I’m really happy to be able to bring you this interview with Bryony Pearce today as part of the blog tour for her latest novel Phoenix Rising. I loved her previous book The Weight of Souls and when I saw the new one was about dystopian junk pirates I was all in for this one too. It did seem like a bit of a new direction for Bryony, so I was curious to ask her about that and whether she considered Phoenix Rising a climate change fiction novel. I hope you enjoy the interview. Don’t forget to check back for a review later today. Oh and #BansheeCrew all the way!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Bryony Pearce?
Hi there. Well I’m a writer addicted to penning stories for teenagers that I would like to read myself. I’m also a mum with two children, a 6 year old boy and a 9 year old girl. I love to read, watch films and, if I ever get the time, to go to the theatre. My favourite TV shows are Game of Thrones and Firefly. I go to the gym when I have to, diet when I need to and stare out of the window daydreaming when all else fails.
How would you introduce people to the future of Phoenix Rising?
Its the worst case scenario future that you can see coming – if Governments don’t do enough to plan for the end of fossil fuels, if we continue our wasteful ways as a culture, there will be inevitable political, social, economic and, of course, environmental consequences. In Phoenix Rising, we have turned our world into a rubbish dump, discarded everything we can no longer use due to the loss of fossil fuels and wars have changed the political structure of the world.
Then the eruption of Yellowstone blotted out the sun and made a mockery of their efforts to rebuild using solar power.
Both of your previous books, Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls, were supernatural YA novels. What drew you to writing a near-future dystopian YA story?
I enjoy writing in different genres, I love anything that involves building my own world with my own rules and mythology. Although Angel’s Fury, for example, is a paranormal thriller, I still had to build the rules and history of that world and loved doing so. I had already been working on some science fiction when I began to write Toby’s story. The creation of a whole new world out of the ruins of our own, appealed to me. But really what I write is the story that works for the characters who speak to me, Toby was speaking to me and so I had to build the world that would work for his story, regardless of the genre.
What inspired you to write about modern pirates?
I adore an anti-hero and pirates are the epitomy of the antihero – they, in the words of the wonderful Joss Whedon, aim to misbehave. And yet their every story is filled with romance, bravery and adventure. If I wanted to write about a group of antiheroes what better crew? And it seemed logical that pirates would emerge from the ruins of our civilisation.
Climate change fiction, or cli-fi, seems to be an emerging subgenre of dystopian literature. Would you say that Phoenix Rising fits in this category?
I suppose that it would at least skirt the edges of that category. Although the disaster that ends civilisation as we know it, is the loss of fossil fuels, the actual apocalyptic event is the eruption of Yellowstone and I’m not sure that can strictly be called ‘climate change’ – or can it? It would certainly change the climate, but isn’t a man-made event.
The search for solar power is a key motivation for the protagonists in the novel, but the actual story itself moves along without paying too much attention to the issues at the heart of climate change.
Criticism of our current civilisation is all around Toby and Ayla – in the junk filled seas – in the world building rather than the story itself.
What sort of research did you have to do for the book? What was the scariest thing you discovered?
I did a lot of research for the book from finding out how boilers work, to the operation of solar panels, to what is likely to happen when Yellowstone explodes. The scariest things were the environmental, the fact that we are so close to fossil fuels running out and how very dependent we are on them as a civilisation and, of course, the fact that the active Supervolcano underneath Yellowstone is actually 40,000 years overdue to erupt! It could go any day now.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I am going to be at the Edinburgh Festival this year and I have a few school visits planned along with an event in my local bookshop. I very much enjoy going into schools and meeting my readers (and potential readers) and do it as often as I can.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I like to paint – I use acrylics and do a lot of landscapes, it relaxes me. I’m passionate about the education of our children and go into the school to help out at least once a week.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
There are some fab books coming out soon by friends of mine, Sarwat Chadda’s ShadowMagic and Rhian Ivory’s The Boy Who Drew the Future. And I’m not sure when they’re coming out, but I’m eagerly awaiting the next Tom Pollack and the next Sarah J Maas.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I have my own complicated system based on genre, age and how much I like a book. The kids each have bookcases full of ‘their books’. I have a bookcase dedicated to YA, then all of my other books are shelved according to how much I’m likely to want to read them again, my favourites being the easiest to reach!
Bio: Bryony lives with her husband and two children in a village on the edge of the Peak District. She was a winner of the 2008 Undiscovered Voices competition and is the author of Angel’s Fury and The Weight of Souls.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour!