“I guess my interest in the Saxons began when I was around twelve or so,” David says. “We were covering the period at school, and my history teacher dragged me out to the front of the class to my horror and introduced me to the others as ‘This is probably what a typical Saxon boy would have looked like!’
“Back then, I was a skinny lad with longish fair hair – now thinning fast! – and light blue eyes, and although I obviously didn’t know it at the time, that moment of embarrassment in front of a class full of my peers stayed with me, and eventually became the inspiration for the Drefan series.
“The final link in the chain of events was moving from Surrey to West Sussex, Worthing to be precise. The fact that there was so much history almost on my doorstep amazed me! Cissbury Ring, the second largest Hill Fort in England with its Neolithic flint mines.... Chanctonbury... Highdown,... so many ancient sites to inspire anyone interested in the history of this island.
“Then one day, I was reading a book about Sussex myths and legends when I came across the story of the Knucker Dragon and the Knucker hole at Lyminster, allegedly, one of four in the area at one time, the only other remaining one being at Sompting. That was when I began to recall that skinny young lad from many years earlier and Drefan was born!
“I wrote Drefan and the Knucker Dragon and nervously handed out a couple of draft copies to friends and colleagues, and to great relief they really enjoyed it. More importantly, they told me that their children loved the story which was an even greater relief!
“I have been writing since the late 80s, and was first published in the 28th Pan Book of Horror with a further three tales accepted for the 30th book. But then life seemed to intervene and I stopped writing to concentrate on other matters, until I was persuaded to supply some tales for The Black Books of Horror in 2009. Since then, I have been published in many anthologies as well as my own collection which came out two years ago.
“I had always written silly stories and poems for my two children when they were younger and had really enjoyed coming up with them, so after 30 years of penning horror stories, I decided that it was time for a change. After all, there are only so many ways that you can murder, mangle and maim people on paper and it can get very tedious.
“So with horror on the back burner, I could indulge my love of history and concentrate on the newly-born Drefan, whose name means Trouble. The 11-year-old Saxon boy comes from a tiny hamlet known as Hamm Tun, a place that would later become Littlehampton, and all of his adventures will take place in the local area, from Kingley Vale to the West and Cissbury Ring, Highdown and Worosing in the East. He will meet all manner of strange mythical creatures, all of which were believed to be real back in those early Saxon times.
“The books are aimed at the seven to 12-year-old market, but I have received excellent reviews from all age ranges. Although the stories are of course fictional, I have tried to include as many factual details as possible, including Saxon names/places and beliefs, and there is a useful glossary at the end of each book which explains key points in the story.
“My great hope is to try and get young children interested in history, and this area has so many wonderful sites to visit which would hopefully inspire them. After all, the Romans, Saxons and Normans all originally landed on the south coast of this island... not many miles from where I am, and Drefan, were he a real boy, would have walked the earth in this very area.”
Drefan and the Green Man is available on Amazon, from Worthing Museum and Art Gallery or email [email protected]