Davina Langdale

Davina Langdale

Thank you for visiting my author page. What follows is a biography combined with the story of how I came to write "The Brittle Star". You can visit my author website at www.davinalangdale.com, my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DavinaLangdaleAuthor and follow me on Twitter @DavinaLangdale As a child, I decided early on that I preferred animals to people, and spent as much time in their company as I could. This lifelong attraction to animals and the outdoors led me to work with apes in my school holidays and, later, to a ranch in Montana, where I pretended to be a cowgirl. I studied Zoology at Bristol University, then went to work with 93 chimpanzees and a hippo in Northern Zambia. Next to animals, my other great passion has always been books. I had a lot of time on my hands once the sun went down and during the long nights, by the light of a paraffin lamp, I made tentative notes for a story of my own. I returned to the UK and took a postgraduate diploma in journalism. I freelanced for various publications but deep down I knew that this was not the kind of writing I wanted to be doing, so I retrained as a private tutor in English and the Sciences, which allowed me more time for writing fiction. I did not succeed in securing a publishing deal for my very ambitious first novel and, chastened by this experience, I retreated to the Dorset countryside to reconsider my subject matter. I knew that where my writing was most successful was when I was dealing with man and nature. I grew up on the back of a horse and had always identified strongly with the work of Cormac McCarthy and I began to wonder whether this more elemental relationship between man, animal and land was what I should be exploring. One night, a film adaptation of a Thomas Eidson book was on television and I watched it, gripped, with a vague sense of a possible direction for a story. I returned to London, to The London Library, where I do the majority of my writing, and began to research books on the American West but all the available texts seemed quite dry and none of them provided the intangible thread that I was looking for. At one point, I was in the Biography stacks, looking for something else altogether, when the gold debossed lettering on a green leather spine caught my eye: "Reminiscences of a Ranger" by Major Horace Bell. It proved to be the first-hand experiences of a ranger in California during the 1850-60s. It was written in a wildly enthusiastic, old-fashioned style (every sentence ended with an exclamation mark) but the characters and descriptions of Los Angeles life within it were terrific. The “exaggerated life” that the author described, in which life was cheap and where the lines between good and bad were heavily blurred, fascinated me. One line in the book struck me particularly: “During these hot times, the robbers made a raid on the Mission San Gabriel… they were gallantly repulsed and driven away by Evert, a boy of fourteen years.” This is the only mention of this boy in the book, but it was as though he had walked to my side, sat down and began to talk. I opened the first chapter of "The Brittle Star", with this boy - whom I named John Evert Burn - as the narrator, and built his world, as I imagined it might be, around him. "The Brittle Star" is a coming-of-age story that details the exploits of a boy who grows to be a man during a violent and vivid period of history. It is a story of loss, survival and redemption, which sweeps John Evert from the California wilderness to a Los Angeles courtroom to Texas to the front lines of the Civil War and home again as he fights to retrieve what is his.
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