Welcome friends to my second author interview as a part of my Novel19 Class! This year I wanted to do something to help boost new author voices and stories, and this is a project that I am really excited about! For more information about my Novel19 Class and the other five books that I’ve chosen, please check out my announcement post.
Today I am really excited to have Claire Eliza Bartlett on the blog, whose debut fantasy novel We Rule the Night was be published on April 2, 2019! I’m really excited to share our conversation about how going to a metal concert was her introduction to the Night Witches, her path to publishing, and how people like me can live their dreams of living abroad.
An Interview with Claire Eliza Bartlett
Hi Claire, thank you so much for joining me on the blog today to talk about your debut novel! Can you share a little bit about We Rule the Night and how this story came to be?
We Rule the Night is about two girls who fly planes in an epic war. It’s a story about friendship, about love that’s not romantic love, about girls who can do anything and the people who try to stop them.
I started writing it after going to a metal concert and hearing a song called Night Witches. Later on, I looked up the Night Witches and started reading one of the greatest stories of my life. I knew I had to write a story about women who relied on women to succeed. Fantasy has always been my genre, so a YA fantasy seemed perfect.
You studied history, archaeology, and writing. Are there any historical events that inspired you to write We Rule the Night?
The story of the Night Witches is one that is slowly becoming more popular in the English speaking world. These Russian aviators were the first all-women’s combat regiment in modern history, and gained their fame by flying night missions over the German front lines during World War II. In outdated biplanes they dropped bombs, leaflets, bricks, railroad ties – anything, basically, that would harass the German soldiers and keep them from sleeping. They flew up to 18 missions a night and from their formation in 1942 to the end of the war, each woman flew up to a thousand sorties.
We Rule the Night depicts a story of two women who defy the rules of society together–Revna with her use of illegal magic, and Linne who disguises her gender in order to join the military. Throughout the story the girls are forced to use their magic for its own gains, which gives off a sense that a big portion of the story follows the theme of feminism and the issue that brings of control. For you, why was it so important to write a feminist tale?
I have always wanted to write feminist things. When reading about the Night Witches, I felt the need even more strongly. Their interviews and memoirs often touched on their friendship and how it got them through the war, on the struggles they made to prove that they could do what had been traditionally seen as a man’s job, and on the absolute devastation some of them faced from being loyal to a country that had no personal loyalty for them. When I was a teen, I was slowly becoming aware of the way our words (that women and men are equal) do not mesh with our actions (the way women have to protect ourselves, lower our expectations or even give up our dreams to help some men be good people). I set out to write this book for teen me and for other teen girls who are struggling with the same problems – problems which, in some ways, have only become worse.
I read that you are an expat living in Denmark; I am so jealous! What led you to leave the US, and do you have any advice for people (aka me) that have dreams of living and working abroad?
I knew I wanted to travel the world forever. My parents traveled in the 70s and their captivating adventures fueled my childhood imagination. So when I was eighteen I booked it! First to Switzerland, where there is an American accredited university, then to Wales for more studies, and finally to Denmark for my masters degree, where I got caught in a Danetrap (I got married).
An easy way to live abroad is to study abroad. Germany has FREE UNIVERSITY for all, as does Finland (I believe; you should definitely check up on these things before applying!). When I was attending university, there were ways to go from a student visa to a green card or work permit; sadly restricting immigration policies mean that it’s getting harder and harder to make the switch. However, some countries also waive normal visa requirements for people who have certain jobs – like nursing, construction, engineering and so on. In Denmark it’s called the Positive List, and I think many EU countries have one. Sorry to prattle on about it, but I’m a big fan of free movement and I want to help where I can!
More and more people are working remotely as they travel, too. I don’t have experience with this and the rules of living are totally different, but it sounds like a great adventure!
Your debut novel is published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Can you share a bit about what the process was like from inception to publishing? How long did it take and what made you choose traditional publishing over Indie publishing?
I always wanted to do traditional publishing. I have so much respect for indie authors, because self publishing is basically owning and operating my own micro press – I’d be responsible for getting the right editor, the right copyeditor, the right cover art, effective marketing…it’s a lot!
I started writing We Rule the Night in 2014 after reading about the Night Witches. Over the course of two years I messed around with the novel, finally finishing in early 2016 and working on revisions with a novel editing course. Then I was ready to find an agent! I took part in contests, made a list, stalked my favorite agents on twitter, and was so so lucky when my brilliant agent, Kurestin Armada, made me an offer in January 2017! We did more revisions at that point, finally approaching publishers in early summer 2017. After a whirlwind round and two offers, I chose to work with my absolutely incredible editor, Hallie Tibbetts. Hallie and I edited until we both felt the novel was ready, and then it was pretty much out of my hands! I haven’t read this thing in a year!
Who did you write We Rule the Night for? If you had to compare your debut to any other book, who definitely shouldn’t miss this book?
I wrote We Rule the Night for people who love fantasy, adventure and history, for people who have complicated love and loyalty to a country that doesn’t act with their best interests at heart. I wrote it for girls who support other girls, for girls who don’t need boys to do something great. I wrote it for messy best friends.
My book is being compared to the Grishaverse and to Code Name Verity, and I don’t think that’s so inaccurate. I’d definitely say Code Name Verity is the book to compare this too, thematically and subject wise. But if you’re into Russian inspired fantasy, this is a book for you!
Thank you so much Claire for taking the time to chat with me about your debut novel! The book came out earlier this month and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on this book and read it myself.
I don’t know about you, but I am even more excited to read We Rule the Night now! I really am all for books that feature strong, platonic friendships and I love the idea that Claire got her initial inspiration from a metal concert (that is so metal! 🤘).
About the Book
Two girls use forbidden magic to fly and fight–for their country and for themselves–in this riveting debut that’s part Shadow and Bone, part Code Name Verity.
Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she’s caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linné defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They’re both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women’s military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linné can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can’t fly together, and if they can’t find a way to fly well, the enemy’s superior firepower will destroy them–if they don’t destroy each other first.
We Rule the Night is a powerful story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.
About the Author
Claire Eliza Bartlett is a US citizen who grew up in Colorado. She studied history and archaeology and spent time in Switzerland and Wales before settling in Denmark for good. When not at her computer telling mostly false stories, she works as a tour guide in Copenhagen, telling stories that are (mostly) true.