sign in

» Join the book club

» Forgotten password


>> Geocaching with bite!

Geocaching with bite!

Geocaching with bite!

When a group of teenagers arrive on a secret island for a geocaching challenge, they have no idea of the horrors that await... BRYONY PEARCE tells us about her new RED EYE novel, SAVAGE ISLAND!

Packed with adventure, twists and thrills, SAVAGE ISLAND will take you on a journey into a dark and unexpected hell...

We asked author BRYONY PEARCE to tell us more about SAVAGE ISLAND:

Q: What drew you to writing a horror story for the RED EYE list?

A: That's a bit of a two-part answer.

Everything I write is quite dark; while I dabble in a number of genres under the YA umbrella (sci-fi, paranormal, dystopia, horror and my next is historical), I feel that I always write what I call dark thrillers. It's my style.

I've always been fascinated in 'the monster in man', in trying to understand why otherwise decent people do bad things; some of my characters make poor decisions, some are pushed into cruelty, or lack empathy, some are bad people, all are flawed.

I think that shows the influences of early favourites like Stephen King and David Gemmell, but it is also me dealing with things that have happened to me. I often write about forgiveness and redemption, the importance of these things, perhaps because I am trying to find my way there too.

The other part of the answer is that it is what I'm good at. I can write fairly humorously (which I'm hoping to explore in an urban fantasy later in the year), but I can't write light and fluffy. I tried once. It didn't work. I got writer's block for the first time ever, until I allowed myself to go dark again.

Some people are great at writing about fluffy puppies and horse back riding and sports matches and others are better at writing about zombie animals, murder at the horse show and demons taking over the hockey pitch.

Q: Why did you decide to make this a horror story - and what makes a story 'horror' rather than merely 'dark'?

A: Why did I decide to write a full-blown horror story? It's a story that has been sitting with me for a while, demanding to be written, and so I decided to write it. I took my story plan to my editor at Stripes, hoping she might like it. She said it was too horror for anything other than their Red Eye brand.

I was a little surprised to be honest, I hadn't actually intended to set out to write 'horror'. I just set out to write this exciting story. However, once I was offered a place in the Red Eye series, I was delighted. Red Eye is such a great, innovative series, full of imagination.

Teen horror is enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment, having been off the scene for a decade or so. When I was growing up there was Point Horror and Goosebumps, but those series vanished. I'm really glad to see this genre coming back. Teens need to be able to explore and enjoy these thrills, just as we were able to.

What makes a story horror as opposed to adventure? That's a hard one - there's a lot of cross-over, but I think it is down to what motivates your main character. If you're writing a rollicking adventure, what drives your protagonist will be excitement, curiosity, exploration of the unknown, love, determination to right wrongs, that sort of thing.

If you're writing a horror story the thing that motivates your protagonist will be fear. He or she will be acting for survival reasons, or to save someone else - the driving force is terror. I feel that the other thing that distinguishes true horror from other genres is hope - in a real horror story, hope gets stripped away.

I worry that teenagers have grown up knowing nothing but austerity and, as a consequence, many are living with little hope for the future. Between politics, environmental disasters, unemployment and debt, don't we have a responsibility to keep things light for them?

Well no, I think that its important that they get to safely explore these feelings of hopelessness and fear in sensitively written and edited novels.

Savage Island is about so much more than a contest gone wrong, it's a metaphor for everything these teens are going to face, particularly when they leave school and enter the cut-throat environment of the adult world. It gives them a chance to ask 'what would I do?' and resolve that before they face their own adult monsters.

Q: Why did you decide to tell this story from Ben's perspective?

A: Mainly because Ben's was the voice in my head. But I assume you mean why Ben (a boy) rather than Lizzie (a female and the team leader)? Ben is the heart of the team - he is the conscience, he drives Lizzie's decision-making.

He is also the most interesting to me - dealing with his brother, his parents' situation, his unrequited love, and then everything thrown at him by the island, while trying to remain a good person. Lizzie is an excellent kick-ass female character, but I felt that she doesn't have the complexity that Ben does, she is less flawed and therefore less interesting. It's easier for her to be good.

Q: How did you decide on the group of characters who would join Ben on the island, where the events unfold?

A: I wanted characters to represent different things. Will and Lizzie were the natural first additions to Ben's group - his brother and the girl he has been in love with since he was seven years old. They form his character and he couldn't have gone without them. Will is INTELLIGENCE, Lizzie is LEADERSHIP, Ben is HEART.

I think it important to have an ethnically diverse cast, so Grady is black and Carmen is Spanish. Grady is a doctor's son, a sugar addict and a conspiracy theorist (a lot of Grady was a man I met on holiday who kept telling me conspiracy theories), in his own way he wants to save the world by exposing conspiracies, but he has a stronger curiosity - a need to know. He is CURIOSITY and DESIRE.

I also wanted a character to represent JOY and light and that's who Carmen was - and that's why she gets so fully taken apart in the story, sadly.

Q: The group takes part in a competitive geocaching exercise. What gave you the idea?

A: I've never been geocaching myself, but my father in law was telling me all about it one day and I just thought 'what if you were geocaching and you opened the box and found a finger?' That's how writer brains work - scary! It all grew from there.

Q: Each member of the team has a different skill - puzzle-solving, climbing, fighting etc. If you were in the team what would your contribution be?

A: I'm a mum, so I think I would be making sure everyone was all right, being the voice of reason, checking safety measures, feeding everyone, trying to find logical solutions.

I'm also pretty creative. I'd probably have built something to help us - a fort surrounded by traps, a catapult, that sort of thing.

Q: The group faces a lot of dangers on the island, what's the most dangerous thing you've ever done?

A: Childbirth! Living in London!

Joking aside, I'm not a HUGE risk taker - but I used to do a lot of orienteering exercises with the air cadets, and in those days health and safety wasn't a big thing. They just used to wait till nightfall and then send groups of young teenagers out with nothing but maps, torches and compasses and tell us to come back when we'd found all the checkpoints!

Q: There is a prize of £1m for the winners in your novel. What would be your first purchase if you won £1m?

A: I'm afraid I'm super boring - I'd pay off the mortgage, do all the house repairs, put a percentage aside for the kids and only then would I buy a hot tub!

Q: What for you was the hardest part of writing Savage Island?

A: Coming up with all the riddles and making sure they all made sense and tied in with the rest of the story!

Q: Will you be writing more for Red Eye? What are you writing now?

A: While I'd love to write more for Red Eye, I've been told that Red Eye is deliberately using different writers each time - they don't want regulars, sadly.

My next novel is well on the way to being finished though - it's an historical novel set in the 17th century, it's about a girl accused of witchcraft. After that I have an urban fantasy lined up. I never stand still.

Q: Where is your favourite place to write? Describe your perfect writing shed and where would it be?

A: I mostly write either on the kitchen table or in the study. I have lovely views of the forest from there and it's quiet. My dream writing shed though would have a view of the sea. I'd like a comfy sofa, lots of white walls and light wood, a nice clean desk, a bookcase for research, notebooks and my favourite novels, a whole drawer of lovely pens (I keep losing them) and a really good laptop.

Q: Who are your top three contemporary horror writers?

A: There are so many!
Stephen King
Martin Stewart (because I'm loving Sacrifice Box at the moment)
Kelley Armstrong

Q: Can you give our members your top tips for writing a great horror story?

A: I have six rules I like to follow:

- Subvert expectations (that's why there are so many creepy nuns, children etc in classic horror) - take something normal, or strongly associated with goodness and twist it (hence geocaching gone bad).

- Twists (make sure there's a real surprise in there that no-one expects)

- Use real fears - use archetypes that lots of people are afraid of - fear of the dark, spiders, heights, getting lost, dogs etc. They are primal fears and will always work to frighten your reader. You can also update your fears though - fear of technology turning on us, fear of the dentist, surgery, mobile phones going wrong, diseases that can't be cured and so on. Can you think of something everyday that could turn on us?

- Emotional connection - this is essential. Make sure your reader has an emotional connection with your characters. They must care about what happens to them, or they won't be afraid for them.

- Gore / schlock - don't be gratuitous, but if it works within the story, it'll ramp up the horror nicely.

- Suspense A suspenseful atmosphere, with real foreboding, will make or break your horror story.

Thanks for having me. I hope you've enjoyed my answers!
Bryony x

Zone Menu Young Adult SchoolZone FamilyZone Library zone Readingzone
ReadingZone Book Shop
Book of the week book cover

Sara Barnard

Your reviews Muhammad Khan

KICK THE MOON is the latest novel from MUHAMMAD KHAN. Ilyas wants to be a comic book artist but...

Your reviews

Mortal Engines, It is a book for all, it is so exciting with lots of tiny little details in it. It has some tech...