Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Courtney Ellis Interview - At Summer's End

Photo Content from Kelly Gleason

Courtney Ellis began writing at a young age, and developed an interest in history from her grandfather’s stories of World War II. After obtaining her BA in English and Creative Writing, she went on to pursue a career in publishing. She lives in Western New York with her rescue dog.


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I have had the opportunity to connect with a lot of other new authors who have become great friends. The publication process can be stressful and emotional, so it’s really important to have a support system of people who are going through the same journey with you.

Can you tell us when you started AT SUMMER’S END, how that came about?
During a trip to England, I visited Castle Howard in North Yorkshire which completely blew me away. I couldn’t stop thinking about what sort of people would have lived in a place so grand, and what secrets they were keeping. Exploring Howard was the very first spark for AT SUMMER’S END and became my inspiration for the setting. I had been researching the First World War for previous projects, so I decided to use what I learned and set the book just after the war, to show the personal devastation it had on a single noble family.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My next book is a dual-timeline that alternates between an American woman visiting present day Yorkshire, and her great-grandmother’s experience during the First World War. There will definitely be lots more information coming soon!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think reading fiction is incredibly important for building empathy. Books allow readers to walk in the shoes of people who are completely different to them, to see the world through their eyes, and better understand their struggles.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Writing this novel felt like an escape for me. It was comforting to be able to vacate my life and travel to the English countryside, to run through the halls of an opulent manor, to linger on the beauty of nature and art. My hope is that the book can provide a similar escape for anyone else who needs it.

What part of Bertie did you enjoy writing the most?
Bertie is the sort of woman I wish I could be—courageous, confident, and outgoing. She always says what she means and isn’t afraid to speak up. As a person who is very shy, it was fun for me to be able to live vicariously through her. Though it was challenging, I loved playing with her artistic mind as well. I really wanted it to be apparent that the story was flowing through an artist, so I had to go beyond just learning the process of painting with oils and think about how her creativity would effect everything she experiences.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Explore some of England’s stately homes.

What was the first job you had?
I was a hostess at Rainforest Café in Downtown Chicago. It was super busy so the job was pretty demanding, and made subsequent jobs feel like a walk in the park.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be?
I would love to trade places with a famous actress like Brie Larson or Florence Pugh while they’re filming a Marvel movie. I’d love to know what it feels like to be a superhero, and then get glammed up for a red carpet event. But I don’t think I could commit to a life like that!

  • 1. Howards End by EM Forster
  • 2. The Seas by Samantha Hunt
  • 3. The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
  • 4. Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • 5. The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
  • 6. The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  • 7. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  • 8. Everybody Seas the Ants by A.S. King
  • 9. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • 10. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Your journey to publication
My journey to publication followed a very traditional route. AT SUMMER’S END was actually the fourth novel I queried, so I was familiar with the process by then. I finished the first draft in winter of 2018, and didn’t begin submitting to agents until summer of the next year. Like with my previous novels, there were dozens of rejections and a few bites from agents wanting to read more that ultimately led to a pass. At one point, I received a rejection on the full manuscript that was so disheartening I almost quit altogether—but the very next day, I received a request from Abby Saul, my now-agent. It wasn’t until October that Abby emailed me to set up “the Call”. Receiving that email was probably one of the most exciting moments of the whole process! It’s something every writer dreams of and was surreal for me.

After signing with Abby, we went through two rounds of revisions together before beginning to submit to editors in January 2020. An offer came just about two weeks later, which was pretty fast and totally unexpected. When Abby called me, I was just leaving work to walk a few blocks over for a haircut. I was working in Manhattan at the time, so I was walking fast, trying to hear Abby over all of the city noise. I was so ecstatic I just wanted to scream and dance with joy—but I still had to sit through the haircut. I was in such a daze that I ended up leaving the salon with their towel still draped over my shoulders, and got all the way home before realizing. A few more offers came in once there was initial interest, and a couple weeks later, I spoke to my editor at Berkley. By then it was February, so from first draft to contract signing, it had been just over two years. Publishing is definitely a waiting game, but I truly believe patience and persistence is key.

When an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl's country estate in 1920s England, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. From debut author Courtney Ellis comes a captivating novel about finding the courage to heal after the ravages of war.

Alberta Preston accepts the commission of a lifetime when she receives an invitation from the Earl of Wakeford to spend a summer painting at His Lordship's country home, Castle Braemore. Bertie imagines her residence at the prodigious estate will finally enable her to embark on a professional career and prove her worth as an artist, regardless of her gender.

Upon her arrival, however, Bertie finds the opulent Braemore and its inhabitants diminished by the Great War. The earl has been living in isolation since returning from the trenches, locked away in his rooms and hiding battle scars behind a prosthetic mask. While his younger siblings eagerly welcome Bertie into their world, she soon sees chips in that world's gilded facade. As she and the earl develop an unexpected bond, Bertie becomes deeply entangled in the pain and secrets she discovers hidden within Castle Braemore and the hearts of its residents.

Threaded with hope, love, and loss, At Summer's End delivers a portrait of a noble family--and a world--changed forever by the war to end all wars.

You can purchase At Summer's End at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. My favorite day of the week is Thursday.

  2. Friday's my fave these days. Thanks.

  3. I would definitely have to say that Saturdays are the best day of the week.

  4. My favorite day of the week is Sunday.

  5. "Favorite day of the week" Some day other than Monday.

  6. Saturdays. The first day off each week

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  7. My favorite day of the week is Saturday.

  8. My favorite day of the week is Tuesdays.

  9. My favorite is Saturday. I get to sleep in.