'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Monday, 29 July 2013

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY: Strange Chemistry's Bryony Pearce

The very lovely Bryony Pearce, author of the upcoming The Weight of Souls and Angel Fury is here to write about her inspiration on writing her newest novel. She has also included a cheeky little extract of her newest book which is absolutely fantastic. Read my review here. I was also very luck to head to London Thursday for the launch of this wonderful book.

Inspiration for The Weight of Souls

When I do school visits I always say the same thing about inspiration.  I tell the students that it is a scary word, that it always makes me think about great artists (I imagine Leonardo da Vinci as inspired).  When I think of the word ‘inspired’ and the person who might go with it, I imagine the kind of individual who could use ‘one’ in a non-ironic sort of way: “One has been inspired, by the flight of birds, to write the Great British Novel”.

So instead of the word ‘inspired’ I get the students to think about the word ‘interested’.  What catches their attention and makes them sit up and go ‘that’s interesting’.  I encourage them, when they have that scintilla of interest, to capture that moment, hold onto it and interrogate it.  Why is this interesting to me?  What story is behind this?  What if …? That, to me, is inspiration.
Angel's Fury
So what interested me enough to make me interrogate an idea so much that it eventually became The Weight of Souls?

Well, I’ve always been very interested in world mythology.  When I was a teenager I read a great many books about Nordic, Greek, Roman, Christian, Egyptian, Mayan and Aztec myths (others too, but these interested me most).  I read Beowulf and Homer, I had history texts from all these periods. 

When I applied to university, I applied at half to do English and half for Ancient History or Classics, depending on the university.  I ended up reading English at Cambridge (I couldn’t apply for Classics there as you had to have A-level Greek and / or Latin).  I loved every minute of it, but had a particular love of anything involving or inspired by mythology (Aeschylus, Euripides, Shakespeare, Chaucer, TS Elliot, Edmund Spenser, Malory etc.). 

My last book, Angel’s Fury, was heavily influenced by Christianity and Hinduism (the half angel nephilim, reincarnation and the tropes of redemption and forgiveness), so I looked elsewhere, towards my second great love, Egyptian history and myths. 
One historical story that had caught my attention me when I was younger, was the tale of the curse of Tutankhamen.  I had several books about the expedition and the supposed curse.
The novelist Marie Correlli referred to the Arab superstition in a letter to the press before the death of Carnarvon;
"I cannot but think some risks are run by breaking into the last rest of a king in Egypt whose tomb is specially and solemnly guarded, and robbing him of his possessions. According to a rare book I possess ... "The Egyptian History of the Pyramids" [an ancient Arabic text], the most dire punishment follows any rash intruder into a sealed tomb. The book . . . names secret poisons enclosed in boxes in such wise that those who touch them shall not know how they come to suffer". That is why I ask, Was it a mosquito bite that has so seriously infected Lord Carnarvon?"
The Weight of SoulsWhen Carnarvon died, it appeared to many that she had been proven correct. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) announced that he was convinced that Carnarvon had been killed by the "Pharaoh´s Curse" and the press began to publish wild speculation as fact.
The idea of the curse has been pretty much debunked now (the average survival rate of anyone working on the tomb was 21 years), but there are some lovely myths surrounding it (Carnavon’s howling dog, the Cairo blackout and so on) and for a wonderfully excitable version of the story, that might even give you shivers, please do check out this website (http://www.qsl.net/w5www/tut.html).

So I wanted to write something that involved an expedition like Carter’s; but knowing that Nefertiti’s tomb remains undiscovered, I decided to use her resting place, because I could put whatever I wanted in it.  I decided to use a curse, like Tutankhamen’s, which, in some accounts, was written under a statue of Anubis, and I chose to use the rivalry between Anubis and Horus as a basis for my curse. 

So I created a back-story about an expedition to Egypt 200 years ago.  The tomb robbers discover the tomb of Nefertiti and go inside.  There they find Anubis, who has long been bound to the tomb by the priests of Horus.  The much diminished god slaughter’s most of the team, but leaves one survivor.  Although Anubis remains tied to the tomb, the survivor will go out into the world and send killers to Anubis for judgement, thereby allowing the god to rebuild his power.
The real story of the novel is set in London, 200 years later and is about one of the ancestors of the original tomb robber, who suffers from the curse.  She sees dead people who lead her to their murderers so that she can send them to Anubis for judgement.

I had such fun writing this novel and, although most of it is set in modern day London, it is very much inspired by the interest of my teen self in Egyptian mythology.

I can be found on Twitter as @BryonyPearce, my Facebook Author Page is BryonyPearceAuthor and you can email me on admin@bryonypearce.co.uk.  If you’d like to know more about me, or my work, you can find all you could possibly want to know on my website: www.bryonypearce.co.uk


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