Do we have any alternate history lovers in the house? Today’s Issue 048 author interview might interest you! We’re talking to Kristina T. Saccone about her story “The Hawk and the Wren” and how she used real historical events to produce a magical tale.
LSQ: You were able to seamlessly incorporate magic into an alternate history of Russia in World War II. How did you decide on this detail when writing the story?
Kristina: Thank you for including my story and for asking these questions! As a child, I loved reading books about World War II, like Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and of course The Diary of Anne Frank. I also devoured C.S. Lewis’ books in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe series, which is completely magical and, when set in our world, takes place during World War II. I’m inspired to find magic – whether everyday magic, the magic of our imaginations, or true witchery – when writing stories rooted in war, terror, and grief.
LSQ: One of your themes in this story was that of flight. It framed the way the sisters played as children and also defined their eventual choices in life: one mainly grounded, the other soaring. Tell us about this use of opposites and how it defined their relationship as well as the story.
Kristina: I’ve always wanted to write a story about a nurse in World War II. In Great Britain, which is where my mother grew up and my grandparents were during part of the war, those nurses were called “Wrens.” Though they weren’t named for the birds (it’s a pronounced acronym: WRNS for Women’s Royal Navy Service), I always imagined them as such.
I also have two older sisters, and in many ways, we are very different from each other. I sought to show some of those opposites here, and how we are still innately connected because we’re sisters. I did research on the characteristics of a wren versus predatory birds like the hawk, and it felt like the right kind of contrast for a story taking place in the history of the Night Witches.
LSQ: Building on the question above, how important to you was it that each sister found their place?
Kristina: This is a great question because I believe this is the heart of the story. I wanted to show the value and power of both women’s work: one medical, a caretaking role that’s specifically focused on women’s health, and the other fighting on the frontlines of war with all the associated dangers. I am in awe of those who defend countries against the horrors of fascism, and I deeply respect the doctors, nurses, and others on the frontlines – across history, including war nurses and medical professionals still on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
LSQ: The true story of the Night Witches is pretty amazing. Did the thought of the historical group start you on the path to your story, or was it something else? What else would you like us to know about your story or about your writing?
Kristina: Apparition Lit is one of my favorite journals (alongside Luna Station!) for inclusive, feminist speculative stories, and they offer a terrific monthly flash competition. In 2021, the prompts were all historical women figures, and that included the Night Witches. The prompt itself took me down a rabbit hole of learning all about these brave fighters, the Russian front of the war, and a little about what it was like to be a young woman during that time. I really enjoy the research aspect of writing, and I always root my speculative fiction with facts to keep the reader a bit grounded. The result here is “The Hawk and the Wren,” which was a finalist for Apparition’s competition and found a wonderful home with Luna Station Quarterly, one of my dream journals!