Elizabeth attended Yale University, spent a work-study year back in England, and then spent seven years getting a PhD in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she held a Javits Fellowship. While in Philadelphia she learned to ring church bells in the English style known as 'change ringing', and in 1991 she met her future husband there at a bell ringers' dinner-dance. Tim is English, and in 1995 Elizabeth moved to England with him, and then to Scotland in 2000. They have two children together.
Elizabeth and Tim share another unusual interest - flying. Tim got his private pilot's license in 1993 and Elizabeth got hers ten years later. Together they have flown in the States from Kalamazoo to New Hampshire; in Kenya they've toured from Nairobi to Malindi, on the coast, and also all over southern England. Alone, most of Elizabeth's flying has been in eastern Scotland. Her interest in flying is what sparked the idea for her novels, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.
One of the many pleasures of Code Name Verity is the beautifully realised setting – World War II Britain and occupied France. How did you research that?
Well, World War II Britain is easy for me, because I do sort of live in the mortal remains here. The debris of the war is all around me. Every house on my street has got iron stubs in its garden wall where the rails were cut down for scrap iron. There are concrete anti-landing defenses on the nearby beaches. There is an almost-intact German prisoner of war camp about 7 miles away from my kids' school – my son and I were snooping around it two days ago. My first flying lesson was at the airfield that used to be the ATA headquarters.
France was a little harder. You'll notice that most of the French action of Code Name Verity is set indoors. But yes, I've bicycled through the fields around Poitiers and chatted with French ultralight pilots about landing sites! I also read novels and watched movies made or published during wartime. Period fiction is a brilliant way to get a feel for setting, for everyday details and language.