Ellie Midwood is a New York based author who loves writing about her city and its people. She's a health obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama.
Ellie lives in Brooklyn with her Sicilian fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
Tell us about your latest book.
Basically it’s a historical romance and a spy thriller in one. This is a diary of Annalise Meissner, a young German Jew with long time ago falsified papers, living a carefree life in pre-war Berlin. A talented ballerina, she comes from a wealthy family and at first doesn’t want to concern herself with the changes her country starts undergoing under the new Nazi regime. However, when the oppressions against the Jewish population begin, she realizes that she can’t be a silent bystander and swears to help her people in any way possible.
She falls in love and gets married to her father's longtime friend, Standartenführer Heinrich Friedmann, who even though he works for SD – the Reich Secret Service – seems to share her views, and soon Annalise learns why. Her new husband turns out to be a counterintelligence agent working for the US government, and together they start a dangerous game against the sinister Gestapo, trying to save as many lives as they can and not to compromise themselves.
But it's not only the persecuted people Annalise wants to save; she meets the leader of the Austrian SS Gruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner who everyone seems to fear, but for some reason Annalise isn't intimidated by the Chief of the Austrian Gestapo and doesn't believe the rumors about his brutality. Gruppenführer Kaltenbrunner isn't hiding the fact that he would love to get this beautiful girl as his mistress, but Annalise, despite the mutual attraction, stays faithful to her beloved husband. However, the risky game she’s playing will soon change everything…
What do you have coming out in the future?
Currently I’m working on Book 3 in the series – War Criminal’s Widow, which will be the last one in the planned series, and after that I’ll have another story coming out, which will be set in pre-war Germany.
Is your book a stand-alone or a series?
It’s a series consisting of three books: Book One – Standartenfuhrer’s Wife, in which the action concentrates mainly on the character development of Annalise, my protagonist, and how she grows and changes after facing horrors that her country plunges into. Book Two – Gruppenfuhrer’s Mistress has a very different mood, it’s very provocative and erotic, since Annalise has to play a dangerous game of getting close to the infamous Chief of the RSHA (Nazi Germany Secret Service) and she’s not sure if she can fight their mutual attraction and stay loyal to her husband. Book Three – War Criminal’s Widow tells a very dramatic story of the two lovers during the last few months of war and later of the Nuremberg process, where Annalise’s beloved is being tried. It’s probably the most emotional part, which tells a story of love, loss and hope, which one can never lose. I didn’t want to concentrate on the same kind of feelings throughout the whole series, I wanted to show how they evolved and changed under certain circumstances, and how people sacrifice themselves for the ones they love.
Why romance and what makes your particular brand of romance special?
The Girl from Berlin is not purely historical romance, it’s also a spy thriller and a historical fiction as well, because all the historical events in the book are real, just like some of the characters who are also based on real people living in that period of time. That’s what makes it unique, the credibility and the possibility of everything described in the book – even the fictional events – could really happen.
Is romance the only genre that you write in or do you write in other genres? If so what other genres do you write in?
I do write in different genres, even though historical romance would be my favorite, for example my book The Brooklyn Boys Club tells a story of a young Italian-American boy living in Bensonhurst Brooklyn and trying to escape the fate of the rest of the youth who are being pulled into the dangerous world of the underground rulers of the neighborhood – the Italian mafia. So it’s kind of a Godfather type of story, but with a very light side to it, it’s very humorous and not your typical bloody type of mafia book.
Mostly from documentaries I watch and biographies I read; it’s very helpful in building a story and makes it much easier to create realistic characters.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love my yoga classes, exercise and meditation help me to relax and to refresh my vision, I always come back home very motivated and with new ideas that didn’t occur to me before. I also love reading a lot and enjoy finding new material on the subject I’m currently working on. To me it’s like treasure hunting, discovering new materials and documents, and I love putting those unknown to the general public facts in my books.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
I wanted it to be something simple and something authentic at the same time, that’s why the series is called The Girl from Berlin (since the story is told from the point of view of my protagonist, a Berlin girl), and subtitles are so German-sounding - Standartenfuhrer’s Wife and Gruppenfuhrer’s Mistress. I didn’t translate the military ranks in English on purpose, just like most of the notions and organizations, to make it more authentic.
What is your absolute favorite book or books and why is it special to you?
Probably right now it would be The Kommandant’s Mistress by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman, it is an extremely provocative novel which tells a story of a young Jewish girl who was chosen to give sexual favors to the Kommandant of one of the concentration camps. I love re-reading this book, there’s just something into it that makes you want to come back to it again and again.
Have you joined any writer’s groups?
As soon as I started writing I joined Goodreads and keep communicating with other authors through it, I love that platform, it gives countless opportunities both to the authors and readers to discover each other and to promote their work.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Definitely editing. It’s just my problem I think because it’s very hard to start re-writing something when your story is already finished in your eyes. But I’m very lucky to have an amazing editor, Alexandra, who’s been more than helpful and always knows how to guide me and motivate me to make some scenes stronger or better. She makes this hardest part very easy for me.
Which of your characters is your favorite and why?
Besides my protagonist, Annalise, my favorite character would definitely be her chief and lover – the Chief of the RSHA Ernst Kaltenbrunner. He’s a very complex character and changes greatly throughout the whole series and it’s fascinating to discover his true personality under all the layers of arrogance and sarcasm. He was a very controversial political figure of his time and I love the edge his eccentric attitude adds to the whole story.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences?
While writing The Girl from Berlin series my inspirations were the real people living in that period of time. I studied a lot of memoirs and biographies to create the closest to life characters. Many heroic things were done even in such a horrifying environment as Nazi Germany was, and I wanted to transfer it into my story.
What is your preferred writing environment?
I always say that I need three things to write: home, silence, night. This way I’m fully immersed into my story without anything distracting me (and you can only imagine how distractive a city like New York can be!)
Do you have a careful plan when plotting your stories or do you just go with the flow?
Normally I have the basic story in my head before I start writing a new book, but every new chapter sometimes unravels in some unexpected way; all my stories are character-driven and I love letting them lead the way and make the story.
When did you know you truly wanted to give writing a shot?
I’ve been writing my whole life, whether short stories or little essays, but you know that you really have to write something, when you have this story burning a hole in your head, which just has to be told. Then I sit down and write, because I know that later I’ll be re-reading that story many times.
What is your favorite quote?
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” (Ernest Miller Hemingway)
I always try my best to follow this quote while writing my books, that’s why my characters make mistakes, they do things they’re not supposed to, they turn from good to bad and back to good again just like in real life. But they’re always very honest about their choices.
Do you have any advice for other writers and what is it?
Never give up and don’t take anything negative said about your work personally. Ten people might not like your work, but one will find it fascinating and will become your most loyal fan. And of course never keep still and work on your writing, improve yourself, do the research, attend seminars, read articles on the topic… Always keep in mind that writing is work and a lot of effort needs to be put into a really good book.