Bryony Pearce

Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold
Bryony Pearce

About Author

Discover ancient gods, mysterious thefts, and new friends in Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold, Bryony Pearce's new book for children!

Bryony Pearce is a multi-award-winning novelist who writes funny books for children and dark thrillers for YA readers.  She teaches the course Writing for Children at City University, and regularly visits schools to deliver creative writing workshops.

Bryony lives in Gloucestershire and has two children. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found eating chocolate, playing the cello, or providing a taxi service for her offspring.

Visit bryonypearce.co.uk / Twitter or Instagram @BryonyPearce   

 

Interview

Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold  (UCLan Publishing)

June 2024

In this hilarious new myth-based novel by Bryony Pearce, we meet the Greek gods - now in retirement - in a small village in England... But it's their grandchildren who steal the show in Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold

Someone has been stealing the gods' powers and they now believe they are ordinary mortals! With their own powers still very much in development, it will take everything Hannah and her friends have got to outsmart whoever is behind the thefts....  Find out more from author Bryony Pearce in this month's ReadingZone feature!

Read a Chapter from Hannah Messanger and the Gods of Hockwold.

 

Q&A with Bryony Pearce

"With the invention of nuclear bombs, the Greek gods retired in disgust;
who needs lightning bolts when you've split the atom?"


1.    Hello Bryony! Thank you for joining us on ReadingZone. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself - what gets you out of bed in the morning, loves and loathings?

What gets me out of bed in the morning - guilt mainly! Now the kids are in high school my husband has taken over the school run, so it's the feeling that I should be doing something that gets me up! I would love to avoid the housework, but that's something that has to be done. I am a great avoider however, of exercise (although that too is something that should be done).

I think I've always been a writer at heart, but I became a real one when I started my first novel in 2005. I took a short story that I had written and decided to see if I could make it into a novel. With that I won the 2008 Undiscovered Voices competition run by SCBWI and I've never looked back!


2.   What is your new book, Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold, about?

With the invention of nuclear bombs, the Greek gods retired in disgust; who needs lightning bolts when you've split the atom? They retired, in fact, to a village in Cambridgeshire (in an attempt to get Zeus to give up chasing Greek nymphs and settle down with his wife). Now they have children and grandchildren, a village pub, a vicious parish council and have hung up their objects of power (literally).

Hannah is the granddaughter of Hermes, the trickster, messenger god, and she's getting powers of her own. Only suddenly the gods think they're human, and don't even notice that someone is stealing their objects of power. Hannah and her friends (and frenemy) are the only ones who know who they really are, so they must stop the thief.


3.    What helped inspire this story of Greek gods' and their families, a power-hungry thief and a missing stone? Have you always been a Greek myths fan? 

I wrote Hannah Messenger towards the end of lockdown, just after I'd finished writing a pretty dark adult thriller. I needed something funny, and fun, and Hannah was there for me. I've always been a fan of Greek myths (all myths really) - as a teen I was obsessed, so when I came up with the idea of an 11-year-old with powers, it made a lot of sense to give her a very special family tree!

Although I'm known for my YA horror, and I love writing that genre, I've always had a sense of humour and I wanted to try that out for younger readers. A lot of my work recently has also dealt with loss (Cruel Castle, Raising Hell and Little Rumours), and I wanted to write a story for young readers with a strong message about the importance of friendship and how you deal with grief.


"Where wouldn't Greek gods retire? A nice little English village was the obvious answer."


4.    How did the world of Hockwold and the retired Ancient Greek gods develop - and what are your 'rules' for the gods and their offspring?

Hockwold cum Wilton is a real village in Cambridgeshire: Hockwold Hall, the boundary stone, the church, the fens are all real. I wanted the gods to retire somewhere, and I was looking for a humorous juxtaposition. Where wouldn't Greek gods retire? A nice little English village was the obvious answer.  There are, though, lots of 'Hockwolds' around us; I live near the Cotswolds and I think that they'd have been just as 'at home' somewhere like Bourton on the Water!

What are the rules for the gods? Well, the kids have to remain in Hockwold, going to the local school, until they are 18 and have full control of any powers that are going to emerge. In the local school they learn the Greek myths, Pythagoras, Eurpides and so on. Their school plays are all about the war with the Titans, the Trojan War, the Twelve Tasks of Hercules and so on.

Hockwold itself is disguised from the outside world and appears human, so all 'magic' has to happen behind the 'veil', so as not to attract attention. And, of course, the kids have to leave the objects of power well alone!


5.    Who are the children at the heart of the novel, and how did you go about choosing the gods they're descended from - warts and all?

I didn't want the children to be too strong, as I didn't want the powers they have inherited from their grandparents to be all that saves them. I deliberately chose traditionally 'weaker' gods to be their grandparents because I wanted them to feel close to ordinary children and I wanted them to use their brains and friendships to get them out of sticky situations, not just have the power to blow things up with lightning.

Hannah Messenger is the 11-year-old granddaughter of Hermes. I wanted her to be able to fly (although it doesn't help her much), and to have a sense of fun and cunning tricksiness! She had to be the granddaughter of Hermes really (the closest thing the Greeks have to the Norse god Loki).
Her best friend Dylan Vine is the grandson of Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of wine (and partying) and so Dylan can make strawberry laces spontaneously generate (as he is too young for alcohol).  He can also speak to the dead which, as he says, is not as interesting as it sounds.
Their frenemy, Amy Fairchild, is the granddaughter of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.  Her powers are to grow rose bushes and attract doves! She hates them.
Then there is Alastair, descendent of Prometheus who gave fire to the humans and got chained to a rock for a thousand years.  He has no powers at all!


6.    Which Ancient Greek god would you find the most challenging as an ancestor - and who would you want your great grandad god to be?

I think Zeus would be the most challenging; he is obviously incredibly powerful but has little regard for the humans he is meant to be watching over!   I think I'd like my grandparent to be Apollo. The ability to play beautiful music is one I'd love to have, and of course the power of prophecy would be incredibly useful!


"When Hannah's mum, who hates modern communication methods, thinks she is human, she starts
sending emails and Dylan thinks it's a sign of the apocalypse"


7.    As well as a great adventure, Hannah Messenger and the Gods is hilarious - what made you laugh the most when writing it?

Thank you!  I really loved the idea of exploring how the gods interact with the human technology they hate. So, when Hannah's mum, who hates modern communication methods, thinks she is human, she starts sending emails and Dylan thinks it's a sign of the apocalypse.   Then when Hermes is released from prison, he is hypocritically horrified by the concept of mobile phones, and the lack of privacy they threaten (hypocritically as this is a god who can go anywhere and was put in time out / prison for stealing Hera's underwear).


8.    Apart from being hugely entertained, what would you like your readers to take from Hannah's adventures in Hockwold?

I'd love them to take on board a message about friendship, that you shouldn't judge people on first impressions and that it's worth finding out what really makes the people around you tick.


9.    Will we be hearing more from Hannah Messenger and her friends? What are you writing currently?

I'd love you to hear more from Hannah Messenger, and I think the big bad isn't quite finished with yet!   I have a great idea for a sequel, and I really hope I get the chance to write it.   The next novel you'll see from me, however is a YA Aphrodite retelling, which shows the goddess of love in a way you really won't expect!


10.    And when you're not writing, where do you go to be entertained and to relax?

I love the cinema, and the theatre. My children are both musicians (one saxophone, one strings) so I go to a lot of concerts, and I play cricket (under some duress) for a women's softball team. We won the league last season!

Thank you for reading and enjoying Hannah Messenger!

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