Writing and storytelling are everything to me. Writing pushes me to my depths and extends me to my outermost reaches, because are no limits when it comes to the scope of a story, the depth of a character, or the promise of what an evocative setting might hold. The boundless sense of possibility that comes with writing is what inspires me. It’s what I love.
I was living the life of a writer for years before I was first published. My inner world was looped around the stories I was writing, connected to the past, or the present, or sometimes even the future, or what I imagined I wanted my future to be, often in ways that I didn’t understand. And I think that is part of the magic of writing, the not understanding. It is as if you are chasing something elusive, and yet, often, you are not sure what it is.
Not only was I writing every day in those years before being published; I realise, now, that all my traveling informed, and still informs my books. Perhaps this was because I grew up in Australia, far from Scotland, England and Ireland, where all my ancestors were born and grew old. I have a fascination with enchanting old houses, and with Highland castles set near deep green forests and snow topped mountains. I also adore magical, European cities and all the fascinating stories they hold.
The travelling for my latest novel, The Lost Girl of Berlin, was done a few years back, and I had no idea that when I visited that city, which was, of course, one of the most emotive places I’ve ever been to, that this would inspire two novels set around Berlin. The House by the Lake, and now, The Lost Girl of Berlin might have both stirred to life years before the words hit the page. This new book is also set in New York, just after the Second World War, and is heavily inspired by my travels to Manhattan two years ago, when I was researching the previous book, A New York Secret.
When I was about eight years old, my parents took me to New Zealand. This was hugely exciting because I had never been on a plane. We visited an old house, and that stirred something… the past was opened up like a book to me, brought alive before my eyes, as if a lovingly detailed tapestry had woken up and the long-gone people, who once inhabited that old house had stood up and walked out into the room. I think the possibilities are especially rich when writing historical fiction, because there is this idea that you can bring people from past times to life and inhabit their world. In this old home in New Zealand, there was a charming old piano sitting by a window, her ivory keys silent. The tour guide asked me to play it, and I remember the lure of playing those keys and the music stirring the room to life. And I think this is what storytelling does. Like music, writing gives silence a creative voice.
I had a real passion for and determination to play the piano when I was young, and I think all those hours of practice help make it easier to sit and write each day. Sometimes I think of writing as my practice, it’s something I need to do. I studied classical piano at a Conservatorium, and have a degree in music, but I also did an Arts degree. I was studying English literature and history and one of my lecturers suggested we all take the week off university and go and sit at the Adelaide Writer’s Festival, a wonderful week which takes place on the Pioneer Women’s lawns, in the sultry South Australian summer heat, in billowing white tents, with incredible international authors, and a whole splendid tent dedicated to selling books. So, I went and sat there, and it was during this week that I knew I felt at home in the writing world, the world of stories, and imagination and books. Coming together with others who share this joy, who love storytelling as much as I do is one of the greatest pleasures of my writing career.
I know I’m incredibly lucky to have a job that is not ever a job, but a passion. It’s an experience that takes me all over the world, back in time, and deep into character. There are as many stories as there are people, and I love that too.
One of the great joys of writing is that it is collaborative. This has always been the case for me. I know there is a strong element of isolation, and for most writers much of the work has to be done on one’s own, but ever since I started, there have always been mentors, other writers, teachers, then agents and editors and publicists, readers and other author friends and without them writing would be much, much less rewarding. No matter what part of the writing life you are inhabiting, there is a strong community out there. I think this is incredibly valuable. It is as if we know the same things, it is our love of books, our belief in storytelling, and our inherent desire to write our characters’ truths that connects us all over the world, especially during a global pandemic. This has not and will not stop storytelling. Storytelling is as old as time. Our stories, and our characters will never die.
(c) Ella Carey
About The Lost Girl of Berlin:
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.
Order your copy online here.