This week, we are so thrilled to welcome amazing human and debut YA author Claire Bartlett to the Debutante Ball!
Claire is my agent-sibling and our publishing journey has been in (mostly) parallel for the last year or so. I am so, so excited for the world to finally read her brilliant debut novel, We Rule the Night, a complex and kind-hearted take on female relationships and self-determination with magic!! airplanes and living!! metal and darkness and deception and hope and fire.
But you don’t have to believe me – Publisher’s Weekly called it “electrifying feminist fantasy,” School Library Journal said it was “full of sharply realized characterizations, intriguing magical elements, and twisty plots,” and Kirkus called it “a fierce and compelling breakout debut that should not be missed.”
And those are just the starred reviews.
Claire Eliza Bartlett 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 fictional stories, she works as a tour guide in Copenhagen, telling stories that are (mostly) true.
Onwards to the interview!
That complex and dynamic relationship between Revna and Linne was one of my favorite parts of We Rule the Night. Can you talk a bit about its genesis – whether it evolved organically from the plot or if you had it in mind all along, and if the relationship changed at all along the way?
Because I’m such a bad plotter, everything ends up evolving along the way! I always knew they would go from squabbling enemies to the sort of friends that get forged in fire, but the in-between was a lot of going back and forth. Eventually I had to plot their relationship like a romance arc – only without the romance!
Outside of your own book, what’s one of your favorite fictional characters?
Hmmmmm. I love the morally ambiguous ones, so I’m going to say Kaz Brekker (who doesn’t love him?!) from Six of Crows and Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. Xifeng really doesn’t get enough press.
You’ve mentioned before that the Night Witches (the World War II Soviet women bomber pilots) were a major inspiration for We Rule the Night. What are some of the ways your pilots drew inspiration from the Night Witches? (Or: how are they different?)
Some of my characters were directly inspired – Tamara Zima, the regiment’s head, is essentially Marina Raskova, the real-life founder of the Night Witches and two other women’s aviation groups. A secondary character named Katya is quite heavily inspired by Lidya Litvyak. Most of the others are aggregates. Many of the obstacles they face mirror the trials of the Night Witches, however, and if you’ve read biographies of the Night Witches you’ll recognize some scenes that I relied on heavily for inspiration.
I love love love that there’s no central romance and that the plot revolves instead around the supportive relationships between women. What are some of your favorite positive female relationships in books (or other media)?
Thank you! I’ve always wanted to write a romanceless YA. Right now I’m partway through The Afterward by E.K. Johnston, which is full of relationships between women, ranging from close friendship to romance. I love it so far. I would also recommend anything that Terry Pratchett wrote surrounding his witches – they squabble and grumble and get the job done, and their relationships are so very human. I’m also partial to sister relationships, so I have to mention Lilo and Stitch, which I think really beautifully navigates the combination of frustration and joy that siblinghood brings you, especially during tough times.
And last but not least, hopefully an easier one: what’s one thing that’s making you happy right now, big or small?
We’re in the process of adopting cats! I also signed up to foster kittens in the summer time, and that’s going to be great.
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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.