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Author Interview: Elizabeth Wein

Author Interview: Elizabeth Wein

Hey All!

Today is my stop on the The Enigma Game blog tour and I am here today with an interview with the author!

Title: The Enigma Game
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 14th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Source:: N/A
Add It: Waterstones. Goodreads.
Summary: Windyedge Airfield, Scotland. World War II.

When her mother is killed in the Blitz, and her father’s ship goes down, Louisa Adair feels she has lost everything. The country she has called home since her family left Jamaica is not a friendly place for an orphaned girl with brown skin, and she badly needs money and a roof over her head.

Finally she finds work looking after an old lady at a pub near an airfield in Scotland. There she meets Ellen, a driver for the RAF, and Jamie, a pilot – two other young people just as exhausted by the toll the war has taken on their loved ones, and just as desperate for a way to fight back.

Then the impossible happens. A German defector lands at the airfield carrying a precious package, and Louisa, Jamie and Ellen find themselves hiding a codebreaking machine that could alter the course of the war. But there are powerful people hunting for the machine, and soon Louisa and her friends are playing a deadly game that threatens everything they hold dear.

A thrilling story of wartime secrets, international intrigue and wild courage from the award-winning author of Code Name Verity, with three young heroes you’ll never forget.

Elizabeth Wein is a church bell ringer, a recreational pilot, and the owner of about a thousand maps. She grew up in England, Jamaica, and Pennsylvania, and has lived in Scotland since 2000, where she learned to fly at the Scottish Aero Club. She is best known for her historical fiction about young women as aviators in World War II, including Code Name Verity (2012), which became a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Elizabeth holds both American and British citizenship; she is married to games developer Tim Gatland and they have two grown children.

The Interview

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I confess I really enjoy reading my own stories when I’ve finished. The writing process itself is not my favourite part – if it’s going well, I’m so absorbed in it that everything around me grinds to a halt. Dishes pile up in the sink and laundry piles up on the floor, and there’s never any fresh food! And if the writing isn’t going well, then I feel depressed and crabby and unproductive. My favourite part of the process is when I have a completed story that I’m happy with, and I can re-read it and enjoy it.

My favourite thing about being an author – not quite the same as my favourite thing about writing books – is being able to meet and communicate with readers. That is hugely rewarding and it’s always fascinating to hear someone else’s interpretation of something I’ve made up. I feel like being a writer is a secret exercise in the give and take of creativity.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Apart from Louisa, the heroine and obvious answer, I think my other favourite character in The Enigma Game is Jane Warner, the mysterious German woman Louisa is hired to take care of in the early days of World War II. Jane, at 82, still enjoys skinny-dipping and lying about her age. I loved creating her backstory – as a teenager she was a telegraph operator, which predated the telephone, and that meant she had to learn Morse code and could be an independent wage earner even in the 1880s – and it turns out that this was something a lot of “modern” young women did, even so long ago! I love finding out amazing obscure facts like this.

(Here’s a bit more about early women telegraphists: http://www.scrambledmessages.ac.uk/blog/women-telegraphists/)

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Coffee, coffee, coffee! And I like to pay tribute to coffee by having my favourite characters enjoy it as well. Like me, Louisa in The Enigma Game is a coffee snob, and prefers Jamaican coffee.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
When I get writer’s block I eat a lot of candy. I keep a stash of jelly beans on my desk. I am terrible.

Or did you mean bad writing habits? I do tend to leave blanks (indicated by square brackets [] ) when I don’t have a name for a character or I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Sometimes I’ll temporarily name a character “German dude” or let my characters slip into inappropriate slang, or comment on their poor decisions, in the text. Then I have to go and remove it later.

Another bad habit is leaving manuscripts around where my children can mess with them. One classic example was when I was working on The Pearl Thief and one of my kids slipped in the line, ‘Other dinosaurs see my shadow and run away.’ My baffled editor spotted it and queried politely, ‘I don’t understand. Is this a typo?’

How did you research your book?
I research all my books with a little bit of everything! For this one, it was a cocktail of the Internet (useful for period videos and recorded interviews), books (both non-fiction and fiction – period fiction is a great way to pick up lifestyle details), museum trips (to see aeroplanes and other relevant material culture), and life experience. Some of my own flight experience went into the manuscript, as did some of my own memories of being a stranger in a strange land, and of moving to a cold country after a Jamaican childhood (I lived in Jamaica for three years when I was small).

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Sometimes by necessity a bit of both, but pantsing comes naturally to me. My preferred way of coming up with a story is to let the characters run with it. But if they don’t pick up the ball quickly enough and I’m on a deadline, I have to put my plotting hat on.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I really love the world of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books. It can be frightening – it’s a world full of magic and talking dragons – but it is a beautiful and green world where everything revolves around balance and equilibrium. I loved these books when I was a teenager and I used to have a hand-painted (by me) map of Earthsea hanging on my bedroom wall. It’s a very long way from the World War II books that I write now, but I love the landscape of Earthsea and the diversity of its people, and I think I would be happy living there. I’m not sure how I would earn my keep – probably the same way I do in this world, as a storyteller!

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Oh, Sara Crewe, from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, ALWAYS. She is loyal, courageous, creative, smart, funny, and a fighter. There is a lot of Sara Crewe in all my own characters.

I’ve strayed into plenty of random waters in this interview – thank you for a fun and interesting voyage! I hope you enjoy the flights of fancy waiting for you in The Enigma Game.

About the Author

Elizabeth Wein is a church bell ringer, a recreational pilot, and the owner of about a thousand maps. She grew up in England, Jamaica, and Pennsylvania, and has lived in Scotland since 2000, where she learned to fly at the Scottish Aero Club. She is best known for her historical fiction about young women as aviators in World War II, including Code Name Verity (2012), which became a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Elizabeth holds both American and British citizenship; she is married to games developer Tim Gatland and they have two grown children.

Follow the Tour

Will you be reading this book?

I'm just a twenty-something year old girl who has a passion for everything related to books, films and writing. I'm a part-time librarian, sharing my love of books and films with the world. I'm from the UK and love everything about the country. If you want to know more about me, feel free to follow me on twitter, add me on Facebook or e-mail me! :-)

2 Comments

  • Angharad

    Oh wow, I loved reading this and it definitely makes me want to pick it up. I miss doing author interviews and you asked the best questions, in my humble opinion!

    – Angharad @twobookthieves

  • Rachel (Pages & Pinnacles)

    Oooh, I like how it’s set in Scotland – I haven’t really read many books set in my country, which I really should because I am obsessed with it! This was a great interview, I can imagine I’d also have sugary snacks lying around to curb my frustration… There was also a time when I was obsessed with The Little Princess. Also, the author is a pilot and lives in Scotland too?? I LOVE it!

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