By: Kathryn Lasky
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: March 28th, 2017
*these links are affiliate links*
Describe NIGHT WITCHES in 5 words or less
“Badass girl pilots blast Nazis”
Or if that language is too strong
“Nasty girls win the day”
Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Well, of course I love the main character Valya. I try to get in everything that makes a great character—vulnerability, first and foremost, doubt, anger, and passion. She is fiercely competitive and sometimes doesn’t know when to back off. That is both a strength and a weakness—especially if you’re a Night Witch.
But there are many other characters, minor ones, that I loved creating. One is Mara Tretorov. I say more about her later in this blog. She is the squadron commander. She has a beautiful singing voice. Also, another minor character is a boy, no more than eleven, Mikhail, who was a gunner in the trenches of Stalingrad shooting the Nazi tanks. But he was also a gifted young pianist. The war had interrupted his plans to study with a renowned teacher at a music academy.
If you could ask a character of your choice from NIGHT WITCHES one question what would it be?
How do you turn fear into courage?
If you emptied out your purse, wallet, desk drawer, pockets, backpack, beach bag, saddle bag, or fanny pack, what would we find?
My daughter says that my purse is a glorified trashcan. So a more interesting question in my case is what do you not find? Answer: a pen or pencil. Given that I am a writer this might seem odd, but I never seem to have one. Once upon a time I had a little stub of a pencil. I think I even thought of it as “Stubby”. Then I lost it. Maybe subconsciously I bonded with Stubby in some weird way and didn’t want her/him replaced by a flashy pen. Anyhow I always have to ask someone if I can borrow theirs.
When writing historical fiction, where do you draw the line between staying true to history and taking liberties?
I actually don’t take many liberties, and when I do I carefully note it in an afterword. I might change the time of something but never in terms of the date of a year or a month. Maybe I change it by a day at the most. But if I do it’s not regarding a significant event. I do change street names. In other words, I might make up a street name when I am not sure of the exact street something occurred on. I might simplify certain things just because to go to in depth, say with an overall bombing strategy, would be a big fat bore for the reader. Or what editors often call ‘an information dump.’ The big historical figures remain the same. So Stalin was really Stalin. Yevdokiya Bershanskaya was really the commander of the 46th Taman Guard Night Bomber Regiment. However Yuri the sniper was loosely based on Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev, the famous Russian sniper during the battle of Stalingrad who killed 225 soldiers and officers of the German army.
Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book?
The most difficult scene for me was the one where Valya has to tell her sister that their mother has been shot. That was horrible. I tried to imagine myself telling my sister this.
In addition to your readings on the Night Witches, did you do any unexpected research for the book? Did you get any hands-on experience in the pilot seat or travel to locations mentioned in the book?
Oh my goodness, I read so much that went way beyond Night Witches. I read someone’s PhD thesis on women serving in air units. I read Anthony Beevor’s book on the battle of Stalingrad and his one on World War Two. I read a lot of flight manuals on the operations of the U-2 trainers. I read books about Russian food, music, theater. I pored over maps over Stalingrad, now called Volgograd. The list just goes on and on. I also used to fly as a passenger in my husband’s small plane and was scared to death.
Lots of research goes into writing historical fiction. Do you have any recommended reading for readers interested in learning more about the Night Witches? (these can be fully historically accurate works or other historical fiction novels that you have enjoyed)
One of the best books I read about the Night Witches was A Dance With Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II by Anne Noggle. These are actual interviews with surviving Night Witches. So it’s in their own words.
What is next for you? What are you currently working on?
Next for me is something quite different from Night Witches or any of my animal fantasy books. It is a time travel trilogy about a 21st century girl who travels through time between Indiana and 16th century England where she serves in the court of Princess Elizabeth who ultimately becomes Queen Elizabeth I. The series is called Mean Queens. I love working on it. Years ago I wrote the Royal Diaries for Scholastic that were fictional diaries kept by real princesses. These books were all told from the royal point of view. But I always wondered what it was like to be a servant to one of these princesses. So I have sort of come not full circle but half-circle. I’ve always been fascinated by time travel. I think it allows a person to live two lives in the space of one.
Kathryn Lasky is the American author of many critically acclaimed books, including several Dear America books, several Royal Diaries books, 1984 Newbery Honor winning Sugaring Time, The Night Journey, and the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series.
She was born June 24, 1944, and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is married to Christopher Knight, with whom she lives in Massachusetts.
Book 15, The War of the Ember, is currently the last book in the Ga’Hoole series. The Rise of a Legend is the 16th book but is a prequel to the series. Lasky has also written Guide Book To The Great Tree and Lost Tales Of Ga’Hoole which are companion books.
Find the author:
3/20/2017- The Best Books Ever – Excerpt
3/21/2017- My Thoughts Literally– Review
3/22/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Guest Post
3/23/2017- La La in the Library– Review
3/24/2017- YA Books Central– Interview
3/27/2017- Quartzfeather– Review
3/28/2017- BookHounds YA– Guest Post
3/29/2017- Under the Book Cover– Review
3/30/2017- Bibliobibuli YA– Interview
3/31/2017- History from a Woman’s Perspective– Review
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway, and more were provided by Rockstar Book Tours.