Interview Tales of the Unexpected; She Made a Name for Herself as the Writer of Financial Thrillers, but When Linda Davies Moved to Dubai She Decided to Try Her Hand at a Children's Adventure Story Complete with Sea Monsters and Kidnapping. Little Did She Know Reality Would Follow Fiction as She Herself Was Kidnapped and Held Hostage in Iran. She Tells Rin Simpson Her Fascinating Story
BEING kidnapped at sea off the coast of Dubai and held captive in enemy territory sounds like the plot from a high-octane thriller novel.
Indeed, author Linda Davies' first children's story, Sea Djinn, which has just been published, has just such a theme at its centre.
But kidnap and captivity are not only fictional possibilities, as Linda - who grew up in Llantrisant - knows all too well.
The 46-year-old was a third of the way through writing Sea Djinn when she had an unexpected chance to research the subjects at first hand.
It was 2005 and Linda and her husband, merchant banker Rupert Wise, and their three children - Hugh, now 11, Tom, eight, and Lara, five - had been living in Dubai for a year, having moved there because of Rupert's job.
"We were sailing our boat, we had just bought it and wanted to do an overnight passage to test it before we took our children out," Linda remembers.
"You can't just sail anywhere there because it's a big shipping area so you could get flattened by a tanker; you have to pick a safe haven. So the captain picked what was marked as a safe haven on the chart for yachts.
"But unfortunately it turned out to be close to an island which was technically owned by the UAE but occupied by the Iranian navy.
"We were legally in the right but that doesn't matter much to armed men, you don't want to argue with them. Our boat was boarded and it deteriorated from there with various people coming and interrogating us on the boat and then off the boat, and being taken to Iran by military jet to a compound for 10 days.
"And then we were supposed to be released but apparently our diplomats were roughed up at the airport and we were taken to Tehran, and finally, after four days there, we were released. We were driven at great speed to the airport and thankfully put on a plane."
Linda sounds calm as she recounts the tale, as if she's done it many times and is no longer shocked by the enormity of what happened - and what could have happened - to her and her husband.
"It's because years have gone by that I can talk about it calmly," she explains.
"It's as if it happened to somebody else. I think you detach emotionally from it, for your own sanity. You don't want to relive the emotions.
"But of course, it was terrifying. In your black moments you do think this could go on for months or years. In fact my husband's brother-inlaw had a cousin who was kidnapped and sentenced to seven years in prison and then death. So we were aware of that.
"You just didn't know. If you knew it was going to be two weeks you could pace yourself but you don't know and every day is another day that could go on forever.
"The worst thing was being separated from my children.
That was worse than the terror and the fear, being separated from them and worrying about them."
Being freed was naturally a massive relief, but the trauma didn't end for Linda just because she was no longer physically in danger.
"It was hard going," she admits. "Afterwards I was quite depressed, when we were freed, although I was ecstatic at first.
"To be in a situation where you're utterly powerless, all your achievements mean nothing, everything I thought that mattered... You imagine that if you live your life the right way, you're going to be safe, and we weren't. It changed the way I looked at life."
And she wasn't the only one to suffer. Linda and Rupert missed their middle child's fifth birthday while in captivity, but it was the youngest, Lara, not yet two, who was most affected by her parents' two-week disappearance.
"When I got back she had pneumonia and separation anxiety," Linda says.
"I couldn't let her out of my sight, I couldn't even close the door between us because she couldn't handle it.
"So I stopped working for a whole year, I stopped writing. …