Bryony kindly offered to answer a few of my questions and her answers are fascinating. Have a read below and I hope this convinces you to pick up a copy of Angel's Fury if you haven't had a chance to read it yet.
1. In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about Angel’s Fury?
Angel’s Fury is about a teenage girl, Cassie, who has always suffered from nightmares. During a trip to Germany she recognises places she should not and finds the mass grave of the holocaust victims who feature in her dreams.
Her parents finally tell her that she spoke German before she spoke English and that they suspect she has lived before.
They visit a specialist who takes her to a Manor house in Yorkshire for treatment. There Cassie meets seven other children who also dream of other lifetimes and discovers that all of their lives are being manipulated by a fallen angel, bent on destroying mankind.
2. Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?
I have two small children (aged two and five) and I’m a full time mum. An average day when I’m working on a novel goes kind of like this …
- Wake up and check emails / facebook / twitter (just in case)
- Get children up, dressed and fed
- Take Maisie to school
- Take Riley to Rhymetime, football or swimming (depending on the day)
- Play with Riley
- Make lunch
- Try and make Riley have a nap.
- If Riley has a nap, I write as fast as I can until he wakes up
- Take Riley to pick Maisie up from school
- Make snacks, look at homework, play etc.
- Make tea, feed children
- Get children bathed and put to bed
- Make my own tea and watch half an hour of television.
- Write until I’m falling asleep at the keyboard.
If I really do have a deadline, my husband (who works away from home Monday to Friday) will take the children out for the day on Saturday and give me a full day writing. It’s luxury!
3. In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?
Voice is hugely important – especially if you’re writing from a first person perspective. Generally I hear my characters in my head, so I just let them tell me what they want to say.
4. Angel’s Fury is your first novel – can you describe how you felt in the moment when you first heard that it had been accepted for publication?
Something like that … when you realise that your dream is coming true, that years of hard work have paid off, that all the rejections can be forgotten … well that’s one of the best moments in life and it’s very hard to describe. Euphorically happy perhaps?
Perhaps if I tell you that after I got the phone call I screamed so loudly that my children thought I was injured and I had to spend ten minutes calming them down …
5. Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?
I don’t own an e-reader, not because I’ve made a decision against it, but because I can’t afford one. I’d love an e-reader! I love the idea of getting hold of a book the instant I conceive a desire to read it. I love the idea of not having a house full of tottering bookcases and I love the idea of not having to choose between shoes and books in my suitcase when I go on holiday.
I adore books, but I can’t afford to buy them the way I used to. Nowadays, I use the library much more often than bookshops. I order books in bulk and when I find one I know I would love to read again, then I buy it. The recession has made me much more selective.
If I had one, I’d use the ereader the same way – I’d buy the books I really love in hard copy as well. And for my children I would keep buying books – I think paper books are best for kids to touch, smell, see and develop a love for.
6. When reading for pleasure do you prefer to read standalones or series? Why?
I do like a series – mainly because I read so fast (around 100 pages an hour) and if I’ve found a character or story I love, I don’t want it to end.
However, some series do outstay their welcome (especially some recent YA, that I won’t name), other stories that could and perhaps should have been a single book have obviously been extended into a series simply because the author is a big name the publisher knows will sell (and that is very annoying) and I’ve found with others that there’s another risk – that the story never ends. I read George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones years ago and fans like me are still waiting for the next book. Stephen Kings Dark Tower took years, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time has definitely tried my patience and David Gemmell tragically died two books into a trilogy.
I think it’s important that the story arc takes as long as it’s meant to and if that’s one book or three, or seven, the writer should do what’s right for the story … and end where it should end.
7. What sort of research did you have to do for Angel’s Fury? How did you go about doing this?
I did a great deal of research for Angel’s Fury. I wanted the historical dream sequences to be as realistic as possible, but more than that, I wanted the whole story to be as grounded in reality as I could make it. In my view the more realistic something is, the creepier the paranormal elements come to seem. So apart from the mythological parts and made up locations (Hopfingen and the Manor), a great many elements that make up the novel can be fact-checked.
For example the K98 is the rifle the Nazis would have used at that time (I got hold of a user manual off the Internet for that), there really was a rare extended version of Lohengrin sung in Bayreuth in 1936, Rolfing is a real technique, the experiment Cassie takes part in is based on the Milgram experiment from Yale and so on.
The Internet was a great source of information (although I took care to double check facts from the Internet) and my in-laws, Pat and Charles, were very helpful too. They were both German teachers and spend a lot of time in Germany, so they helped me with the translations and facts about German life.
8. Which scene did you find most difficult to write in Angel’s Fury?
The scene where Cassie finds Lenny in the hole and is tempted to go over the dark side was difficult to write. Mainly because it was hard to find that balance between Cassie being drawn to Pandra by her own internal darkness and the good side of her fighting back.
I needed the readers to be genuinely concerned that the darkness might win; I wanted them to understand why the dark side was so attractive to Cassie and that for her, the choice wasn’t straight black and white. But at the same time I couldn’t risk losing their sympathy.
I wanted readers to be able to empathise with Cassie and wonder which choice they themselves might have made.
I hope I managed to strike that balance, but it was difficult.
9. The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets Angel’s Fury apart from the pack?
I’ve been told Angel’s Fury is fresh and unique and it does seem fairly unclassifiable. As my editor, Philippa says:
“It is not a paranormal romance, though it is a chilling story of teenagers who are reincarnated every lifetime, and there's a compelling love story at its heart. It is not a psychological thriller, though the past lives are haunting and the pace is breathless. And it is not historical, though it touches on the horror and travesty of the Holocaust in WWII."
The appearance of scenes from the holocaust in Cassie’s dreams make it stand out; it is rare to have this period of history in a book, but not be the focus of the book. And perhaps it’s also unusual because although there is a romance in the book, again that isn’t the focus either. The battle between good and evil and quest for redemption form the real focus.
10. Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?
I like to write in silence where possible. I try and put myself in the character’s place, touching, smelling, hearing, tasting and feeling what they’re feeling. I can’t do that if there’s music in the background.
11. There is a lot of argument within the young adult market as to what is appropriate for teens to read. Where do you stand on this matter? Do you think teens should be protected from reading about taboo subjects or do you think they should have the freedom to choose their own reads?
I never had my reading matter censored or dictated to me and I believe everyone should have the ability to explore literature to find the style or voice that best speaks to them. Why should teens be any different? They aren’t children any more, they’re young adults, but they’re still searching for who they are and why should their exploration be censored, if it hurts no-one. Richard Peck says “if you cannot find yourself on the page very early in life, you will go looking for yourself in all the wrong places.”
That said, as a parent I feel that teens do still need a level of protection and I believe that one job of the publishers and editors is to understand where the line between YA and adult falls. As parents we need to trust that the publisher won’t have put pornography (for example) on the YA shelves.
12. Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
Free time … what’s that?
13. Thank you so much for your time, Bryony. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?
I’ve written two books since Angel’s Fury, one is with my editor and the other with my agent. The first is currently titled The Society, and it’s about a teenaged girl called Taylor Oh, who sees the ghosts of the violently dead … and if one of them is able to touch her, she is compelled to avenge that death. She has to solve the murder of a classmate she cannot stand and becomes involved in a plot by Anubis to regain his power.
The second book is a total rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago: Windrunner’s Daughter.
Web, the Windrunner’s Daughter lives in an America of the future where the catastrophic eruption of Yellowstone has resulted in the scattering of humanity. Only the elitist and patriarchal Windrunners can travel between communities. When the Runners in her family disappear and her mother is struck down by a mysterious illness, Web flouts tradition and sets out in search of a cure … but her mother’s illness is not what it seems and she is not alone.
At the moment though, I’m still waiting for news about these books so don’t look out for them too hard.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit Writing from the Tub, Bryony. It was lovely to have you :). So guys, make sure you hop over to Gripped Into Books tomorrow for the next stop on the tour!