Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Anna Ellory

Anna Ellory is the author of two novels, The Rabbit Girls (2019) translated into 14 languages and The Puzzle Women (2020).

She has always been an avid reader and after becoming a mum she started writing too. Prior to this she worked as a nurse. In 2018 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. The Puzzle Women was written, in part, on this course.

Ellory lives with her family, including a dog called Seth, and writes in pockets of borrowed time. She is currently working on her third novel. 

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think The Puzzle Women has a dual meaning as a title. It’s actually what the men and women piecing together the Stasi’s archived and shredded documents are called. But it’s also a metaphor for all the women in the book, all missing pieces of themselves.

Lotte is desperate to know her Mama.

The women they encounter in the refuge Rune recognizes are all broken in some way.

The role of Nanya and Isolde to help women to find themselves again.

How even The Puzzle Women themselves have lives that are fractured.

How Berlin was broken and divided, then united, but the differences between living on either side are still very present.

This book looks at breaking and mending, scars and trauma, puzzle is a great word to embody these themes.

What's in a name?


Rune means keeper of secrets. When he first started talking to me, it must have been back in 2016 he came ready made with his name. It hasn’t changed.

Lotte means light and life and she is both to the reader, I hope, but also to the narrative and everyone she meets.

As a side note – when you cannot type a name and have a character have that name and feel so attached you cannot possibly change that name, your manuscript mark-up is peppered with Isodle, Isdle, Isode, Isodde – you name it I have typed every single alteration to Isolde there is, even now, still seems to be a very tricky name to type!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are the hardest thing about writing. The beginning of this book as it stands now was written almost at the very end of the process, on the second round of edits with my editor. We first meet Rune and Lotte at home, Lotte is looking at some of Rune’s drawings and passing comment. This opening allows the reader to see just how dedicated Rune is to Lotte and how much he is struggling under the surface. This was the last scene I wrote.

Endings however, are great. I know them before I start, I write them when I struggle to see an end point to the draft (around half-way), I tinker with them when I’m having a hard day and then when I get to them there’s always something else, just that tiny touch that I missed that needs adding, like the bow. I love endings, maybe one day I’ll write a novel in reverse, but then I may never get to the end, because the beginning … is always so elusive to me.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think all my characters are me in some way, some closely linked and others far removed. They have to come from a truth within me somewhere so that they land fully formed on the page. My favourite character in The Puzzle Women is Lotte, she balances the light and dark of the book perfectly. I finished writing The Puzzle Women in April and I miss writing her already, she was utterly joyful.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

While writing The Puzzle Women I discovered Kathe Kollwitz and I absolutely love her prints, I have a copy of her self-portrait beside my desk – she’s looking hard at me telling me to do better, go darker, push harder. She was an incredible artist who spoke to masses, never shying away from exploring the suffering of others, you can see pain in her work, it makes many turn away, but there is such tenderness and fear in her prints that I am absorbed in them.

I also, very rarely, watch movies, but when I do I tend to re-watch them a lot. I like to see how things come together, how different visuals work to form the whole. Recent movies I have watched were German ones, Nina Hoss is a wonderful actress, I may have watched all her English subtitled movies. Barbara is one I have watched many times over. I also enjoyed The Lives of Others.

I like being outside, so taking the dog for a walk always helps unknot a problem in my writing. I like being around nature and its infinite inspirations.
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Puzzle Women.

My Book, The Movie: The Puzzle Women.

--Marshal Zeringue