Guest Post: Bryony Pearce author of Savage Island

Very excitingly, today we are hosting Bryony Pearce as part of the Savage Island blog tour! ‘Savage Island’ has to be my favourite of all the Red Eye books. It’s so atypical in terms of setting and tropes but I LOVED that Bryony thought outside of the box and made geocaching something to fear! The whole book played on expectations and cliches, and even though I was biting my nails the whole way through, I loved every second of it!

Now onto Bryony talking about how the setting represents the interiority of the characters!

Interior world, exterior world

Savage Island has two settings: the ordinary world at home, which is revealed in the Prologue and through flashbacks, and the island itself.

I always intended the island to be more than a setting however; it is more like a character in its own right. The island helps the protagonists, offers refuge or protection (caves, trees, rocks, ravines) and has moods of its own (shown in the landscape, weather, wildlife and time of day).

Further, the island is a representation of the interior worlds of our protagonists, reflecting what is going on with them.

The first we know about the island is its location and name. It is an island in the Shetlands called Aikenhead. (Aikenhead does not, of course, exist, but it is based on existing islands in the archipelago).

The Shetlands are a part of the British-Isles, the most Northerly part, but separate from them, just as the island follows the rules of the normal world but is apart from them.

Aikenhead is a Scottish name (one reason for picking it as the name of my fictional island), but it is also a surname. The most famous Aikenhead is Thomas, a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was executed for blasphemy at the age of twenty (he was the last person in Great Britain to be executed for this crime).

In my last blog post I spoke about how the story forms a battle between the id and the superego. Thomas is another link to this – the arguments that got him killed were what many in this century might consider logical:

The prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras … That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them.

So even the name of the island represents this battle between logic and instinct, what is right and what we want / need. It is also, more literally named after a young man who was killed. A victim.

Before they see the island, the teens are sent a description of it, so that they can prepare. From this they discover that it is mainly peat covered moorland dotted with rowan and birch copses.

The Celtic meaning of the Rowan tree is power, healing, protection and transformation. Similarly, in early Celtic mythology, the Birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. By telling the teams that the island is covered in Birch and Rowan, they are warned that something transformative is going to occur: they will not leave the island the same as they arrived.

The copses offer the team protection when they are hunted and they offer healing in the crutch that Lizzie uses when she is injured.

Birch trees are also associated with vision quests and this is what Ben has when he has his tooth extracted.

When they reach the Shetlands, the island is shrouded in mist: invisible. This is another hint that in going to Aikenhead, the team is going to leave their ordinary world, and enter another where the rules are going to be different.

On the island itself, the birds are its eyes, the animals its barometer.

Above us natural ramparts were completely covered in roosting birds; white streaks calcified the rock and bush-like nests protruded from every cranny. The noise was incredible: cawing and screeching, crying and jabbering – an unruly audience awaiting a show.

At night, when things get dire for the team the wildlife changes – from rabbits, sheep, seals, otters and seabirds to midges, owls, moths and bats – more irritating, more mysterious, more threatening.

During the daytime, at the start of the competition, the island is a beautiful place, sunlit, hopeful and inspiring. But even here, we find foreboding: trees deformed by the wind, the skua hunting the gull. As the sun sets, it transforms. Colours vanish, sounds alter, even the scents change.

We were almost out of the trees and the full moon had risen higher, casting shadows of its own. Twigs cracked underfoot and I noticed that the scents of the island had changed, become colder and fresher. The sounds around us had changed too. The gulls had gone, but now I could hear the buzz of bats’ wings and the distant hooting of owls.

Then there is the weather. As the team gets deeper into the island, as their experiences become more terrible, as their hope dies, the weather worsens: wild winds, storms, lashing rain. As they become more terrified, so their physical environment becomes more terrifying, until the climactic battle takes place on the island’s highest peak, during an epic storm, wherein the wind is as much a participant in the fight as anyone else.

I staggered sideways as a gust of wind hit us. Someone was bowled off their feet, there was a yell of surprise and someone else thudded into my leg, not quite knocking me over.

Curtis and the skinny boy had another cornered and the fourth was too far away, fighting the wind.

My head was pounding, blood was streaming from my nose, my eyes were swollen – definitely blackened – and the wind was screaming.

 

You get the sense, reading Savage Island, that the island itself is on the side of the protagonists. That there is some hidden Goddess beneath the surface who disapproves of what is happening; nature (Aikenhead) vs. human power (Gates); she sends as much help as she can.

 

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My Top 5 Historical Couples by Sophia Bennett, author of Following Ophelia

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Hey everyone! Something very exciting for today’s post – Sophia Bennett joins us for the penultimate stop on the Following Ophelia blog tour to talk about her favourite historical couples. Romance was one of the strongest elements of the book, so we can’t wait to hear what inspired Sophia for Ophelia’s love story.

(Check out the banner on our blog to find out where Sophia’s stopping next!)


Thanks for having me, Bee and Maddie, and thank you for your review of Following Ophelia. I loved it!

It wasn’t until my seventh book, Love Song, that I wrote a proper romance. I’m interested in girls who make things or do things and they never (not even in the romance) rely on a lover to sort their lives out. But there is something wonderful about love.

I’m lucky that I ended up with my soulmate – someone I trust absolutely, and who makes me laugh every day. He also put up a light for me yesterday, but knows that I could perfectly well have put it up myself, if I didn’t happen to be gardening. He is awesome. It took a while to meet him though. We didn’t marry until I was thirty-nine.

Before that, I experienced all the ups and downs of love. I want my readers to feel the heady thrill of lust, the joy of feeling a connection – but I don’t want them to think that automatically means ‘happy ever after’. It’s usually just the start of a roller-coaster, so I wanted Mary’s experience in Following Ophelia to follow mine a little bit. She’s only just started on the journey of love. I have more to write, and she has further to travel.

It’s been fun setting her story in the 1850s, with all the complications of class, money and sex the Victorians experienced. Here are some of my favourite couples from history and legend, whom I got to know while researching various books. It’s not always easy being in love.

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  1. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – from Following Ophelia. I’ve always loved the strong connection between Victoria and Albert. Albert is underrated, I think. He was highly intelligent, curious, and passionately supported the arts. We have his energy and support to thank for the V&A Museum, for example.

    Victoria became boring and distant after he died, but she was quite different while he was alive. (Check out Daisy Goodwin’s fantastic TV series about them if you haven’t already seen it.) If only he’d lasted longer than 1861 …

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  2. Persephone and Demeter – from Following Ophelia. I had to research this Greek legend for the book, as Mary takes on the name and inspiration of Persephone. She was a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, stolen by Hades and taken to the Underworld.

    Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, desperately searched the world for her missing daughter. Eventually, she found her and begged for her return. But there was a catch, involving 7 pomegranate seeds … It’s a tragic story, driven by a mother’s love. I won’t spoil it if you don’t know it, but there’s nothing like a Greek legend for drama. And isn’t this statue of mother and daughter unusual and beautiful?

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  3. David Bowie and Iman – from Love Song. It can’t be denied: they look incredible together. This could have gone so wrong, the pop star and the supermodel, but as she said, she married David Jones, not David Bowie.

    They kept their relationship fairly quiet – no big Hello spreads – but I never saw them look anything less than deeply in love. He always seems so utterly entranced by her company.

    It might seem odd to have them as a historical couple, but when David died last year it felt as though a special period of history had come to an end. RIP David. We still miss you.

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  4. Sah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal – from Beads. He loved her so much he built the Taj Mahal as her monument. That says it all, really.

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  5. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé – from Threads. Researching fashion designers as I did for the Threads series, I became fascinated that so many of them – almost all, in fact – had a brilliant business manager by their side, who was often their lover too.

    It takes a combination of creative flair, passion and cold business sense to make a fashion house work, and very few individuals have that in one package. Yves needed Pierre, and Pierre needed him. They were so lucky to find each other. If you’re a creative person, it really helps to fall in love with someone who appreciates and supports what you do!


After getting all flustered by how adorable all these couples are, you’re probably dying to read Following Ophelia, right? Check out our reviewFollowing Ophelia‘s Goodreads and find Sophia Bennett on Twitter!