In medieval legends the black dog or black shuck is thought to be a sign of death, but my life was once saved by a black dog which appeared out of nowhere.
I recently moved to the lovely county of Devon, having lived for a number of years in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln, which together with the wild salt-marshes of Norfolk, provide great inspiration for my novels. But, like my characters in Company of Liars, I’ve spent much of my life travelling, spending my early childhood in the sunshine of Malta and later journeying to Iceland and Greenland. In my working life I’ve done all kinds of jobs from hospital worker to lecturer, egg packing to dance-drama, to before I finally started writing in 1996.
One of my jobs took me to Nigeria for eighteen months where I lived the medieval life for real in a rural village in Nigeria, without running water, electricity or sanitation. A group of lepers who begged in the village kindly taught me enough words of Hausa to be able to bargain for food in the market place. One of the great joys of living in Africa was that I got to raise a duiker fawn and an orphaned bush-cat. I even had the thrill of baby sitting two lion cubs which needed bottle feeding.
But life in Nigeria got pretty terrifying when civil war broke out. One day I was trapped alone in a narrow street and found myself surrounded by men wielding machetes. Having seen someone hacked to pieces the night before, I was under no illusions about what they intended to do. But as they closed in a big black dog suddenly appeared at my side, growling savagely at anyone who approached me. The dog led me safely home, pressed against me all the way. It stood guard behind me as I unlocked my door, then it turned and ran off. I never saw it again, but I owe my life to that amazing black dog.
I began writing historical novels after I became fascinated by the medieval period having visited the beguinage (city of women) in Bruges, which I then used in my novel The Owl Killers. I have now written four medieval thrillers, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, The Gallows Curse and Falcons of Fire and Ice which came out in August 2012. I’m hard at work on the next two books ‘The Vanishing Witch’ and The Raven’s Head.
As well as my own stand-only medieval thrillers, I also write joint medieval crime novels with a wonderful group of historical authors known as the Medieval Murderers. They include Philip Gooden, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight, and Ian Morson.