Flying High! by Kate Furnivall
It’s Publication Day for The Betrayal and I am flying sky-high as I contemplate this very special moment.
It’s the same every time. I try to play it cool. Shrug a blasé shoulder. A seasoned author who raises an eyebrow and mutters, ‘Oh yeah, another book out.’ But I never get used to it, never become immune to the tornado of intense emotions that sandblasts the veneer of coolness right off me. Excitement. Expectation. Pride. Nerves. A dry ache in my throat from holding back a screech of delight. A persistent fluttering in the soles of my feet and an odd twitching in my fingers because they want to race round all the bookstores and supermarkets to stroke the beautiful cover that Simon & Schuster created for The Betrayal. And when someone says ‘Congratulations!’ I smile as if it is nothing. When in fact it is EVERYTHING.
So yes. I am flying high today. Just as I did to research what it is like to pilot a 1930s biplane, a gorgeous bright yellow one. Like sitting in the middle of a cute little pot of honey. You see, one of the main characters in The Betrayal is a pilot, ferrying planes from 1938 Paris down into the danger zone of the Spanish Civil War. I made this decision because it fitted with the story of I wanted to write.
What? Am I crazy? My character Romy flying an open cockpit plane? What the hell do I know about that? Er … you wiggle your feet on peddles …. I think … and play around with a joystick like on Street Fighter. Is that right? Or is there a steering wheel? Okay, okay, I knew zilch. So, being one for primary source research, I like to get my hands dirty, and what could me more primary than to fly in one myself. My husband, being big into this stuff, steered me towards the Imperial War Museum airfield at Duxford in Cambridgeshire where the history of aviation is on display in a gobsmackingly awesome display of aircraft spanning the ages.
Before I could say, “Hang on a minute, do these things have ejector seats?”, I was kitted out in flying helmet, a WW2 flying jacket and goggles, strapped into something that looked like it was built out of balsa wood by a five-yr-old without a diagram, and we were hurtling down a grass runway. Heeeeelp!
Suffice to say I lived to tell the tale and loved every hair-raising, twisting, looping, ecstatic moment of it. Open cockpit Tiger Moth biplane. Me in the front, pilot behind. He even let me fly it myself for about five minutes. Result! (No, there isn’t a steering wheel.)
Buzzing around in the heavens like a drunken bee is one thing, writing about how you actually do it is quite another. So once my feet were firmly on the ground again, I enlisted the help of the Tiger Moth Club. There a wonderful gentleman called Nigel Reid came to my rescue. He sent me reams of emails about how to fly, what knobs to twist or levers to turn. He gave me a copy of the original Tiger Moth pilot instruction handbook. (Yay! Gold dust.) It became the basis of Romy’s flying exploits in The Betrayal.
The flying episodes in the book are very special to me. Just like today – Publication Day – is very special to me. Flying high, blood pumping with exhilaration. All I need now is to raise that glass of champers!