It is a pleasure to welcome Ella Carey back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a author interview series. To help celebrate the release of The Lost Girl of Berlin we sat down for a chat. Thanks Ella!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
My drink of choice is definitely French Earl Grey tea. With the cold snap here in Melbourne that we’ve had recently, I confess that I’ve enjoyed some lovely hot chocolates, but tea is always my favourite hot drink, and I love the gentle, aromatic nature of Earl Grey.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
Well, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but, really, it’s just the accumulation of many years of hard work! I’ve had seven novels published so far, all of them published by international publishers in the US and the UK, as well as in around fourteen other countries, in different languages. The books are a trilogy set in Paris, three standalone historical fiction books, and the first book of a new trilogy set in New York, before, during and after the Second World War. The Lost Girl of Berlin is the second book in that new trilogy, and I’m busy writing the third book now.
How different was the experience of writing The Lost Girl of Berlin compared to your previous releases?
The Lost Girl of Berlin was a bit more intimidating for me to write than some of my other books, I have to say, but my editor says it is now my best book, so that is good! The book deals with female war correspondents just after the Second World War, Berlin and Germany in the aftermath of World War Two, the plight of German orphans after that war, post war New York, the rise of television in the United States, and women in political journalism in that country at that time, the expectations that women become first and foremost, homemakers in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and the rise of McCarthyism and the beginning of the Cold War.
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, The Lost Girl of Berlin?
I wanted to write a trilogy, much like my Paris trilogy, but set in New York, because I’d travelled there specifically to research A New York Secret. I’d also become invested in some of the characters in A New York Secret, and wanted to extend those connections into the next two books. One of the families in A New York Secret is Tom Morelli’s family, who live in Greenwich Village, so I came up with a new character, Kate Mancini, who grew up in the same community as Tom. We wanted to look at some of the areas mentioned in my previous answer and making Kate a war correspondent seemed fascinating to me, as well as looking at how women were treated after the war, when they’d stepped up to the plate and run everything while the men were away.
Did you undertake any research to bring The Lost Girl of Berlin to life?
I undertook huge amounts of research to write this book. I wrote it in 2020, so could not travel to Berlin, Celle, or New York again, but I have travelled extensively in Germany, and have spent some time in Berlin, so I drew on that research to write the scenes set in that country. I read countless articles, books, and also diaries from the era, and biographies of women war correspondents, and women who worked in the early days of television and radio in the United States. I also watched many videos, including Goering’s trial, and was constantly researching as I wrote, from food, to what people wore and when, and how they spoke, where they went, lived and even spent their vacations. One of the most harrowing books I read was the account of a German war orphan, as her story unfolded it broke my heart.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing The Lost Girl of Berlin?
The most surprising thing I discovered, but perhaps, it’s not so surprising after all, is that war correspondents were heavily censored after the war. They were not allowed to report on the extent of the suffering that was going on in Germany in cities that had been entirely obliterated, and this is perhaps why Kate is so drawn to the plight of a little German orphan girl.
Did you have strong connection to one of the characters in The Lost Girl of Berlin and why?
I did have quite a strong sense of connection to Frances, who stayed quiet for so long to keep the peace. I had researched the fact that this was such a way that women of a certain class were raised, and this was something that was so part of her fabric, that she was unable to express herself when she needed to the most. I also felt a very strong connection to my young German orphan. These children’s stories are just harrowing and were also left untold for many years.
Can you tell us more about the setting base of The Lost Girl of Berlin?
The Lost Girl of Berlin starts off in 1946 in Berlin, amongst the ruins of that city, which was completely obliterated by the Allied forces. The people were starving and were given not enough rations to keep a child alive. It was freezing, and what was left of their bombed-out houses were kept together with cardboard. The book moves to the former East Germany, which was then known as Soviet territory, a town called Celle in the former West Germany, and to New York, where the majority of Kate’s story takes place.
What issues do you explore in The Lost Girl of Berlin?
I explore the fact that women stepped up to the plate during the war and ran the country, then, no matter what they had done, were told to stay home and have babies, to put their husbands first, and to keep a tidy house once the war was done. This went on into the 1950’s, and their contributions to the war went unrecognised, with many women losing their jobs to the returning men. The book deals with the theme of silence, and not speaking up, which I think is still relevant today, and this applies to the German orphan, who has turned mute and is unable to speak of her experiences, and to Frances, also to another character, Bianca, who is trying desperately to fit in with the ideal new woman of the times. And the book deals with governments, and the media and how much control and in turn, influence they really have over our lives.
What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading The Lost Girl of Berlin?
I do hope they will take away an understanding of what these German war orphans went through, some thought about those women who gave everything during The Second World War, only to be sent home at the end of it, and a sense of enjoyment in the scenes set in New York and Connecticut!
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m a traveller, in normal times. I love to visit other countries and learn about their history, culture, music, art and people. At home, I have three Italian Greyhounds, so I spend quite a bit of time being a dog mumma! I also love to swim, walk do Pilates, cook, read, and I adore art and the theatre. I can’t wait for theatres to open fully again.
What writers inspire you?
I admire writers who are original in their work, who strike out on their own and do something truly unique, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Miles Franklin, Edith Wharton, Agatha Christie.
What book is next on your reading pile?
From my book club, I have Love Objects by Emily Maguire.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
At present, I’m working on a novel set in Paris and New York, which is the third book in this trilogy! I can’t wait to share that with the world early in 2022!
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Ella. Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Lost Girl of Berlin.
The truck stopped for a moment in the freezing, bombed-out street and Kate caught sight of a little girl in a ragged dress on the steps of a once-beautiful mansion. The child’s eyes were startling blue, a pair of endless pools, drawing Kate towards her…
1946, Berlin. War correspondent Kate Mancini is in Germany, reporting on the aftermath of the devastating war. For her readers back home in New York, she tells the stories of innocent families, trying to rebuild the wreckage of their lives now the soldiers have left at last. But in the Russian-held sector of Berlin on an icy winter’s day, Kate breaks all the rules, rescuing Mia Stein, a silent orphan who she fears will otherwise perish.
Together with her fellow journalist, handsome Rick Shearer, Kate manages to find a safe house for Mia before she returns to America and vows to keep in touch. Back home, the reality of post-war life for women is stark. Whilst Rick walks into his dream job, no newspaper will hire a woman. The editors laugh her out of their offices, telling her to get married and raise a family. Rick does all he can to support her, as she takes her first steps towards the new medium of television news, and their friendship deepens into something more.
Then tragedy strikes: Rick is falsely named as a communist sympathizer. He is arrested, blacklisted and faces prison.
Kate knows she must do all she can to free the man she loves. But that means returning to Germany, to seek out the little orphan girl who is her only chance at salvation. Kate and Rick saved Mia—will she help them both now? And even if Kate succeeds, freedom might never be hers when she returns home…
From Amazon Charts bestseller Ella Carey comes an utterly heartbreaking historical novel, inspired by true events, about the courage, love and friendships that sustain us in the darkest of days. Fans of Fiona Davis, All the Light We Cannot See and My Name is Eva will be totally captivated.
The Lost Girl of Berlin by Ella Carey was published on 12th July 2021 by Bookouture. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Ella here: