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Why Planes?

A reader asks, "So, why did you pick planes? Why aren't they race car drivers, or the crew of a freighter? Just curious. Not that I can really picture them doing anything else at this point... ;D"

That's a really good question! There are a whole bunch of reasons. First, we needed something that would allow them to move around and to be in different stories in different places all over the world, so it had to be something that gave them a lot of mobility and good reasons to travel. What better reason than being the means of travel? Planes gave us a plausible way for them to be anywhere we needed them to be for the story without being wealthy. That was a really important consideration. One of our big points is that you can save the world without being rich and famous. Sure, it's easy to change the course of history if you're fabulously wealthy, well educated, amazingly well connected, and born with fantastic powers. But what if you're not? What if you're dedicated to saving the world, but you're just ordinary people who live in an ordinary town and have perfectly normal backgrounds and means? It was very important to us that the Lodge not be wealthy or privileged. If they don't have the money to just drop their jobs and go wherever they want, then going there has to be part of their job. So their jobs needed to be ones that would take them where the story was.

Second, I've always been fascinated by the first five decades of aviation. My uncle was in the Air Corps and then the Air Force and flew with Yeager, and my family has lots of stories. I loved Ernest K. Gann's wonderful novels when I was growing up -- Gentlemen of Adventure, The Aviator, etc. (That's The Aviator made into a movie with Christopher Reeve, not the one about Howard Hughes.) I read St. Exupery's Night Flight as a teenager and was fascinated. I just plain love this stuff.

Third, Melissa and I are both military history buffs, and we wanted a way to get our guys into the Second World War and into the various preludes to war in an organic way. The planes make that possible. For example, very early on, before we even started Steel Blues, I brought up the idea of sending them to Ethiopia during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. I really strongly wanted to do that rather than the more commonly represented Spanish Civil War or annexation of Austria. But what in the world would they be doing there? How would they get there? How would they get around? Aviation makes that natural. (The Italian invasion of Ethiopia will be in book five, Oath Bound, which we'll probably start on late in the spring.)

Fourth, if we're talking about the new war, if we're talking about the massive changes to offensive warfare that are Blitzkrieg, then it's got to be tanks or planes or submarines. Nobody drives a tank around for fifteen years before. Tanks would mean keeping the main characters on active duty in the Army for the whole plot. And submarines meant that there could be no major female characters. So it had to be planes! (Mind you, starting in Wind Raker there are also tanks, and a U-boat is the major plot of book seven, Invisible War, so we got our tanks and subs too!)

Fifth, planes are fun! They're cinematic, they're lovely, and they're so much the spirit of the age! What could be cooler than an aviatrix as the main character? To paraphrase Tesla in Sanctuary, "Aviation is just plain cool." (Ok, he said it about vampires, but...)

So what do you think?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2014 10:48 pm (UTC)
That's so odd. I've never thought about it not being about aviation/planes. They just seem so... pilot. ;D I've never given it much thought but there's a freedom to flying that I think blends very well with who these characters are the way racecars really doesn't express. They take wing and soar off into the unknown because... they're them, and that's what they do.
Jan. 10th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
I see what you mean about freedom. And flying is something that is actively constructive while being exciting, unlike racecars. Search and rescue, for example, in Silver Bullet, is something that helps others as well as being free and exciting.

And yeah, they fly off into the unknown because that's who they are!
Jan. 11th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
I like everything about them being aviators except, well, the planes. Somehow I'm fascinated by the mechanics of their magic, but completely bored by the mechanics of their transportation. You know what a huge fan I am of your work and I'm sticking with it for the characters, but the planes make this series a hard slog for me.
Jan. 11th, 2014 11:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, the planes aren't everyone's cup of tea. I think that would be the case with anything. If they were sailors there would be people who were not really interested in the ships!
Jan. 11th, 2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, absolutely. I'm not bitching, just sharing my reactions. You keep writing whatever spins your propeller :)
Jan. 13th, 2014 01:48 pm (UTC)
Ah...I gotcha now. I did get that you're a history buff, it comes across in your writing; so lovingly detailed.
I actually didn't love the plane-speak in LT my first go 'round (lift? fuel consumption? MATH???) but I went back and read those parts again, and the characters' love of their planes made me love them too.
Or, rather, YOUR love of them has made me love them, too.
(I can rather picture Mitch behind the wheel of a fast little coup, though)
Thank you!!
Jan. 14th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC)
I know! MATH! I am not really into the math part either. But it's Alma's thing. (Melissa tends to write the math parts!)

Mitch would love a racecar. In Silver Bullet we'll get to see him a bit with his dream car, the Hudson Torpedo. "Hey baby, want to come over and see my Torpedo?" Oh....
Jan. 15th, 2014 07:15 am (UTC)
I've never read Ernest K. Gann, but I have read some St. Exupery flying stuff, and Richard Bach (A Gift of Wings essay collection, in addition to Illusions and JLS). Seems like I've read some other aviator adventure stuff but can't remember who/what right now. Maybe one or two Dick Francis (it's not *always* horses with him)? But that's more modern flying.

Your flight books work very naturally for me. I never feel like you're doing plane infodumps; it's integral to the stories.
Jan. 16th, 2014 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it works for you. Melissa writes most of the technical flying scenes, and I love them so much!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )