Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/4/20- When she joins the war effort during the Great War, American nurse Ella Neumann doesn’t see allies or enemies. The daughter of German immigrants, all soldiers — Allies or Axis — are human beings in need of care. A promise to herself and a promise made to her by an enemy officer become the catalyst for the life she plans to lead after the war. But a handsome Canadian soldier may complicate her plans. In this third installment of the Great War – Great Love series, join Ella in a tale of promises, betrayal and unconditional love.- Ella’s Promise (Great War Great Love Book 3)
Did you always want to be an Author?
English, Creative Writing and Spelling were the subjects I loved most in High School and college. As a small child, I enjoyed telling stories and making up stories. When I was a young woman, I married my husband, James, and raised five sons. For me, that was a vocation in itself.
It never occurred to me to be an Author, however, until my husband suggested the idea twenty years ago after I found out some disturbing information about my great-grandmother. “You should write a novel and base it on the stories of yourself and your great-grandmother.” So that’s what I did.
What is it about storytelling that moves your soul? Tell us about your first book.
Most Authors, when they write a novel, usually include aspects of themselves in different characters in the book. I’ve done this and I’ve read many books that have moved my soul.
In my novels, I hope that readers will see flawed characters who are trying to love as Christ loved.
I love my readers and pray for them. My hope and prayer is that they come away from reading one of my books a better person.
Also, I’ve been involved with genealogy since I was a teenager. I’ve always had a fascination with my ancestors, especially those ancestors who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Through my research, I found out something about my great-grandmother that was disturbing. I began praying for her in earnest and then had what I would define as a supernatural experience about this ancestor. When I told my husband about the experience, he suggested I write a novel.
My first novel is based on my story of spiritual conversion and the story of my great-grandmother, with whom I had always felt a special kinship. My ancestor’s life was tragic in many respects, and that made me empathize with her. However, her life was not one of virtue but of vice and, because of that, I felt very sad for her. In every human being’s short life here on earth, whether we live with virtue or vice, our actions have far-reaching effects, even through the generations and descendants.
There are several recurring themes in your books. One theme is that every human being is unique and irreplaceable and should be treated with charity and kindness. What are the other themes?
St. John Paul II said, “ Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever.” Human beings from the moment of conception to natural death are eternal gifts, and that is another theme that flows through my novels.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” My faith and love for Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother are important to me, so self-sacrifice is also a theme in most of my books.
St. John Paul II also said: “Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings.”
Another recurring theme is that husband and wife are called to love as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. This is why all of my publishing company’s books are called “Theology-of-the-Body Fiction.”
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Share a pivotal moment in your life.
When my older three sons were 5, 3 and 1, I became pregnant with an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. I remember being in the ambulance and literally feeling weaker and weaker because I was bleeding internally. I prayed and felt God’s grace and peace. The doctors told me I had lost a great deal of my blood volume before finally being whisked in to emergency surgery and that I was very close to death. There’s nothing quite like having a near-death experience to make a person appreciate the gift of one’s life.
I survived that experience, but not without great physical, spiritual and emotional suffering. I learned that by joining my sacrifice with that of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I received the grace to endure. The suffering wasn’t taken away, but it took on great meaning by offering my suffering for others.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your books?
Inspiration can come in many forms. I often draw inspiration from experiences that either I have had or someone close to me has had. I also use true stories that I’ve heard about and create similar stories with different characters and settings. For example, years ago, Laci Peterson was (supposedly) kidnapped while she was nine months pregnant. Her husband was convicted of killing her and their baby. In my book, Stealing Jenny, Jenny is abducted by a mentally unstable infertile woman.
I also draw inspiration from the saints. St. Augustine once said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” This is the quote at the beginning of Emily’s Hope, my first book.
“One must see God in everyone.” St. Catherine of Siena’s quote reminds us to see Jesus in everyone we meet.
You have published 10 books. Your novels have been collectively downloaded 750,000 times. What work is your favorite?
My favorite is In Name Only. This is Book #1 of the O’Donovan Family series. The characters in this book became so real to me that I started dreaming about them. When I’ve spoken to readers over the years, they have also expressed that In Name Only is their favorite of my books. A close second is my fourth book, Stealing Jenny, which is about a pregnant woman who’s kidnapped, is a close second.
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Tell us about Julia’s Gifts, World War 1 Romance. What is unique about Julia?
Julia is a young woman who in 1915 begins buying or making Christmas gifts for her future husband. When she volunteers during the Great War, she brings the gifts with her, thinking that perhaps she may meet her beloved in France. I got the idea from my own life because I made gifts for my own future husband before I met him.
Julia’s Gifts is Book #1 of the Great War Great Love series. Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and Ella’s Promise is Book #3.
You are a Speaker, Marriage Preparation Instructor, and Theology of the Body instructor. What are the unique gifts that you bring to the world?
Mother Teresa often said, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.” This is so important and it’s why I believe every human being should be treated with kindness and compassion, no matter what their race, religion, gender, political views etc… I always try to smile at people, even those I don’t know because you never know when a smile will help someone who is having a bad day.
How have you evolved as a Writer?
In retrospect, my first book “tells more than it shows. Thankfully, I realized that I needed to become much better at my craft if I wanted to continue writing novels and have any success with them. When I began to write my second book, In Name Only, I took my time and asked other writers to critique my work. My spiritual director at the time, Fr. Arthur Joseph, read different drafts of that book. He told me that writing novels is like “polishing a diamond.” The more you polish, the more brilliant it gets. I’ve seen books from many writers who self-publish their books before the books are really polished and very few people (other than relatives) read the book.
In Name Only ended up receiving a Gold Medal in Religious Fiction from the IPPY Awards. With each new book, I try to become a bit better writer.
What is next for you?
I’m currently working on writing a book about my mother, who died 13 years ago. Mom was an interesting character and quite witty. When I think of something funny that she said years ago, she still makes me laugh. And strangely enough, she was five feet six inches tall (I’m only four feet nine inches tall). When she stood beside me, she’d always say, “El, are you standing in a hole?” I loved her humor!