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Writing a Sequel, Expanding the World - Guest post by Bryony Pearce
Posted On 2016-03-21 14:47:29 |  Last Update 2016-03-21 14:47:29 |  Read 804 times | 0 Comments

Author of the gripping Phoenix series, Bryony Pearce, talks to us about writing an explosive sequel that will keep fans on the edges on their seats!

One of the brilliant things about writing a sequel is the fact that, as a writer, you can remain longer in the world you have created. But the thing I was most afraid of, was making sure that I didn’t inadvertently write the same book over again. I wanted Phoenix Burning to continue Toby’s story, but I didn’t want to retell it, I certainly didn’t want readers to be bored, or feel as if nothing had changed.

So I decided that, given the limitations of a setting that was finite in size, i.e. the pirate ship, the Phoenix, I needed to set Phoenix Burning primarily on land, giving me (and my readers) the opportunity to explore Toby’s post-apocalyptic world a little more.

I wanted to see what Toby and Ayla would do away from the confines of their ships and influence of their shipmates and captains, I wanted to give them a real chance to grow and for their relationship to develop. I also wanted to make sure that the story of Phoenix Burning was completely different to that of Phoenix Rising. So, while Phoenix Rising is set mainly on ships, with a foray into port to save the Captain and crew from hanging, Phoenix Burning is set mainly on land, after the crew plan a heist (they are thieves and pirates after all).

I decided to set Phoenix Burning on a post-apocalyptic version of Gozo (near Malta) where an order of Sun Worshippers, a cult that arose following the return of the sun to the sky, have taken over the cathedral and the island.
Gozo itself has been half destroyed by tsunamis, most of the housing has been wiped out and rebuilt: only the cathedral itself survives. They have a junk dam to keep their harbour clear and enable them to fish, but there is little in the way of vegetation and the order itself lives primarily on tithes from the local villagers and gifts brought in from devotees. One of their imperatives is to collect everything they can related to the sun, from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ t-shirts, to decorative jewellery, to statues of old sun-gods from museums and, of course, components from solar panels – which is what Toby and Ayla are after.

In this way I was able to give the reader information about what land is like away from the ports – sparsely populated with desperate people. The idea of the festival, which Toby and Ayla are using to get into the cathedral, enabled me to introduce people from all around the globe and therefore information about the wider world – that America is gone (what was left after the eruption of the super-volcano was bombed by Russia), that starving populations live gathered around rivers and ports, that trade is rare, that England (now St George) had a great war with Scotland over the last of the North Sea Oil.

I was able to really think about what life would be like away from the seas, among the people who were not able to travel like the pirates, who were restricted to their own small piece of the earth. The fanaticism of the Sun Worshippers did not feel excessive, given the world in which they were living and the sociopathic nature of the teens from land, who would do anything to one another in order to win a place in the festival, seemed natural evolution, a survival trait necessary among a people who have been unable to live, in what we now realise, is the comparative luxury of the pirate crews.

I had wanted the story of Phoenix Burning to have the feel of a caper – a fun heist, but I soon realised that what I was writing was much more serious than that, a way to introduce Toby to the wider world that he has never seen, to show him the darkness that exists outside the immediate family of his pirate crew, to really consider what the end of the world would have been like for other people.
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