The Readers’ Writers: Debut author Ellen Marie Wiseman

DA Kentner

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. 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 and the nightmare of the Nazis. The author isn’t afraid to grapple the horror of the period, and yet, 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, N.Y., Ellen Wiseman is an author we’ll need to make room for on our bookshelves.

Q. 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. 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. 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 is 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 choose 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.”