Published by HarperTeen on October 3rd 2017
World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.
Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.
As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.
Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Gwen Katz and I hail from a house full of baby animals in Pasadena, CA. I was a chemist once upon a time, but now I write full-time. I can be easily identified at any gathering as the one with the crew cut and garrison cap who’s probably getting in troubl
What made you want to become a writer?
I guess it’s just in my blood, because I’ve pretty much been making up stories since day one. It was flying superhero pigs when I was eight, and it’s been more or less nonstop from there.
Tell us about AMONG THE RED STARS – where did the idea spark from and what was it like to write it?
Surprisingly, the plot actually came before the setting. I was working on this story idea about a female pilot on a rescue mission and when I learned about the Night Witches, it was perfect! This book was really a ton of fun to write. It’s such a fascinating setting and the deeper I got into it, the more I loved it. I hope my readers will, too!
How do you deal with rejection and criticism, and how long did it take you after you finished your manuscript to get it into the right hands?
I’d say my story is pretty typical. It took about a year for me to get an agent and then about another year for AMONG THE RED STARS to sell. I’m a pretty tough cookie when it comes to rejection. Criticism is harder–it’s so easy to think you’ve got this perfect vision for your work and everyone else just doesn’t get it! But I think no book truly belongs to just one person. So taking criticism is about accepting that someone else’s vision for my book can be valid, too.
What kind of research is involved in your writing process?
Research is my favorite part of the process! Most of the memoirs written by Night Witches have not been translated, so it was really important to learn Russian so I could find out more about these girls and their lives from their own perspective. (Most of the girls who appear in AMONG THE RED STARS were real people.) For my new project, I’ve been doing more archive research, which is really neat because I get to handle things that these people really touched.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring writers, and what do you do when you’re NOT writing?
My best advice to young writers is not to get too focused on the end goal of publication. Maybe this manuscript is The One; maybe it isn’t. The important thing is that you’re learning and growing as a writer. When I’m not writing, I volunteer as a kitten foster and also as a nature docent, teaching kids about wildlife. (Yes, animals seem to be a common thread here.)
Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Altadena, CA with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals. She is represented by Thao Le of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can find out more about her and her books at her website.