My flying horse novels take place in medieval Wales. This page is a place to learn more about this amazing country and about the writing of the novel.
QUESTIONS FROM READERS:
◊ Why did you set this story in Wales? Originally, the story was set in modern-day California, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I was hoping readers could suspend their disbelief enough to allow flying horses there. They couldn’t. An early reviewer had mentioned that the setting sounded like her grandparents’ farm in Wales, and I had read a number of fantasies set in that country, so I moved it. Medieval Wales has always, for me, embodied mysterious possibility. The mountains are so rugged and remote, that in medieval times, I’m sure, people could believe winged horses could exist there. Did you know that two of Susan Cooper’s books in the Dark is Rising series are set in Wales? (The Grey King and Silver on the Tree)
◊ What part of Wales is it? In my earliest draft, I had to name the major city in the valley. Near my house is a store named Merioneth, and I liked the way that name rolledoff my tongue. When I decided to move my story to Wales, I did some research and found that there really was a Merioneth in Gwynned, Wales! The Welsh spelling is Meirionnydd (the dd is pronounced th) Furthermore, Merionethshire (the English spelling) was remote, sparsely populated, and mountainous. Perfect for my story! On the map, the bright green part is the ancient county of Merioneth, bordering Cardigan Bay, which is white.
◊Why I don’t use real Welsh place names in my book:
◊ Did you learn any of the Welsh language while writing this book? In all of the books, I use Welsh phrases that I got off the Internet. Friends who speak Welsh corrected some of them, but I myself do not speak Welsh. When I got really involved in writing the story, I have been known to refer to my husband or sons as cariad, however, which means ‘dear.’
◊ How did you come up with the names? Originally, the main characters were named Eliv, Daav, and Kamila instead of Evan, Davyd, and Emma. Readers of early drafts were constantly mixing up the people and the horses, and the names weren’t consistent with the Welsh setting. I changed the people’s names to old Welsh names that sounded more like modern names, and gave the winged horses the Welsh names that sounded odder. Davyd’s name was originally spelled Daffyd, which is more historically accurate, but a reader laughed that it looked like Daffy Duck. I did like Eliv, though. After all, it’s an anagram of EVIL and VILE. How appropriate is that?
◊ Who is Rhiannon? In my novels, Rhiannon is the goddess of the horses. In Welsh mythology she was not a goddess, but human. As legend goes, Rhiannon appeared to the Welsh king Pwyll, who saw her as a beautiful woman dressed in gold silk brocade and riding a shining white horse. King Pwyll sent his best horsemen after her, but she kept ahead of them even though her horse never moved faster than a walk. After three days, Pwyll calls out to her, and Rhiannon says she came to find him because she would rather marry him than her current fiance, Gwawl.
◊ How much research did you do to make sure the culture was accurate? I researched medieval Europe for setting, clothing, and food details. Wales is a perfect setting because it is so mysterious. It isn’t a big stretch of the imagination to believe that flying horses, and therefore any type of culture, could have existed in those remote mist-shrouded mountains. Most of the society in the flying horse town I made up. For example, I felt it was safe to assume that if people really rode flying horses back then, they would have developed divided riding skirts and heftier helmets than existed elsewhere. I gave women a bigger role in my book than truly existed, as far as I know, in history. I wanted to give more of a flavor of medieval times than a true retelling, since the story of becoming an adult and falling in love is not limited to any particular era.
◊ Your flying horses are wonderful. How much experience do you have with horses? When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved horses. That was pretty normal for girls growing up in the 1960s, I think, but not so much any more. I went horseback riding with my Girl Scout troop whenever I could, and earned a horsemanship merit badge. I even rode with my family on vacation, but I haven’t been on a horse in maybe 35 years. Even so, something about the grace and agility of such a large animal still calls to my heart. One of my favorite images from the Lord of the Rings is the beautiful horses of the Rohirrim galloping across Rohan. When I read that part, I felt in my heart that they could only be more special if they could fly. When I got ready to write my first novel, which is also about rebellious teens, I had to find a setting for them. That’s when I remembered my idea of magnificent winged horses.