To celebrate the release of Ella Carey's new book, The Lost Girl of Berlin, we asked the author to write us a piece on exactly what it is about stories set in the past that she loves. Here's what she had to say...
1. Historical fiction is my go-to genre. I’ve always loved to immerse myself in stories set in the past, because, for me, there is a magic in being transported back to a world that is so intertwined with our present lives, and yet, it is a world forever gone. This is linked with time, and the way the past hovers around us, only remaining in our memories. Our memories are stories too, as we try to recapture the past in our thoughts. There is an enchantment in becoming deeply involved in the times when my ancestors were living and breathing, people who are such a part of me, but whom I never met.
2. I think, as well, there is a poignancy in the fact that when we die, many of our lives are forgotten, and so, unearthing stories, particularly about women who maybe did extraordinary things, but have not been recognised in the history books, is rewarding, because in some small way, writing a fictional story about them gives them a voice they might have never had.
3. As well as reading and writing about people who did extraordinary things, I love the way historical stories give us the chance to dip into the lives of ordinary people, people like you and I who were going about their daily lives with their own personal narratives that might otherwise have been lost.
4. I think that historical fiction is incredibly special because it allows you not just to read objectively about the past, but to become engaged inside a character’s head, to understand what they might have been thinking and feeling, and this allows for a certain type of insight and understanding, that I am certain helps build empathy for the way things are today, because we might gain a better understanding of the constraints people were living under in the past.
5. I find that understanding the immense challenges that people in times past lived through helps to manage the challenges that we are facing today. Particularly with the pandemic, I’ve found it inspirational and helpful to learn how women coped during previous crises in the world, for example, when the pandemic hit last year, I was writing A New York Secret, and I was inspired by the strength of the women during the Second World War and the way they pushed on and coped.
6. I am very much a settings-based writer. My books are informed by my travels in Europe, and America, and I find being able to kind of armchair travel (particularly now) is just such a wonderful thing. Whether I’m researching my own books, or reading another historical fiction book, becoming absorbed in another place fires up my imagination and inspires me. It always helps to reinforce that my little patch of earth is only part of something much, much bigger! It can be the sweep of a wild ocean, or the tumble of grass on a British moor, or a grand old gothic mansion and I’m lost, and out of my own world.
7. I love the way historical fiction is gearing more toward giving women agency in their own narratives while finding a balance between this and taking into consideration the limitations they faced in the past. Writing this way is something that I think takes a certain amount of empathy, love and understanding for women of the past, and I hope that is something I can pass onto my readers in turn.
Ella Carey's new book, The Lost Girl of Berlin, is out now.
About the author
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.
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