Mirren Hogan is releasing her historical novel based on the Russian woman pilots who flew during World War II, defending their country from the German army. Mirren and I shared tutorial groups at Swinburne and she co-edited Tied in Pink and Like a Girl Anthologies. While Mirren’s favourite genre is fantasy, she writes great historical fiction. And as with Hidden Figures (the Afro-American ‘human computers’ instrumental to NASA’s early space program), the Night Witches are an interesting but little known part of history.
“What is Night Witches about? Witches? Well no, it’s an historical fiction based on a true story.
Nadia Valinsky is a young female pilot and university education student from Moscow. When the Germans invade the Soviet Union in 1941, she wants to fight to defend her country. In October of 1941 Marina Raskova, a famous female aviator, asks for volunteers, Nadia signs up. She is accepted for an interview and offered a place in the training regiment as a navigator.
Following rigorous training at Engles Air Force base, Nadia is assigned to the Night Bomber regiment. She and her crew fly multiple missions on the front lines and are regularly under fire from anti-aircraft guns. The Germans give them the nickname Night Witches, because of the sound their aircraft make as they sweep overhead.
The Night Witches flew in planes made from canvas and balsawood. For the majority of the war, they had no radios, or parachutes. The latter was considered to take up too much space needed to carry bombs. Of three women’s regiments, theirs was the only one who consisted entirely of women through the duration of the war.
They lived together, fought together and died together.”
In this Night Witches excerpt, Nadia and the other women learn the German name for them:
“German prisoner,” she whispered excitedly. “A flying ace, apparently. He was shot down and captured by our people. He’s being transported to a prisoner of war camp.”
I had no sympathy at all for the fate of one of our enemy, until I saw him. He had dried blood down one side of his face, from a wound in his temple. I didn’t think the wound would be a fatal one. He had one black eye and bruising around the other. He wore a dirty, torn German uniform, the front of which was caked with mud or blood. He had short blonde hair and deep blue eyes, which he kept lowered, I assumed, in humiliation. Even so, I was shocked to see how young he was. Younger than me. Younger even than the babies of my regiment. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen.
The enemy were sending children to war, and we were sending him to a prisoner of war camp, in which he would probably die. I swallowed hard. I’d never seen a German up close before. From the air, it was easy to forget they were people as well. For a moment, I was actually sympathetic. I almost wanted to tell his captors to let him go, return him to his mama.
And then he raised his eyes. They were so cold and full of hate. They fixed on me and then swept left and right, taking in my regiment. His lip curled and he spat on the ground.
“Nachthexen,” he said derisively. “Ihr dreckigen Miststücke!”
I didn’t understand German, but I knew when I’d been insulted. It was peculiar how words could offend, even when I didn’t understand their meaning. The intent was perfectly clear.
My eyes narrowed, but opened wide again in surprise when Valentina burst out laughing.
I turned my face and stared at her. So did the prisoner, he looked at her as though she were something he’d scraped off the bottom of his boot. Considering the state of his boots, that was particularly unflattering.
“He called us Night Witches,” Valentina explained. “I think Night Beauties would be more appropriate, but oh well.” She shrugged, but her eyes shone with humour.
“Why did he say that?” I asked, frowning at her, and at him.
She spoke to him in rapid German, to which, to my surprise, he actually responded.
“Because our planes sound like broomsticks passing overhead,” she translated. “He also said there’s a special reward for anyone who shoots one of us down.”
My eyebrows rose. The German army was that scared of us girls. I somewhat liked the sound of the nickname: Night Witches. It suited us, and justified the faith people like Marina Raskova had in us. We’d made an impact on this war.
I couldn’t help but smile at the prisoner, who returned it with a scowl. Antonina gave him a finger wave and we all laughed as he was taken to a waiting truck. He might die, but he’d managed to give us all a renewed purpose. I’m quite sure that hadn’t been his plan, but that had been the outcome.
I linked arms with the rest of my crew and we started back toward our aircraft, laughing and singing “Night Witches, Night Witches,” over and over again.
Buy Night Witches at:
Barnes and Noble- http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/night-witches-mirren-hogan/1124869702
Mirren is running giveaway – open until 31st March.
The winner will get: Amazon gift card (currently at $15), a Night Witches mug from Redbuddle, and a Night Witches bookmark.
If the winner is in Australia, you’ll also get a signed copy of the paperback, and a key ring.
To be fair, if the winner is from the US, Canada or the UK, you’ll get an extra Amazon gift card valued at $5.
What do you have to do to win?
Order or download a copy of Night Witches and come back here (in the comments of pinned post) with proof of purchase. The competition will be open until March 31, when the blog tour ends.
Mirren Hogan lives in NSW Australia with her husband, two daughters, dog, cat, rabbits and countless birds. She has a Bachelor of Arts (English/ history), a Graduate Diploma of Arts (writing) and a couple of degrees in education. She writes fantasy, urban fantasy and science fiction. Her debut novel —Crimson Fire— was released by The Dragon’s Rocketship Publishing in October 2016, with more to come. These include a trilogy co-authored by Erin Yoshikawa. She’s also had several short stories published and has co-edited two charity anthologies; for breast cancer research and Plan Australia.
Mirren Hogan’s author page- https://www.facebook.com/MirrenHoganAuthor/