“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.
Tell me a bit about your hobbies.
I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, but I like to read and take my dog for walks in the forest behind our house.
How did you get into writing?
I’ve always written, but I think that’s because I’m an avid reader. What I read gives me ideas and those ideas have to go somewhere.
Did you choose the genre you write in or do your stories lead you?
Both. I’ve dabbled in different genres, depending on the story I wanted to tell, from fantasy to horror, thrillers to historical.
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
I first heard of the Night Witches when a friend shared a post on Facebook. I immediately knew it’d make an amazing story and started hunting down every shred of information I could find.
Who is your favourite character in this story and why?
Lilya Litviak. She was a real person, and the highest scoring female air-ace in history. She was small, but sassy and feisty.
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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/?ref=bookmarks