Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bryony Pearce - Author Interview

On zee blog today, I've been lucky to host an author interview from Bryony Pearce, who's Phoenix Rising book has been reviewed here. Also, there's a matching guest post on adventures in reading which can be found heeerrrreee. And finally be sure to check out the other stops on this epic blog tour, which you can view at your leisure, here! Phew, now onto the interview we go.

What sort of things influence your writing; can you for example concentrate with music in the background, do you need silence, is there a set mood that suits you?

I write best in silence, with a cooling cup of tea by my right hand. I try to get in my characters’ heads, feel what they are feeling, see what they are seeing and it is difficult to do that if I’m Shaking it Out with Florence and the Machine. I do that when I’m washing up. 

What's the best, worst, easiest and hardest part about writing?

The hardest part about writing is literally finding the time to write. As a writer it is important to ring-fence writing time to make sure the book can actually be written, but I’m also a mother whose children don’t understand the concept of ‘leave mummy alone’, I go into my son’s class at school to help with reading and into the year sixes to help with writing, I do school visits and events, write blog posts, and write reader reports for Cornerstones. I also have to maintain the house and garden, feed the family and so on. If I know I’ve got a deadline or a key scene that desperately needs writing and I can’t find the time to write, I get really grumpy and stressed out. Which is when I end up staying up very late to get it done. When I look at the clock and its midnight and I know I’ll be up early with the kids, that’s perhaps the worst part.

When the writing flows onto the page and a scene comes together into something I can be really proud of, that’s the best part about writing, the biggest high. There’s nothing that puts me in a better mood than a really good writing session.

When you read Phoenix Rising for yourself for the first time after being published, how did you feel?

I try not to read my books after they’ve been published. I would only find things I want to change, mistakes that I haven’t caught (my father in law already found an error and I’ve told him not to tell me if he locates any more), or come up with ideas I want to add. I’m proud as I can be to see my book on the shelves, I smell the pages, I stroke the cover, I even flick through to certain scenes. I’ll read extracts during school visits. But I won’t read the whole thing for a long while.

If you didn't go into writing, what other career path would you have chosen?

I was a Manager in a Market Research company in London for 6 years so I’d probably still be doing that. Recently however, I’ve been considering (a long way in the back of my mind) teacher training. I really enjoy spending time in schools doing workshops and events and I love going into my kid’s primary school to help out. But writing will always take precedence.

What's your opinion on the print vs e-book argument?

I love both, I love the convenience of ebooks, but the physical presence of print. Print books are much better to read at night (studies have shown that electronics cause problems with getting to sleep and I’m an insomniac at the best of times) and of course the battery never runs out in the middle of a scene, but you can conceive a desire to read an ebook and have it on your device in under a minute (assuming you have wifi), you can read without everyone knowing what you are reading (which is great in getting reluctant readers to try out things they might have been embarrassed to otherwise), and of course there is the lower cost to the reader of electronic media. 

However, I always said that ebooks would never kill books, they would instead force publishers to evolve. I think that this is what is happening now. Books are starting to become more like objets-d’art, beautiful things to have and keep. Look at the recent children’s books from Gaiman, Reeve and Ness. All gorgeous things that you want to buy, look at and stroke. I expect that collaborations between authors, designers and illustrators are going to grow more common moving forward and we will see more and more books for older readers going down the route of form over function. (Sahina Commentary: A perfect answer if I ever saw one!)

What's your favourite book?

An impossible question that would be answered differently depending on my mood and the day of the week. I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and could almost quote you word for word any starring Vimes or Weatherwax. I love Anne Macaffrey’s PERN series. Reeve’s Mortal Engines, Malory’s Tales of King Arthur … I could go on.

What do you love most about Toby and Ayla and what do yo think readers will enjoy most about them?

I love how Toby is intelligent and curious, brave, trusting and heroic, trying to grow up and find out who he is in an impossible world. Ayla is a kick-ass heroine, feisty, determined, stubborn and certain of herself, but with a deep core of loyalty and love that is deeply buried, but there for someone willing to dig. But frankly I think readers will mainly enjoy the fight scenes.

How far do you think the themes and concepts of the book reflect on society today? 

The world I have built is a natural progression of today’s society, a worst case scenario end result of the crazy, greed driven, consumerist, environmentally destructive lifestyle that the Western world has adopted. 

The destruction of the environment and social and political collapse leave humanity fighting for the scraps left by previous generations, turn countries into principalities run by warlords, or small local governments. Nothing that isn’t sadly modelled in today’s world.

Why do you think there has been an abundance of dystopia themed books in the last 5 years? 

Teenagers growing up today are facing perhaps the darkest future of any generation in recent history. They have experienced terrorism on a vast global scale and been raised in a world at war (Iraq, Al-qaeda, ISIS, Palestine and now Russia vs. America the list is endless).   

They are growing to an adulthood that may face them with outbreaks of antibiotic resistant diseases, bird flu, Ebola and so on. They have experienced (and are still experiencing) a massive recession and are about to enter a working world where youth unemployment is at an all time high. They are well educated and very environmentally aware, so they know exactly what a mess the world they will inherit is and will have to deal with the weight of cleaning it up, or losing it altogether. It must be hard to have hope. Dystopia reflects their own fears for the future, but by its nature, Dystopia also shows that one determined person, or small group of people, can make a difference. YA dystopia may seem dark because of the world building, but it sets up a premise of change and hope for the future. It tells teens that however bad things get, they can be the change they want to see. 

Do you see yourself edging towards any particular team, from TeamPheonix and TeamBanshee?

Team Phoenix is a crew that treats one another like family and it must be a lot of fun on their ship. They are the straight up heroes. The Banshee is strict, hierarchical and militaristic. It wouldn’t be fun to live on the Banshee, but my anti-heroes come from there and I do love a good anti-hero with a tragic back story. 

What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

Although the story is a lot of fun, a rollicking steam-punky adventure, it does have a serious core. The world building forms a clear warning about the geopolitical future that could follow our current course and I would like people to consider the ramifications next time they throw away something that could be reused. 

The main theme of the book is trust, I explore the importance of trust and the difficulty of trusting. I hope that readers come away thinking about the journey of Toby and Ayla where they end up and why. 

What’s your favourite quote from the book?

"If you want some kind of simpering damsel in distress, you’re looking in the wrong direction."

If you could pick 1 sentence/passage only from the book to convince others to read it, what would that be?

Eventually a young officer stepped to the front. “You’re under arrest. Governor’s orders,” he shouted. “Lower your weapons and surrender your ship.”
Theo brandished his fish hook. “Bite me.” (Sahina Commentary: I loved this part!)
“We’re happy here, thanks,” Amit called. 
“If you want us to lower our weapons, you can damn well make us.” Crocker capered by the railing, apparently cheered by the prospect of spilling blood.
“We’ll be doing that shortly.” The officer nodded. “We’ve gangplanks of our own. Surrender now and we’ll go easier on you. Your captain awaits.”
“Our Captain told us to set sail,” Peel shouted.
Slowly Toby closed one hand on the railing of the Phoenix, his heart racing. “I have a counter offer for you,” he called. “Return our captain and crew by dusk, otherwise we’ll set sail.” The crew of the Phoenix muttered over the soldiers’ laughter, but Toby leaned forward. “I’m not finished. I said we set sail but we won’t be leaving straight away. First thing we’ll do it ram our ship through that valuable wooden pier of yours. You can see our hull, it’s an ice breaker. The Phoenix will go through it like a knife through fish guts. It’ll be years before you have enough wood to rebuild. So if you don’t want your dock to be a pile of splinters by nightfall, you’d better do as we say.”
The pirates stared at Toby. 
“Ajay,” Toby snapped without taking his eyes from the Tarifan line, “let’s show these pendejos that they’re dealing with pirates. Unfurl Bones.”

Thank you once again to Pearce for contributing such an epic question and answer session - be sure to check my review for her book here, and the guest post can be found heeerrrreee.

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