Justine Byrne and Georgette Broussard are visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about The Physicist’s Daughter by Mary Anna Evans.
Welcome, Justine Byrne and Georgette Broussard. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about the novel that you live inside. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Justine: We just met, but we’ll be best friends forever. Sometimes, you meet somebody and you just know. In The Physicists’ Daughter, the first in a series of historical mysteries set during World War II, you’ll read about the factory where Georgette and I met, a place where people build airplanes and boats that Allied troops use to fight the war. And we also make…well, Georgette and I aren’t sure what we’re building.
Georgette: Justine thinks our boss is lying to us about that. Knowing Sonny like I do, I think she’s probably right.
Justine: No kidding.
Georgette: Every day, we take a bus out of New Orleans to a big, modern industrial plant that sits right on the bank of a bayou, with an airstrip out back. We bolt together little gadgets made out of metal and some kind of black stuff—
Justine: Carbon. They’re made out of carbon. Some of our friends machine the carbon blanks to incredibly tight specifications..
Georgette: Yeah, what she said. She’s the one that studied physics and math and stuff.
Justine: Well, nobody expects a woman to know anything about physics, and that works in our favor. Because somebody, probably a German spy, is sabotaging our work. If that person had any idea that we suspected trouble, we could be in a lot of danger.
Georgette: So it’s a good thing people think women are dumb?
Justine: No, not at all. In this case, though, that might work to our advantage.
Does the writer control what happens in the story or do you get a say too?
Justine: Mary Anna’s a bit of a scientist, too, so she likes to have a plan. She researched 1944 New Orleans, so she could make a realistic setting for us. She read up on a particular branch of physics in 1944—I can’t tell you what it is—and she even found some blueprints that were Top Secret back then. But it’s really hard for her to stay in charge. We have our own minds.
Georgette: We go where we like to go, and we do what we like to do.
Justine: You can say that again.
Georgette: Nobody tells me what to do.
How did you evolve as the main character?
Justine: Mary Anna knew that she wanted to write about a woman who knows science but is living at a time when nobody around her expected her to know it. I grew out of that idea. Both of my late parents had doctorates in physics, and so does my godmother Gloria. Mary Anna also knew that I wouldn’t have been especially popular at the girls’ school I attended. When the book begins, I’m in a hard situation and I’m alone, since my parents have died and I’m struggling to support myself and to save for a future when the soldiers will come home, sending me back low-paying “woman’s” jobs for the rest of my life. I’ve never had a friend like Georgette. Getting to know her helps me grow in ways that Mary Anna would never have expected when she started writing the book.
Do you have any other characters you like sharing the story with? If so, why are you partial to them?
Georgette: Other than me? Yeah, she probably does. She sure likes that bookworm Charles. He spends a lot of time with her but, for some reason, he never gets around to asking her out. And I can’t blame her for paying a little attention to Martin. He ain’t as smart as her and Charles, but he’s got quite the body on him!
What’s the place like where you find yourself in this story?
Justine: Well, we’ve already told you about the factory where we work, so maybe I’ll tell you about the place inside my head where I can admit to myself that I’m really scared. In The Physicists’ Daughter, I use so many things my parents taught me to solve the mystery of who’s sabotaging our work. I decipher a coded message. I find evidence that important parts of our factory were sabotaged.
Georgette: You also break up a bar fight with a dress shoe.
Justine: That’s true, but maybe it’s beside the point.
Georgette: If you say so.
Justine: I guess I’m trying to say that, in the end, I don’t have all the evidence. I have to act. I have to trust my instincts. And that’s a scary place for a physicist to be.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about you and the book?
Justine: I’ve never known anybody like Georgette. She strong and smart and brave and loyal. She’s a great friend, and I think you’ll like her.
Georgette: I think you’ll like Justine, too, if you go for eggheads that use words like “neutronium” and “ion stream” and “urani-whatever.”
Justine: Hey! I’m not that bad!
Georgette: Oh, you’re exactly that bad. But you took me with you on an adventure that a little girl from Des Allemands could never have dreamed of. And maybe I helped you out a little, too.
Justine and Georgette: Come to 1944 New Orleans and watch us stop an enemy spy. Because the Nazis are no match for the physicists’ daughter.
Thank you for answering my questions, Justine and Georgette, and good luck to you and your author, Mary Anna Evans, with The Physicists’ Daughter
Readers can learn more about Justine and Georgette and their author, Mary Anna Evans by visiting the author’s website and her Facebook, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Instagram pages. You can also follow her on Twitter.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
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About Mary Anna Evans: Mary is the author of The Physicists’ Daughter, the first in her series of WWII-era historical suspense novels featuring Rosie-the-Riveter-turned-codebreaker Justine Byrne. Her thirteen Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries have received recognition including the Benjamin Franklin Award, a Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold Medal, the Oklahoma Book Award, and three Florida Book Awards bronze medals. She is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches fiction and nonfiction writing, including mystery and suspense writing. Her work has appeared in publications including Plots with Guns, The Atlantic, Florida Heat Wave, Dallas Morning News, and The Louisville Review. Her scholarship on crime fiction, which centers on Agatha Christie’s evolving approach over her long career to the ways women experienced justice in the twentieth century, has appeared in the Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie (coming September 22, 2022), which she co-edited, and in Clues: A Journal of Detection. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Camden, and she is a licensed Professional Engineer. She is at work on the second Justine Byrne novel, The Physicists’ Enigma.