The Lost Pilots is the extraordinary story of aviators Bill Lancaster and Jessie Miller, brought to vivid life by Corey Mead. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, and full of adventure, forbidden passion, crime, scandal and tragedy, it is a masterwork of narrative nonfiction. Author Corey Meads talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about The Lost Pilots.
The Lost Pilots is a book of narrative nonfiction set in the 1920s and ‘30s. It tells the true story of two star-crossed pilots who soar to the greatest heights of fame, tailspin into scandal and crime, and go to the ultimate lengths for a chance at redemption.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was fascinated by the two powerful protagonists, pioneering aviators both, and by the story’s rich elements: it contains adventure, love, crime, scandal, and tragedy. As a nonfiction writer, happening across this story was a dream come true.
What research was involved?
The research involved poring through thousands of pages of court transcripts, diaries, letters and telegrams, legal documents, and old newspapers. It’s my hope that readers find the book as entertaining and fascinating to read as it was to research and write!
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
On days when I didn’t have to teach, I would write for 2-3 hours during the morning/afternoon, and then wake up in the middle of the night to sneak in another 2-3 hours of writing. The routine made me feel like I was getting two writing days for the price of one.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
A song by Layton & Johnstone, an American vocal and piano duo from the 1920s—they performed at the party in London in 1927 where my two protagonists met.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Anyone who has enough pull in the industry to ensure that the project doesn’t languish forever in development hell!
What did you enjoy the most about writing this non-fiction book?
I loved that I was able to access so many of my characters’ own thoughts and words via their personal letters, diaries, newspaper articles, etc.—they came alive as full human beings for me, and it was fascinating getting to know them.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I celebrated by feeling calm for about two hours before the creeping panic set in: “What should I write next??”
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
David Grann’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a tale of wrenching injustice against the Osage Indians in 20th century America. Grann is an absolute master of narrative nonfiction.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m currently researching two different historical nonfiction ideas. But I’m always open to suggestions from readers!