INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ELISABETH MARRION, my partner in crime at the Kensington Book Fair this coming Sat Dec 12th. For details please scroll down.
This week I have had the pleasure of interviewing Elisabeth Marrion, the very talented novelist, whose début novel The Night I Danced with Rommel was snapped up by publishers, not just in UK but also in Germany. The Night I Danced with Rommel is the first in a family trilogy entitled the ‘Unbroken Bond’ series. The second book in the series Liverpool Connection, is just published also.
Q: Tell me something about yourself, Elisabeth
I was born in Germany not long after WWII. My father was a corporal in the RAF, stationed in my home town, Hildesheim. There he met my mother, who had lost her husband on the Russian front, during the last days of the War.
Q: When did you move to England?
It was in 1969. I only intended to stay for one year to improve my English, then another year and another year, and I am still here. I met my husband David. Together we formed an importing clothing Company. Through this company we worked many years in the Far East and the Sub Continent. We worked very closely with a manufacturing Unit in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We helped set up a school in the rural part of Bangladesh for further education, something which had not been available in the rural areas at that time.
Q: Do you still have ties to Germany?
My brothers and sisters still live there but not all in our hometown. I go over at least twice a year and my family come to stay with us here in England as well. They totally understand why I fell in love with it and stayed.
Q: What inspired you to write your first book?
The Night I Danced with Rommel is my mother’s story – a story I grew up with. I always wanted to write down what she told me, just for my family really. But then I realized that not many people know what Life was like for normal families living in Germany during WWII. I then wanted to share her story with a wider Audience.
Q: At what stage did you decide to make the book into a trilogy?
As soon as I put pen to paper, or as it is nowadays, fingers on keyboard, I knew it would be a trilogy. I call the series ‘Unbroken bonds’ the first book is Hilde’s story, the second book Liverpool Connection is Annie’s story and the third one Cuckoo Clock –Esther’s story.
Q: Did you find it difficult to write about Germany History whilst living in England?
Since the books are written as a novel and not as a historical document it was not difficult at all, especially since it is my mother’s story. The only problem is German people do not like to talk about the war, and my generation did not learn anything about it at school. This meant I had do to a lot of research which would was painful at times.
Q: How well is the book received in England?
Surprisingly well. And what I find astonishing it is of interest to the elder and the younger Generation. Field Marshal Rommel was well respected throughout because of his humanity and his effort to end a pointless war.
Q: How long did it take you to write and publish the first book?
I was under a little bit of time pressure. I wrote it for my best friend Moe from Detroit, Michigan. At that stage she was already bedridden and my daily chapters I forwarded for discussion kept her going. I choose the self-publishing route, which meant that Moe could hold the book in her hands a week before she passed away.
Q: What are the second and the third books all about?
Whereas the first book is family life and events in Germany, the second books follows Annie’s Life from leaving Ireland behind to find a better Life in Liverpool. Only things do not turn out as she and her friends had imagined. This book recounts how my father, a Corporal in the RAF, came to meet my mother in Germany. The third book, Cuckoo Clock, tells the story of Esther, a young Jewish doctor, having to leave Germany after the Kristallnacht [9th November 1938].
Q: Is there a message in your books?
I would love my books to be read at school as part of their history lessons – both here in England and in Germany. I would consider it an honour to go and speak about them there.
Question: Has your book been translated into German?
Yes, I was very lucky. A small German main stream publishing house contacted me after reading the English version of the book. It has now been released under the title: Mein Tanz mit Rommel.
Q: What books influenced your writing?
I think it was Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Garimara Pilkington, the story of her mother, a part Aboriginal girl who was taken by the British from her home in rural Australia and sent to the city of Perth. She escaped, twice, and walked home following the rabbit proof fence.
Q: What are your favorite books, films and albums?
As a teenager, I loved reading Novels and plays by Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder and Ernest Hemingway and short stories by Guy de Maupassant. Also I am always fascinated by books which are based upon true stories, books about Russia, such asCancer Ward, and books by Solzhenitsyn. As for a film which I would enjoy seeing again and again (besides Rabbit proof fence), there are many. You might get the impression I am a simpleton (Am I allowed to say that?) but I like films such as Heaven can wait, with Warren Beatty. It makes me laugh every time. I like many films but would I want to see them again? One thing I do not like, is that, having read the book, I would rarely watch the film afterwards because I have already envisaged the characters.
Q: What are you doing when you are not writing?
On retirement we moved to the South of England and live opposite the Isle of Wight. I love getting up really early, listening to the news with a fresh cup of coffee and going out for a long run before breakfast. I love running; I have run in three London Marathons and one in New York. Like most people I love to travel and I was lucky enough, because of my work, to spend a lot of time in the Far East, Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
Q: That brings me to the question, if you are going to a remote island what would you take along and who would you be taking with you?
Honestly? I think I would take all the books by Solzhenitsyn and Guenther Grass plus I think all the books by Erich Kaestner – he was one of the writers banned during the ‘Third Reich’.
Who would I take with me? A hypothetical question, correct? No offence to my husband or mother but I would take my best friend Moe. We could have endless discussions.
Q: If you could invite just one guest to a dinner party who would that be and why, and what would you cook?
I would invite Golda Meir. I would love to hear her life story. What would I cook? That is a difficult question because I know little about her customs. I think Kohlrouladenwith boiled potatoes – one of my favourite dishes anyway.
Q: If I were to ask your friends, which would be your best quality and which your oddest?
Without a doubt they would say I am a great organizer. I cannot stop organizing. My friends over the years have become used to it. Oddest? That would describe it straight away. They certainly think I am odd. Who else would walk through their village, the day after she has moved in, in her underwear, walking the dog, introducing herself to her new neighbours? (Alright I forgot my jogging shorts on that occasion, but the village never recovered, or so I thought!) Later on I was elected the chairperson of the village committee. You have to be odd to take that job.
Q: Elisabeth thank you for sharing your stories with me.
It was a pleasure, thank you for asking me along.
THE NIGHT I DANCED WITH ROMMEL by Elisabeth Marrion
is available from Amazon in paperback and kindle editions and from all good bookshops: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Night-Danced-With-Rommel/dp/1291281126