Bestselling Author


Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper

Inspired by the extraordinary true stories of World War II’s American Army nurses famously known as the Angels of Bataan and the unsung contributions of Filipinas of the resistance, this novel transports us to a remarkable era of hope, bravery, perseverance, and ultimately—victory.

Elise Hooper

A native New Englander, Elise Hooper spent several years writing for television and online news outlets before getting a MA and teaching high-school literature and history. Her debut novel The Other Alcott was a nominee for the 2017 Washington Book Award. Three more novels—Learning to See, Fast Girls, and Angels of the Pacific—followed, all centered on the lives of extraordinary but overlooked historical women. Elise now lives in Seattle with her husband and two teenage daughters.

In this episode, Elise Hooper discusses her fourth novel, “Angels of the Pacific,” inspired by the true stories of World War II’s American Army nurses and the Filipinas of the resistance. Elise shares her personal connection to the war through her grandfather, which sparked her interest in the Pacific theater. She highlights the extensive research behind the novel, including reading seminal works, oral histories, and a transformative trip to the Philippines. Elise delves into the dual narrative of the novel, representing American and Filipino perspectives, and touches on the significant role of Filipinas in aiding American nurses. The conversation also explores the challenges and joys of writing historical fiction, Elise’s writing process, and the importance of acknowledging the unsung heroines of history.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction of Elise Hooper and “Angels of the Pacific.”
  • [00:02:44] Inspiration behind the novel and the historical background.
  • [00:07:12] The significance of including Filipino characters and perspectives.
  • [00:14:03] The dual narrative approach and the inclusion of the Filipino resistance.
  • [00:18:11] The impact of sharing untold stories of World War II and reader responses.
  • [00:22:50] The Malinta Tunnel’s role and the challenges faced by the nurses before internment.
  • [00:32:11] Elise’s writing process and evolution over four novels.
  • [00:37:03] Reader comments and personal connections to the story.
  • [00:42:32] Surprising research findings and the role of Filipinas in the war.


[00:00:00] Jane: All right. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for coming to historical happy hour again. And for everyone who signed up. I’m so excited to introduce Elise Hooper, who I think a lot of and talk about her fourth novel, which is Angels of the Pacific, which is amazing. I’m going to do a brief intro and then we’ll dive into questions, Elise.

Sound good? Sounds great. Thanks. Awesome. So a native New Englander, Elise spent several years writing for television and online news outlets before getting a master’s in teaching high school literature and history. She now lives in Seattle with her husband and two daughters. Her other novels include The Other Ellicott, based on The Real Women Behind Little Women, Learning to See about the pioneering photographer, Dorothea Lange, and fast girls., which is about the first integrated women’s Olympic team headed to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Angels of the Pacific is inspired by the extraordinary true stories of World War II’s American Army nurses, famously known as the Angels of Bataan, and the unsung contributions of Filipinas of the resistance.

This novel transports us to a remarkable era of hope, bravery, perseverance, and ultimately victory. Booklist Review Cult says heroism, strong characters, and period dialogue shine in Hooper’s latest. So welcome, and thank you for being on tonight.

[00:01:24] Elise: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me, and I’m seeing a few familiar faces popping up.

Oh, nice. So thanks everyone for tuning in. It’s great to be here. I’ve got my Cup of tea, because it’s still a little early in Seattle. Yeah, exactly.

[00:01:39] Jane: Don’t need to start that early. So it’s so funny because there’s a lot of things I don’t like about social media, but I think we originally met through Twitter, which is awesome.

Like that, I love that. I believe it.

[00:01:50] Elise: That sounds right. Yeah.

[00:01:51] Jane: That’s the one thing about social media, it’s like meeting other authors and like complaining and talking about it where we’re at is so awesome. I’m So glad we’ve known each other a couple of years now and I want to talk specifically about Angels of the Pacific and then I have some writing questions and then everyone who’s on please type questions in the chat or questions in the Q& A and I’ll keep checking those after.

After my questions so you mentioned in your notes at the back of the book that you had a grandfather who served in the Pacific in World War II. And I also had a grandfather who served in World War II in Europe. And and that generation, a lot of them didn’t talk about it. And I think that was like one of the reasons that you said it’s.

It piqued your curiosity. So tell me about the premise of this novel, which takes place in the Pacific during World War II, and the history behind the story and what ultimately inspired you to write it.

[00:02:44] Elise: Sure. Okay, so there are a few questions there. I’ll start off, actually, I’m going to start with your final point, which is what kind of led me, what inspired me to work on this book and work on this story.

And as you mentioned, my grandfather had served in the war, he was aboard the USS St. Paul in the Pacific. He was actually also just as a guest aboard the USS Missouri when MacArthur signed the peace treaty with the Japanese. He was there for that historic moment. He then went into Tokyo to view the devastated city with MacArthur, and it was there that he bought this children’s little silk kimono.

And I wish I had it. It’s in the other room. I spaced out. But I’ve looked at that kimono for years and thought, I need to learn more about this about the war in the Pacific about my grandfather’s service, all of it. So I think I was, I had just turned in a version of fast girls to my editor I was awaiting feedback I always tell myself I’m going to take a break.

clean my house, do all the things I’ve put off while I’m working frantically under deadline. Instead, I was like the Pacific. Let’s do a little reading and see what I can do here. And I think quite quickly, I found this story about the angels of Bataan. And that was a group of women I had never heard of.

I knew nothing about World War II in the Philippines. I never heard of these women, the whole thing. And so I started listening to Elizabeth Norman’s book, which is really the seminal piece on the angels of Bataan. It’s called We Band of Angels. Again, listeners, viewers, reader, whatever, check out Elizabeth Norman’s book, this book, if this story interests you further, because she really is the expert.

Angels were still alive to speak with her. So she really has the exhaustive account of these women. Excellent. And I think I did an audio book telling myself, Oh, I’m just listening to this. I’m not, I promise I’m taking a break. I’m not diving into something new, but I was utterly captivated. And basically the story about the angels is that there were the, this group of us army nurses, also some Navy nurses, I should say in the Philippines in 1941.

And I have to say living their best life. These are women. Really to a T almost fit the same profile. They were women who grew up in the hard times of the 19 thirties on farms. They all had a taste. They wanted something more. They wanted a skill set, but none of them could afford college.

So nursing school provided a great option to develop a skill set that could take them into kind of a new path on life. So yeah, These women did that as they graduated from nursing school, the army and the Navy Beckham and said, if you come with us, you can travel. There are all kinds of adventures you can experience.

And so many of these women jumped at those opportunities and they then found themselves, while. Pearl Harbor is being bombed in December 7th of 1941. Across the international dateline, the Japanese Imperial Army begin their invasion of the Philippines. And suddenly, Americans are on the front line there.

These women, this group of American women represent the first group to serve really on the front lines of a war. And then the first large group of American women ever held as POWs. And the remarkable thing is they all survive. Amazing. Amazing. If you know anything about Japanese prison camps, you really understand how staggering a fact that is, that they all made it.

They attributed their survival to the sisterhood they developed amongst each other and to service. Till the final day, they were putting on those increasingly tattered uniforms, tending to each other and their fellow internees. And. So it’s just a really remarkable story about hope and resilience and living with uncertainty and things that, of course, when I started this book, I had no idea would become incredibly relevant today.

I managed to go to the Philippines. I traveled there to research the book further in February of 2020. And that’s a whole other story because that was. An amazing time to be outside of the country. So very far from home, but I learned so much from that trip. And it really then also encouraged me to fold in a part of the story about the Filipinos because that’s such an amazing part of the story.

Much of women survive is from help from the outside, from their Filipino colleagues who are outside the walls of Santo Tomas internment camp.

[00:07:12] Jane: Yeah. Amazing. And actually that leads me to my next question. Oh, before I do though, it was 77, 77 nurses survived the camps, right? Is that right? Yeah. That’s just extraordinary.

So I want my question, my next question was about the research. And I, one thing I should mention too, is the back of your book, you have Book club questions, you have an author interview, and then you have a bibliography, basically, of other reading and so I love that when that’s in the back of books.

So talk to me about the research, just from your writing was exhaustive and meticulous talk to me about, like, how you began your research, your whole process of research, and how, The trip shaped the story as

[00:07:52] Elise: well. Yes. I started where I think anyone going with this story would start, which is with We Band of Angels.

Again, you’re going to keep hearing me talk about that. Oh, totally. Yeah. It’s such an important source to this story. Yeah. I have read that book now so many times. Also there are a lot of oral histories left behind by these women and others. And so I was reading as much as I could. And I was there’s a great book by he was a boy at the time, Robin Pricing called Goodbye Manila.

It’s his memoir of World War II in the Philippines. He too was held as a civilian at Santo Tomas internment camp. source I was able to find about written by a Filipino man who marries an American. So he really gives the Filipino perspective. A book called rampage, which is all about the battle of Manila was very instructive and really also informed.

me that I could not end the story solely about when the women are liberated. I had to go beyond that because war is not over at that point. So there are a number of really interesting books out there, oral histories, as I said. Then I, one day I think I was procrastinating quite honestly on Facebook as one does.

And I saw that a friend of mine had posted about her grandmother. Who was a World War Two veteran herself, a Navy nurse initially on a hospital ship outside of Shanghai, then Okinawa. I sent Amy a message, my friend, a message because, as I mentioned earlier, all the angels had passed by this point, the final one, Millie Dalton passed away in 2013.

So I asked Amy if her grandmother would be up for a visit. We went up there. And although the real life test, because I actually made my main character after this woman test, but the real life test never went to the Philippines. She really fit that profile I mentioned earlier, a farm girl grew up in Iowa wanted off the farm, became a nurse, and then went into the Navy.

Also, I just want to say a funny. Story that she had passed on her aqua aerobics class the day that we went up to visit her and she learned to swim as part of her naval training back in the 40s. I just couldn’t get over that the whole time. Just how that life skills stayed with her. So her sense of adventure and optimism really stuck with me.

And also that real reluctance that I think is very it’s really a part of that generation where they just don’t want to talk about hard times and they want to keep things light and keep things moving. That was very much what the real life test did. And that I write, I knew right then and there, I needed to work into my story to the sort of generational gap that sort of exists also.

And I’m going to show you a picture from the back of the book right now. Her wedding photo. Okay, so that’s my grandfather. I love this. Yeah. But Tessa’s wedding photo, everyone, you’ll see she’s there in uniform. I loved that wedding photo and knew right then and there, there was going to be a wedding in uniform in this book.

I should point out there are a few weddings, but this one, they’re in uniform. And I just loved that. So right then and there, the wheels are turning. Okay, there’s going to be. a romance, she’s going to meet someone because that was actually very common. And she’s going to fit this sort of agricultural background in my test is a little different.

She’s from Tacoma, Washington. I’m in Seattle now. She was an orphan. There are a few things I changed, but and then, as I mentioned earlier, I went to the Philippines in February of 2020. And I was able, one of the cool things I did on that trip that never made it into the book, it was a storyline that I ended up cutting was I went and snorkeled around this shipwreck that was out by this part of the country called Palawan, Philippines is composed of about 200 islands.

And there are these shipwrecks all around from these naval engagements. And it was such an amazing. amazing experience to be able to feel these ghosts. And I tell you what, these ghosts exist all over the Philippines. And they stayed with me when I went to the island of Corregidor, which plays a really important part of the book.

The nurses end up spending time there. It’s really the final stand by Americans in the Philippines. And it’s where when they eventually surrender, the women are all, Rounded up the men, they’re taken to their various camp internment camps. And Corregidor is really one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited.

A real sense of ghosts. Again, my, I had brought my daughter. She was 14 at the time with me on this trip. We, stayed in the inn. We were the only people to spend the night and we were able to then walk through the ruins late at night during sunset. Early in the morning, I was able to get out there and go through some of the tunnels.

It was really an extraordinary experience. And then when I was back in Manila, I was able to visit Santo Tomas University, which was a bustling campus. Of course, a couple of weeks later, it would also be shut down. Manila would be under martial law because of. Coronavirus. But I was able to work in this trip right before everything’s got very difficult.

So able to see the school firsthand, see, look into those classrooms, see where these nurses were living, where they endured just such a challenging time. It was amazing. And they have A library in there that they were able to bring out all these old artifacts for me to be able to see. And it was just amazing.

So yeah, I was also able to meet a historian while I was there. She took me all over Manila. She took me out to the Manila American Cemetery. She was amazing. She’s a real specialist on World War II. And she became a really powerful resource for me because when I then realized I had to include. Filipino characters.

I could not write about Americans in the Philippines without really getting into the more local story. She proved invaluable. She answered so many questions for me. She read early drafts. She’s a great advocate for the story and for this book. So I was really lucky.

[00:13:54] Jane: Amazing. Amazing. And what a special trip for you and your daughter.

Like she’ll never forget that. That’s so great. For so many reasons, right?

[00:14:01] Elise: Yes, totally.

[00:14:03] Jane: So that come, that actually leads to my next question, because this is a dual narrative and it’s told from the perspective of Tess, the American nurse that you mentioned, and also from the perspective of Flor, who’s a Filipino university student who gets involved in the underground network of the resistance.

And so what was the dual narrative doing that? Was that a decision from the start? And what made you decide to write it that way?

[00:14:28] Elise: It wasn’t. I had a draft of the book written before I left for the Philippines, and really it was all Tessa’s story. Which, the book, if you’ve read it, or it, Tessa’s chapters are all told in first person.

I really could hear her. I love the way people spoke in the 1940s. I really wanted to capture that. So that. Part of the book was always in first person. When I returned from the Philippines, I was realizing, okay, I need to rework some things here because I do need to work in this Filipino perspective.

So that’s when I started doing a lot of research. I talked to some Filipino American friends. I have, I was still in touch with my friend, Des, the historian in Manila. And so that’s when I started to rework in The story of floor and a pivotal thing I needed to figure out here was in Elizabeth Norman’s book.

She talks about how the nurses were part of the resistance how they were passing messages, but she never really included a whole lot of detail on that part of the story and I had questions. I had I tried to imagine a number of ways I knew laundry was a big thing going in and out of the lawn.

The camp, many of the internees would their Filipino friends would help them outside of the camps by doing laundry and sending it back in. And I saw this. artifact from Stanley internment camp in Hong Kong. That’s known as, wait, is it the Day Joyce quilt? Or she, yes, I think it is. Or is it Joyce Day? I think it’s Day Joyce.

This is where I start, this is the time of day where I start forgetting.

But that is a remarkable artifact that you can still see if by on request at the Imperial War Museum in London. It was a sheet stitched by this woman that turned out to be a journal essentially of her internment, and she lists names and places and the whole time she was able to hide it in plain sight from guards would come in, tear apart.

their runes and everything, but they never stopped to hold up this sheet and look at it. And I was just fascinated by this idea of I’m very, I love to sew, knit, I’m into my crafts. I love the idea of subversive stitching. And here I had this wonderful example of it. So I knew right then and there, okay, this is how in this story, and I’m very clear in the afterword that this was something I fictionalized a bit.

That was how my nurses were going to communicate with the outside world, with specifically with Floor. That was one of those things where sort of history was helping me out. I had to make a bit of a leap, but it felt still like very much in keeping with the story that was a path to choose for these characters.

[00:17:03] Jane: Oh, I totally agree. And it makes complete sense. And I think it’s hard when you have like a black box. You can’t find the answer of how something was done, so you did have to take that leap, but it worked. It worked really

[00:17:14] Elise: well. I should also say that something that has been so funny to me recently is I’ve heard from a few descendants of both the Angels and other civilians who were interned since my book came out, because it’s so interesting, and we might talk about this in a bit, but This is a generation that just did not talk about their experience.

So what I’ve heard from descendants is my mother never wanted to speak about this time. So reading the book really helped inform me about that experience, which is first of all, so touching, but also one son of one of the, oh, is it one of the angels who told me? Yes. I think it was that his mother then her future husband in the camp, he was a civilian, and they passed messages by putting notes in their mouths and French kissing, and I’ve only ever known that detail.

[00:18:00] Jane: Oh, that’s a good one.

[00:18:01] Elise: That would have been a great one to use in my book. Yeah, that’s a good one.

[00:18:05] Jane: That’s a really good detail. And how amazing, it’s so moving, I’m sure, when you hear from these people, too. That’s just incredible. Oh my gosh.

[00:18:11] Elise: I dropped everything. I’m so touched by it.

[00:18:14] Jane: Yeah. So good.

So one aspect I didn’t, I didn’t know a lot about this story. One I really had no idea about was the Melin Melinta. Is it Melinta Tunnel? Melinta Tunnel. And I’m glad, is it Rigado Island? I wanna make sure I get pronounced. Yeah. So ripe. This is like when they’re at the front lines, right Before they become POWs and talk to me a little bit about this.

’cause it sounded incredible and you got to see it too.

[00:18:38] Elise: It. Was incredible. In fact, it was really Corregidor that was really the motivation behind me going to the Philippines. I was reading all about this. I could not imagine this tiny island at the mouth of Manila Bay. So it’s about a three hour boat ride from Manila.

That’s how you get 26 miles off the island. So we’re off. This major Asian city. And I will tell you that on Craig door, it is so quiet and you feel like you are on the edge of the world. So it really helped to give me kind of a flavor of what life must have been like for these Americans really trapped so far from home without knowing anything that’s really happening back at home.

It is tiny. It’s only maybe a couple kilometers long. It at one point was home to what has been considered the most beautiful military base in the world. The Japanese, once they started bombing this fort was absolutely destroyed, but I found old pictures. It really does look beautiful. And it was Americans, especially.

It was very novel to me. to them because there were all these flowers, there was bowling alley, I think a movie theater, certainly officers pool, it was beautiful, flowers everywhere, it was really, if you were someone who had grown up in the tough times of the 1930s, to suddenly be on this tiny island in Manila Bay felt quite luxurious, I think.

But then as the war really gets underway and It’s the first place where MacArthur goes when he leaves Manila because he declares it an open city in the hopes that the Japanese will stop their bombing and really spare this beautiful it was architecturally beautiful old city. He retreats to Corregidor, and that really becomes the main hub of all sort of war activities for the USA FFE.

Which are the American forces and Filipino combined forces in the Far East. So eventually MacArthur leaves for Australia and this is, I just couldn’t imagine what this must have felt like for American forces there that their commanding officer retreats because the Americans have decided that if he is captured as is looking increasingly likely that would just be such a propaganda blow to the allies that he is evacuated to Australia.

Yeah. Yeah. And the Americans really make their final stay on this tiny island because they descend into the Malinta Tunnel, and this is like nothing anything I’ve ever seen before. It was an underground. This huge tunnel. If you go to my Instagram account, you can see I’ve posted photos of it or my author page, on Facebook to the tunnel.

It’s huge. You could drive trucks and ambulances. That’s really what starts being sent into this. It ends up being used as a thousand bed hospital by the allies. So it is all underground. They have a quarter master there. They have basically everything you would have found at a military base.

above ground, all moves into these tunnels. And the American forces are there for months, really trying to repel the Japanese as best they can. As Hirohito, as Emperor Hirohito’s birthday approaches, the Americans have held on far longer than the Japanese anticipated. They expected to take the Philippines within two months.

It’s now been about Maybe five months. And they really intensify everything, their attacks on Corregidor. And the power starts flickering and eventually going out. The heat, they had cooler air, they had fans, those start spluttering out. So it starts getting hot. I went into this tunnel, I can tell you in February of 2020, and It was not air conditioned.

It was so hot and there were just lights running along that sort of main outside part of the tunnel. It is well, it is really spacious. It is still I to spend months in there would have been like, I couldn’t even imagine, but there are all these that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers build off.

So it all connected, but all the nurses described it as being Easy to get lost in all of this. It is really a remarkable feat of engineering and the allies were lucky it was there and it served them well for many months until just the circumstances became too dire. And the Japanese land on Corregidor, there was hand to hand fighting.

Eventually the US forces have to surrender.

[00:22:50] Jane: Yeah. Every, every section, every scene, there’s so many scenes in the book that you’re like. I can’t even believe these women endured all of this, like before they even made it to the, internment camp. And it’s just unbelievable. And I think one of the themes that runs through your book is that, aside from food and medicine and basic necessities, like sisterhood and a sense of purpose of moving forward was something that was so important to getting these women through.

And so did you find in your research in the oral histories that was something that came up a lot?

[00:23:22] Elise: Yes, that was very important to them. Later in life, the women resisted being called the angels of Bataan or the angels of Corregidor because they always said, I was just there and I did what I had to do.

I wasn’t, I’m not, I can’t be complimented for my bravery. But at the same time, these women, they really overcame such much. amazing obstacles. Aside from the fact that they are on the front lines treating their patients, their malaria is actually one of the far greater risks than even the Japanese at points during this malaria, all kinds of other illnesses and starvation.

There weren’t enough resources for the USA FFE, as they all retreat out onto Bataan and they’re. Hanging on for dear life, which is partly why then the death march that people may know about is as lethal as it is because those American troops were just so worn down, but Filipino troops as well.

So it really is extraordinary that these women all survived and it really was because the friendship they built and just this extraordinary sense of needing to tend to each other. They were very impressed by, they were quick to, play down their own bravery. They felt that the troops they were serving with were exceptionally brave.

So they were constantly minimizing themselves and putting everyone else first. And that is, I think part of actually what eventually saved them, certainly gave them the mental wherewithal to withstand such hardship. Yeah.

[00:24:51] Jane: Unbelievable. They were like starving to death while they’re trying to serve the troops and, getting sick themselves.

It was unbelievable. I thought it was one thing I liked about this book is like sometimes you read war stories and then they just like end and you’re like, wait a minute. What happened? You know what happened to these women after? And you included this. I won’t give it away any spoilers, but you included like some of the stories of what happened to your characters after the war.

And and so what made you decide? No, I can’t end it here. in the Philippines. I have to end it afterwards.

[00:25:21] Elise: First of all, there was this whole, I had read about the Battle of Manila, which really the nurses don’t see much of, but this would have impacted Floor and all the Filipino characters tremendously.

But right then and there, I was like, the Battle of Manila is something that Americans. don’t really know about. And, people tend to think of Warsaw as being one of the most devastated cities at the end of World War II, but Manila was right up there as well because of this sort of final battle of Manila, which is really waged primarily in 19 February of 1945.

And So I knew I needed to cover the bravery of these Filipinos and the Americans who land and to fight this battle and fight against the Japanese Imperial Army to end the occupation. I also really felt I had read so much about how these women had to fight for recognition after the war.

They had to fight for their sort of veteran rights. They came home with all kinds of health issues. And. So I felt that was really important to acknowledge the internal sort of debate or internal like in discomfort that so many of these women felt with the role they had played during the war, they didn’t really know.

What to almost do with their stories because they were so quick to want to move on, they wanted to return to as normal life as possible. And yet, truly, when they come back in spring of 1945, the war is still raging and they are keenly aware of that. And so I think that was hard for them to reconcile.

The fact that they were home, they were trotted out as propaganda initially by the government and sort of American womanhood surviving under fire. But a lot of them just wanted to return to their families. Many of them, they had family members die or become gravely ill while they were gone.

And they hadn’t known any of this because communication had been completely shut off. So a lot of them wanted to come home and take care of themselves and take care of their families and try to get some bit of normalcy because again, grappled with how to, they didn’t see themselves as heroes at the end of all this.

So I wanted to try to get at that complication the complicated way they were trying to reintegrate into quote unquote normal life. The fact that Americans were so tired of rationing and tired of hearing about the war and these women. still knew they’re the people they’ve been serving with.

We’re still fighting. I felt that especially keenly as I was working on this book in 2020 and 2021 when we are all tiring of a pandemic that is still really affecting people, especially medical personnel who is still grappling with life in ERs. And so I was feeling that duality, what that must’ve felt like for the nurses as well.

And so I did want to get at so much of how Manila. was reeling after the war and how it was trying to recover and regain kind of its sense of place after the war that felt like an important part of the story as well as the women trying to figure out what their post war lives looked like

[00:28:28] Jane: Because back then too I was thinking about it when I was reading it’s like There was no therapy, or antidepressants, or PTSD, no one talked, and I think maybe that’s why a lot of them put it in a box in their mind to move forward, healthcare

[00:28:41] Elise: was not a thing for these women. No. Furthermore, many of them married veterans, and so they even. We’re still thinking my service, I was never truly being fired upon. I didn’t ever kill anyone. So they’re still tending to their husbands and their husband’s nightmares and the trauma that their husbands have experienced when they’ve returned home without kind of acknowledging the own hardships they had endured.

[00:29:02] Jane: Yeah, so interesting. So I want to talk, I have some writing questions, and then if people have questions, and there’s some great comments I’m going to read as well. What, your last two novels Fast Girls and Learning to See, had real people in history as central characters, and this one, the characters are composites, fictionalized based on your research, and Which was harder?

Or were they both hard? Or,

[00:29:26] Elise: They both present their own challenges, certainly. It is it’s a beautiful thing to write for, I’ll take Dorothea Lange here, if I’m being historically accurate, which I always try to be, of course, there’s only so much, I can do with I, I know what happened in her life, and while I can certainly employ my imagination, I am bound within, really, truly what happened.

Of course I am being as accurate as I can about the events of World War II and what these nurses would have endured, but to have a little leeway in creating my characters, that was a real, that was very fun for me in this book, I have to admit. And also then to be able to craft that story of kind of what happens after 1945.

Again, all based on snippets of things that had happened in real people’s lives. That was really gratifying and really creatively satisfying to have a little more freedom than I normally do. So while it certainly presents challenges and that I have suddenly a lot more decisions to make It also, I just, I really enjoyed that freedom.

[00:30:28] Jane: Yeah, I totally get that. Because my last, my manuscript I just handed in is biographical fiction and my last one was, I had made up characters and yeah, the flexibility of that I took for granted. Yeah, totally get that. So your writing process there’s plotters versus panthers and the writing world plotters.

And then they just map everything out and then pans. There’s right by the seat of their pants. Which one, do you, which camp do you

[00:30:53] Elise: fall into? I always describe myself as a plotter and I think anyone who’s writing historical fiction to a certain degree has to be because you need to know your history.

Really do need to know what’s going on, but here’s, I always, my characters are always surprising me and doing things. I don’t necessarily foresee. See, that just happened to me a couple of hours ago while I was writing a scene. And suddenly a character did something that they were not supposed to do. And I always deviate from my outline and honestly, to me, that’s a great part of the fun.

It is a definite part of the challenge. So I am definitely a plotter, but with major pantster tendencies, however, I always then go back and re outline. My book. In fact, you’ll see there, there’s a mirror on the back of the door there and you can see the cards of my current book. And I’m constantly rewriting those cards, quite honestly, because I’m constantly changing my outline, which must, it drives me crazy, but it’s also fun.

[00:31:47] Jane: Yeah. And it’s just part of your process, right? Yeah. There’s no right or wrong way. Yeah. Yeah. I

[00:31:51] Elise: actually really am so intrigued by people who I hear. Write outlines, these very detailed outlines, and then just bang out the manuscript. I can’t even imagine that because I always, once I’m into it and hearing these characters talking in my head, they always have a life of their own, which is ridiculous because they are my own creations.

I don’t know how to explain that to people.

[00:32:11] Jane: But I hear that a lot. I’ve talked to a lot of authors over the past year and a half, and it is a lot of people talk about that. That does not happen to me. I wish it did sometimes. That is not my process,

[00:32:22] Elise: unfortunately. It is so

[00:32:24] Jane: fun.

So great.

So this is your fourth novel. Has your writing process evolved since the first one or stayed the same?

[00:32:34] Elise: I would say that it’s really evolved in the sense that with this book, I made this conscious choice of, okay, I am I’m creating my own script here a bit. I am, I’m very now steeped in the history.

I understand what happened, but I have to create some of my own characters. So in that way maybe it’s evolved. Yeah, I don’t know I still will, I would love to think I become more efficient but I know for a fact that’s not true because I’m like rewriting this manuscript for the 80th time right now so clearly I’m not really getting more efficient.

So I don’t know I think now I’ve learned to just roll with the fact that My outline does change a million times. I don’t have angst about that anymore. I now just understand. I have trust in the process, yeah. I like, believe that it will all come together. It may not be pretty and it may, I am obsessed and weird to be around for many months, but it ultimately does come together.


[00:33:26] Jane: Yeah. That’s how my husband would describe me when I’m on deadline too. So I hear ya. And then so this is Oh, what was I going to ask? So what is your favorite part of the writing process and what part is the hardest for you? What do you, what’s your least favorite?

[00:33:40] Elise: That is so easy for me. The favorite part is that first draft of just making such a mess and just being so caught up in figuring things out.

I love that because your editing hat is really not on. You’re just having fun. You’re just exploring. And then it’s like by the 80th draft. That’s when I start feeling like I’m just spending hours pushing commas around. I’m overthinking things. I am driving myself crazy. But so it’s like early drafting for me is definitely the fun and I’m hearing those characters in my head.

Sort of the more tedious parts come when I really am like looking at something bleary eyed for the millionth time trying to get those last few Threads to so in nicely, right? When

[00:34:26] Jane: we’re like, normal words start looking strange,

[00:34:30] Elise: double checking your spelling.

[00:34:33] Jane: Yeah, exactly. Are you ready to talk about what you’re working on right now? Are you is it keeping it under wraps?

[00:34:40] Elise: I’m still going to hold off a little bit. No one has seen the manuscript I’ve been working on for the last 14 months yet. I was just actually texting with another writer friend about I don’t know if I’m fully in Crazyville or not, but so let me live in Crazyville a little bit longer and then give me a few more months and hopefully I’ll have some good news for everyone.

[00:34:59] Jane: Totally understand that. Yes. Yes. And then before I read some of these lovely questions and comments Do you do virtual events with book clubs and what’s the best way readers can stay in touch with you?

[00:35:12] Elise: Oh, yes. Okay. First of all, I should say that the kindle version of angels of the Pacific is on sale right now.

That’s right. It’s 4. 99. And honestly, I have no idea where this sale came from. It was not arranged by my publisher. We don’t, or at least I don’t know how long it’s lasting, but So there you go, 4. 99 as of today, April 27th. I am on all the usual places on social media, but I would definitely say that Instagram is probably where I am the most active because I do love taking photos.

So I’m there, I have a website, I collect emails for newsletter, but I’ve still like only sent out maybe one or two newsletters in my entire writing career. Maybe someday that will become a regular thing. Please sign up for it still. We’ll see where that all goes. What, oh, and I do lots of zoom book clubs.

I have a book club every night this week. I know. So I love doing book clubs and I am happy to zoom in. It’s great. And I do plenty of virtual things with libraries and stuff too. I’m very flexible, being in Seattle. I’ve got a great crew of readers and writers here, but I am happy if I can’t actually get on a plane and come visit you, we can arrange something easily, over Zoom like this.


[00:36:24] Jane: Awesome. Okay. I have to read a couple of these comments and then I’ll look at the questions. Nerissa Esteban says, thank you both for a heartfelt topic. I still need to read this book. I’m a Filipina and my great aunt was a military nurse for the Philippines. My grandfather and great uncle were prisoners of the Japanese in the grueling death march in the Philippines.

I’m gonna get choked up. My grandmother was pregnant with my mom towards the end of World War II. Last time I visited the Philippines was 2018 with my daughter. It’s so nice to hear you visited, Elise. That’s my niece’s name, too. Lovely. And Linda will Oh, go ahead. I know! That was amazing. Thank you for sharing that, Nerissa.

That’s incredible.

[00:37:03] Elise: And of my Filipino American friends and friends I made in the Philippines, this is a war that is very, everyone had family involved in and I hear so many really inspiring stories about family that served in the war as guerrillas, as nurses. So I love hearing those.

I never, it’s fascinating to me, all the different ways we’ve been woven together through this war.

[00:37:30] Jane: Completely. Linda Waltzman also said, My dad was stationed at Clark Air Force Base in Manila after the war. My mom eventually was able to come over and live with him on the base and teach school.

Many fond memories and photographs. And I should also mention, you have photographs in the back of the book too, which are great. Oh, thank you.

[00:37:47] Elise: Yeah, and Clark Field plays a very important role in this book, especially in the first 50 pages, I would say. That’s where a lot of the action begins.


[00:37:58] Jane: very cool. I’m just looking for. Okay. If anyone has any other questions, please please put them in the chat or in the Q and a Christine. Thank you, Christine. She shows up every month. She’s amazing. Did you have an input on your cover? And was this the original title? I love the cover. I love the cover too.

I will hold it up again.

[00:38:16] Elise: Okay. This was the original cover. I was sent this. I was out in Eastern Washington at my daughter’s swim meet. Thanks. This got sent to me and I was like done. Okay, you guys awesome. My only regret is I would have loved to have seen acknowledge like a floor character acknowledged in there.

Yeah, we talked about that and apparently the design team and my editor had really grappled with that and just never figured out how to get the two women literally on the same page in a way that felt natural and believable. And but I love it. I really think you understand right away that it’s World War II, you’re in, you’re not in Europe which I did, I noticed a reader somewhere wrote like on Amazon or on Goodreads or something said, I thought this was going to be about planes because there are planes, little tiny planes, but they’re like, it had nothing to do with blinks, but I still really enjoy it.

Flexible. I appreciate that. But the title is an interesting one. Okay. So here’s my story on the title. I resisted angels in the title for a long time because the angels that put on were so resistant, as I’d mentioned earlier, to be considered. angels. However, this is, when you put angels in the title, if you know anything about the angels of Bataan, it really speaks to that.

And by angels of the Pacific, I felt like then it really, it did fold in Flor and her sister Iris and the other Filipino characters that are so central to this book. So I came around on the whole thing, but or, and I should say when I did hear back from a The son of Imogene Kennedy, who was one of the angels.

He’s emailed me. We’ve talked on the phone now. He told me that he first spotted my book in Costco, where I think it’s still there. And he immediately, when he saw the, both the cover and the title knew that this was another story. And that was, boy, all the confirmation I needed that the design team and everyone at William Morrow really nailed this.

Actually, I should send them an email about that. To tell them. Yeah. Because he knew right away what the book was. And, that’s what we all, as writers, hope for with our covers and our titles. So that was. Really confirmed all kinds of good feelings.

[00:40:31] Jane: Yeah, no, that it totally works. I love it.

And I think Amy Runyon posted a picture in Costco the other day of her book. I think yours was on the table too. So it’s still there.

[00:40:42] Elise: I know it’s nationwide. So wherever you are, hopefully keep an eye out for it. That’s great. And I had nothing to do with the design. They literally just show it to me.

And I think if I didn’t like it, I could protest. But when people compliment me on the cover, I always feel embarrassed because I’m like, I actually didn’t do anything to do with the cover, but I’ll pass the compliments along to the design team.

[00:41:02] Jane: Yeah, no, it’s beautiful. And Nerissa asked is this available in autograph?

Is there any autograph copies available online? anywhere I think is what she’s probably asking. She could get them.

[00:41:12] Elise: Yes. So I’m happy to, if people email me and you can do so at Elise Cooper dot com and I’ll put that maybe in the chat. I’m happy to send book plates, signed book plates to people.

I have. Some right here in my desk Signed copies of the book are available through, Oh, thanks, Jean. Through my local bookseller, which is Paper Boat Booksellers. You can find them online, Paper Boat Booksellers. They suit me an email. I go down there and sign and can personalize books. Just be very clear in your instructions, readers, what you, if you want it personalized, what you want me to write and everything.

And they’ll ship to you. So that is another option. So either way, signed book plates or actually ordering your book through, again, paper boat booksellers they are happy to work with you. And it’s best then to call them, which I don’t know the number off the top of my head. I can look it up. Because they’ll take your information and everything over the phone.

[00:42:12] Jane: Awesome. Perfect. I’m going to take one more question. Before we wrap it up, everyone’s been amazing. The comments and questions and such. I loved hearing the background on this because I love the book, obviously. Sharon Person is another loyal attendee, Sharon. Was there anything that really surprised you in your research, especially in your visit?

Was there something that was really

[00:42:32] Elise: shocking? I

honestly Everything is shocking to me. But the most shocking thing is how little I knew about this story, but yeah, I think the big surprise is, of course, that all these women survived. That is truly amazing. And then another sort of unsung part of this story is the role that Filipinas played in this because when the American women are in turn when the nurses are in turn their colleagues these Filipinas who have been serving as nurses alongside them are for the most part sent home.

These are the women then who come out and start bringing materials and food and supplies, all kinds of things to these interned women. After the war, Josie Nesbitt, who actually is a real nurse and she does get a few mentions in Angels, she writes a letter to MacArthur saying we need to do more for our Filipino sisters.

They need acknowledgement of how they really saved us during the war and the US government never did anything. Wow. That is, I don’t know, maybe we argue that’s not as surprising as, but that still managed to surprise me. So really, yeah, I’m embarrassed at how little I knew about this part of the war before I went into this book.

[00:43:44] Jane: It is amazing story amazing novel. I highly recommend it. It’s been so fun chatting with you and I love stories that where I learn another aspect of history in more detail than I ever knew. Like you said, there’s so many incredible facts and interesting tidbits in here and I think everyone will love it.

And it’s a great book club book because there’s a lot of, Things to talk about and great questions at the back. So thank you for coming on and we will catch. Let’s catch up offline soon.

[00:44:12] Elise: All right, tuning in everyone.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

Subscribe through your favorite Podcast Platform

Goodnight from Paris Cover

Stay in the know!

Sign up to receive the latest news, exclusive content, and a chance to win free books.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.