Please welcome Christine Norris to the blog!
M: Welcome Christine. It's wonderful to have you by the blog today.
The title, When Pigs Fly, caught my eye as it's the famous saying my family and I used when I was
younger to tell me I wasn't going to get anything. There's a fairy tale about it?
CN: Thank you for having me! Actually, it’s just a play on words. The tale that this story is based on is The Three Little Pigs. Which is weird, right? It’s not a Grimm’s fairy tale, but it is a classic story.
M: Could you share what your story is about?
CN: Sure. The story, which has no actual pigs in it, is about three siblings and their airships. Two have chosen a path for their life that is different than what was expected, and on one fateful day, one of them has to make choices in order to rescue the other two. I bet you can guess who they need rescuing from! Oh, and there’s airships. And a dogfight. But there are plenty of nods to the original, some that are obvious and some not so much.
M: What drew you to tell the story When Pigs Fly?
CN: To be honest, it was a challenge. I don’t usually write short stories, though this is the second anthology I’ve had a story in in the last two years. I have already written a Steampunk-like version of Cinderella, called A Curse of Ash and Iron. Many fairy tales have an almost natural fit to a Steampunk retelling, if you can find the hook. I was looking for the most unlikely story you could think of to turn into a Steampunk story.
M: What steampunk item did you use in the story that you would love to have?
CN: I think I would love to have the main character’s airship. It’s definitely one of a kind!
Ahha! I like the twist to the Three Little Pigs here!
An Excerpt from When Pigs Fly
Based on The Three Little Pigs
“GET THIS BLOODY THING MOVING, LIEUTENANT NELSON. NOW!”
The captain’s furious tone caused the pilot’s face to turn white, his hand shaking only slightly as he raised it in a salute.
“The Athena has left. We were supposed to be beside her. And yet, Mr. Nelson, we are still in port. Why is that, Mr. Nelson?”
Nelson tried not to let the captain see him flinch, but was unable to hide his anxiety. The captain narrowed her eyes—he was a seasoned pilot, and she was not his first commander. Why is he anxious now? Because, like the rest of them, he has heard the stories. Perhaps it is better that way, the captain thought. If she was feared she wouldn’t have to fight to be respected.
“I am trying, Captain. The balloon is full, but we’ve only just lit the furnaces, and you know how long it takes for the steam to get to the engi—”
“I did not ask for excuses, Mr. Nelson. I asked for results. Or did you miss this morning’s meeting? Were your ears full of wax when the admiral read the intelligence report? “
Nelson swallowed deeply and shook his head.
“I thought not. If we are not underway in precisely five minutes, I will have you removed from duty. Permanently.”
The captain did not think it was possible, but Mr. Nelson’s face turned even paler. He understood the captain’s meaning perfectly, the threat undiminished by either her size or age.
“Yes, ma’am. Five minutes to launch.”
Captain Nightingale did not even acknowledge the pilot’s assent before she turned on her heel, her anger evident in the set of her shoulders and her determined stride. She knew Nelson was doing his best. Her fury was not due to anything the pilot had or had not done, only her frustration. She had been assigned to this ridiculous vessel, and now, on her first assignment, she was stuck in port, struggling to get this hulk of an antique moving.
The rest of the bridge crew kept their eyes glued to their maps and dials. They must have overhead the captain’s verbal assault on the pilot and did not want to be next.
Good. Saves me the trouble of yelling at them. The captain perched on the edge of her seat, but her body was not yet ready to be still. Her foot tapped out a steady beat, her fingers drumming on the armrest of her cushioned, velvet-upholstered chair, the beat of her heart resounded by the hum of the engines below. If sheer will could be used at fuel, this ship would have taken off long ago and flown faster than even the engineers could imagine. Patience had never been her strong suit. This first assignment wasn’t much—just a reconnaissance mission—but she had already botched it by not sticking with the Athena, her partner vessel.
Not that the commander of that vessel had bothered waiting, ruddy blighter.
“Three minutes to launch.” The announcement came over the loudspeaker, echoed by the pilot’s voice on the bridge. He glanced at the captain, his face pulled tight with anxiety, which was only slightly relieved by the captain’s nod of approval.
“There’s an…incoming message, Captain.” The wireless operator’s voice cracked, and he did not turn to acknowledge her. Nightingale’s stomach knotted with dread.
“Who is it, Lieutenant Commander Hemmings?”
“It’s…” The operator swallowed. “It’s the commodore, ma’am.”
“I see.” The knot in her belly turned into a stone, dragging her down. Still, she pulled her shoulders back and lifted her chin. “Patch him through to the loudspeaker, please.” She balled her hands into fists and jammed them into her thighs, bracing herself. “No, wait. I’ll take it personally.”
Lieutenant Commander Hemmings nodded. He flipped a switch on the wireless console, and a green light lit up on the ornate wireless receiver, which sat on the arm of the captain’s chair. Captain Nightingale lowered herself onto the seat, her spine straight as a bar of steel. She cleared her throat, and then lifted the polished dark wood and brass of the handset to her ear. There was a loud click and a bit of static.
“Captain Nightingale.” She tried to announce herself with as much confidence as she could muster, and hoped her nerves did not show.
“Petunia! What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Or can’t your crew get that beast into the air?”
Captain Nightingale bristled at the sound of her brother’s brash voice as it assaulted her eardrum. “We are already underway.” She hoped her voice did not betray the small lie. It wasn’t the first time she had been less than truthful with him—they were siblings, after all—but now she was also lying to a superior officer. Superior in his own mind, at least.
“By the time you get here, the mission will be over. Or is that your plan, little sister? Are you afraid you can’t live up to your own reputation? I told Command there was no use in having a woman as a captain.”
There was a sly, gloating edge to his words with which Petunia was very familiar. If it had been any other officer, she would have kept her cloak of dignity and professionalism wrapped around her. Of course, if it had been any other officer, they wouldn’t have spoken to her in that manner. But her façade of control dissolved like wet paper, anger filling her chest and spilling over into her mouth.
“Not at all, Commodore Porky. First of all, you’re not going into battle, you’re chasing intel.” Her voice was low, her mouth very close to the handset’s speaker. “Second, you know that or else you wouldn’t have flown off on your own. Or maybe you would have, since you barely passed Strategy at the Academy. But don’t you worry. As I have done my whole life, I will be there to save your bacon when you get in over your head.”
There was a pause on the other end and Petunia could practically hear the blood rushing to her brother’s face, his round cheeks turning the color of ripe apples. Using the childhood nickname had been going too far. It had slipped out in anger, but she wouldn’t take it back. He would only see it as further proof of her weakness.
Her brother’s voice came through in a hiss. “Just you remember, little sister, the only reason for your command of that—vessel—is because—”
She never knew what insult he had been ready to hurl at her. A sudden shout cut her brother’s rant short, followed by an alarm that blasted through the handset. Her brother’s voice was barely audible, as if he were holding the handset away from his mouth as he shouted the order that made her blood run cold.
“Wolves at the door! Battle stations!”
About the Author:
Christine Norris is the author of several YA works, including A Curse of Ash and Iron and the Library of Athena series. She is overeducated, however, she has never flown an airship. She has a complete weakness for British television, an addiction to movies, re-told fairy tales, and police procedural shows. She also believes in fairies.
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Release day, May 29, 2016.