I don’t exactly remember the precise spark that lit the flame of imagination that became Her Last Flight. Maybe I came across some article about a recent expedition to Nikumaroro Island in the remote western Pacific Ocean, where a bottle of freckle cream had been discovered buried in the sand. Or maybe it was the reports of new forensic analysis on bones recovered there decades ago, suggesting a possible link to Amelia Earhart.
Whatever it was, the clue took me back to my childhood, when the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance was a pet obsession of mine. Her story touched me deeply. I have always loved flying. My British father served as an RAF cadet during university, before his colorblindness was discovered and scuppered that career. (Just as well, or I wouldn’t have been born.) No matter how often I board an airplane, I’m always the one in the window seat, nose glued to the Plexiglass, transfixed by the wondrous Earth below. To me, the aviation pioneers of the first half of the twentieth century are idols but also enigmas—where do you find the courage to strap yourself into a machine that might easily kill you? How do you square your thirst for adventure and danger and the adrenaline kick of near-death with your love for friends and family and lovers left on the ground behind you?
This book began as a what if, of the kind we writers pose to ourselves all the time. I researched Earhart herself, and uncovered aspects of her life I never imagined. I started researching other pilots and their jaw-dropping flights, their feats of courage and endurance. I researched the psychology of trailblazers and the mechanics of flight itself. I wove all these people and stories into a wholly imagined work of fiction that draws on the autobiographical details of real historical figures. And I created the character of Janey Everett, war-weary photojournalist, who pieces the puzzle together.
I love all my books, but this one was special. As I threw myself into the narrative and found Janey’s inimitable voice and uncovered all these layers upon layers of secrets, I rediscovered my love of writing itself. And I’ll never forget the messages my longtime agent and editor sent me as they read the first draft…which I hope you’ll echo as you disappear into the pages of Her Last Flight.