Tori is a longtime fan and friend of Elizabeth Wein. She has a series of sweaters inspired by Elizabeth Wein characters, several of which can be seen here. She is here today to talk about growing up as an EWein fan.
Please give Tori a warm welcome!
I was thirteen when The Winter Prince came out; I read it because I was going on a field trip to a book reading. I’m not sure I was always so conscientious, but it was set in Arthurian England, and I was into King Arthur and Ancient Rome. I loved it. When I was fourteen, I was sure I wanted to be a writer. My mom, working magic as far as I could tell, called Elizabeth and asked if she wanted a teenage apprentice. I’m sure I wrote, but mostly, I remember reading lots, a rather eclectic list of things I almost definitely wouldn’t have picked up on my own (things like The Mabinogion, The Owl Service, and “The Wasteland.”) I sometimes joke that my taste has been formed by Elizabeth Wein, but I was fourteen and my brain was a sponge; it’s not that big a stretch. We fell a bit out of touch when she moved from Pennsylvania to England and then Scotland; it was before everyone had email, and I am a dreadful correspondent if stamps are required.
I waited patiently for A Coalition of Lions to come out. (I roll my eyes at George R. R. Martin fans when they complain about wait time between books. I waited ten years for Coalition.) At some point between books, I spent a month in Istanbul, and every time I looked at a mosaic I thought of Lleu, and Medraut telling him that he had to see the mosaics in Byzantium. I tried to make all my college friends read The Winter Prince, and it was frequently one of the books I read to decompress from reading too many philosophers.
A Coalition of Lions was the last time the release of one of Elizabeth’s books came out that surprised me. I was a senior in college, and I had checked Amazon randomly to see if it was ever coming out. And then, unable to wait for shipping, I started calling the bookstores I could walk to on foot to find out if they had it in stock and would put it on hold for me. I stayed up until four reading Coalition in a day. I finished, and I fished out an old email address I had written down and sent what was probably an only semi-coherent email, which reignited our correspondence.
Now, I am very lucky and get to be an early reader. I dressed up as Verity for Halloween three years ago, possibly before the Code Name Verity had a publisher. I had Ravensbrück dreams while I was reading Rose Under Fire. I’ve also had dreams about the possibly mythic Sword Dance, but no one took my books away from me when I had dreams about Sword Dance (I had dreamt I was going to be gassed in a concentration camp and woke up looking for more of Rose to read and was more bothered by the lack of book than by the dream; my friends made me promise to stop reading World War II novels for a while.)
There are little things from all of Elizabeth’s books that pop up for me. It seems fairly constant. There is an Ethiopian restaurant I can walk to from my house, and even if just eating Ethiopian food of injera didn’t make me think of Telemakos, they serve a wine called Aksum; the first time I realized that I made us order it on the principle of the name alone. I’ve made my own vanilla extract, and everytime I do, I think of Medraut. I assess every umbrella as “Useful in an air raid?” I’ve burst into tears, seeing a discarded ballpoint pen, free from the bank, on the sidewalk because it made me think of Maddie and her fabulous Eterpen. On my commutes to work, I listen to history podcasts and when I hit names and real historic facts that are in her books (particularly the Aksumite-Arthurian books) I have been known to yelp with excitement, even though I am surrounded by strangers who probably think I a bit mad.
I joked at the beginning that Elizabeth Wein has formed my taste. When The Winter Prince was released as a Kindle book, I was doing my very best EWein Facebook cheerleader and was virtually jumping up and down, trying to get my friends to read it again. Someone asked me what it was about. After giving my brief overview along the lines of “It’s a story about Mordred, set in England just after the Romans have left. He’s a dark anti-hero and his mother is a brilliant, scheming, thwarted queen. And it’s beautifully written.” And then I sat there and stared at those three sentences and said to myself, “You know, if someone were to write a book that were just for me and contained all of my favorite things, they would write The Winter Prince.”
Thank you, Tori! Sword Dance has to happen!