Guest post written by Shanna Swendson :)!!
I don’t know that much about what it takes to be a spy these days, but my research for Rebel Mechanics suggests that most of what it took during the real American Revolution and Civl War for women spies was access to information and the ability (and nerve) to get that information to the right place. Women were underestimated, so they were able to pick up a lot of information just by listening as men talked around them. There was even a case of a washer woman figuring out something was about to happen based on the amount of laundry she was having to do for British troops.
I think I’d be pretty good at getting information. People always underestimate me, possibly because I’m small and look much younger than I am. Older men, in particular, treat me like a harmless, adorable little thing. Little do they know … I could stand there, looking cute, and let the men talk over my head while absorbing everything they say. They would assume I couldn’t possibly understand what they’re talking about.
When I’m not being patronized, I’m often invisible or ignored. I’m good at going quiet in a crowd and just listening to what’s going on around me. After a while, people forget I’m even there. This is a hassle when I’m trying to get service at a store, but it could be an asset for a spy.
If someone is acknowledging me and taking me seriously, then I’m pretty good at getting information out of them. I went to journalism school, so I learned to ask the kinds of questions that require real answers and to ask follow-up questions. Since I seem harmless, people are prone to talking to me. Most of the time, I use this power for good and am that reassuring person to vent to, but if I needed to be a spy, I’m sure I could get my enemies to talk, as well.
I think I’d also be good at following people, just because I look so different depending on whether my hair is up or down or whether I’m wearing glasses or contact lenses. I once had the same conversation with the same person every day of a week-long convention without him ever realizing that he was talking to the same person (I got bored with the conversation, but by the end of the week it became amusing to see how long it would take him to figure out who I was). One day I had my long, curly hair down and wore contact lenses, the next I had my hair in a bun, wore glasses, and didn’t have on makeup. Then there was the day I had my hair down and wore glasses, and the day I had my hair up in a fancy way and didn’t wear glasses and was more dressed up. So I figure I could follow someone across town, every so often ducking behind something to pull the pins out of my hair or put my hair in a ponytail, or to put on or remove glasses, or take off or put on a sweater or scarf. The person I was following might not notice that the same person was there all along. Not that I’ve put any thought into this at all …
Where I think I might have trouble would be if I ever faced danger or got caught. I blush furiously and have a hard time hiding my feelings, especially when I’m nervous, so I’m not sure I could play it cool enough to get away with anything.
Fortunately, my job involves sitting in my house and writing books rather than uncovering enemy secrets.
♥ About the Book and Author ♥
A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.
It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children’s young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.
Shanna Swendson is the author of the popular adult romantic fantasy series, Enchanted, Inc. Rebel Mechanics is her first novel for young adults. She lives in Irving, Texas.