Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander, her debut novel Lilac Girls, became a New York Times bestseller the week it was published in April 2016. Following Lilac Girls, she released Lost Roses in April 2019. She was recently featured in the July issue of Welcome Home and generously answered a few questions!
1. Why did you become a writer?
My path to writing a novel chose me in a way. I was visiting the Bellamy-Ferriday House and Gardens in Bethlehem, Connecticut, the former home of Caroline Ferriday, philanthropist and champion of a group of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp survivors. The guide told the story of “the Rabbits,” Polish women, most just teenagers, who’d been subjected to terrible experiments at the hands of Nazi doctors there during WWII. That sent me on a ten year research and writing journey, which ended with my first novel Lilac Girls.
2. What inspired your current book?
Lost Roses is a prequel to Lilac Girls and goes back in time to WWI to tell the story of Caroline Ferriday’s mother Eliza Mitchell Ferriday, who helped another group of displaced Russian women, aristocats who’d lost everything they had, in the Bolshevik Revolution. I’d always been fascinated with Eliza’s connection to Russia and how she modeled a life of selflessness to her daughter Caroline, so it was a joy to write. It takes place in New York City, St. Petersburg and Paris, and I had a wonderful time traveling to each of those cities to find exciting backdrops for book scenes.
3. What’s next for you?
My next novel goes back to the Civil War to tell the story of Caroline’s great grandmother Jane Eliza Woolsey’s family. Jane Eliza had eight children and the book is told from the point of view of her middle daughter Georgeanna who wanted to be a nurse for the Sanitary Commission and fought, with the whole Woolsey family, to preserve the Union and end slavery. It’s called Sunflower Sisters and is due out next spring. Can’t wait to share it!