15-year-old Marieke disguises herself as a boy to hide in the all-male archers’ guild of Saint Sebastian to escape her father’s killers. Soon she’s determined to discover the truth about her father’s mysterious past at the guild, and to help the most charming young Journeyman archer in the place win the annual guild trials – without ever letting him discover her secrets. Robin Hood meets Princess Bride and Mulan in this historical adventure set in 14th-century Belgium and packed with romance, humor, intrigue, and of course, longbow archery trials.
Targeted Age Group:: 15+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I've been in love with the idea of this book ever since a family trip to the glorious town of Bruges, Belgium. We visited an archers' guild of Saint Sebastian there that inspired my (fictional) one; the romance of a girl disguised as a boy in such a place stuck with me, as did the atmosphere of the place and of the era. I have a sharp memory of an idyllic afternoon spent wandering lost through the backstreets of Bruges with my father, searching for a park purporting to contain a statue of Jacque Brel’s Marieke (the Judy Collins version of the song being one of his all-time favorites). I still have the picture I took of my father once we finally tracked down our quarry, holding the statue’s hand and pretending to skip along with it — just as somewhere there is a picture of a youthful me, sitting in Bruges’s archers’ guild of St. Sebastian earlier that same day, and staring up at a beautiful painting.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My main character is a 15-year-old girl who's been kicked in the face by a mule, and who feels uncomfortable trying to play the roles proscribed for the women of her era. I wanted to write a strong female character whose strength is relatable and who is not perfect: she's not beautiful and never becomes so. She's physically weak. She has no magic, she's not a chosen one, and she's not violent; instead, her strengths are courage, loyalty, bravery, compassion, a wry sense of humor, and an uncanny ability to get herself into and out of trouble. Once she gets to the archers' guild, she's surrounded by a pack of gorgeous, flamboyant boys, each with his own unique character and character arc. They are drawn from the larger-than-life heroes from classic movies – swashbucklers and charmers like the characters played by Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Ronald Coleman, and Stewart Granger.
The nuns have managed to get the girls to their feet, so to expedite things Gilles jumps up, and he and Charles come down to the front. We hurriedly get Tristan to his feet, who is now supposedly so weak he can’t walk, and Gilles and Charles drag him down the aisle between them, with me following obediently after, wringing my hands in mock distress.
When we reach the row where the girls are still hovering, Tristan puts up a hand, as though he can’t bear to go on, and we stop.
“Gilles, my friend,” he says weakly, still not looking at the girls. “Is it true, what they say? That you can die of love?” I roll my eyes. He’s going to use this line if it kills him.
“Undoubtedly,” Gilles replies smoothly. “But only if it isn’t returned. There’s no cure for unrequited love.”
Tristan raises the white rose to his lips, kisses it fervently with a deep sigh, then for the first time looks directly at the girl in the veil.
“Then, I must surely die,” he groans, giving her a searing look, and tossing the rose at her feet. Before the nuns can protest, he collapses onto Gilles, and we sweep back up the aisle as the other Journeys scramble out of the pews to follow us, giggling almost as much as the girls still behind us in the church.
We don’t make it far into the woods after spilling out of the chapel before the boys all break out laughing.
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About the Author
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