Four WASP pilots in training in front of the B-17 Pistol Packin’ Mama.

I have to admit, while I was writing When Heroes Flew, I was apprehensive over whether a female character flying a combat mission with U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII would be well received.  In reality, that kind of thing just didn’t happen.  At least in our army.  Purists, I feared, might object to a lady pilot in combat.

I needn’t have worried. My female creation, Vivian Wright, turned out to be one of the strongpoints of the novel.  She wasn’t modeled after anyone in particular, but was designed as my homage to all the great ladies who flew for the WAFS and WASPs during the war.  WAFS and WASPs— Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Women Airforce Service Pilots.

If anything, Vivian had a little of the DNA of one of my favorite aunts, Vivian Bernard, my dad’s little sister.  Vivian Bernard was not a pilot, but she did serve in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, a branch of the Naval Reserve) during WWII.

She was smart, tough, and maybe a bit outspoken.  She said some things to me I didn’t always agree with, but at least she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.  In the end, she harbored no malice, only honesty, and for that I could forgive her.  We actually got along quite well.

At any rate, the initial reception of When Heroes Flew has been remarkable.  The bottom line is that it’s a tale that’s meant to entertain (as any novel should).  But if you learn a smidgen of history from it, too, that’s okay.