A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Book Birthday Interview: PHOENIX BURNING author Bryony Pearce chats to Natasha Ngan

Last year I completely fell in love with the world of Bryony Pearce’s new series, Junk Pirates (read me gushing about it here!). It’s a kick-ass action extravaganza with an amazing new world to explore, a huge cast of unique, interesting characters, and a budding romance that you’ll be rooting for every step of the way. The second book in the series, Phoenix Burning, just came out, so to celebrate I sat down with Bryony to get the low-down on this latest installment…


Hi Bryony! It was so great to be back in Toby and Ayla’s world and I enjoyed Phoenix Burning just as much as the first book! How did it feel writing book two? Was it easier or harder? 

In some ways it was easier because, of course, the characters and world were already established and I had less set up to do; writing Phoenix Burning was a lot like slipping back into comfortable shoes. In some ways though, it was harder because while I was writing a sequel I still felt that it was important to write something completely new.

The book is set on an island of ultra creepy sun-worshippers who hold an annual challenge to find their new Sun and Moon, symbolic positions of great honour in their sect. Where did this idea come from? 

I came up with the idea of sun-worshippers while I was writing book one. It seemed a natural thing to me that with the sun so long missing, humanity would welcome its return with an almost religious zealotry, that some would damage their eyes staring at it just because it was back in the sky. It was a short step from that to the idea of a serious organised religion.

Religion is a subject of great fascination to me, it can be a source of huge comfort, of great goodness and immense charity, but also an excuse for terrible atrocities and war. For every Spanish inquisitor there’s a Mother Teresa and that interests me greatly, especially with the world as it is today.

Have you been to Gozo, where the book is set? 

No, but I have been to Malta and I did a lot of research into the area and to the cathedral itself specifically. The world has changed so much since the cataclysm that the island of Gozo that Toby and Ayla visit is little like the island that exists today.

Toby and Ayla are both such complex characters (especially Ayla!) and their relationship is always unpredictable. Have you had a plan since the beginning for how their relationship evolves, or is it something that develops organically as you write? 

I always had a plan for their relationship, but inevitably characters can twist beneath your pen and act in ways that surprise you! For example, the scene where Ayla is whipped and redeems herself in Toby’s eyes, pretty much appeared out of nowhere, while I was struggling to find a way for him to forgive her.

The contestants Toby and Ayla are up against in the Sun and Moon trials are from all over the world, and we get to learn more about how future earth looks and functions through them. If you could live anywhere in this junk-pocalypse future, where would it be? 

With the world as terrible as it is, I think the only winners are the pirates, who are able to travel, trade and experience change, so I’d like to live on the Phoenix.

Some of the challenges that the Sun and Moon trial contestants face are pretty terrifying! How did you come up with the different challenges?  

I had to think about the sun, what the worshippers would consider its holy attributes – heat and light and then how the contestants could prove their devotion through tasks that use these elements. So the first challenge is for the worshippers to remain awake, awaiting the sun, the second for them to wait in darkness for the sun, then to sit close to a fire and so on.

Your action scenes are always so vivid and full of tension. Can you give us some tips for writing action?

While I normally write fairly slowly and edit as I go along, I tend to write action scenes in one long burst, not worrying about language, or sentence structure (I go back and edit afterwards, obviously). This means that the energy stays in and isn’t overwritten out of a scene.

You released another book recently, and I hear you have *another* coming out in Spring after Phoenix Burning! What’s that one about? 

Wavefunction is about a young man, a criminal, who finds out that he can jump between the worlds created by alternative universes, it is based on Homer’s Odyssey (he gets lost and is always searching for the girl he loves, Pen). While he is searching he realises that something is destroying worlds. Only he can stop it, but only if he sacrifices his own freedom.

You have two young children. Do you ever find inspiration for story ideas from things they’ve said or done? 

Maisie and Riley are more likely to inspire characters, or characteristics rather than stories so far – but they’re young yet and have many real life adventures ahead! There’s a lot of Toby and Ayla in my two.

Describe a typical writing day… 

There isn’t one really. If I’m not writing a Cornerstones report, doing essential admin, planning a school visit or cleaning the house (occasionally I have to do it or the children start to look feral), I’ll be writing. I’ve found in the past that I tend to write well for about two hours, before it all becomes unreadable drivel. Then a break before another couple of hours writing. On a really good day I can get about five hours done!

Finally, can you give us an insight into what we can expect from the next book in the Phoenix series? (Please say there is one!)

I have another book planned, but there is yet to be confirmation of go-ahead – as these things go, it is dependent on the financials.

If, however, it goes ahead it will show the pirate’s journey to the island through the Devils Sea, involve a surprising alliance, and reveal what they find on the island itself, which is not quite as unpopulated as they expected it to be.


Find Phoenix Burning:
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | HiveWaterstones 


book signing at launchBryony Pearce
Bryony Pearce lives in the Forest of Dean and is a full time mum to her two children, husband and cat. She is vegetarian and loves chocolate, wine and writing. People are often surprised at how dark her writing is, as she is generally pretty nice.
When the children let her off taxi duty and out of the house she enjoys doing school visits, festivals and events. ‪For more information on Bryony, please visit her website follow her on Twitter @BryonyPearce or like her FaceBook author page BryonyPearceAuthor.‬‬


Natasha Ngan

Natasha is YA author of THE ELITES and THE MEMORY KEEPERS, with a love for all things fantasy and sci-fi. She grew up between the UK and Malaysia, where her mother is from, and went on to study for a degree in Geography at the University of Cambridge. She currently lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Alongside writing, she works as a fashion blogger ( and yoga teacher! She is represented by Taylor Haggerty atWaxman Leavell. Find out more about Natasha’s writing at her author blog (

About Natasha Ngan

NYT Bestselling author of Girls of Paper and Fire, published by Little Brown


This entry was posted on March 10, 2016 by .

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