BackStory: Six Questions with Louise Mangos


BackStory: Six Questions with Louise Mangos
Author of Aetheris Avidi

What inspired you to write ‘Aetheris Avidi’?

The story is based on real events. My grandfather brought my mother’s family back from Ireland during the Blitz. My Auntie Joan flew Spitfires and Lancasters for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The ATA’s motto is Aetheris Avidi, the title of the piece, which translates as “Eager for the Air.”

Who is your favourite longform historical fiction writer? On the other side of the spectrum, what is your favourite piece of historical flash?

Andrew Miller, who wrote the novel “Pure” – what a wonderful voice! I aspire to this level of prose.

One of my favourite pieces of flash is by Sharon Telfer entitled “Terra Incognita.” It won the Bath Flash Fiction Award back in 2016 when I first became passionate about writing the form and is still one of my favourite pieces today. The voice instantly transports the reader back to the period and conveys the magic of the discoveries of new lands that were being made back then.

How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?

I questioned my mother about the motives of the characters. I was surprised by the gutsiness of my aunt, and the danger my grandfather put the family in by bringing them back to England before the end of the war.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?

I love editing. When a creative idea spills onto the page, it’s often without form or class. Some pieces might take up to a dozen edits to get right. It’s so satisfying when I read a sentence out loud and think, “ah, that’s it.” My least favourite part is the final nit-picking word-by-word proofread.

If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?

As a woman, that’s a really tough question, because we’ve never had it easy (now is probably the easiest time in history for us – let’s hope it keeps improving!) Perhaps I’d choose the 1950’s and 60’s when the emancipation of women was increasingly recognised in society.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?

The main character in this piece is my Auntie Joan, but she’s essentially absent throughout. I identify with her because I took off travelling around the world while I was still a teenager and my curiosity for other lands and cultures continues today.

Louise’s novels, short stories and flash fiction have won prizes, have been placed on shortlists and read out on BBC radio. She has published two full-length suspense novels, and her short fiction has appeared in the Mslexia and Firewords Magazines and in several short fiction anthologies. She lives on a Swiss Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

Photograph of a Lancaster Bomber, one of the planes flown by the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary during WWII, by Neil, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).