Some nameless, late night many moons ago, I was doing what I do best when trying to write, namely surfing the web and finding every excuse—and inventing a few more—I could to not look at MS Word and actually type something out. Somewhere between articles telling me that “These ten unexpected, cuddly things will kill you” and “which type of mason brick are you?” I stumbled upon an article dealing with the Night Witches and was mesmerized.
For those who know little or nothing about them (and most don’t) the Night Witches were a group of female pilots in the Red Army Air’s 588th night bomber regiment during World War 2. The group was one of three all-female regiments that had been put together by Major Marina Raskova, a national heroine at the time and a fantastic pilot. The young women of the 588th flew the Po-2 biplane, which was made in the late 1920s and was really only good for training and crop dusting. It wasn’t a combat aircraft by any stretch of the imagination. But they flew it nonetheless to drop bombs on the Germans. They got the name Nachthexen (Night Witches) by the Germans because the girls quickly learned to cut their engines just before they went on a bombing run, so they were completely silent until the bombs exploded.
Fascinating stuff, I thought, and something that deserved a book or two. Also, since I love flying and in a prior point in my life, I was intent on flying for the USMC, I thought writing a book that centered around the Night Witches seemed to be a great idea.
So with that thought in mind, I began fleshing out a plot and characters, but the more I did my research into the Night Witches, I realized that their sister regiment, the 587th (who flew the Pe-2 medium bomber), met my needs in terms of the story better. So I shifted my focus to the 587th and kept at it.
I kept at it for a few weeks and soon discovered that some of the historical characters I wanted in my book didn’t survive the timeline I was after as the 587th didn’t see combat until 1943. And since I was writing historical fiction, I couldn’t exactly have one of them pop up in the story when he or she was supposed to be dead.
It was about that point when I realized I really wanted more dogfights in my book overall, and thus, settling on the 586th fighter regiment was an easy choice. My decision to go with the 586th was reinforced even more when I realized that there weren’t any books on these women at all, at least on the historical fiction side. There were a few dealing with the Night Witches and some female pilots who were in male units, but the 586th was untouched, which is very appealing as a writer.
So with the 586th firmly settled, it was just a matter of changing a few things from my rough outline because my main character, Nadya, was going to be a fighter pilot and not a bomber pilot.
Building Nadya as a real person took a lot of work, and the details of her life came from a variety of sources, mostly interviews that had been recorded with surviving members of the 586th, 587th and 588th.
The stories I read were not only from the pilots, but the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and ground crews, and I drew a lot of inspiration from all of them as their tenacity and bravery was nothing short of legendary. I really wanted to capture that with Nadya’s War with not only Nadya herself, but with all of the supporting characters, too. Most of all, I wanted to ensure that Nadya was crafted in such a way that her story would slide neatly in between all the others I read, not overshadowing any of them in terms of what she goes through, heroics, etc., but accurately mirroring what each young woman in all three of these regiments dealt with day in and day out.
I like to think I managed to pull that off. Hopefully readers will agree.
About the Author
C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.
His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.