A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
This spring is definitely one to celebrate, as it brings 2 brand new books from award-winning author Bryony Pearce! Today we’re celebrating the first of those, with WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER releasing from Xist Publishing.
A sabotaged colonization attempt leaves the last humans in the universe stranded on Mars. Braving a half-terraformed atmosphere, terrifying indigenous species, and a colony government that is openly hostile, a young girl named Wren must defy tradition to save her mother and perhaps, every human left.
It is forbidden for women to steal the wings that allow a select group of runners to carry messages and goods between colonies. It is forbidden to cross the wastes with a sand storm on the horizon and it is certainly forbidden to share the secrets of the windrunners with those who spend their entire lives in the biospheres.
But what choice does she have?
Kat: Happy book birthday, Bryony! First of all, “If you liked ________, you will love WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER!” – Which novels or movies would you put in the blank space?
Bryony: “If you liked Dune, Blood Red Road or Anne Macaffrey’s PERN series, you will love WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER!”
K: WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER is set on a partially-terraformed Mars, and the world you present is breathtaking (literally!) and savage. How did you go about creating it?
B: My original idea was that Windrunner’s Daughter was going to be set in a post-apocalyptic America, but it just wasn’t quite working. When I sold the book to Xist they suggested a new setting – Mars. Initially I was sceptical, but the idea instantly caught my imagination and I started doing my research. I read dozens of scientific articles about the possibilities of terraforming Mars, what it would take and what the ethical dilemmas would be. The more I read, the more excited I got, suddenly the landscape came to life and I had a whole other dimension to the story – how the humans interact with this alien environment, trying to both live in it and tame it – and how they succeed … and fail.
I researched the landscape of Mars, its gravity, light levels, the lengths of its days and years, the orbits of its moons. I looked at the possibilities of different terraforming techniques: orbital mirrors, directed asteroid strikes, cyanobacteria, nuclear bombs, forcing a greenhouse effect by pumping chemicals into the atmosphere and so on.
I decided that Wren’s ancestors would have decided to use a combination of these things to transform the planet and that they almost succeed before sabotage puts back their plans by generations.
I decided that Wren would be left living on a planet that is semi-terraformed, which has native Martian organisms re-emerging, including giant carnivorous snakes and unfamiliar diseases and with air that is not yet breathable. I had to think about how she and her family would deal with those challenges as well as the challenge of the main story – living in a world where women are considered little more than walking wombs and saving her mother’s life.
K: I know that the initial idea for WINDRUNNER’S DAUGHTER came to you over 10 years ago: how has the story developed from that first spark to the story it is today?
B: The basic concept has changed very little. The original short story that I wrote was about a society of Windrunners and the girl who wasn’t allowed to fly, who is forced by her mother’s illness to steal some wings. It was heavily influenced by Anne Macaffrey, a writing hero of mine.
However, the novel length version had a lot of iterations before I got it right. In the first draft of the full length novel I wrote, my protagonist crashed through the desert and discovered a society of what was essentially dragons – she ended up befriending one off these creatures and flying him instead of her own man-made wings. It was aimed at a younger audience, more MG than YA, was far too long and tried to do far too many things at once.
This final version has been pared right down, I took it back to basics: the heroine trying to save her family – there are no longer dragons and the storyline seems simpler, but it is aimed at an older audience, there is much greater focus, a love story and the adventure is much more ‘high octane’. I’ve learned over the last ten years and my writing is much improved (I hope).
K: Despite the strict patriarchal society she lives in, Wren is pretty badass! What inspired you to write her character?
B: Wren has had residence in a corner of my mind for over ten years, with her very own distinct voice and personality. She’s always been headstrong, determined and stubborn, loyal and brave, but she has flaws – she makes decisions without thinking the consequences through properly, she is a poor judge of character and doesn’t really understand how other people think.
I wanted to write about a girl I would like to be friends with, someone I could admire, who overcomes her limitations and those imposed on her by others, someone my daughter could be inspired by. My main message is one of hope – you can achieve your dreams if you only try.
K: Conflict surrounds Wren on all sides—but especially between the Runners and the Grounders: those with the wings to travel between the colonies, and those who are grounded, but hold the keys to the proverbial store cupboard. If you had to choose, would you be a Runner or a Grounder?
B: I’d like to think I’d be a Runner, but to be honest, I don’t think I’d have the guts! I’d probably be a Grounder and work to take down the system from within.
K: Raw, the Grounder boy who joins Wren on her mission to cross the harsh Martian landscape, has a definite hard edge to him, and I loved the back-and-forth between them. Have you had any thoughts on who might play Wren and Raw in a screen adaptation of the book?
B: I hadn’t thought about it, my characters are so their own people, with their own distinct faces, that it’s hard to imagine them with the appearance and personality of existing actors.
If I had to, I’d put Raw as a young Tom Hardy. Wren could be a young Gina Torres or Zoe Saldana – that would be an awesome match up!
K: The Creatures who stalk the Martian deserts are pretty terrifying! Do you enjoy reading/watching sci-fi horror? What are your favourite sci-fi monsters?
B: Yes – I’m a big fan of sci-fi/horror. My favourite in that genre has to be the xenomorph from Alien, I actually saw Aliens first and I remember being absolutely terrified, in a thrilling way. I watch those films over and over again – even the later ones that everyone else thinks are awful!
I also love Pitch Black (those monsters who come out in the dark – wonderful) and Event Horizon for the creepy psychological build up.
(K: They’re all my on my favourites list, too!)
K: Although the story wraps up really nicely, I need to know: will you ever revisit this world? (In a sequel/companion, maybe..?)
B: Never say never. I could perhaps write something set in one of the other colonies, Cockaigne for example, the isolationist colony that no-one knows much about. And there is always the possibility that the Runners themselves could schism – Wren’s family joined by those who see that their new ways are working, versus the traditionalist High Patrions.
K: You have another book out this spring (PHOENIX BURNING), so I have to ask: how on earth have you managed juggling 2 books releasing so close together? Do I need to pass the Emergency Scotch?
B: Emergency Scotch is always welcome! To be honest, they were never intended to come out so close together. Windrunner was more or less finished before I started to write Phoenix Burning, then I had a big wait before edits turned up. I was editing Windrunner while I was waiting for comments on Phoenix Burning, then editing Phoenix Burning while waiting for copyedits on Windrunner and so on.
Funnily I’m meant to have another one out this spring too – Wavefunction – which I also finished a while ago, I’m just waiting for copyedits on that one.
I like to keep busy.
K: What else do you have in the pipeline?
B: Windrunner is out on 2nd February
Phoenix Burning is out 10th March
Wavefunction is out sometime in spring
Phoenix Rising is shortlisted for a couple of awards, which is wonderful so I’ve got a number of school visits and events lined up and I’ll be attending a couple of festivals – the science fiction weekender and Birkenhead.
I’m also writing a couple of short stories and a new book, which I’m very excited about. I’m keeping it a bit of a secret, but if you like dark thrillers with science fiction horror elements, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it too.
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Bryony Pearce lives in a village on the edge of the Peak District and is a full time mum to her two small children, husband and cat. She is vegetarian and loves chocolate, wine and writing. People are often surprised at how dark her writing is and since the publication, by Egmont, of the award-winning Angel’s Fury, have started looking at her as though worried she might start serial killing in her spare time.
She enjoys doing school visits, festivals and events, when the children let her out of the house.