Interview with Ben Kalland, author of Ellen’s Song

30 May 2018

What can you tell us about your new release, Ellen’s Song?

The novel was published in Finland last year and was shortlisted for a literary award. I’m thrilled that it’s now available in English. There are three intertwined storylines: The narrator, Markus Douglas, a middle-aged man living in New York, receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter. A young, incredibly talented girl, Ellen, is pursuing a career as a violinist in Finland. And a young man drowns in a horrible accident. The reader soon begins to understand how the storylines fit together, and, in the end, the full picture is revealed. One of the unusual aspects of this story is that many of the characters are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the novel gives the reader a glimpse of a close-knit organization that few outsiders have knowledge about. But this is not a book about religion–it’s about music, about family secrets, about the thirst for power, and about finally understanding what love is.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always read a lot, and I dreamed of writing a novel myself. Then life happened. Job, kids, all that. Then I stopped dreaming and made a decision, a plan, a commitment to write. Ellen’s Song is my second novel.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Well, anything by Ian McEwan or Joyce Carol Oates could be on that list. I liked “The Girls” by Emma Cline and “A Manual for Cleaning Women” by Lucia Berlin a lot. And “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante is awesome!

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

That would be Emma Cline. I would ask her about her writing process and when did she realize that she was writing a bestseller.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Strangely enough, I like editing. To chisel out the good parts, tweak it, make it shine. I like giving attention to the details. I also love the rush of inspiration when a particular scene or chapter suddenly makes sense and almost writes itself.

What is a typical day like for you?

I can’t really write in the morning, I’m a night owl. I also have a day job, a nine to five kind of thing. So mostly I write in the evening, and I can easily go on until midnight.

What scene in Ellen’s Song was your favorite to write?

My favorite character is Ellen, a young, somewhat precocious little girl, an accomplished violinist. My favorite scene is when she amazes the audience with an exquisite rendering of Bach’s ”Chaconne,” at the age of 13. It was a challenge to catch the beautiful architecture of the music in prose.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

“Just do it.” We often wait for the right time, the right mood, or the right whatever. But to really accomplish something, like writing a novel while having a full-time job, you can’t afford the luxury of waiting for the right moment.

Ben Kalland is the author of the new book Ellen’s Song

Connect with Ben:
 Author Page


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