Q&A With Martha Hall Kelly

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Q&A With Martha Hall Kelly  

I’ve been waiting a long time to do this Q&A with this author and the day has finally come! Today’s Q&A is with New York Times Bestselling Author Martha Hall Kelly. Martha is the author of The Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, The Sunflower Sisters & The Golden Doves & coming out in spring of 2025 is The Martha’s Vineyard Beach and Book Club.  

Q: Martha, would you like to give a brief description of The Martha’s Vineyard Beach and Book Club coming out in the spring? Where did the idea come from for the book? 

A: The Martha’s Vineyard Beach and Book Club is about twenty-five-year-old Mari Starwood who arrives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard looking for answers, since after her mother’s death she found a famous Vineyard painter’s address in her mother’s belongings. Mari arrives and confronts the ninety-year-old painter, Elizabeth Devereaux, at her oceanfront farm and Elizabeth tells Mari the story of the Smith girls who lived on the farm in the 1940s and Mari’s mysterious connection to them. 

My mother’s family, the Smiths, came to Martha’s Vineyard in 1891 and my mother grew up there and I’ve been going there for sixty-six years. The novel was inspired by the true stories about the island my mother used to tell. I’m so excited to share it with everyone in the spring of 2025! 

Q: I really loved reading The Lilac Girls. How did you come across the true story of Caroline Ferriday & what fascinated you about her? What also made you want to write books about Caroline’s mother, Eliza & her great grandmother in Lost Roses & Sunflower Sisters?  

A: I stumbled on the true story behind Lilac Girls one gray Mother’s Day back in 2000. Wealthy philanthropist and former actress Caroline Ferriday’s house is now a museum and famous for the lilacs in the garden, which bloom in May. I toured the garden and loved seeing the lilacs and then took the house tour. That’s where I discovered the story of how Caroline brought fifty-two women known as the Rabbits to the US, Polish women who’d been experimented on by the Nazis at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany was shocked that this story had just faded into the past. Once I published Lilac Girls, I thought it would be interesting to go back in time and tell the stories of Caroline’s mother and grandmother, the women who inspired her. 

Q: What is the research process like for you while researching and writing a book? How long does it take for you to write a book? 

A: It depends! Lilac Girls took me ten years to write, since I had no idea how to structure a novel. Now I’d say three to four years is a good estimate. I’m much quicker now that I know the process better, but it is often the research that takes the longest. 

Q: What lessons do you hope readers learn after reading your books?  

A: I don’t go into the writing process with a specific lesson in mind. I’m always happy when readers take away something meaningful though. It means the book resonated and they connected to the emotion of it, which is always my goal. But if there’s any lesson common to all my books it’s that everyone makes mistakes, but you need to confront fallout from that mistake before you can heal. 

Q: I know The Martha’s Vineyard Beach and Book Club comes out in the spring. Are you currently writing your next book? Can you reveal any details about it if it’s not too early to say? 

A: Yes, I’m working on my next book. It’s another story close to my heart but I’m still in the early stages. Stay tuned!