Ellen Marie Wiseman didn’t exactly choose a light period of history for her first novel “The Plum Tree.” In fact, I was a bit cautious when I saw a portion of the story takes place in the Nazi killing factory of Dachau. I’ve been there and experienced firsthand the overwhelming sadness exuding from the ground and very air visitors breathe. Then I read where the inspiration for “The Plum Tree” are the real-life experiences of Wiseman’s mother and grandfather, German citizens who had been caught up in events not of their making or support and just tried to survive while millions around them died. Suddenly, Wiseman’s novel took on a life beyond the pages.
“The Plum Tree” is a romantic suspense tale set against the backdrop of WWII Germany, cleated boots on cobblestones, and the nightmare of the Nazis. The author isn’t afraid to grapple the horror of the period, and yet, at the same time, peels away the layers of fear and disparity to reveal a core of love and hope. The story itself is one of courage and promise as we follow Christine Bolz, a young German working for a wealthy Jewish family. The son, Isaac Bauerman, opens her eyes to a world of music, literature, and the magical beauty of love. This is the compelling story of Christine’s journey from innocence, to awareness, and, ultimately, to a voice that refuses to be silenced.
Wiseman has captured the terror-ridden experiences of the era and interwoven a very believable love story through a combination of superb prose, attention to detail, and memorable characters. A wife, mother, and grandmother living on the shores of Lake Ontario in Three Mile Bay, NY, Ellen Wiseman is an author we’ll need to make room for on our bookshelves.
Q) Most writers say they’ve been telling stories as long as they can remember. Still, there’s a huge canyon to cross from the comfort of anonymity to becoming published. What caused you to make the leap?
A) Once I discovered my love of writing, I started daydreaming about being published. But making up stories was more of a hobby, a luxury I afforded myself whenever I had time. Then the idea for The Plum Tree came to me, and I knew it was the novel I had to write. From the very first paragraph, my intention was to try to get it published. I felt like it was a story that needed to be told. Thankfully, my dream came true!
Q) Your personal world is changing as you learn how being an author isn’t a part-time job. It’s demanding and at times exhausting work, sweeping away the hours in a day like a clock ticks seconds. How have you prepared for the tours and conventions, as well as the time you need for writing, that will take you away from your husband and tranquil home life?
A) I'm doing my best to keep a schedule, and that includes making time to do the things I've always done, like having people over for dinner and spending time with family. It would be easy to say I have too much on my to-do list, but those everyday things make me feel normal and recharge my batteries. As for tours and conventions, luckily, even though I love my tranquil home life, I love people too. I'm looking forward to getting out in the world, meeting readers, and talking about my book!
Q) You have a rescued yellow lab as well as two Shih-Tzus. How did you and the lab meet?
A) I've always had dogs, most of which were rescued in one way or another. Some were drop offs, some were given to me by friends who came across unwanted dogs. About nine years ago, my thirteen year-old beagle, Molly, died of cancer. I knew I needed to fill the hole in my heart and have always felt that people looking for a pet should go to the local pound or humane society first. I went to the county pound and met Sophie, a four year-old yellow lab, the day before she was supposed to be euthanized. There was an immediate connection between us. When I took her home, she was ecstatic, wagging her tail so hard it started to bleed. She's thirteen now, blind from diabetes, and I have to give her insulin twice a day. But she still looks and acts like a puppy. She's been one of the best dogs I've ever had.
Q) How did your mother react when you told her you were writing a book inspired in part by her life?
A) She was surprised because she doesn't think she's that interesting. But once I started asking more questions, I think she started to recognize how extraordinary her experiences were. When she read The Plum Tree, she said it was overwhelming, like reliving everything. I think it made her realize how strong she was, and still is. Unfortunately, her life after the war has been extraordinarily hard too. But she's really proud of me for getting my novel published, and it makes me beyond happy to bring some joy into her life.
Q) We readers can be a finicky lot. You’ve debuted with a historical novel. Will your next book stay in the historical genre, or will you switch gears?
A) I love history, so I think my novels will always have a touch of the past. Right now I'm working on a story that goes back and forth in time, from the mid 1990s to the late 1920s. I think fiction that incorporates history it a great way to ask ourselves how we would have reacted under challenging conditions, be it WWII or the Great Depression.
Q) Any parting thoughts for potential readers and fans?
A) I'm thrilled and honored to have The Plum Tree out in the world, and I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I know there are millions of books to chose from, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for picking mine. I hope The Plum Tree will remind everyone that although at times it may seem as though fate conspires to break us, our only true destiny is that which we create for ourselves. Also, one of the best parts of this journey is hearing from readers, so please write. I'd love to hear from you!
DA Kentner is the author of the award-winning novel Whistle Pass http://whistlepass.blogspot.com/