Friday 2 April 2021

Join me in conversation with USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author, Ellie Midwood #WorldWar2 #HistoricalFiction


Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Page Length: 359 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

“We must die standing up for something.” 
“And what are we standing up for?”
“The most important thing there is. Freedom.”

Millions of people walked through Auschwitz’s gates, but she was the first woman who escaped. This powerful novel tells the inspiring true story of Mala Zimetbaum, whose heroism will never be forgotten, and whose fate altered the course of history…

Nobody leaves Auschwitz alive.

Mala, inmate 19880, understood that the moment she stepped off the cattle train into the depths of hell. As an interpreter for the SS, she uses her position to save as many lives as she can, smuggling scraps of bread to those desperate with hunger.

Edward, inmate 531, is a camp veteran and a political prisoner. Though he looks like everyone else, with a shaved head and striped uniform, he’s a fighter in the underground Resistance. And he has an escape plan.

They are locked up for no other sin than simply existing. But when they meet, the dark shadow of Auschwitz is lit by a glimmer of hope. Edward makes Mala believe in the impossible. That despite being surrounded by electric wire, machine guns topping endless watchtowers and searchlights roaming the ground, they will leave this death camp.

A promise is made––they will escape together or they will die together. What follows is one of the greatest love stories in history…

Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Choice, and The Orphan Train will love this breathtakingly beautiful tale, of courage in the face of tragedy and bravery in the face of fear. Based on a true story, The Girl Who Escaped Auschwitz shows that, in darkness, love can be your light…

Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on your new release, The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz. Your novel is a true story based upon the life of Mala Zimetbuam. What was it about Mala’s story that compelled you to write your novel? 

Ellie Midwood: Thank you so much for having me! I first read about Mala in one of the Auschwitz survivors’ memoirs, then I saw her name mentioned in another one, then in a historical study, and the more I came across her name, the more intrigued I became. Who was Mala and why she has emblazoned herself in the memories of so many people? It was only when I began truly studying her story that I realized what a brave, selfless person she was and why she made herself stand out among the regular camp population. Unlike the inmates whose sole purpose was to survive (no one can blame them, of course, in all good conscience), Mala did everything in her power to help her fellow prisoners. Using her position as a camp runner (a person who delivered messages from different offices to work details etc), Mala smuggled food, clothes, medicine – generally anything that would help an inmate survive – risking her own life every time she did so. But it was her escape and defiance of the Nazis that truly made her a hero to the entire camp population. I don’t want to give away any spoilers not to ruin the experience for the people who haven’t read the book yet, so I’ll just say this: I was in utter and complete shock when I read about her act of courage. I actually couldn’t believe that such bravery was possible in such gruesome conditions. It was then that I knew that I just had to tell Mala’s story. I can only hope I did her and Edek justice.

Mary Anne: Having read almost all of your books, I think I am in a position to say that you are an extraordinary storyteller. What drew you to this era in history and why, instead of fictional creations, did you decide to tell the stories of people who lived through the horrors of places such as Auschwitz?

Ellie Midwood: Awww, thank you so much! Initially, my grandfather’s war stories drew me to this particular era. Fortunately for me, he didn’t mind re-telling me his wartime experiences countless times when I asked for them instead of regular bedtime stories. I think even as a child I liked hearing true life stories from a real life hero (he was and always will be my biggest hero) rather than indulging in fictional tales. As I grew older, my fascination with everything war-related only deepened and I guess that’s what resulted in my becoming a historical fiction writer who mostly writes stories based on true events. There’s certainly nothing wrong with fictional WW2 novels (I wrote several fictional novels myself), but with so many true stories of courage and resilience still being untold, I feel like it’s my duty to bring them to the readers’ attention and thus pay my homage to all of those brave men and women who gave their lives – or survived against all odds – in the name of freedom and peace. And particularly it’s the case with my Auschwitz novels. It was truly one of the worst genocides in human history and it is my profound conviction that we must study this ugly part of history and read these stories so that we don’t forget the horrors and make sure that they shall never happen again. 

Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Fiction during this era?

Ellie Midwood: Historical accuracy, I would say. As a historical novelist it is my duty before my readers to ensure that I’m offering them as historically correct stories as possible and that’s the reason why I always research my stories to the minutest of details. Naturally, I use creative license to re-imagine a dialogue that was taking place or my hero/heroine’s mood or reaction to a certain event, but if there are witnesses’ accounts available, I’ll stick to them as closely as possible. Not just for accuracy’s sake, but to honor those brave men and women who lived through those events that are truly hellish enough to be embellished in any way. Also, one of the most challenging aspects is to connect history with present-day events and show readers that if we, the humanity, forget what happened in the past, we may easily fall into the same pattern and repeat the events that should never be repeated. And of course, respect for the real-life protagonists – that has to be the most challenging aspects of all. I personally feel that we, historical writers, must treat their true stories as gently and respectfully as possible and present them in the light that they would like to be presented. This is where one’s ego must step away. Novels based on true stories I always write to honor their memory, not for myself. I can only hope they would have liked my modest efforts. 

Mary Anne: What advice do you have for aspiring Historical Fiction authors?

Ellie Midwood: Research, research, and more research. If you write a historical novel just using history as a background, it will instantly show in your writing and will render the entire story superficial and unbelievable. Read memoirs of people who lived through the events you’re planning to write about – there’s nothing better than to hear about history from someone who lived through it. Read novels written in that time period and mark down colloquial expressions and general slang the population was using back then to create even more authenticity. Research your setting and architecture, the structure of the society, books people read and music they listened to – generally, immerse yourself into your characters’ world (era) and only then begin to guide them through the storyline. And don’t just write for entertainment’s sake. Inspire and move to action with your stories. Then your books shall become truly timeless. And good luck!

Żywiec Mountains, Poland. July 6, 1944

The road before them, framed by towering mountains and emerald valleys, stretched long and empty in the early-morning sunlight. Under the dome of a pale blue sky, the air was fresh with the promise of freedom in it. Her blue overalls dusty and wrinkled after yet another night spent in a forest, Mala chewed contentedly on the blade of sweet grass, unbothered in the slightest by the rumbling of her stomach. Next to her, Edek was whistling a joyful tune, his arm draped around her shoulders, his SS tunic unbuttoned and smelling faintly of moss and smoke. 

“Hungry, Mally?” His whistling stopped abruptly at the particularly loud noise her belly had produced. 
Brave and in love, she tossed her head, gazing at his unshaven, tanned face with infinite affection. 

“We can go off the road and try to find some more mushrooms,” he suggested, searching her face. 
Long before they had escaped Auschwitz, he’d promised to take care of her, to guard her life with his own, to do his utmost to make her forget the horrors of the death camp, but instead, he made her troop along the endless ribbons of half-trodden roads and survive on mushrooms and berries and sleep under the open sky, with only his embrace protecting against the elements. 

Little did he know, that was all Mala needed: his arms around her and the air that didn’t carry the stench of crematoriums with it. Hunger was the least of her concerns—Auschwitz had trained her well for surviving on a crust of bread. 

“No, I don’t want to stop just yet,” Mala said. “Let’s keep going. The sooner we reach the village, the better. We’ll buy some food, together with civilian clothes for you.” She gave her lover a mischievous once-over. “Else, the partisans will shoot you on sight if you appear before them in such an attire.”
Feeling the molten dental gold rolling under his fingers in his pocket—a ghastly present from the Sonderkommando, the inmates manning the furnaces, to aid their escape—Edek nodded and hastened his step, as though spurred forward by their inaudible, powerful voices: get yourselves to safety, tell the partisans your story, lead them, along with the victorious Red Army, toward this blasted place and avenge all the innocent souls we’ve been forced to burn by those SS beasts. 

The SS beasts, whose uniform he was presently wearing. 

Passing his hand over the stiff gray-green wool, Edek thought of the moment he’d finally tear the hateful thing off of himself and burn it until nothing was left of it but ash.

Mala stopped to re-tie her boot. Just a few steps ahead of her, Edek gazed at the mountains longingly.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t catch the deathly undertone to Mala’s voice when she called his name. 


It came from behind, a doomed half-a-gasp cracking with horror. 

He turned, smiling—What it is, my love?—and felt his smile faltering, slipping at the sight of her ashen face, her eyes staring ahead. It seemed that all the pain in the world was reflected in their golden irises that had suddenly lost all of their shine. 

Standing perfectly still, Edek slowly followed her gaze and felt himself sinking into a black abyss at the sight of two uniformed figures walking purposely and deliberately toward them. 

They must have appeared from behind the bend of the road, heavens only knew why. The Germans hardly ever patrolled this area; Edek and Mala had been assured of this much by the Soviet prisoner of war inmates who had conducted several successful escapes themselves and the sympathetic Polish civilians who worked in the camp and were only too glad to stick it to the Nazis by helping another couple of inmates escape. 

A dreadful, sickening shiver rising the heckles on his neck, Edek looked with infinite longing at the forest looming to their right, then shifted his gaze back to the approaching German border patrol. The muzzles of their submachine guns shone brightly in the golden rays of July sun. He stared at the weapons with bitter disappointment, angry tears already pricking his eyes. He’d seen far too many comrades mowed down by those guns to nurse a hope that the woods were within reach, that the border patrol men would somehow miss from such close distance, that at least Mala would escape the hail of the German bullets…

As though reading his mind, she picked up his hand and pressed it tightly, shaking her head with a small smile. 

He had always been a dreamer. She had always been the voice of reality and, now, that reality stared into his soul with those black muzzles and there was suddenly no escape from it. 

“Forgive me, please, Mala… I love you.”

They were the very last words he uttered before the Germans leveled with them, saluted crisply and politely demanded, “Your papers, please, Herr Unterscharführer.”

Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, "The Girl from Berlin." Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents. 

In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.
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  1. This novel sounds amazing. It is going on my to-read list!

  2. A new book by Ellie Midwood - always exciting!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx