Bryony Pearce's books often tackle the darker side of things and her new book, Raising Hell, gives us a glimpse of a very dark world indeed - along with humour, pace and some sharp talking!
Bryone always dreamed of being a writer. After leaving university, she temped while waiting for a job in publishing, but then found work in market research which she enjoyed. After many rejections, her first novel Windrunner's Daughter wins the Undiscovered Voices award from the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCWBI) and she finds an agent. Egmont published her first book, Angel's Fury, in 2011.
Bryony now lives near Manchester with her husband and two daughters.
Raising Hell (UCLan Publishing)
Look out for zombies (naturally), hell hounds and the occasional talking pet in this fast-paced and wit-sharp story about teenagers who open the gates of hell.... We asked author Bryony Pearce to tell us more!
Q&A with Bryony Pearce:
1. Can you tell us what Raising Hell is about?
Raising Hell is about a girl called Ivy, whose best friend has died. A few years ago, she and two others who loved her, did a spell to raise the dead, thinking it would provide them closure. Instead, it worked, and with tragic consequences. Among those was the opening of a rift that allowed dark matter to enter the world in the form of magic. Now every teenager with access to the Internet can cast destructive spells and Ivy is battling to keep them safe.
Recently, and inevitably, a political party has emerged, that wants to use magic for their own ends. When their nefarious plan to take power goes wrong, Ivy has to face zombies, hell hounds and angry goths as she tries to shut down the source of magic. Armed with only a machete, her wits and accompanied by a talking cat, it's scary to think that Ivy is the world's best hope!
2. What helped inspire it - are you drawing from the spirit of any films / series / books you've enjoyed?
It's been said that Raising Hell has a definite Buffy / Supernatural vibe and that makes sense, as I love both of these programmes. What is different here though, is that Ivy is not a 'chosen one'. She is no more special than you or I. She chooses herself to battle the supernatural, because she blames herself for everything that has happened and wants to atone.
3. What draws you to writing about the 'dark side'?
I've always been fascinated by the idea of 'man as monster' and what I particularly love about Raising Hell, and about all of the books I have written with a supernatural twist, is that it is the men who are most monstrous. The supernatural monsters are fun to write, but the people who are monstrous inside and those who battle their plans, are the most compelling.
4. Is good horror hard to find? Any recommendations for teenagers?
If you are seeking teen horror, you can't go wrong with the Red Eye Series from Stripes. I've written two books for them (Savage Island and its sequel Cruel Castle), but the series includes books about vampires, zombies, ghosts, possessed dolls, demons and all sorts of paranormal horrors. Check them out!
5. Which horror tropes did you most enjoy bringing into the story?
I loved making up my own version of the evil book, the Necronomicon, which causes all the trouble (and the spells inside it). I really enjoyed writing the hell hounds (which in a sequel are going to get more 'page time') and which have a brilliant natural antipathy to the talking cat, and of course making my own zombies. There are rules to zombies which everyone knows - if you're bitten, you'll turn, you have to go for the head, but for Ivy this is real life and how much 'zombie-lore' did the films she used to love, actually get right?
6. Did anyone help inspire your main character in Raising Hell, Ivy?
I suppose Ivy is an amalgam of my daughter, Maisie, my own teen-self, and general wish fulfilment (I wish my teen-self had been as quippy and confident as Ivy). I like to write strong heroines, who are dealing with their own emotional issues as well as the monsters to hand. Ivy has to cope with the fact that her parents and friends have all left her, she is essentially alone, looking after herself and has made the choice to look after everyone else as well.
7. Why does she name her machete Matilda?
A few reasons, actually - good question.
Matilda the Machete is alliterative and sounds good, but that isn't the only reason. Matilda is actually a Germanic name which means 'strong in battle' (relevant) and also Matilda was the wife of William the Conqueror (which makes her a good partner for 'Ivy the conqueror')!
8. Love the talking 'gran cat' - what inspired her?
Honestly, she just came to me. Ivy needed a foil and the talking cat appeared, like my characters often do, fully formed. I had an old cat while I was writing this (she is sadly gone now) and so there is a lot of Kira in Gran I think.
9. Is there one line from the book that you're particularly proud of?
I like so much about this book, which is a whole lot of fun, but there are some humorous lines which I particularly enjoyed coming up with:
'It's all fun and games until someone gets eaten.'
'Once past the UK coastline you could barely raise a hell bunny, let alone a hell hound.'
'A teenage girl and a spell book, that's a more terrifying combination than Vlad III and a hot spike.'
These are just a few of my favourites.
10. If your teenage self could do magic, like those in the book, how would you have used it?
I was a bit of an activist as a teenager. I went vegetarian when I was twelve and I was terrified of climate change (quite rightly), war and disease. When I was a teenager, AIDS was the big killer, Ebola had just hit the headlines and scientists were telling us that it could mutate and kill us all, and I was an RAF kid at a time when the IRA was threatening to bomb our bases on the regular - we used to get evacuated to a big field when there was a credible threat (which was fairly often). I hate to sound trite, but I'd definitely have wanted world peace, or to eliminate disease or to sort out climate change.
I don't think there are spells for those things in my created world though, so if you're asking about smaller, more achievable things, I'd have definitely wanted, as Tim Minchin calls it, 'neck down alopecia'! I was terribly bullied for my thick, dark hair.
11. And today, which spell would you want to take home from The Emporium?
I would cast a protection spell over my family. Being a mum is one endless worry after another. I'd love to know that whatever they do, my husband and children will be safe and happy.
12. Will we be hearing more from Ivy and her friends?
I hope so, I have plans for a sequel, but of course book one has to sell well first (hint, hint!).
13. Where do you prefer to write, and what do you do when it's not going well?
I tend to write at the kitchen table, although I have a laptop, so generally I write wherever there's a space and not too many distractions.
I don't often find that it doesn't go well. I'm a planner, so I have my whole novel plotted out before I start writing and that means that writer's block doesn't tend to be a thing for me. If things really aren't working out though (it does happen occasionally), I'll generally either write something fun to get me back in the groove, or go and play my cello. A mental break is often the most productive thing you can do when trying to be creative.
14. What are your favourite escapes from your desk?
As a family we play a lot of board games. We're playing Gloomhaven at the moment, which is likely to take us months to complete. Other favourites include Talisman, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Carcassone, Catan, Scythe, Tapestry and Eldritch Horror. We also play a lot of cards. So, a board game and a bottle of wine is my go-to weekend entertainment. I also like to watch films and TV, to read, to walk in my local woodland and to play the cello. The rest of the family also plays music, so we often play as a chamber group (for fun).
15. If you weren't an author, what would be your job of choice?
I wanted to be an archaeologist at one point. I was obsessed with old cultures and myths (still am, really). But when it came to choosing a course at university, I couldn't not choose English literature, which closed that door.
Before I started writing, I actually did work as a market research professional. I think if I could choose (and be magically qualified for) any job though, I would be a scientist, discovering something that changes the world: a cure for cancer, the solution to world hunger or climate change. That shows that my teen self is alive and well inside me, still!
For more information me or my books, do visit my website www.bryonypearce.co.uk, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @BryonyPearce
Thanks for reading.