While out riding, schoolgirl Merry Owen finds a chest containing an ancient Welsh text that leads her into a past filled with treasure, secrets and danger. But it's her skill with the Longbow, an old family tradition,
that will save her future
I started my professional life as an investment banker, but I always wanted to be a writer. After seven years in the City, I quit to write Nest of Vipers, which, due to blessed serendipity, justified giving up the day job. I’ve written five more novels for adults. The latest is Ark Storm, a thriller about weather-manipulation technology being harnessed to an atmospheric river, turning it into a terrorist-guided weather weapon used to attack the West Coast of the United States. Scarily, it is based on real science (Google ARk Storm 1000 and rains in summer 2010 in El Ain).
I have also written one non-fiction book, Hostage, Kidnapped on the High Seas. It’s the true story of my detention and captivity in Iran. Weirdly, as I write this, it is the 10th anniversary of the day I was kidnapped.
After writing Hostage and reliving the experience, I needed to do something different. The core idea of Longbow Girl just seemed to pop into my head. I think it had been waiting around in my subconscious for a long time.
The roots of Longbow Girl go back to my own childhood. When I was eight years old, growing up in Tylagarw, a little village not far from the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, my father gave me a longbow for Christmas. It was an unusual and imaginative present but not surprising in some ways, given my father’s outlook on life. The late Professor Glyn Davies had fought in the Second World War in the Royal Dragoons. This guided his belief that you needed to raise children able to look after themselves, armed with the knowledge and physical abilities to get themselves out of trouble, and to fight if absolutely necessary.
It also explains my long-term fascination with warrior girls. I love reading about them and I love writing them. I always make the heroines in my adult thrillers and now in my books for children into fighters! Merry, the heroine of Longbow Girl, is a supreme archer.
The longbow that my father gave me when I was eight definitely inspired me to create Merry. She wields her bow to save her family. I just wielded mine for fun, but I always used to feel different whenever I picked up my bow. There's something very satisfying about using a long slender piece of wood and a shorter pointed piece of wood with feathers and a bit of skill and strength to hit a target. Longbows were and still are lethal weapons. They changed the course of history, they won unwinnable wars. In a weird way I felt like just by picking one up I was stepping back in time.
I would shoot it for hours, perfecting my aim, practising until my hands were covered in calluses. My older brother, Kenneth, also had a longbow. We would shoot cans off walls and also, somewhat unfortunately, we would aim for the high wires on the electricity pylons. Happily, we missed!
In a strange co-incidence, mirroring one of the central plot lines from Longbow Girl which I dreamed up years earlier, I recently discovered that in 1346 the Longbowmen of Llantrisant fought for the Black Prince at the Battle of Crécy. They fought in the Black Prince’s own division and when he was knocked to the ground they formed a protective ring around him until he recovered. They saved his life.
The grateful Prince granted them a piece of land to be held in perpetuity. To this day, nearly seven hundred years later, the direct descendants of these longbowmen hold this parcel of land in Llantrisant.
Here’s another personal link that goes all the way back to the Battle of Crécy. During the battle, the Black Prince and his army defeated the King of Bohemia and the prince claimed the Bohemian King’s emblem of three ostrich feathers for his own. This emblem has been adopted by every Prince of Wales since. I was given a ‘Royal’ ring bearing the crest with the three ostrich feathers when I was a little girl when our current Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales. My father was involved in the Investiture and gave me the ring to mark the occasion. I still wear it now! I have never taken it off.
The other connection and inspiration for Longbow Girl was the black Welsh Mountain Section B pony, Jacintha, my parents gave me when I was nine. She came from the renowned Ceulan Stud near Miskyn, owned by the wonderful Dr Wynne Davies. I would roam the nearby hills for hours on end riding Jacintha and daydreaming. I relished that freedom. I think it's what helped turned me into a writer. I could explore both geographically and in my head during those long hours alone.
It has been quite emotional as well as intensely satisfying writing a story that is set so close to home.
Longbow Girl is set in the Brecon Beacons and in the Black Mountains. We would regularly go on forced family marches up Pen Y Fan in all weathers. I used to grit my teeth until we got to the top, and then ran all the way down to the Storey Arms with my brothers. I never thought that I would write about it, but I love that journey back in my head to the mountains of my youth. It’s my very own form of time travel!
Longbow Girl was published in September by the wonderful Chicken House, set up by Barry Cunningham (it was he who discovered Harry Potter whilst at Bloomsbury). It will be published next February in the United States, and is already published in Australia and New Zealand and will be translated into German.
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About the Author
Linda Davies is an Oxford University economist by training but a novelist by nature. She spent seven years working as an investment banker in London, New York and Eastern Europe, being exposed to more potential plots than was decent. She escaped and wrote the international bestseller, Nest of Vipers. She has written multiple books since, Financial Thrillers and Young Adult thrillers. She spent three years living in Peru and more recently eight years living in the Middle East. In 2005 she and her husband were kidnapped at sea by Iranian government forces and held hostage in Iran for two weeks before being released after high-level intervention by the British government. She has written about her experiences in her first non-fiction book, Hostage. Her latest thriller for Young Adults, Longbow Girl, has just been published by Chicken House. The Daily Telegraph picked it as one of their best children’s books of 2015. Brought up in South Wales, Linda now lives with her husband and their three children near the sea in England, where she swims all year round, but chooses not to sail. Read more about Linda on www.lindadavies.com and www.longbowgirl.com. To her surprise she enjoys Twitter and would love to be found @LindaDaviesAuth.
Linda will be speaking about Longbow Girl, the connection with Wales (specifically Welsh archers at Crécy and Agincourt), and the sense of history and place in writing at the Hay Winter Festival on Saturday 28th November? Here’s the link: https://www.hayfestival.com/p-10330-linda-davies.aspx