I was contacted by the publisher Bookouture and offered the opportunity to interview one of their authors. Ella Carey has published seven novels, most set in the WWII era. Her eighth and newest novel, The Lost Girl of Berlin, has just been released.
Myself: I would like to get to know a little about you. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Carey: I’ve always made up stories! However, I knew I wanted to become a writer when my university lecturer suggested we all take a week off university and go and sit at the Adelaide Writer’s Festival, which is one of the leading writers’ festivals in the world. I went, and I felt so at home amongst all the conversations about writing, and storytelling, and honestly, inspired. I knew that this was where I wanted to be.
Myself: You experienced quite the unique inspiration to begin your writing career. What is the first piece that you remember writing?
Carey: Francesca the Fanciful Frog. (I don’t know where that alliteration came from!) I still have it. Complete with bright Texta drawings!
Myself: What was your favorite class in High School?
Carey: English, Music and History. It was a tie for all three. I went on and studied all three at university.
Myself: You had a distinct creative side from an early age then. What is your academic and work background?
Carey: I have a Bachelor of Music in classical piano, a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and history, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. I knew that I couldn’t simply graduate and say I was writing a book…so I taught English, History and music and wrote away while I did so.
Myself: Your success certainly helps to dispel the popular myth ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.’ What part of the world do you currently live in?
Carey: I live in Melbourne, Australia.
Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?
Carey: I would say more that my travels have affected my writing. Melbourne is a very creative city, and there are many writers living here, so I think it is a great choice for me, but as I’m published overseas, I’m in a strange position of setting all my books in Europe, the UK, or America, and living in Australia.
Myself: There were so many Allied military who visited Australia during WWII. Either stationed there or on R and R. I would think that would let you set a novel in Australia with ties to the US, Canada, or Europe. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Carey: I love reading, of course, walking with my dogs, swimming, and I enjoy the theatre, music and travel.
Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?
Carey: I do love dogs. I have three Italian Greyhounds, two who are thirteen years old and absolute treasures, and one who has just turned one and is a minx.
Myself: My step-daughter has an aging greyhound. With three you have your hands full! What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?
Carey: Fluff and Nip. (Don’t ask.).
Myself: Did you read much growing up?
Carey: Yes. All the time. My mother read to me every night, all the classics, fairytales. Then, I always read to myself every night. I still do.
Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?
Carey: Swallows and Amazons, for the setting, the adventure, and Anne of Green Gables for her quirky, fabulous character, and Noel Streatfield’s books.
Myself: What have you read recently?
Carey: I’m reading a book called Love Objects, by Emily Maguire.
Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?
Carey: My favorite genre is definitely historical fiction. My favorite character is Lizzie Bennet, and my favorite authors are too many to list.
Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?
Carey: In the sun, on my day bed.
Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks?
Carey: I read both print books and e-books. I love both for different reasons.
Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?
Carey: I tend to make sure that if I’m giving a book as a gift, that it really means something to the person. I often give book vouchers to friends who are keen readers of novels, because I don’t know what they might have read lately, and I give coffee table books to friends who might have a passion, such as guitars, or France or the like.
Myself: You have been very successful with your Secrets of Paris series. It achieved ‘bestselling’ status on both the USA Today and Amazon charts. Likewise, your standalone novels Secret Shores, The Things We Don’t Say, and Beyond the Horizon have also been very successful. To what do you attribute your success?
Carey: I try to work hard so that every book is better than the last, so I have something to strive for. I do work hard, and I guess I’m quite driven. It comes from years and years of piano practice when I was young.
Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Carey: I have stories coming to life in me. It’s something I’ve always had. It’s just there.
Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Carey: I want to keep writing well into old age, and to be able to continue to share my books with readers all over the world.
Myself: Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?
Carey: I write because I’m compelled to write, and because I love it, and because it’s like reading. It pulls me into a different world, and is also something for me. No-one can take the stories away.
Myself: I like that sentiment about writing. WWII is the setting for many of your novels. Why have you chosen that period in history for your books?
Carey: I was born when my mother was well into her forties, and my father was in his fifties. They both enlisted during the war, and were both in the Air Force for the entire six years, but neither of them really talked about it. I adored so many of their friends, and they are all gone now. Writing about that generation helps me understand the huge challenges they faced, the limitations that my mother’s generation of women faced, the difficulties that the men had to deal with after returning from that war. It brings me close to them all.
Myself: I can understand that. My father served in the US Army during the war. He was stationed in London and later in Paris. Where do your story ideas come from?
Carey: All over the place! I tend to pull together about five ideas into a book.
Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Carey: I always try to put an idea into a one page synopsis, so that I know I have a story, then I usually outline, and have in-depth discussions with my editor and agent about the story, and then I write. Often, I go off outline, but if I feel the new ideas are stronger than they were in the outline, I will stick with them.
Myself: Do you ever find yourself ‘becoming’ one of your characters as you write?
Carey: No, I don’t really, although, I do see elements of myself in the struggles that many of my female characters face. I do think all writing is autobiographical to an extent. It is interesting how much has changed, and how much has not.
Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?
Carey: I write in a lovely room overlooking the garden. I have my sit/standing desk, and a card from Charleston, the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in Sussex, which inspired my book, The Things We Don’t Say, and a paperweight from Scotland, my current research books, a framed black and white photograph of Paris, and an assortment of notebooks, mad notepads filled with random thoughts about the book, and my silver pen set.
Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?
Carey: I do often write seven days a week when I’m under deadline. I tend to go for a walk first, then get stuck in until I am done.
Myself: How do you fit writing into your daily schedule?
Carey: I’m a full time writer. I’ve been a full time writer since Paris Time Capsule was published, so I balance this with family, and everything else.
Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?
Carey: It takes me around six to eight months to complete a first draft, and then the revisions take around another three to four months.
Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?
Carey: I put a huge amount of research into my books. I travel to the places in my novels, interview relevant people, read books and articles set around the topic, make copious notes and then research details as I go.
Myself: It sounds like you immerse yourself in what you are writing. What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?
Carey: I just use Word.
Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?
Carey: The hardest thing is keeping away from it, not overdoing it, and the easiest thing is…well, I don’t know that any of it is easy!
Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Carey: Practice, believe in yourself, and never give up.
Myself: I have heard that same advice from other authors i have interviewed. What novels/works have you published?
Carey: The Secrets of Paris series- Paris Time Capsule, The House by the Lake, From a Paris Balcony, then three standalone novels, Secret Shores, The Things We Don’t Say, Beyond the Horizon, and the Daughters of New York Series, A New York Secret, and soon The Lost Girl of Berlin.
Myself: What are you currently working on?
Carey: The third book in the Daughters of New York series.
Myself: What else would you like to share?
Carey: Thank you for having me here today!
Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?