Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, Beyond the Horizon, is Ella Carey.
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 countries, in twelve languages. Her sixth novel is Beyond The Horizon, set around the Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War Two.
Ella is incredibly excited to share this book with her readers, as her mother was a W.A.A.A.F during World War Two, and her father was in the R.A.F, flying airplanes over occupied France. Ella traveled to Sweetwater, Texas, to research the novel, and is grateful to Ann Hobing, the then Executive Director of the WASP museum for sharing her wonderful knowledge of the WASP. Ella also worked with two pilots to craft the flight scenes.
Hello Ella. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Hello Amanda, thank you so much for inviting me to tea! I adore tea. I usually start the day with a lovely cup of English breakfast and take it straight to my computer to write. Mid-morning, I often have a cup of green tea infused with jasmine, or green matcha, then, in the afternoon, I love to have orange and cinnamon tea, peppermint tea or lemongrass and ginger tea. I always have a cup of chamomile tea before I go to sleep! I have to admit, if you gave me the offer of a treat, I’d love a scone with jam and cream.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write historical fiction for Lake Union Publishing in the United States, and I have had five novels published so far, Paris Time Capsule, The House by the Lake, From a Paris Balcony, Secret Shores and The Things We Don’t Say. My sixth book was published this month.
Beyond the Horizon is your latest release, can you describe it in just a sentence?
It’s a novel of war, friendships and secrets set during and after the Second World War.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Beyond the Horizon?
The setting was my first inspiration. My mother was a W.A.A.A.F during the Second World War here in Australia. She was stationed out at Mallala, north of Adelaide, along with several of her school friends. Women were not allowed to fly aeroplanes in Australia during the war, but my mum always talked of this wonderful camaraderie she shared with her friends during those years. I find that generation had this incredible courage, bravery and resilience. My father was a R.A.A.A.F pilot who flew over occupied France, dropping parachutists for the French resistance. I grew up going to air shows with them, so the love of flying was there. But after they both died, I realised there was so much more I could learn, so much that I did not know, and in the US, the Women Airforce Service Pilots actually flew. So I started investigating them.
How long did it take you to write Beyond the Horizon?
I started doing all my pre-writing research and preparation for writing the book in mid 2017, then in January 2018, I travelled to Sweetwater, Texas to the site of the WASP training base in Sweetwater, Texas, and to Hollywood to research old Hollywood for those parts of the book. I started writing the first draft of the book in January 2018 and the final proof was done by May 2019.
How different was the experience of writing Beyond the Horizon, compared to your previous novels?
Very different! The book is structured entirely differently from my previous novels. As well, the novel is set entirely in the United States, so I had to learn so many details, down to how the girls spoke, related to each other and what their attitudes were, to what motivated so many of them to leave home and join the WASP. It was a challenging, moving and inspirational book for me to write. And, there were those flying scenes to tackle!
Can you tell us about the research process to bring Beyond the Horizon to life? How did you incorporate this research into the narrative?
So, first, I went to Sweetwater, Texas to the WASP museum, the site of the training facility where the WASP trained during the war. It was the middle of winter, and I spent the day in a freezing hangar, clambering over World War Two planes and learning about the WASP. I then spent time with the Executive Director of the museum. She was an incredible help to me, taking me to the Texas Women’s University, which has a large collection of material about the WASP. She and I connected so well, and she ended up kindly driving me around Texas and all the way back to Dallas so that I did not have to catch another Greyhound bus! She is now a good friend and I consulted her during the process of writing the book. I read so many biographies and autobiographies of the WASP, letters they wrote home, and books written about them after the war. I had two pilots consulting and advising me when I wrote the book. I visited flight demonstrations and Air Force bases here in Australia, and practically learned to fly a World War Two plane. Then, draft after draft (I would say there were at least twenty-seven) I layered my research into my story, as gradually that took shape and my characters took over from all the research and started to come alive.
Can you tell us more about the main themes of your novel?
During the war, these women were able to live a life as people in their own right, not just as daughters, or sisters, but then this was all taken away from them after the war ended. It is about passion, and about finding what it is you love- all these women were united by their love of flying, that is why they did what they did, and the book is about honesty and authenticity in relationships, and betrayal. It is about the effects of not talking, and the silence that was inflicted on that generation after the war.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
The inspiration came from my mother, her friends, from the diaries that I read of the WASP, from the director of the WASP museum, and from the other places I travelled in the US on that trip. Deeper inspiration came from a huge breakfast brainstorming session with my editor in Seattle… (accompanied by several pots of English breakfast tea!)
Beyond the Horizon is a multi time period novel, did you find one time period easier than the other to write? How hard was it to link the time frames together?
Both time periods were challenging but weaving the post war story into the book took some thinking, and I think I came up with an original way to do this. In the end, I wove Congressional transcripts through the novel at the beginning of each chapter, from chapter two, to outline the fight that the WASP had for military recognition in 1977. These transcripts have their own arc and tie in the with the story as it unfolds in the 1943-1944 part of the novel, which forms the main body of the book, bar the beginning and the end.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful historical fiction narrative?
I feel that the most important thing is authenticity. To me, it’s important to bring every element together- true to life characters, setting and writing- to create a realistic feel in the story. It’s what you can’t see that matters, because reading is a creative process and readers need to be able to create their own visual experience. I prefer to leave my readers space to think and dream while they read.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Beyond the Horizon?
An appreciation for what we have, and a recognition as to how that generation of women downed everything, dropped their lives and contributed to war, often afterward having no recognition, and then not having much independence in their lives from the 1950s onward.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
I work in a lovely room at home looking over my garden. At the moment, my cherry blossom is coming out and I have a beautiful camellia in bloom. I tend to go straight to my desk first thing, often seven days a week as I find that is the best time to write. I do like my tea to get started. Actually, my tea is vital!
Is there a genre you haven’t tried writing yet, but want to in the future?
I love to read contemporary women’s fiction. That is also what I would like to write.
What is the best part of being a published author?
I adore every aspect of my job. I’m compelled to write, so published or not, I have always written. I love connecting with my readers daily, travelling to research the books, and working with my editors during the process of creating a book, but, mostly, I adore just sitting down to write. I don’t think that will ever go away.
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
Well, the reality of slipping back in time as a woman is not so wonderful, but I have always had a love for old country houses in England. I would love to go back and walk in the park around a beautiful old estate. While the clothes women wore were so restrictive, some of those creations were exquisite. Like my dearest Cat Jordan in Paris Time Capsule, I love vintage clothes and if you could give me a beautiful dress and I could walk around a gorgeous park, I’d do that, then come back home in a flash!
What is next on the horizon for Ella Carey? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I have a historical fiction book releasing in October, 2020. I did a fabulous research trip for that, and I’ve just finished the developmental edits. More soon!
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I’m on a panel with the lovely Nicole Alexander at the HNSA conference in Sydney in late October, so I have her new novel The Stone Country to read next. I have just read a friend, Sally Hepworth’s The Mother in Law, which was terrific, and I am reading an ARC of a historical fiction book set in the gold rush in Alaska to endorse for next year, which is fascinating. I have my eye on Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Jane Austen, for her wit and genius. I have spent time in the village where she lived, traipsed around the fields where she walked every day, and visited the site of the house where she grew up. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with her. I adore her searing ability to hit the right note with every word she wrote!
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Ella. Congratulations on the publication of Beyond the Horizon!
Thank you for having me here, Amanda!
From the author of The House by the Lake comes a powerful novel of friendship during World War II, fighting for the truth, and making peace with the past.
At the height of World War II, Eva Scott’s dream comes true. Accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), she leaves balmy California and the man she loves for grueling training in Texas, ultimately landing at formidable Camp Davis in North Carolina.
Vastly outnumbered by men and amid contempt, discrimination, and sabotage, Eva and her closest friends, the unconventional Nina and straightlaced Helena, remain loyal to their mission and to each other. They stay focused on the horizon, determined to prove themselves capable women pilots. Until a fatal mission sends Eva’s dream crashing to earth . . .
Now, decades later, is it possible to discover the truth about the night that changed her life? Is there any hope she’ll recover all that she’s lost? When Eva finds herself embroiled in the fight to get military recognition for the WASP, she’s forced to confront the past, and to make a decision that could forever change her future.
Thrilling and inspiring, Beyond the Horizon is a portrait of love, friendship, and valor in a time of war—and a tribute to the brave women who risked their lives for their country.
Connect with Ella here: