Friday, 27 November 2020

I Interviews

Interview: Mary Ellis

“A frequent question writers are asked when they’re first published: Is this the first book you ever wrote?”
You have to love an author that greets her website visitors with this opening statement. Mary Ellis knows her reader, and she knows writing. She can single-handedly wow the reader with Romance, Amish fiction and then swing in a completely different direction. “For me personally, I was first published in romantic suspense set in the South. Then I happily changed genres to Amish romances since I’d been fascinated with their simple lives for years. After twelve novels set in the Amish world I was ready for another I decided to dig out two historical romances I’d written first, a dozen years ago.”
Those two historical romances are what her fans will come to know as the Civil War Heroines Series. As with all manuscripts, even fiction-especially fiction-there are details that contribute to the publication of the novel that most readers aren’t privy to. In our interview, author Mary Ellis was more than happy to share her experiences while penning the Civil War Heroine Series, and she mentions several soon-to-be-released novels to be watching for. What genre is she currently writing in? I will let her answer that question.
MN- The Quaker and the Rebel is the first in your Civil War Heroines Series. Tell us a little about the series and this first release of the series.
ME- What happens when an Underground Railroad conductor falls in love with a man loyal to the Confederacy? Emily Harrison’s life has turned upside down. At the beginning of the Civil War, she bravely attempts to continue her parents’ work in the Underground Railroad until their Ohio farm is sold in foreclosure. Alone and without a home, she accepts a position as a governess with a doctor’s family in slave-holding Virginia, where she'll continue her dangerous rescue efforts. Alexander Hunt, the doctor’s handsome nephew, does not deny a growing attraction to his uncle’s newest employee. But he cannot take time to pursue Emily, for Alexander isn’t what he seems—rich, spoiled, and indolent. He has a secret identity. He is the elusive Gray Wraith, a fearless man who fights the war from the shadows, stealing Union supplies and diverting them to the Southern cause. The path facing Alexander and Emily is complicated. Can their love survive as the war brings betrayal, entrapment, and danger?
MN-You mentioned that this is a project that was in the works over a decade ago and it wasn't until just recently that you revisited, rewrote, and released it. I loved what you shared regarding your agent not wanting to work with the manuscript 12 years ago because at the time, no one was interested in Civil War fiction. Do you believe the time is right now because there is a growing interest in the Civil War genre, or do you believe you have evolved as a writer, creating a better novel?
ME-Both of the above. With the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, interest is growing among the reading and movie-going public. Take a look at the success of last year's Lincoln and this year's Twelve Years a Slave. And I have definitely evolved as the writer after producing and (having edited) twelve books prior to rewriting The Quaker and the Rebel.
MN-One of your reviewers stated that your characters are not stereotyped, which after reading the book, I completely agree with. How hard was it to write a piece based on an actual event that you did not witness (but had to rely on research alone) without stereotyping?
ME-My romance is purely fiction. I created a composite character for my hero from two historical larger-than-life partisan rangers. By taking characteristics/habits/events from both men, I was able to create a non-stereotypical "hero." For my heroine, I read several accounts of conductors/governesses/independent females of the time-period and gave her an identity all her own.
MN-Most of your novels are based on the Amish lifestyle, and this one revolves around Emily, who is a Quaker. For readers that may find the two confusing, what are the differences and similarities between the Amish and the Quakers?
ME-The similarities would be both Christian sects dress "plainly", are pacifists and therefore conscientious objectors, (although some Quakers did enlist in the Union Army), neither gambles, dances, or drinks (although modest alcohol consumption is allowed in some Amish districts), and both believe in "turning the other cheek." The Quakers as a whole were anti-slavery and many were actively involved in the Underground Railroad. However, I discovered while researching that a few Quakers did own slaves. Generally speaking, the Amish remove themselves from modern living to reduce their exposure to temptation, whereas the Quakers were very much part of their communities.
MN-While reading The Quaker and the Rebel, I thought about the risks involved in fighting against slavery during that era, and wondered how many heroines advocated against it in spite of its social ramifications. What do you believe is an equivalent issue in 2014 that women are advocating for, and risking much in the process?
ME-Goodness, I'm not sure any of the issues women fight for these days carry the same level of risk. We're able to advocate using the internet and social media in less dangerous ways. However, I've read of women venturing abroad to stop the use of land mines, the spread of human trafficking, and child labor atrocities in third world nations. I applaud their efforts.
MN-Emily is a fascinating character.  She is strong willed with admirable intentions, yet leaves a lot to be desired in the attitude department at times. Is she a reflection on the human spirit; just because we see a course exterior doesn't mean it's not a soft interior?
ME-I tried to create a complex, fish-out-of-water character. Emily grew up poor and now lives with very wealthy people. Her crusty exterior is a manifestation of her insecurity over her  social standing. I feel it's human nature to behaved defensively when out of our ilk.
MN-I stumbled across Amish Reader last year and consider it a gold mine for those that love Amish books. How did you become affiliated with the authors in this particular community?
ME-My publisher, Harvest House, set up the Amish Reader website. It is a treasure trove of good books, great recipes, and advice for simple living.
MN-When you are not busy writing books, what are most likely doing?
ME-That's a hard question to answer, since it seems like I'm always doing something connected with my writing career. But I suppose I would be reading a book from one of my author friends. I have so many to pick from!
MN-Now is your moment to give a shameless plug. Are there any other books "soon-to-be-released" that we can be looking for or pre-ordering?
ME-My novella Always in my Heart, releases on February 11 for electronic readers. A Plain Man, my next Amish book, releases on April 1st, and finally The Lady and the Officer, book 2 of the Civil War Heroines series, will release on July 1st, in both print and electronic forms.
Author Bio- Mary Ellis grew up close to the eastern Ohio Amish community, Geauga County, where her parents often took her to farmer's markets and woodworking fairs. She loved their peaceful, agrarian lifestyle, their respect for the land, and their strong sense of Christian community.

She and her husband now live close to the largest population of Amish in the country--a four-county area in central Ohio. They often take weekend trips to purchase produce, meet Amish families, and enjoy a simpler way of life.

Mary enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming. But her favorite past time is snorkeling, which she seldom gets to do living in Ohio. She is a former middle school teacher and a former saleswoman for the world's best chocolate company. Now she writes full-time and wonders why her house is still dusty and her garden has so many weeds.

Author Mary Ellis loves to hear from her readers, and encourages them to connect with her through her website, blog and on Facebook.

Watch the visually-rich book trailer for The Quaker and the Rebel here.

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