WWII Spies and Fighter Pilots: Author Elizabeth Wein


rose under fire elizabeth weinElizabeth Wein has had to search up some strange things for the sake of research.

“I dare not think what kind of files people have on me because I’ve downloaded the plans for things like the V2 rocket – 400 pages in the original German,” said Wein.

Wein is the author of the popular Code Name Verity, a story about a WWII spy name Verity who writes about her best friend. Her most recent novel, Rose Under Fire, is considered a sequel to Code Name Verity and follows an American ATA pilot and amateur poet who gets captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp.

Wein is very excited for her readers about to meet Rose, especially since so many resonated with Verity’s story.

“Rose is another ATA pilot like Maddie. It takes place a little later in the war and nine months after Code Name Verity. She is American and she got her English uncle to pull some strings and got her a job in the ATA. However, she loses her way and she has to land in Germany and they kind of don’t know what to do with her. So they sent her to the woman concentration’s camp at Ravensbrück. They don’t know what to do with her; she’s a civilian enemy pilot who isn’t military. So they sent her to this camp for political prisoners that also had basically anyone the Germans didn’t like.  The rest of the story is what happens to her there and how she deals with it,” said Wein.

Because all of her novels are set in WWII, she’s well-versed in the subject.

“I knew the Air Transport Auxiliary existed and when I had started researching the ATA, I had gone to a museum exhibit and saw things about the Special Operations Executive women who were spies and agents sent into occupied Europe,” said Wein.

She doesn’t have any rhyme or reason to her writing; sometimes all it takes is that burst of inspiration.

“Getting into the writing zone is different for every book. I think the bottom line is that I really have to be inside the head of the character and actually I find that what helps me to do that is fall in love with the characters. There comes this moment when really I’m writing the story and I’ve been putting everything together like a construction you know. Writing every day, writing the plan, following the plan, and then suddenly something happens. And then something happens and all of a sudden it’s like “wow this characters is wonderful” and the voice takes over,” said Wein.

Of course, it all depends on the character.

“For Maddie, it was a little harder. She doesn’t really have the same literary background that I do so it took a little while to get her voice right. I’d right things over and over and she talks things with exclamations points and I’d be like ‘well that sounds a little better’,” said Wein.

Being a method writer seems to work well. It’s how she got into the mindset for writing most of the scenes in Code Name Verity.

“I’d pretend my ankles were tied to a chair and now I had to write for three hours,” said Wein.

Of course, writing about pilots came natural to her. Ever since she was young, Wein has been a pilot. Along with her husband she’s gone from Malamazoo to New Hampshire, Nairobi to Malindi, and all over Southern England and Eastern Scotland.

“I found that being a pilot helped with Maddie. When I needed a metaphor or a way for her to express herself was to talk about flight and to compare things to similar instances in flight,” said Wein.

Wein always found it difficult to pick a character who was just like her.

Author Elizabeth Wein.

Author Elizabeth Wein.

“People just to ask me this all the time just with Verity and I felt very split down the middle. But now the answer is Rose! Now that I have Rose Under Fire, she is really the one I can go to. She’s more wholesome than me and she’s very all-rounded and I was certainly not flying planes when I was 12. I wasn’t captain of the basketball team or as straight forward but a lot of her thought processes are like mine,” said Wein.

It was surreal, especially while she was listening to the audiobook.

“I heard her saying things that I realized were things that I thought, observations I had made while I was writing that I had put into her mouth,” said Wein.

For more information on Elizabeth Wein and her novels be sure to check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

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Alejandra De La Fuente

Alejandra de la Fuente is a writer for YA Interrobang.

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