, while vivacious Charlotte has been working in an art gallery in Montmartre, and insists on staying in Paris for the duration of the war. As an American, she believes she will be safe, and decides to protect art from the Nazis while helping with the Resistance in France, until she uncovers a shocking secret, and must decide whether she can go on. I was inspired to write this book after seeing one searingly moving image, which I won’t share with you, as it’s the very last image in the book!
What was your hardest scene to write?
Some of the last scenes. I won’t give away what they are!
Tell us your favourite quote and how the quote tells us something about you.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” Lewis Carroll. I think as readers and writers, our imaginations are something that no-one can ever take away.
Thank you, Ella, for the interview!!