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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Review: How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

How to Write a Love Story is all about Tilly, who secretly wrote the ending to her gran’s biggest romance series and sent it to the publisher while her gran, Bea, was in hospital with pneumonia. The reviews say it’s the most satisfying ending ever crafted, and so Bea encourages Tilly to write her own romance novel from start to finish. This should be no problem, since Tilly’s been living on a healthy diet of romance since she was twelve years old and has probably read every boy-meet-girl trope possible.

The downside is, even with all this theoretical knowledge of how to craft the perfect kiss, Tilly gets writer’s block and thinks the solution is experiencing love for herself to make the writing process genuine. I knew I wouldn’t be entirely on board with this plot point, because I fundamentally disagree that good writing can only come from lived experience, but whatever. That’s my ace showing. The angle made me think that young teen girls especially would get something out of this book.

(Also, this book was extremely hetero. It would have been cool if one of the books Bea had written included an LGBT+ plot line, or that one of the romances Tilly mentioned/wrote did. Especially because there are quite a few background romances in this that could have added that diversity I always look for. I think this comes from the fact that I’m doing a Romance module at university and all the books we’ve read have been M/F. I’m dying to find something different!)

All of the writing advice was sweet and definitely made me want to put pen to paper, but it was so easy to get invested in Tilly’s story, my novel had to wait until I was done. And I flew through this at record speed.

Something particularly great about this was the relationship between Bea and Tilly. You don’t often see relationships between grandparents and protagonists, and exploration into the experience of the elderly is something I want to read more of. If anyone has any recommendations for books with cute old people, please let me know!

As with most romance, Tilly’s love story was a little predictable. I saw the relationship twist coming as soon as all the boys had been introduced and yet I still liked the connection Tilly had with who she ended up with. I guess the lesson is always look for good banter, rather than good looks.

If you liked Katy’s other books, you’re guaranteed to like this one, but if you also like writing, romance and stories about fame, think about adding this to your TBR!

The Opposite of You Blog Tour: Interview with Lou Morgan (and Bex & Naomi!)

34338745Very recently we read, The Opposite of You by Lou Morgan, and you can read our review here! It’s a fast-paced story about twins, running away and a very special connection. Before we chat to Lou about her debut and writing in general, we have a few  questions for Bex and Naomi about being twins. Ready for Twins Interview Twins? Let’s go!

  1. What’s your favourite shared memory?

Bex: One of the camping holidays we went on with our parents, where…
Naomi: Which one?
Bex: The really hot one. In the campsite on the beach?
Naomi: The one where you got bitten by an ant or something and your foot blew up?
Bex: No. Obviously not.
Naomi: That was my favourite one. Right up till the foot thing.

(Bee: haha! Once, when we went on holiday, Maddie’s hand got bitten by a horse fly and it blew up so it looked like a plastic glove water balloon!)

  1. Have you ever switched places?

Naomi: Yes. But I can’t tell you when, because Mum might read this.
Bex: What she said. (Sorry, Mum.)

  1. Describe each other in three words

Naomi: For Bex? Artistic, kind, funny. Sometimes.
Bex: Naomi is… brave, loyal, funny.
Naomi: Seriously?
Bex: Like you said: sometimes.

  1. What’s your favourite thing to do together?

Bex: I kind of like just… hanging out.
Naomi: Hanging out? Nobody says that. Are you Dad?
Bex: Dad says that?
Naomi: Yes.
Bex: Fine. Just being at home, watching Netflix with pizza.

  1. If you could have anyone else, alive, dead, fictional or real, as your twin for the day, who would you choose?

Naomi: Janis Joplin.
Bex: Naomi.

Okay, so, Bex was ridiculously sweet with that one, I could cry! And we have to say ditto to the Netflix and pizza thing! Now we have a couple of questions for the creator of this  pair:

  1. What inspired you to write about twins?

It actually came out of a conversation with my editor, Ruth. I’m always very interested in how human minds work and what makes us who we are: in this case, we were talking about the old theory that twins – and particularly identical twins – have some kind of ‘psychic connection’ between them. We thought it would be interesting to tell a story that explored that from both sides. Personally, I’m not sure I believe it, but it definitely makes for an exciting place to start a story…

(Bee: In case you were wondering, readers, no, Maddie and I cannot read each other’s mind, or feel each other’s pain or say what the other one is doing if we’re five hundred miles apart, or…)

  1. If you could have anyone as your twin for the day, who would you choose?

Oh, wow. That probably depends on my mood and what I was doing on any given day. Let’s say… Andrew Scott, because he’s awesome.

  1. What part of the book did you find most challenging to write?

Balancing the two different voices, and the need to show how the relationship between Bex and Naomi had changed over the years while keeping it fairly fast-paced was a bit of a juggling act. When it came to the main characters, both of them needed to have their own personalities and voices, but also had to have the kind of similarities you find in any family – not just one that includes twins – and that meant there were a couple of drafts with a lot more background detail around Bex, Naomi and their parents… but in the end we had to cut most of it because it was slowing everything down!

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read everything – and I mean everything – you can. Keep writing, and finish what you start… and don’t be afraid. Most of all, write for you. If you write because you love it – because you can’t not – then whatever happens, whether you’re sharing it with people or keeping it to yourself, submitting it to agents or sticking it in a drawer that makes you a writer. No ‘aspiring’ about it. So what are you waiting for…?

Thank you so much to Stripes Books for letting up be part of this blog tour, and thank you to Lou for answering all our questions! You can add The Opposite of You to your Gooreads by clicking the button below, look at the book on Amazon, by clicking here!

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You can check out the previous stop on the The Opposite of You Blog Tour, hosted by maiaandalittlemoore by clicking here!

Review: And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

33985636And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon
Genre: 
Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Stripes Books
Pages: 352
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★★

Maddie really loved Katy Cannon’s previous two books (Love, Lies, and Lemon Pies and Secrets, Schemes, and Sewing Machines) so obviously we were ecstatic to get our hands on her most recently release. We were also lucky enough to get to attend Stipes’ ‘Show YA Stipes’ showcase, and Katy was there talking about And Then We Ran, making it sound so exciting and different. It’s also not often that you read a British road-trip novel, and while it wasn’t from one coast to another, it was full of fun characters and crazy adventures.

Continue reading “Review: And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon”

Review: Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett

33256865Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
Genre: 
Historical, Romance
Publisher: Stripes Books
Pages: 403
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★★

I was really drawn to this book because Bee and  I just did a module on Victorian literature, and the week on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was my absolute favourite. We learnt all about the poets, the artists, and the muses, most importantly, Lizzie Siddal, who was the model for Millais’ Ophelia.

So, I saw this book and knew instantly that I had to read it and I was so glad I did. It surprised me, it delighted and I was completely absorbed by the 19th century London setting. If you need more reason to pick this up, beyond the cover, let me list some for you! Continue reading “Review: Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett”