Ask the Author: Ellen Marie Wiseman
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a bestselling author whose novels have been translated into nineteen languages. I love to write suspenseful historical sagas about everyday people caught up in extraordinary circumstances while shining a light on little-known social injustices of the past and celebrating the resiliency of the human spirit. The rest of the time I like to cook, watch movies, swim, and play with my grandkids.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My fifth book, The Orphan Collector, is set in the Philadelphia tenements during the deadly Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. It follows a young German immigrant, Pia Lange, who loses her mother and must take care of her twin baby brothers until her father returns from the war. When they run out of food she leaves her brothers alone to venture into the quarantined city to search for supplies. But when she comes back they’re gone. It’s also about a woman who uses her hatred of immigrants as an excuse to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
To be honest, I knew little about the Spanish flu, which was surprising considering it infected one-third of the world’s population and killed over 50 million people, 675,000 of which were in the U.S. A reader asked what I knew about it and told me about the brave nurses in Philadelphia who visited the sick in their homes during that frightening time, many of whom found entire families dead, or both parents deceased and the children starving. About the same time I started researching the pandemic, a friend told me her son-in-law and his twin brother had been left in a closet as babies. That’s when something clicked. And I chose Philadelphia for the setting because it was the hardest-hit city in our country.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I’m not sure what it says about me, but I had fun writing from the villain’s point of view. It’s the first time I’ve done that in one of my novels, so I found it entertaining.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Stephen King, Anne Rice, Alice Hoffman
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
I’d say read as much as you can about the craft of writing. I recommend “On Writing” by Stephen King and “Bird By Bird” by Anne Lamott. Put your inner editor away and get the first draft out without worrying about mistakes. You can go back and fix everything later. Get feedback (professional if possible), and learn as much as you can about the publishing industry. AgentQuery.com is a great place to start. I hope that helps!