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Hello everyone! So, I’m excited because today’s interview is with Claire Eliza Bartlett, the author of We Rule The Night* which sounds absolutely fantastic and has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen! Before we get into the (not spoilery) interview, here is a synopsis of the book, via Goodreads:
Two girls use forbidden magic to fly and fight–for their country and for themselves–in this riveting debut that’s part Shadow and Bone, part Code Name Verity.
Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.
We Rule the Night is a powerful story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.
Now, let’s get into the interview….
1. To start off, how did you come up with the idea for We Rule The Night and what was first running through your mind right after you thought of the idea for it?
I got the idea from going to a concert! I’m a moderate metal fan, and a friend had tickets to see a Swedish metal band so we went together. The band draws from history for a lot of their work, and one of their songs was about the Night Witches. The song was catchy, and I started to research. What I learned was unlike anything I learned in my World War II history class, and I was hooked!
Initially, I wanted the story to be a bit more positive, a bit less heavy. But the more I researched, the more I felt the weight of what the Night Witches went through and the angrier I got – which I think shows itself in the story!
2. From reading the synopsis, We Rule The Night sounds like a combination of fantasy and historical fiction, both of which are very hard to write on their own. What was your experience like when writing an overlap of the two together?
That’s interesting! I have always loved and wanted to write fantasy, so I’ve never stopped to consider how difficult it might be. History is a little trickier – if your audience ever thinks you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ve destroyed their trust in the novel, so you have to be very precise. I opted for the cheater’s route – I let history strongly inspire me, but I made changes where I thought I could sharpen the story, and I very obviously put my tale in a different world. That way I don’t have to be quite so exact!
3. Going off my previous question, what research did you do to write We Rule The Night?
I did a lot of research on the Night Witches themselves, and as a tangent to that, Russian history from the Romanov dynasty through the Stalin-era USSR. I also read other material on World War II, though I did try to stick to a Soviet perspective. Because my main character, Revna, is a double below-knee amputee, I also did a lot of research on amputees and amputation – reading books, conducting interviews, watching video essays by amputees and so on. I also hired an amputee freelancer to give me a manuscript edit focused on my main character and her disability – how she relates to it, practical assessments of it and so on.
4. As well, were there any specific experiences in your life that you think lend themselves to you becoming a writer/writing We Rule The Night?
Nothing specific turned on my love of writing (except perhaps my 3rd-grade teacher – thank you Kirsten!), but I did draw on a lot of personal feelings and experiences while writing We Rule the Night. One of the not-so-fun facts about the novel is that everything sexist that happens to the female pilots in the story is inspired by something that happened to the Night Witches, or happened to me.
5. Is Revna or Linné based on you or anyone you know in real life?
Neither of them are based on people I actually know, but both Revna and Linné are aggregates of people from history. Linné is based off of some of the female snipers who worked for the Soviet Union during World War II, as well as a few of the women who had been soldiers with the army before any women’s regiments were formed. They were reportedly rather displeased to be taken from their original regiments and lumped in with the girls! As for Revna, there are two main inspirations for her: Virginia Hall and Douglas Bader. Both of these are famous figures from World War II, but in brief: Virginia Hall was an American woman and the most wanted member of the French Resistance during World War II, and climbed the Pyrenees on a prosthetic leg. Douglas Bader was a double amputee and pilot with the Royal Air Force of Great Britain, and he shot down 23 Nazi planes, then proceeded to escape from his prisoner of war camp no less than three times – on two prosthetic legs.
6. If you weren’t a writer, what do you think your job would be?
I actually took my master’s degree in Egyptology – so I’d probably look for a job where I can sit with indecipherable handwriting all day and make musty translations that nobody cares about (Seriously, don’t ask me about ancient Egyptian housing contracts). (Editor’s Note: YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS #EgyptiansRule)
7. What is your favorite thing about writing and what is your least favorite thing?
My favorite thing is that feeling when you know exactly what has to happen next – when a piece of the puzzle slots into place and you just can’t write fast enough to get it all down.
My least favorite part is looking at a piece of the novel I have to edit, and knowing I have to edit it – but not knowing how! I can spend hours on one paragraph, and that usually ends in a breakdown of some kind.
8. Was there anything you found surprising either in writing the book or in the pre-debut process in general?
What surprised me most was that I couldn’t really use other debut authors as a measuring stick. Everything happened to each of us at such different times! Some of us had more rounds of editing than others; some of us had contact with different parts of the publishing arm that others weren’t expected to talk to. This is why it’s best to keep your eyes on your own paper, so to speak, and talk with the people who can give you the best information for you – your agent and your editor.
9. And, for the final question, is there any advice you have for writers hoping to become a published author?
Keep learning! Even when you’ve got your finished manuscript, or your agent, or your book deal – there’s always more to learn. I love taking classes and pushing myself to improve, and I think the biggest mistake an author can make is thinking that we’ve hit the peak, and can’t get any better. We can all do better!
Unless you’re Leigh Bardugo. She’s perfect.