A LITERARY WORLD: An Interview with Elisabeth Marrion
A LITERARY WORLD
Author Interview with Elisabeth Marrion.
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author, Elisabeth Marrion, to A Literary World. Elisabeth’s first book in her trilogy, subtitled unbroken bonds, was published in spring 2013. In such a short space of time she has received numerous awards. Her second book, ‘Liverpool Connection’, won the B.R.A.G. Silver Medal in August 2015, and her second, was short-listed for the HNS Indie Award 2015 and was a semi-finalist in the M.M. Bennetts Award for historical fiction. A great achievement.
Thank you for joining us today, Elisabeth.
1. Where do you live?
Hi, Kathryn, thank you for letting me take part in your new interview section on your blog. I live in the South of England now. I came over to England in 1969 from Germany. My intention was just to stay for a year, then another, then another, then another. You get the drift, I am still here.
2. Can you tell us what your novels are about and what inspired you to write them?
I wanted to tell my mother’s story for years, but my brothers and sisters were not too keen that I tell our family saga. I thought it best to write it anyway ( yes) , just for them initially. But then I realized not many people outside Germany know what family life was like for Germans, before, during, and just after WWII. After I told my mother’s story in ‘The Night I danced with Rommel’ I needed to tell my father’s story, who after all bombed my home town just before the end of the war and then later on was stationed there, helping to rebuild it again.
3. How did you come up with the titles?
The title of the first book was going to be originally ‘Six Married Children’ but it became clear whilst writing it that the book would not focus on my mothers life as a whole, rather on the incident with the dance, how it came about, and its repercussions. The second book title could only be the stories connected with Liverpool. The third one, being released September 2015 ‘Cuckoo Clock – New York’, well it sort of just sprang out.
4. In ‘The Night I Danced with Rommel’, how did Hilde cope bringing up their children in war-torn Germany?
I honestly believe that if German women did not help each other during the war, they would not have survived. It was not only about daily practicalities such as “How do I feed my children?” but also the moral support. My mother had amazing friends: friendships which lasted throughout their lives. Her best friend, Marie, was like my aunt. She moved to England in the late 50’s and when I came to live in England as well, I visited her on numerous occasion. She was my Auntie Maria!
5. How do you feel the German people viewed General Erwin Rommel and do you think most Germans were suspicious when his death was announced?
I only know the view of our family and friends during the war, but after the war, and even today, some people believe he was part of the Nazi Party. I was shocked when my sister’s friends questioned her; how could I possibly bring myself to write about him? I believe this is due to the total lack of education in schools during or just after the war about what really happened. Nobody would have explained who was who or the difference between the Parties. Today, it is still something Germans do not talk about. It saddens me that even the young people in Germany now carry this burden and I myself still don’t know many of the actual facts. I was so glad I wrote this book. Now my sister’s friends thank me when we meet and say, “we did not know anything”. How upsetting it must be. I am glad my mother talked to us about that time.
6. Can you tell us about the connection between Rommel and the song, ‘Lili Marlene’?
Yes, this is really a lovely story, especially since it was a special song for soldiers on all sides of the war. Field-Marshal Rommel heard Radio Belgrade play it when he war fighting in Africa. He put a request forward that Radio Belgrade close their Broadcast each night playing this song. He knew it would be heard by our German allies and enemies alike. Radio Belgrade gladly did as he asked.
7. Did Hilde think most of the German population believed the Nazi propaganda machine? How was she able to see through this?
Without a doubt, yes most people believed the propaganda machine. This unfortunately has not changed in today’s world. The biggest bullies rule by fear. However, today we are more aware and can actually do something about it. In those days news was limited to what you were fed, day after day, but my mother had the luck of having international friends who soon introduced her to broadcasts and views from the other side. My mother was not a person who would follow a crowd blindly.
8. Did Hilde’s friends in Poland realize Rommel may have had something to do with their survival?
No, not at that time. It would have been too dangerous for everyone if my mother let on what happened at the dance. And after the war, well, Germans don’t talk about it.
9. After the bombing of Hildesheim, how did the population view the Allies?
I would have to think back to my early childhood. I am a child of the ‘Enemy’. My father was in the Royal Air Force and actually involved in bombing my home town towards end of the war, only to come back later and help to rebuild the damage. That’s how my mother, who was by now a war widow, met my father. I grew up, on the ‘wrong’ side of town, where the poor people lived. The bonus was that in those days people did not judge others. In general it was a relief as I never heard a bad word about the Allies. After the Marshal Plan was announced in 1948, which made it a priority to rebuild Germany, the Allies were made most welcome of course. And the Allies on the other hand, knew that Germany was the only thing which stood between them and Russia. It was now of strategic importance.
10. In ‘Liverpool Connection’, what made you begin Annie’s story in 1926, the same year that Hilde left Prussia?
Annie left her hometown, more of less, at the same time as Hilde, who, as a fourteen year-old, had to leave Tilsit to work in a household in Berlin. So I thought it would be nice to make both women leave the same year and show their parallels: one, happy Annie hoping for a better Life in Liverpool, and one, devastated Hilde having to leave the security of her home.
11. Did you find a similarity between Annie and Hilda’s lives during this period?
Life was not that different for both women on each side of the war. Daily survival and the safety of their family and friends was, and as it still is today, a priority for women in conflicts. Maybe all the nations should be run by mothers. Would that make a difference?
12. With historical fiction, one of the most difficult things to get right is the voice. How important do you think this is to a novel?
It is vital to me. Funny thing is, when my friends read my books – yes I do have some friends who do, mind you they are not usually inclined to leave a review – seems to slip their mind! Anyway were was I, oh yes, they say they can hear me reading it. Is this a good thing? I have not worked it out yet.
13. How long did it take you to write each book?
For me, a book takes about a year to write. After that the ‘polishing’ begins.
14. What are you working on now?
The third book in the ‘unbroken bonds’ series, ‘Cuckoo lock – New York’ will be released September 2015. At the moment I am translating ‘Liverpool Connection’ into German. It is something I do not enjoy doing. Can’t wait to continue with the next book which I have started –‘ Welcome to Singapore’
15. As a writer of historical fiction, what is it that you look for in a story?
The human aspect. To tell the story from their viewpoint.
16, What part of the research process did you enjoy the most?
The learning process. Although we were told a lot about World War II by my mother, I really loved researching every chapter. And I am so glad I did because I was able to pass it all on.
17. What were the whispering voices of advice that helped you? Do you have any tips for us?
To me it is just be yourself. Tell the story in your voice, don’t be preoccupied by how other writers might tackle it. Not everybody will like your book or your style. Make your style your own.
18. What are your typical working conditions? Do you have a special place to write and can you describe it for us?
I like to write at the dining table, I don’t know why. I could write in the office I guess, but it is still the dining table for me.
19. Do you write longhand?
I use my laptop mainly and I always have a notebook nearby. When I have a thought or an interesting paragraph or twist that comes to me out of nowhere. I quickly write it down. It can be things which might happen a long way down in the book. But I always look through my notes again and cross them out when I used them.
20. Do you listen to music when you write?
No I need total silence: no distractions whatsoever. I have got to be the person in that book at that moment.
21. What kind of child were you?
TERRIBLE ! totally spoiled. Maybe because I was the youngest, plus my mother felt she had to make up because I was her child from the ‘Enemy’ which set me apart from my brothers and sisters.
22. Were you an avid reader?
Always. I was never without a book. I was in performing arts as a child and loved reading plays. I read all of Shakespeare’s plays by the time I was a teenager, mind you they were in the German language of course. My favourite was, and maybe still is, ‘Twelfth Night’. I just loved, loved, loved that! In our theater, we had a visiting performance from what was then East Germany, on a culture exchange. They performed it as a musical. It was wonderful. I am still singing the songs fifty years later.
23. Can you share with us some of the things you like to do when you’re not writing?
That is a very difficult question. I am still coming to terms with losing my husband and you feel there is nothing you actually would like to do I guess. But I do lots of running and go to the gym. At the moment I also travel a lot. It is not that I need to get away, it’s just how it worked out this year.
24. Do you have a philosophy on life?
Be true to yourself. Do not walk over others. Be considerate.
And a few quick questions:
25. Who are your favourite authors?
Let me think. Ernest Hemingway, Gunther Grass.
26. We both share a fondness for a Stephen King quote, “If you don’t read – you can’t be a writer”, so what are some of your favourite books?
Not necessarily books written by my favourite authors. I love ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ by Doris Pilkington. I like Plays by Oscar Wilde and Thornton Wilder, and poetry by Eduard Moericke and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
27. Favourite type of music to relax to?
I love Celine Dion, Gloria Estafan. Russel Watson (his classical songs), Andrea Berg, Garth Brooks,
28. Favourite film?
This might sound strange, but I love ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and ‘The Jazz Singer’
29. Favourite painting?
Have to be my husband’s. He loved painting, scenes mostly. Other then that. What would I like to hang on my walls? Originals by Andy Warhol, drawings by Stephan Wiltshire, or ‘Graffiti’ by Banksy
30. Favourite holiday destination?
Florida. There is no other.
31. Favourite drink
Besides water or my first cup of Coffee? Depends where I am. A glass of bubbly will do nicely – or a Margarita.
32. Where can we buy the books?
Thank you for sharing so much, Elisabeth. Its been a delight to have you with us and we wish you continued success.
“Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and day-dreaming – in thinking, not writing.”
Joyce Carol Oates.