Elizabeth Wein became interested in flying and gained a pilot’s license; she noticed she was the only woman on the airfield, and in turn became interested in women in aviation. Her books like Code Name Verity are set in World War II, showcasing female pilots. Most of the first story is told via confession.
Her second is set in the same era but takes a different route, where her latest focuses on younger pilots, taught by their stunt pilot mother. Black Dove, Write Raven was shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Award.
She notes that she admires authors like Hilary McKay, who’s not only very funny, writing about family life and relationships across generations, but she has a light touch. It’s a touch that Elizabeth struggles with in her own books, given their high drama.
Opening to questions, she’s asked: have you ever crashed a plane? She hasn’t, but the one thing they drum into you during your training is what to do in an emergency. You spend so much time practicing things going wrong that you’re almost surprised when nothing does. You learn to expect the bad.
One time when she was out without her instructor, she came in to land and it was recommended she land somewhere else; she chose to fly through the cloud and it was all okay, but had she been 30 seconds later it would have been impossible. That’s what she takes from flying: the narrow margins you’re dealing with.
When it comes to her writing, she writes what she knows or thinks will happen, and it can create panics that people find funny. You can’t do that on purpose, otherwise it would be forced. “I’m not a comedian,” she adds, “some things are just funny.”