Interview with novelist Ellen Butler

Ellen Butler joins me today and we’re
chatting about her new historical suspense, The
Brass Compass.
Butler is an award-winning novelist writing critically acclaimed suspense
thrillers, and sassy romance. The Brass Compass was inspired by the
brave women who served in the OSS, British Special Operations Executive and
French Resistance. Ellen is a member of The OSS Society and her fascination
with WWII history originally piqued when her grandfather revealed his role as a
cryptographer during the war. The Brass
is her debut into the historical fiction genre. She also holds a
Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy, and her history includes a
long list of writing for dry, but illuminating, professional newsletters and
windy papers on public policy. She lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington,
D.C. with her husband and two children.
Welcome, Ellen. Please tell
us about your current release.
for having me, Lisa. I’m excited to share my new book, The Brass Compass, with your readers. The story is a suspenseful
spy novel against the backdrop of World War II. Our protagonist, Lily, is an
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agent, on the run, behind enemy lines. She
must rely on her training and resourcefulness to outwit the Nazi’s, and to
reach Allied territory before they catch her. While on the run, Lily uses a
compass, given to her by a soldier, to navigate the forest in hopes that it
will guide her back to the man she loves.
What inspired you to write
this book?
fascination with WWII began about a dozen years ago after watching the HBO
miniseries, Band of Brothers. The
idea of an Allied spy behind enemy lines spun around in my head for about ten
years before I began seriously researching and writing the novel I outlined a
decade earlier.
Excerpt from The Brass Compass:
Into the Night
February 1945
Was ist sein Name?” What is his name?
The SS officer’s backlit shadow loomed over his victim as he yelled into the
face of the shrinking man on the third-story balcony. “We know you’ve been
passing messages. Tell us, who is your contact?” he continued in German.
gray-haired head shook like a frightened mouse. With his back to me, I was too
far away to hear the mumbled response or the Nazi’s next question. I pulled my
dark wool coat tighter and sank deeper into the shadow of the apartment
building’s doorway across the street from where my contact underwent
interrogation. The pounding of my heart pulsated in my ears, and I held my
breath as I strained to listen to the conversation. In front of Lenz’s building
stood a black Mercedes-Benz with its running lights aglow, no doubt the vehicle
that brought the SS troops. None of the neighboring buildings showed any light,
as residents cowered behind locked doors praying the SS wouldn’t come knocking.
This was a working-class neighborhood, and everyone knew it was best to keep
your mouth shut and not stick your nose in the business of the Schutzstaffel.
presence at Lenz’s home explained why my contact at the bakery was absent from
our assignation earlier today. I dreaded to imagine what they had done to Otto
for him to give up Lenz’s name … or worse, mine. Even though I’d never told
Otto my name, a description of me could easily lead the SS to their target.
Lügner!” Liar!
flinched as the officer’s ringing accusation bounced off the brick buildings. A
young SS Stormtrooper stepped out onto the balcony and requested his superior
look at something in his hand. I should have taken their distraction to slip
away into the darkness and run; instead I stayed, anxiously listening, to hear
if Lenz would break under the SS grilling and reveal my identity. Clearly, they
suspected he was involved in spying and would take him away. They probably also
knew he had information to spill and would eventually torture it out of him,
which was the only reason he hadn’t been shot on sight. It was only a matter of
time before he gave me away. My friends in the French Resistance had been
directed to hold out for two days before releasing names to allow the spies to
disband and disappear. I wasn’t sure if the German network applied the same
rules, so I remained to see if he would break before they took him.
did you find this?” the officer asked.
trooper indicated inside the apartment.
Zeig es mir.” Show me. He followed his
subordinate through the doorway into the building.
turned and braced himself against the balcony. I watched in horror as he
climbed atop the railing.
Halt!” a bellow from inside rang out.
didn’t hesitate, and I averted my eyes, biting down hard on my cold knuckles,
as he took his final moments out of the hands of the Nazis. Sounds of
shattering glass and buckling metal ripped through the darkness as his body
slammed into the SS vehicle. In my periphery, a neighboring blackout curtain
SS officer swore as he and his subordinate leaned over the railing to see
Lenz’s body sprawled across their car. “Search the apartment. Tear it apart!”
moment they crossed the threshold, I sprinted into the night.
What exciting story are you
working on next?
going back to my contemporary roots. I’m working on an art heist novel that
takes place in Washington, DC.
When did you first consider
yourself a writer?
When my first novel was published in 2013.
What would you say is your
interesting writing quirk?
I have writer’s block I have to step away from the computer and do something
else. Invariably, I clean and do other mundane tasks, while my brain works in
the background to solve the problem.
As a child, what did you
want to be when you grew up?
Wonder Woman! Didn’t every little girl?
Anything additional you want
to share with the readers?
Ellen Butler twitter
style, 140 characters or less: author, mother, wife, shoe lover, chocoholic,
fashion fan, sarcastic wit, autumn enthusiast, dancer, book worm, and good-time

Thanks for being here today,

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