Bestselling Author


The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

Jane Healey welcomes bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly to talk her latest novel, The Golden Doves. Two female spies, bound together by their past, risk everything to hunt down an infamous Nazi doctor in the aftermath of World War II—an extraordinary novel inspired by true events from the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls.

Martha Hall Kelly

Martha Hall Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, and Sunflower Sisters. With more than two million copies of her books sold and her books translated in fifty countries, Martha lives in Connecticut and New York City.

In this episode of “Historical Happy Hour,” host Jane Healey sits down with New York Times bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly to explore her latest historical fiction novel, “The Golden Doves.” The novel delves into the haunting era of World War II, spotlighting two friends navigating the challenges of war-torn Europe. Kelly shares her inspiration drawn from personal questions left unanswered in her previous works and her extensive research which included traveling to historical sites post-COVID. The discussion also touches on her writing process, the importance of meticulous research, and the emotional impact of historical events on personal lives.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction of Martha Hall Kelly and brief discussion of her novel “The Golden Doves.”
  • [00:01:29] Inspiration behind “The Golden Doves” and exploration of unfinished narratives from earlier works.
  • [00:03:44] The significance of historical accuracy and research in shaping the novel.
  • [00:07:31] Discussion on the dual perspectives of the main characters and their roles during WWII.
  • [00:15:24] Examination of ethical dilemmas in historical events like Operation Paperclip.
  • [00:21:33] Influence of Holocaust survivor stories on the narrative and emotional depth of the novel.
  • [00:30:01] Kelly’s writing process and approach to blending fact with fiction.
  • [00:35:44] Advice for aspiring authors on writing and getting published.


[00:00:00] Jane: Welcome everyone to Historical Happy Hour, the podcast that explores new and exciting historical fiction novels. I’m your host, Jane Healy, and in today’s episode, we welcome Martha Hall Kelly to discuss her latest novel, The Golden Doves, which just came out in paperback. Welcome, Martha. Thank you so much for coming.

[00:00:23] Martha: Thanks for having me, Jane. This is so fun.

[00:00:25] Jane: So fun. Quick, but I feel like there’s a lot of fans of yours on here tonight, but I’m going to do a quick bio and then we’ll jump into questions. Martha Hall Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, and Sunflower Sisters.

With more than 2 million copies of her book sold and her books translated in 50 countries, Martha lives in Connecticut and New York City. The New York Times As I said, the Golden Doves was just released on April 2nd. Welcome again. I have a copy of the book here. Whoops. I loved it. I left it upstairs with my dog and I just ran off to get it.

So here it is, the golden doves. And I loved the story. And I’m so happy you’re here tonight because I feel like, it’s a beautiful story, but it also illuminates some of the darkness of World War II that frankly, I think the world needs to be reminded of right now. Given the state of things going on, we could.

Go on and on about that, but talk to me about the premise of the Golden Doves and what was the inspiration for the story.

[00:01:29] Martha: Oh, my goodness. I wrote it during COVID lockdown, and I was desperate to travel. I did in the story. And I wanted to write, after Lilac Girls, there were so many unfinished questions, open questions that people would ask me about Herta Oberhauser, who was, I don’t know if you remember Lilac Girls, but the doctor in that.

And the rabbits, the women that were experimented on. at Ravensbrück concentration camp. And I had a lot of things from Ravensbrück that I never really got to explore. So I wanted to go back to that and not a sequel as much as just finishing off some kind of unfinished things.

And I really, I missed all my friends. And so I wanted to have two best friends, Who go around the world and on a mission and so I finally put them in Paris my favorite of everyone’s favorite city, I think, or most people. Yes, they work around and as They, they work really as radio operators and they are a real thorn in the side of the Gestapo.

And so they do get taken to Ravensbrook and they each lose something really dear to them. One of the American girl loses her mother. and the French girl loses her baby, her child. And so the story picks up seven years later, and a man walks, fabulously good looking, of course, walks into the cafe where Arlette works in Paris and says to her, I think I know where your son is.

And will you come with me you need to come see if it’s him. And so that is the opening of the book and it goes from there. And they hunt down a Nazi doctor who was responsible for the bad things about at the camp. And I had always wanted to write about an American at Ravensbrück because there were six or seven Americans there.

And I always thought that was really interesting. What would it be like to be American and be at. a German concentration camp. So that’s the Golden Doves.

[00:03:44] Jane: Yeah, I thought that was really interesting too. I, I love World War II history, obviously. And every time you think that you, there’s an ask, every time you think you know it all, like there, this, that was an aspect of the story.

There’s a few different aspects of this history that you get into that. I didn’t know that much about it. And that’s what I love about your books and about historical fiction. Your author notes on the, in the back. Like I am a huge author note nerd. We were just a couple minutes late because we were talking about research, right?

And I, they were astonishingly detailed and I loved them. So talk about your unbelievable meticulous research for this novel and how it shaped the story.

[00:04:22] Martha: Maybe too detailed. My, my latest book. I guess it’s my fifth book. And I just did the author’s notes and I thought, Martha, you need to edit this severely.

But it’s hard. Because I like the author’s notes. I think the authors like the author’s notes. And it’s fun, I think, to see what’s real. What’s made up. And Yeah, I did a lot of research and one of the reasons that I went back to the subject is that during lockdown during COVID, I couldn’t really travel anywhere outside of the United States, so I had to stick with something I already knew about.

I had been to Robinsburg twice, I’d been to Paris a lot, so I felt, pretty comfortable with that. I never went to South America, which is where, they go eventually in the story. But yeah, I had a lot of that already, and I just went back to my notes because that at the time was three books previous, and I just went back to my notes and I had a lot of it in there.

Things like at Ravensbrück, they had a special block just for pregnant women that arrived at Ravensbrück. already pregnant because it was a women’s camp. So that happened and I was always fascinated with the idea that the Nazis did that. They had a special block just for the pregnant women. It’s a sad part of the book.

It’s a sad story, but I felt like it really Needed to be told. And the whole idea that the Nazis that the Americans brought former Nazis to the United States to work on some of their government programs. I was also really fascinated with that. One of the actual rabbits, and this is in the book, the rabbits from Lilac Girls blew the whistle on that whole thing because she recognized in a medical journal while she was here one of the Nazis the Surgeon General of the Reich, Hitler’s head doctor, she recognized that he was here in, in our country.

Once I found that out I really went to town on having them chased down the Nazis. And then once the COVID travel restrictions were lifted. My husband and I went right to Italy and went from northern Italy. He’s a huge wine lover, so he really enjoyed the research for this. We went from northern Italy all the way down through Italy, tracing what they call the Nazi rat line, which is how the Nazis escaped.

Like so many people say, how did so many Nazis get out? And Mengele and people like that. And that’s how the, in some cases, the Catholic church helped them get out. So we traced that and that was, it was just fascinating. Fascinating.

[00:07:05] Jane: Yeah, it was and to be out.

[00:07:08] Martha: In the world again, after COVID felt very very strange, but good.

[00:07:13] Jane: Yeah, especially, to be in Italy is always good, really. It’s never a bad thing. So

[00:07:18] Martha: we really like prosciutto and melon and everywhere we went, that’s what we would order. And after a while, cheese.

[00:07:30] Jane: Yes, it was really

[00:07:31] Martha: fun.

[00:07:31] Jane: Sure. So that actually, I have some questions here about, about the rat line was one of the questions I had because I’ve heard, you, I’ve heard and read, of course, stories of nuns and priests in the Catholic church, hiding Jewish families, saving down allied pilots.

But on the flip side of that is this rat line through Italy where thousands of Nazis escaped. And that was, somewhat helped by people in the Catholic Church. Was it the Vatican Envoy Bishop Udalla you mentioned? And that was a part of, I vaguely heard about that, but that was a part of history that I didn’t know that much about.

That was really fascinating and shocking.

[00:08:12] Martha: Oh, to me too. I’m Catholic. And I went to Catholic school in Massachusetts. We’re both Massachusetts people and King of Mass. I went to Notre Dame. And I know a lot about Catholicism, but I never, knew about that. And I was lucky because a lot of the CIA documents had just been declassified, when I say just, within the decade.

And so I got a bird’s eye view to what had been going on. And I can’t say too much because a lot of it is a spoiler for the book, but the, it turns out the Catholic church, at least this one Bishop Udall, he was called the Brown Bishop. Because he was originally from Austria. So he was on team Hitler in a way.

He wrote a book that was very pro Hitler. So after the war he went to the POW camps and got a lot of the former Nazis out and smuggled them down through monasteries in Italy, dressed them as monks oftentimes and hid them down. He had a church down in Rome, and he hid them there. We actually went to that church on our our little crazy research trip, my husband and I, and it was it’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing the place where he actually did that.

He got thousands of Nazis out of the country and they, they used church money. A lot of people from the United States even were sending the Catholic church a lot of money sending it to the Vatican to help. And to be honest, the Catholic church did a lot of really good things, but yes.

Not so good on, on Bishop Udall’s part. There was another too, that was a Ukrainian guy that was doing a lot of bad stuff too. But now we find out years later that was happening and it’s just, I don’t know. Once I found that out, I thought, I think it’s important to put some sunlight on that and let people know, finally, not that years later, they, you can do anything about it, but it’s just important to know about.

[00:10:21] Jane: Absolutely. Yeah, I totally agree. That was really fascinating aspect of the story. Another one that I think is interesting because is America’s Operation Paperclips, which was a secret intelligent program.

They recruited thousands of scientists in Germany in the aftermath of World War II to work in the U. S. And some of them were definitely Nazis. And so this is, that program was ethically ambiguous at best, right? And I think that’s why we don’t know that much about it. It’s certainly not publicized in American, you don’t read about that in the history books because it’s a dark stain, I think, on On American history in a way, the fact that they did this, you can understand in the early days of the Cold War, wanting to get a leg up on the Russians.

And that’s why they recruited all this, all these intellects.

[00:11:08] Martha: But yeah, the Cold War, I think people forget that Russia was really our arch enemy. Yes. They were doing anything they could to undermine us. And they were, after the war, trying to grab, Berlin was split into four parts and they were, the Russians were trying to grab as many scientists as they could, mostly so that we didn’t get them.

And they, we were in a race to, get a nuclear weapon and or an atomic weapon. And also a lot of other things too, that people don’t realize. Hitler had been developing a germ bomb, a plague bomb, that he really was, they say, going to use. But he couldn’t figure out how to vaccinate his own people against it.

Otherwise he would have used it and, killed everyone else with the plague and left just Germans to populate the world, but he didn’t get it through the hoop, obviously. But afterwards Russia and the United States they wanted they were competing to see which of Hitler’s. Scientists and doctors that they could bring over and, The book Operation Paperclip is so good.

It’s a great companion book to this because Annie Jacobson does a beautiful job taking you through the whole thing. I mean it was a covert program and the reason they called it Operation Paperclip is they would put a paperclip on the files of the Germans that they wanted to bring over and that was like the sign.

So that there was no paper trail and so all of a sudden they just brought these guys over and the thing in the book that is true when one of the so called rabbits One of the women from Robinsburg, if you haven’t read Lilac Girls, they were operated on by the doctors at Robinsburg in order for I don’t want to go into it too much because it’s very involved, but they were testing sulfa drugs for Hitler and it, it was a really difficult thing when one of the rabbits saw one of these scientists, doctors that had been brought over.

And she was up in Boston actually at a hospital up there. And One of the doctors came to her with a medical magazine and said, do you know this guy? And his name was Schreiber. And she said, Oh my God he would come in all the time when we had our operations. And the youngest was 14.

These were Girl Scouts that had been operated on and he would come in and check their incisions and things. And she said, Oh yes, I know him. Why is he here in the United States? And they said If you talk to the FBI they should know about this, which she did. At that point, she was in her 30s and she was here in the United States, just at Beth Israel, getting her legs fixed.

But she had to go talk to the FBI and ID the guy. And they were like, oh, bummer. This screws things up because they all, there were a bunch of doctors That up at Beth Israel who were doing her operation for free and they had her talk to the Boston Globe and yeah, great story. So that was

[00:14:26] Jane: chilling when I read that in the back in your notes, that was just an unbelievable story.

[00:14:32] Martha: So after that, I think she expected them to send the guy, send Shriver back to stand trial, but they just put him on a boat secretly and sent him to South America to live with his daughter. Yeah. Really? Yeah. Even once everybody knew. Yeah. It was pretty weird. But at the same time, I get it because it was the Cold War and everyone was just, I was, I don’t know, not even born yet, I don’t think, but I do get it that.

Everyone was petrified that Russia was going to, do get the bomb first or whatever. So there was a lot of like hype. In the defense in the defense world here in the States. Yeah. So anyway, that, that is a big part of the book too.

[00:15:24] Jane: Yeah. Crazy. Crazy stories. I want to go back to the main characters.

This is told from two perspectives, American Josie and her Parisian friend Arlette. They worked as agents for the resistance in occupied France. That’s not a spoiler. Talk about the choice to tell it from these two perspectives and the women in history that inspired these characters.

[00:15:48] Martha: Oh, you know what?

You cut out towards the end there. What was that again?

[00:15:51] Jane: Yeah, no I’ll re ask the question. So it’s told, the story’s told from two perspectives, American Josie and Parisian Arlette. They worked as agents for the resistance in occupied France before being imprisoned. Talk about the choice to tell it from their perspectives and the women in history that inspired you.

[00:16:08] Martha: Oh, yes. Oh my goodness. I don’t know if you’ve ever read A Woman of No Importance, which is Virginia Hall. Isn’t it so good? That’s another nonfiction that reads like fiction. And I wish I was related to her having the name Hall, but I don’t think so. She was really, she was this incredible aristocrat and her mother was very overbearing and wanted her to get married and tow the line, do the thing back in the 40s, have children.

But she said, no, I’m going to go to Europe once the war started and I’m going to work in As an ambassador and she couldn’t get that through the hoop because she was a woman, but She said okay, I’m going to go drive an ambulance for in France, for Free France. But before she left, she shot her foot by mistake.

I know, it’s crazy. She was out shooting doves or something, I don’t know. And as one does, if you’re, and she was climbing a fence and she had her gun and it went off and she got weirdly gangrene, which is, what the rabbit story is all about in lilac girls. But so she lost her leg from it, cause we forget back then they didn’t have penicillin.

They couldn’t just stop an infection. So she was lucky to live. But anyway, She with a wooden leg went to first of all, if that happened to me, I would be home in a heartbeat in bed or something. I would be riding an ambulance. So she became this incredible spy and she was a radio operator it’s a long story, so I won’t go into that, but you really should, whoever’s out there that hasn’t read it, it’s so good.

And she actually left because it got so hot for her being a spy. And she broke all of her buddies out of prison. She was amazing. Amazing. With a wooden leg going over like the Pyrenees. And she was like, it was really hard with the wooden leg. I was like, yeah, oh my God. With two legs.

It’s hard. I was like, what? With two good legs, I would forget it. But anyway, and then she gets home and two, she actually was working for the SOE. She went to England and she was like I want to go back. And they were like, No, we’re not you are too recognizable. So she sawed her teeth down. Oh, that’s right.

Yeah. Made them into like little points and made herself look like an old, way older than she actually was. And then I think it was the US that sent her back again because she really was good. And they called her the limping lady because they knew she only had one leg. But as an old, supposedly like 80 year old woman, nobody knew.

Anyway, that’s plenty about her. But what I was inspired by with her was her radio work because she was really a genius with it. And it was scary because the Germans, typical for them. They had gotten it to the point where in Paris, if you were using a radio that you weren’t supposed to be using, they could pick you up.

They had these vans that drove around Paris and they had lights in them. And when those green lights came on, they, it would track you. So I just thought, Oh my God, I have to make my my Josie, who is the American character. Her father was an ambassador. I wanted to base Josie on her. And then Arlette, her best friend, who is incredibly beautiful and loves clothes.

She designs clothes. She’s more of a couture fashion person. She was just based on all the fashion and couture in Paris at the time. And when the two of them meet up Arlette has a baby that she’s had in a a Lebensborn home, which I knew about Lebensborn Homes from Lilac Girls because Herta Klauser had been into those connected with them.

And it’s just where Himmler he had these like safe houses where beautiful houses where unwed and wed mothers could go as well but mostly unwed German girls or girls that were, racially pure, according to them, where they could go and have babies and not have to be worried that they were unwed mothers.

And then, of course, the babies, most of them were given to SS families to raise. That’s what had happened to Arlette, but she, at the last minute, gets her baby out and gets to keep her baby. For a while, anyway, for Arlette and her baby. Yeah. But, yeah yeah, amazing history.

[00:20:57] Jane: Yeah. Great characters. You were saying there’s a lot of, are you there?

Yeah. Great. Oh, this just went black. That was weird. Okay. Okay. There are a lot of emotional moments in this story. Can you hear me? Okay. Yeah. Okay. Few. I don’t know what just happened, but we’re going to keep going. But I also got emotional reading your note in the end about the Holocaust survivor you met named Irene Zisplat.

Yeah. I got really choked up. Talk about her and you said she changed you and how did she influence this novel?

[00:21:33] Martha: I’m doing an event on Thursday down in Davie, Florida, which is where I met her originally. And I hope, part of me is hoping they like surprise me and have her there, but I don’t know.

We’ll see. But she’s, she was just the most lovely, Still is. She’s going strong in her 90s, but she introduced me at a Lilac Girls event, the author events, and once she gave her little kind of introduction for me, I thought, why is anyone here to listen to me, her story? Oh, my God. It was just heartbreaking.

[00:22:11] Jane: Heartbreaking.

[00:22:11] Martha: She had been experimented on by Yosef Mengele as a child, as an eight year old. And the story her book is called The Fifth Diamond. And it’s a true story. It’s her memoir. It’s lovely. It’s another good companion book to this book. But it talks about how she was separated from her mother and her siblings at the platform, the train platform at Auschwitz and how how horribly sad it was for her and how she survived it.

Unbelievable. It’s unimaginable. Yeah. Yeah. And she said she still goes to eye doctors and they’re like, what has happened to your eye? She’s, she sees fine, but she explains that she was operated on by Megla and they just go, Oh my God. It is. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s her story. Irene Zistblatt, the fifth diamond is just amazing.

So that’s another thing that inspired me to write the book was what, how did that, how did Josef Mengele just get out of Germany? And he became, once I dove into it down in, in South America, he was repping his father’s farm equipment company. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. How was, I get it that, we didn’t have the internet, but still something was off there.

So that’s why I wanted to have the story be about how this former Nazi doctor from Ravensbrück escaped and got to South America.

[00:23:43] Jane: Yeah, her story was unbelievable. And oh, someone asked, so the fifth diamond Christine asked, what was her name? Irene Zisplat, Z I S B L A T T. Is that correct?

[00:23:53] Martha: Yes. Huh. Yes. If you Google it, you can I think I have 10 copies. I got them all on, I think Amazon or, I don’t know if independent bookstores. I don’t know if they sell that book because it’s self published, but I’m sure, they could probably order it.

[00:24:12] Jane: I’m sure. Yeah. Yeah. So I, this was a question in your book club questions, and this is a question I always ask anybody because I’m a huge, like I love movies.

I love historical fiction movies. Is there any movie interest and who do you see playing Josie and Arlette?

[00:24:27] Martha: Oh, my God.

[00:24:28] Jane: I have a couple thoughts too.

[00:24:29] Martha: So this came up during the writer’s strike. So it was so depressing. Nobody was optioning anything, at least not this book. Lilac Girls had been optioned a long time ago by Elizabeth Moss of Handmaid’s Tale fame, who’s amazing.

Love her. And she really tried to sell it. They had a screenplay and everything. But yeah. She never told me why, but she had a hard time in Hollywood with it. Who knows if it was, this was ten years ago and It’s all about women. So maybe that was a little before its time.

But anyway, this, I always start all of my books when I’m writing with actors who I think summon up the characters. And for this one, it was for Josie, it was Natalie Portman, because I just love her. Love her. I thought she would be perfect. And then for Arlette, I love Clémence Posset, who was in the Harry Potter movies as

[00:25:29] Jane: Flora de la Cour.

Yeah, Flora de la Cour.

[00:25:32] Martha: That’s a good one. That’s who I would, that’s who I would pick. But

[00:25:39] Jane: Oh, those are good ones. So I had for Josie, Anna Kendrick. I kept picturing her as she would be good. And then for Arlette I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched it. My daughter’s made fun of me, Emily in Paris Camille Rezat, who plays Camille on the show.

Yeah. With the blonde hair. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:25:57] Martha: Oh, she has blonde hair.

[00:25:58] Jane: So not the

[00:25:59] Martha: lead.

[00:26:00] Jane: No. Not the lead. The one yeah. Camille. Camille Rezat is her name. And she plays Camille in the show.

[00:26:05] Martha: I know what I’m watching tonight.

[00:26:07] Jane: Yeah, it’s super trashy, but it’s fun. If you like Paris,

[00:26:10] Martha: it’s like Paris is another character.

So yeah, you just have to have some things that you can just, you know, after a long day of writing, you can just. Oh yeah, no.

[00:26:20] Jane: Yes. Yeah, I’ve

[00:26:20] Martha: been watching the traitors, which is so good. Have you? Oh, I haven’t

[00:26:24] Jane: watched that. No, it’s really

[00:26:26] Martha: good. It’s like the number one show right now or something.

[00:26:29] Jane: Oh, okay.


[00:26:31] Martha: It’s addictive, okay.

[00:26:32] Jane: Good to know. I have a few writing related questions, and then I, anyone who has questions for Martha, if you can put ’em in the chat or in the q and a, I will field those. What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter? Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

[00:26:48] Martha: Oh my God, plotter. I, I’m way too, you too? Yeah. Oh yeah. Way too of too much of a nervous wreck to, I like, it’s like getting in the car and just driving around aimlessly. I feel like I can’t do that. I can’t even take a walk and just walk. I have to be going somewhere. So no, no way. I was lucky with Lilac Girls.

That was a true story. So I already knew you. The plot was already there. It had the bones of it.

[00:27:18] Jane: And yeah, thank God.

[00:27:20] Martha: But even with that, I didn’t know to, I had never written a book before. I was, In my fifties, I had no idea what was going on. It’s a miracle that book got written.

But I realized like halfway through, oh, some writers write an outline. And so I was like, oh, maybe I should do an outline. And I was like, oh, Martha, how, why did you not do an outline sooner? That really sped the process up. But even still it took me a long time. I don’t know, like six years to do the actual writing on that because I kept writing stuff and then going, Oh, that doesn’t work.

Yeah, so that’s my process now. Now I know I have the outline, that’s what takes me the most time really writing the scenes. It’s in a way it’s so much easier when you have the whole thing, what scene am I going to put here?

[00:28:10] Jane: Yeah, I totally agree. Same. And I think when you have, obviously, I talked to a lot of historical fiction authors.

When you have so much research to keep organized, too, I think the outline, for me, helps me keep it relatively organized. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect, but it just helps me get a handle on it. And I think that, it’s a way to do that. Do you use Word or do you use Scrivener?

[00:28:32] Martha: I tried Scrivener, but I don’t know.

I’m, I went back to word. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. I’m sorry I interrupted. You were going to say something else about that, about the book. I was originally, the book that I just finished was originally a what would you call it? Like a contemporary novel. And then I went back. I had another like historical book that I wanted to write and Random House was so great.

They were like yeah, do that instead. But I wrote that in three months or something. It was so easy because I didn’t have to, it was set in my town in Connecticut. I didn’t have to be like looking up, what kind of a carriage did they ride in, ancient. Village clothing,

[00:29:14] Jane: all of that.


[00:29:16] Martha: it really, it takes a long time. And yeah, it’s funny readers. They catch those kind of things. So yes, I think in golden doves, I think we changed it for the paperback, but I think I put pantyhose in it and it takes place in like the very early fifties and somebody Reached out and was like, they did not have pantyhose.

And I was like, Oh God.

[00:29:40] Jane: Oh, I know. It happens, right? So many facts and details you’re going to, and things slip sometimes, even though it goes through so many editors yeah, it happens.

[00:29:50] Martha: And I think of pantyhose, like I was born in 1957. And so I think of myself as a child of the fifties, but I didn’t wear pantyhose until much later.

So yeah.

[00:30:01] Jane: Yeah. It happens. Speaking of facts in storytelling, what, how do you strike a balance between fact and fiction in your storytelling? And are there any strict rules you adhere to?

[00:30:13] Martha: Yes. My rule is if it’s true, and I know I use that and I don’t veer away from that only because I think that makes it so much more interesting.

[00:30:23] Jane: Yes.

[00:30:24] Martha: Yeah. I totally agree.

[00:30:27] Jane: What is your favorite part of the writing process and what is the part that you dislike or dread? I won’t say hate. What is the hardest part?

[00:30:36] Martha: I, all writers say it’s great to have written, to have something. I love editing love. I would have kept editing Lilac Girls if my agent and editor hadn’t been like, No, you need to stop.

And my husband too, when I was ready to submit it to sell it, I was like no, I just need a few more, I loved the story so much and playing with it and this new book too. Every book, I feel that way. I always want to add more and take more out and make it perfect. Yeah. So I think that’s definitely, I think the hardest part is the plotting.

Is getting the seams down and making sure. Because I like to write the book that I want to read and I lose patience with the book so quickly. And so I really need to keep that invisible thread going to keep, and I keep thinking, Oh, have they stopped reading here? Have they stopped? I just want to keep it going.

In order to do that I’m sure you feel the same way. That’s the hardest part for me is what scenes will make that happen and then actually writing them, that’s not easy either. So I’m just, I’m so happy once I get to the point where it’s not completely done, but my editor reads it and loves it and gives me notes because I love that.

Because then I can go back in and make it even better.

[00:32:05] Jane: I could have answered the question the exact same way. I’ve called it totally on the same page. And I, like you said, putting the scenes together, my agent calls it like that micro tension, right? To like people turning the pages and yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, that’s hard. It’s really hard. What I think is micro tension, maybe isn’t micro tension for something else, somebody else. I’ve gotten to the point though, where I just think, I love it. And I, you have to let it go out into the universe at some point.

Totally agree.

Regarding we I know we always have aspiring authors in the audience. What’s the best advice you can give them about writing and about getting published, which are very two different things. But yeah, I feel like we could do like a whole Session on that. Yes.

[00:32:53] Martha: But no one ever asked me that. So thank you.

So it’s what to write is your first question or just a general writing advice about writing, about getting into writing fiction. Yeah. Yeah.

I only know from my experience and I feel I was so obsessed with this story, I feel like if you can find something that you are that crazy about, that you just have to tell that story not necessarily you just have to write, but if you have to tell that story, I feel like You’re going to be golden because you’re that interested in something, then, of course the first thing you’re going to need is an agent and it’s really hard to get an agent unless you have something that right away they go, Oh, okay.

Cause no one knew me from Adam, but the story of Caroline and these women based on a true story was something I think that, people went, Oh yeah, that could be good. So I say that’s the first thing because I feel like, I’m not trained. I didn’t get an MFA. I taught myself. I read, a lot of how to write a novel books.

And I feel like I’m not that special in terms of, I really feel like anyone could write that story. And I just got lucky and found it something that really, that I really cared about. And I think that’s the whole thing. And then what was your second part? Was it? Oh publishing advice.

Yeah. Publishing it. Yeah. I think that’s the advice. Then when you query, it’s going to, when you query, you’re going to have to send that little paragraph. And if that paragraph just, if you can not turn away from that paragraph, if you’re an an agent and you have to remember it there, they earn a living doing this.

So they’re looking for things that they can sell. And it can’t just be what you. Are necessarily, like your memoir or something that you think you’re like your grandmother’s story. It has to be something that really Everybody just goes, Ooh, tell me more. So if you can check that box, I think that you’re

[00:35:11] Jane: well

[00:35:12] Martha: on your way.

[00:35:13] Jane: I agree. And I think you’re being a little too humble about lilac girls. Not anyone could write that story as beautifully done. And, I, yeah, I’m just so happy for your success with that.

[00:35:22] Martha: Very nice of you, but I honestly think some people come up to me at book signings and stuff, as I’m sure they do to you too, and they say I want to write a book, but I don’t know, I’m like, you, you can write a book just like I can, and honestly, if you really want to do it, and I have 64 books for you that you can read.

[00:35:44] Jane: I know, I always say publishing is persistence just yeah, you have to really want it and be passionate about whatever idea you’re writing about. Like you said, I think that’s so true.

[00:35:53] Martha: But make sure that idea is something that isn’t just what you think might be a good idea. Make sure that idea is really like candy.


[00:36:06] Jane: Yeah. Because

[00:36:06] Martha: otherwise you’re going to spend, what, three years writing something and then people will be like ho hum, make sure and don’t necessarily go with the trend right now because it takes a year or two to get a book out there. And who knows if like romance is going to be big in two years.

Probably. But who knows? Write what you think is really interesting and compelling.

[00:36:31] Jane: That’s excellent advice, too. You don’t want to focus on trends. I don’t want to keep you here all night. There’s a bunch of questions. Before I ask them, though, just are you ready to talk about what you’re working on or what’s coming next for you?

Because that’s definitely one of the questions I’m seeing.

[00:36:44] Martha: Oh, yeah. You know how it is when you just finish a book. It’s what’s really on your mind? Yeah. Oh my God, I’m so excited about it. We’re planning the launch party right now and it’s not next April. So I’m just like, Oh my God, I can’t wait.

It’s a really personal book. It is about Martha’s Vineyard. And my mother’s family came to Martha’s Vineyard in the 1800s. So she grew up there. We’ve been going there forever. We have a house there. So it is and my mom used to talk about, she’s passed away now, but she used to talk about during World War II, there was an army base there and they grew up very poor on a farm in West Isbury, which is on Martha’s Vineyard.

And. They lost her father and her mom was, trying to make ends meet and made donuts. And she, my mom used to talk about these soldiers who were, she was 14 at the time and they were so handsome and they would stop in their convoys within the Jeeps and come and have these donuts at, and they were like 25 cents a dozen or something.

And she used to talk about how The whole island of Martha’s Vineyard loved their boys so much and they were from all over the place from Texas and Ohio, but they were training there. They called them the Cape Cod Commandos because they were training on Martha’s Vineyard because its rocky coastline was very similar to Normandy.

And nobody knew that at the time, but they went on to Normandy and other similar places and only about half of them came home, about only like half of them died in combat. And she said, The island was just devastated that their boys, so many of them died. So I started thinking I was in a I was in a car on the way home from Sonoma and in with my daughter who lives in California, she’s an actor, my husband was driving and her husband was in the passenger seat and he Turned around my son in law and said, cause we were talking about what should I write next and.

He said, Oh, I think you should write about Martha’s Vineyard. And I said, Oh, no, so many people have written about it. And my daughter next to me said, you should write about your mom, that I would read that. And I just thought she’s 30. I think that would be, it’d be good to get the younger audience in there.

But So I dove into it, and people don’t realize that there was so much going on out there. There were Nazi U boats all over, circling Martha’s Vineyard. And it’s a really interesting World War II story, but the story of the two sisters who live on this farm, who were inspired by my mom and her best friend, that is the real Like heart of the story.

It’s really an emotional, their brother goes off to war like my uncle did. And it’s really it’s an, I think an amazing book. And I put my writes columns in the book. The girl does cause she wants to be a writer and it’s called the Martha’s Vineyard Beach and book club, which is fun.

My mom had a book club when she was. And she writes a column for the local newspaper and I took off and they do a, like a book giveaway in it. It sounds crazy, but it’s fun. And I took all of my top social media people, how Facebook sends you a list of who are your Top fans, and I put them, I put one of them in each of the different columns.


[00:40:21] Jane: I love that.

[00:40:24] Martha: I think they’re going to think that’s fun.

[00:40:25] Jane: They’re going to lose their minds. That’s so great.

[00:40:28] Martha: I hope so. I hope so. But it’s just fun and funny. So we had a lot of fun. It’s such a fun book. And we’re having A launch party on Cape Cod for it, which will be fun. So we don’t have a cover yet though.

So I’m going to, I’m going to share that on social media whenever that happens, that’s always such a big part of a book. Don’t you think? I do.

[00:40:51] Jane: Yes. Covers are hard. Really hard.

[00:40:54] Martha: Yeah.

[00:40:55] Jane: Do you have much say? I love this one, by the way. That’s always a question here, too.

[00:40:58] Martha: Oh, thank you. Yeah. A little bit.

Yeah. The Lilac Girls, they just sent it to me, and I was like, oh my god, I love that. The lilacs. Yeah. And then in the the subsequent ones, yeah, I’m really lucky. My editors, lovely. They’re beautiful.

[00:41:14] Jane: Yeah, really nice.

[00:41:15] Martha: Lets me weigh in.

[00:41:16] Jane: That’s good. Xena Ryder asks how much of, this is a great question, how much of your finished books tend to differ from your first drafts?

[00:41:25] Martha: Oh, interesting. Lilac Girls, they bought that as a manuscript. So that, it didn’t really change that much. I remember my editor Cara said more Caroline. And yeah, they wanted more Caroline scenes. So I put a couple in. And there was one scene that was too much for them. So I had to take that out.

It was something at the camp that happened. Other than that, Lilac Girls was pretty much locked and loaded. And then, because they bought that book knowing what it was. The other ones I sell as concepts. And this latest one, I’d say, oh, Golden Doves. I wrote In a, I can’t remember the name for it, but I wrote it like start to finish in a regular timeline, but then my agent said, it would be better is if you tell it from the 1950s, so more current day and then flashback to the scenes at Ravensbrück and we all thought that might be a good idea and I took an extra year to go back and do that. Wow. Yeah. That must have been tricky.

[00:42:37] Jane: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:42:38] Martha: It was really tricky, but it was I feel like it was a good thing. Oh yeah. And then for the Martha’s Vineyard book I can’t tell you how, but it changed a little bit.

Because I had started writing it in third person, and then I switched back to first person because I’d never written a book in anything but first person before. And once I was done with it, I thought, you know what, it’s not as intimate as when I write in first. So I just went back and changed it to first, which sounds easy, but,

[00:43:10] Jane: no,

[00:43:11] Martha: there’ll be some wrong pronouns in there.

[00:43:13] Jane: I don’t want to keep you any longer. There, there are some really lovely comments in the chat. So I will send you the text of them. Cause people are just like so many lovely comments about how much they love your books and they can’t wait. Oh, what is the name of the Martha’s Vineyard book again before?


[00:43:27] Martha: it’s the Martha’s Vineyard Beach and Book Club. Martha’s

[00:43:31] Jane: Vineyard.

[00:43:32] Martha: I don’t think it’s not, they haven’t put it on whatever they do. They give it, they put it on Amazon and other bookstores and stuff. They haven’t done that yet. But if you follow me or on Instagram or Facebook, or just go to my website, once I have a cover and they have, if once you can pre order it, I’ll make sure, trust me, you’ll be sick of hearing about me and that darn book.

[00:43:57] Jane: This was so lovely. I love talking to you. And if you’re in the Boston area and want to do an in conversation when your book comes out, I would love to do that. That’d be so fun. So a whole new England thing. So yeah. So please hit me up. Yeah, that would be really fun.

[00:44:12] Martha: I will. I will.

[00:44:13] Jane: Oh, and yeah, thank you.

Have a great night everyone. And next week we have Patti Callahan Henry, so you can register on the website. Really excited about that. And remember to subscribe to YouTube or or rate and review or follow me on the podcast and have a great night. Martha, thank you for your time. It was lovely meeting you.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

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