Warriors of Alavna was my first novel. It was an easy book to write – I don’t know why – and I enjoyed more or less every moment I spent writing it. There is something special about ‘firsts’ and a first novel is no exception. I set out to write the kind of story I would have really enjoyed when I was a child – one with lots of action, heroism and a certain amount of strangeness too and I think I succeeded in that at least – I would have liked it!
When I wrote Warriors of Alavna I didn’t think it was about anything beyond the story itself but now, looking back on it, I think the fact that Ursula has to become a man to succeed in Macsen’s world is connected to the feeling that I had as a teenager that to be a successful woman you had to adopt ‘male’ behaviours and attitudes.
I don’t think that is true today, at least not in Britain , but it felt true in the seventies and early eighties.
I also notice reading it now, some years after I finished it, that Ursula’s status as an outsider is important and the very things that made it difficult for her to fit in at home- her size and sullen obstinacy help her to survive in Macsen’s world. I think I identify with the ‘odd one out’ and the misfit, because, like many people and most writers, that’s how I felt as a teenager (though I’m not very tall or very blonde!).