Easter Promises, a fabulous new historical fiction anthology, was published just before Easter (as the title suggests!), and this week’s guest writer in the attic is one of the authors in that anthology: Clare Griffin.

In her piece today, Clare discusses her love of flying and her childhood desire to be a pilot, which is why the protagonist of her story is a WASP, one of the courageous WWII Women’s Airforce Service Pilots pilots.

Welcome to the attic, Clare.

Clare’s writing has appeared in MamaMia, Dolly, Kidspot, Poppy Renegade, Essential Kids, Somersault, Crossfire, SheGoes, Onya Magazine and more. She published a novel, Tumble, in 2016, the first chapter of which won the Freshly Squeezed C1 Blitz and was part of an anthology. Her ten-minute play The Karma Fairy was runner up People’s Choice Award as part of Gemco Players Take Ten Festival in 2017. Clare has also published several novellas and short stories such as Happily, Ever After?  and The Hunt for Scarlett O’Hara. Clare lives in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her husband, two sons and a retired greyhound. 

You can find Clare on Facebook and Instagram or her website, and buy copies of Easter Promises from Booktopia.

Four remarkable women. Four unforgettable stories of hope, courage, faith and love.
Authors: Clare Griffin, Nancy Cunningham, Ava January, Sarah Fiddelaers 

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Women of the Skies

I have a crippling fear of heights, but I love flying. 

I can’t go higher than the third rung on a ladder without getting dizzy, but I love nothing more than being on a plane and watching from my tiny window as the world below shrinks and becomes a patchwork quilt. 

I’ve long held a fascination with aviation. My brother has his pilot’s licence, and I used to drive out to the local airport to watch him take off and land, over and over again. I would squint and watch until he was a speck amongst the clouds, wishing it was me up there. Top Gun is one of my favourite films and it has nothing to do with Tom Cruise or the beach volleyball scene—it has everything to do with flying. But my brain is not wired to be a pilot—too many dials and too much maths—so I must be happy with just being a passenger. 

I was twenty the first time I went on a plane. My friends kindly gave me the window seat and I fidgeted waiting for plane to take off. I still love that moment when, after a gentle amble on the runway, the throttle of the engines kicks in for take-off. The force of being pushed back against your seat as it picks up speed and its nose climbs through the clouds is exhilarating every time. It appears my fear of heights doesn’t extend to the safe confines of a plane cabin.

I had wanted to write about women in aviation for a while, but I couldn’t come up with the right storyline. When I met with my co-authors of the historical fiction anthology, Easter Promises, something clicked, and I knew my main character Rosamund would be an actress who somehow became a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilot) during World War Two. 

During my research, I came across amazing true stories of the WASPs. They were tasked with flying planes from the factories to the air force bases for the men to fly in combat. It was an important and dangerous job and the powers that be wanted to spare the able-bodied male pilots who were needed in battle. 

During my research, I came across amazing true stories of the WASPs. They were tasked with flying planes from the factories to the air force bases for the men to fly in combat. It was an important and dangerous job and the powers that be wanted to spare the able-bodied male pilots who were needed in battle. 

Enter Jackie Cochran. 

Cochran was a household name in the 1930s because she’d created an extremely successful cosmetics company and she’d broken speed records for flying, for both men and women. In the early days of WWII, Cochran knew it was only a matter of time before the United States also entered the war, and she thought female pilots could help. She met Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt at an awards ceremony and suggested the US Army Aircorp use female pilots in order to free up the males for combat. Roosevelt liked the idea and told Cochran to go to the United Kingdom and learn from what the English were doing. By the time the US entered the war, Cochran was ready.

She had a list of the best female pilots in the country and contacted them. The women were smart and had many hours of flying experience, in most cases more than their male counterparts. But they were met with opposition every step of the way. 

The male trainers didn’t want to waste their time teaching women. On paper, the job looked simple. However, during their career most pilots fly only one or two types of planes, but the WASPs had to fly over seventy-eight. That’s like going from a race car to a family SUV to a semitrailer, and adapting to each different size, speed and control, over and over again. 

The women also had to worry about human interference. Their delivery records were near perfect—the planes arrived on time and undamaged—and better than their male counterparts, which didn’t go down well with some of the men. Planes were deliberately tampered with, causing them to crash. Even if not deliberately damaged, they were produced hastily and sometimes they weren’t constructed properly, which also caused accidents. The WASPs were often the first to fly the plane, so if it malfunctioned, it happened on their watch. 

Despite working with the Aircorp, the WASPs weren’t official members of the military, and weren’t entitled to the same honours. They weren’t allowed American flags across their coffins and their families couldn’t put gold stars in their windows to indicate their daughter had died while serving their country. In fact, they were almost wiped from history’s pages until the 1970s. 

My character, Rosamund, meets multiple challenges, some of which I wish I could say were fiction but, sadly, really happened. Smart, independent women are often considered dangerous, and Rosamund lives in the male-dominated world of the first half of the twentieth century, when female pilots were rare and not taken seriously. They couldn’t just be as good as the men, they had to be better. 

As exciting as the 1930s and 40s were for aviation, I wouldn’t fly in any of the planes today. Apart from the fact that air safety has improved with technology and time, I don’t think my fear of heights would cope with an open cockpit. 

Until I can fly again, I will continue to watch the skies and dream of my next adventure.

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GIVEAWAY

If you’d like to win a copy of Easter Promises, just comment below or on any of my social media posts, letting me know if you love or hate heights or flying.

I’ll start: I have a height phobia, which extends to flying although I have improved over the years. I was the white-knuckled passenger who couldn’t sleep the night before and WOULD NOT sit in a window seat, because—wait for it—I was worried the window would break and I’d be sucked out.

Okay, now you know my most irrational fear, please share yours!

The winner will be chosen randomly on Thursday, 14th May, at 12pm. International entries welcome, but will only post to an Australian address.

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