Writing the Hengist series of books has been life changing. The concept of a modern-day warrior with medieval values came after spending a day stalking the incredible Kevin Hicks (that's him with the flaming arrow) round Warwick castle. Not my fault. When he shot 100 arrows through a piece of rope the size of a man’s head in five minutes, it woke up this warrior who’d been lying dormant within me for many decades (centuries?). That evening, as my friend Lyndsey and I treated our kids to a pub meal, the character Archer was born and by the time I went to bed that night, images of the alternate universe he came from were filling my head, along with the gorgeous girl he was sent over to our world to protect. Her ability to read people’s auras had caught the attention of a ruthless military scientist developing mind-control drugs. Phew, nothing trivial, then. Understandably (with 3 young children and a full-time day job), this project took seven years to complete – particularly when it got interrupted by another full length novel and a series of six teen novellas demanding to be written.
When I finished it, I loved these characters so much I wanted to spend more time with them, so I embarked on telling Archer’s story as a teenage boy when his phenomenal warrior powers were just developing. Sorry did I forget to mention that he can loose an arrow and it will hit the target, even if his eyes are closed? Or that he can work out all the angles and forces required to clear a pool table when he’s never even held a cue stick before? The man’s got a military computer for a brain.
So, eighteen days later, Archer was written. By the end of that year (ok, so I took a year off from the day job), initial drafts for the next four books were completed. Although each book featured a different boy, their stories were so intertwined, I had to get to the end of the fifth book then go back and insert scenes signposting the connections between all the events. Only then could I start publishing.
Was the year away from the treadmill the life-changing thing? Yes and no. What I learned that year has become my way of life. During the eighteen days (yep, 18) spent writing Archer, I did virtually no research. Details about jousting, sword-fighting and creating a bow from a yew stave poured into my keyboard with barely a single click on wiki or any other internet resource – when did I have time? There were still meals to make and stuff like that. But when I started researching it to verify the accuracy and replace the techtechtech words with proper names like trammazone (a sword-fighting move) and toxophily (art of archery), I was astounded to find it was all true. The thing that resonated most was the Pagan festivals – these were so real, it was as though I remembered them from a former lifetime.
Never one to do things by halves (yep, I watched jousts, visited real bowmakers and joined sword-fighting forums, plaguing these poor guys to read my scenes and correct anything which didn’t sound real), I had to attend a real Samhain ceremony. Two actually; and after the incredible experience at the second one, I knew I’d come home. This was the life-changer, the way of life I’d unwittingly been following since I was a precocious seven-year-old who knew the names of trees and birds and insisted my mother re-used carrier bags.