An Interview with Bryn Pearson
Poet and Author

AN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, your background as a writer, how you got started, etc, why you write, where you get your inspiration, that sort of thing?

BRYN: Lots of questions. I was born in Gloucestershire in 1977 into an unusual family – I was always encouraged to write, to play music, to dance and my creativity was given free reign from an early age. I’ve always written – diaries, poetry, letters, short stories. During my teens, I began to try and write novels, rapidly finding out just how a big a book is, and how much work it takes.

I first wrote mostly about my own life, but at 17 embarked on a project to write a novel set in the future. It was terribly clichéd, all cities in domes and that sort of thing. My good friend Richard Jones, having read it, suggested that I should re write, and invert the setting, so instead of a futuristic society I had a future in which Arcadian idyll was enforced, technology outlawed and the church dominant. Breathing in a Stone House was born, and I haven’t looked back since.

I spent three years studying English at Cheltenham, which was a wonderful experience, and has really expanded my understanding of the literary process. Since then I’ve writing an second novel – “Dragon Dreaming,” a collection of short stories “Masks and Guises” and have just embarked on a third novel.

As for what inspires me – I draw heavily on the people I know and the landscape I grew up in. I’m very much influenced by mythology – Celtic particularly. I find the inspiration for much of my work when I am walking – I listen to the wind in the trees, the birds, I watch the sky, and its almost as though I hear stories, as though characters walk out from amongst the trees to meet me. I have a lot of strange dreams, and these provide a basis for quite a lot of my work as well.

AN: Do you write full time or do you have a real job?!

BRYN: I run my own company, selling e-books. It does take a lot of the time away from writing, but I find that getting to work with other writers and artists is wonderful. I’ve met some fantastic people in the few months that I have been doing this. I would love to be able to write all the time, but currently I edit, review, proof read, as well as doing all my own marketing and financial stuff. Sometimes its soul destroying, other days its wonderful.

AN: What sort of poetry do you write and what are your novels about?

BRYN: Poetry – like most teenagers, I spent my teens writing self obsessed, introverted, angsty poetry, but since then I’ve taken to writing songs and poems inspired by my pagan beliefs.

Plot details aside, my novels are about dreams and possibility, that there might be more to this world than the bland reality we have embraced in the last few centuries. I write about love, about friendship and family relationships. I write about eccentric people, outside of the normal bounds of society, people who dare to live differently.

My hope is to inspire my readers and to reinspire them with the fantastic heritage we have discarded. During my years at Uni, I was captivated by postcolonial writers like Isabel Allende, and have sought to create a British version of such works. The novel I’m working on at the moment does not yet have a title, but draws heavily on the landscape I grew up in, and takes a lot from my family history. I wanted to write about a female family line, the ghost of my great grandmother and the power of female lineage – in families it is the women who pass along the stories and the history. My work is at Hollow Hills Publishing -

AN: Have you tried to get published in the mainstream? If not, why not?

BRYN: I spent about a year chasing mainstream publishers, I think I’ve approached every major publishing house in the UK, as near as makes much odds.

AN: What attracted you to publish your work on the internet, i.e. do you like the idea of e-publishing and would you consider e-publishing your work with an e-publisher? Just your thoughts on the industry really.

BRYN: Most of my rejection slips, of which there were many, stated or implied that as I do not write genre fiction, there was no place for me in the commercial market. I had almost given up hope of ever being published, when I found myself out of a job at the end of last summer. I had got to know a few other writers and discovered that I was not the only exile from mainstream. With the support of my partner, Jonathan, I began to investigate the possibilities of publishing online. I do love solid, tangible books, but I can do without that for now. E-publishing has given me a real alternative to chasing the conservative mainstream houses, and has allowed me to promote other writers. It’s a slow business as currently there isn’t much awareness of it off line, but I think it will take off soon, and that it will add some much needed new blood to the quite stagnant off line industry.

AN: What goals do you have for the future?

BRYN: I would love to be able to set up a printing press and produce hard copies of books. I would also like to be in a position to hand over the running of the company to someone else, so that I could become a full time writer.

AN: Which writers inspire you the most?

BRYN: This is an odd list. In no real order, Shakespeare, Isabel Allende, Margaret Attwood, Victor Hugo, George Elliot, Clive Barker, Phillip K. Dick, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Toni Morrison, Adrian Tellwright.

Here’s the opening of my novella, “Dreams of Colour” which is available in the collection “Masks and Guises.” It grew out of a dream of a dark future, but woven into the plot are elements of the ancient Scottish faerie story, Tam Lin.

The dawn was rising, tinting the heavy sky with sickly yellows. Janet woke abruptly, torn from sleep by an alarm bell. Rolling out of her small bed, she stood for a while, contemplating her room – a compact, windowless place. She had softened its harsh metallic surfaces with little pictures and scraps she had rescued from gutters and bins. She had painstakingly covered the walls with fabric, gathering the cast-offs of the wealthy and turning them to her own use. There were still some metal surfaces showing, and they glittered harshly in the artificial light.

Humming to herself, Janet brushed and braided her flaxen hair, wrapping the long coil around her head and securing it. She dressed carelessly. Her long uniform dress covered her from neck to ankle and lacked any quality that could have pleased her. She covered her hair with a bright scarf, then secured her mask. The apparatus was heavy and ugly, hiding her face behind a dark, inhuman veneer. It was the most expensive filter she had been able to afford, and the cost of a beautiful mask was prohibitive. It was worth bearing the ugliness of the thing, for in the streets it would guard her life.

The concrete steps echoed dully as she ran nimbly up them, her heavy boots hardly hampering her at all. She guessed there may have been a thousand people living in her bunker, but she seldom saw any of them and used to pass her idle moments wondering who they all were. All she knew was that they were relatively lucky. Opening a door, she stepped out into the street. Through the thick glass in the mask, she could see the diseased yellows of dawn still lingering in the air. Hastily, she checked her mask, gloves and dress, confirming that all of her skin was covered.

There were already other people in the streets; workers like herself who, anonymous behind their masks, trekked from blocks and bunkers towards the more civilised world. Like Janet, they wore the dark uniforms of the insignificant, hiding all else in defence against the cruel air. Already she could hear the steady, laboured marching that marked the arrival of the dawn work group. Where they came from, she did not know. Grey and ragged, their heads exposed to the unforgiving sky, they progressed slowly. Hurriedly stepping into the mouth of an alleyway, she watched them pass as she did most mornings. Heads cast down, they shuffled on, their skin caked with ash and filth, their faces devoid of life. These were the ranks of the walking dead, the hopeless and the destitute. For a while they would be visible, but soon enough they would melt away as though they themselves consisted only of flimsy ash. She did not know where they went or what became of them. She suspected they must work in the worst places, where only the hopeless or the mad would dare to go. For a moment, one of the men looked up at her. He could not have seen her face through the mask, but his gaze was penetrating and it caused her to shudder. From the state of his face, he could have been ancient, but his eyes burned with a slow fire. He was gone in seconds, leaving her curiously unsettled.

The Galleries rose out of the city like a swathe of exotic growths. They could be reached by flight or rail, but the only entrance available to Janet was at street level. Every morning she made the long, arduous climb up to the sector she worked in, listening to the hum of machinery in the walls and steeling her mind against the day’s quota of boredom. In the locker-room she discarded mask, gloves and headscarf, changed her heavy boots for a softer work pair and meticulously brushed the ash from her dress. It was a familiar ritual requiring little thought. As she finished, the girls from the night shift began to file in. She tried to smile at them, but most were too weary to respond. Like the grey destitutes in the streets, they merely went through the motions of living. One by one, the fortunate few slipped on their masks while those unable to afford such luxury wrapped cloths about their faces. Unlike the destitute, they still cared enough to fight for health and life.

There had been a party on the previous night, and as she approached her station, she could see the careless debris of pleasure spread liberally around her. Sighing, she armed herself with protective gloves and cleaning gear. The parties happened frequently enough that she no longer felt anything in their wake. At first, she had been impressed by the wastefulness of the wealthy, but disgust had gradually eroded that awe away. The world, she had decided, was unfair and it was better to accept that than to fight it. Unobserved, she pocketed a discarded scarf and some of the shiny paper fragments strewn across the floor. It took her the best part of the morning to clean the first reception room.

Throughout the building, other girls would be doing the same thing and, by nightfall, the complex would be spotless and the revelries would begin again. This evening’s entertainment was to be a little more sedate and perhaps tomorrow she would not have to work so hard. A little after noon, she ran down the stairs to the canteen, where she could rest for a few minutes and take a bowl of the hot grey broth that they served every day. On most days, it was her only proper meal. The canteen was silent save for the clattering of spoons against bowls. There was little enough time for eating and nothing worth talking about. Janet’s mind burned with thoughts as she ate, but she remained silent; hunger was too powerful a master.

The second room had been laid for supper on the previous evening and scattered food covered most of the tables and the floor. Hiding behind one of the tables, Janet filled the pockets she had sewn into the hem of her skirt. Discovery would mean dismissal, and her hands trembled as she gathered the leftovers. The ache in her stomach had grown unbearable during the last few days and she could not bear the thought of going hungry again. When her supervisor peered into the room, she dropped her skirt and continued to clean beneath the table. He did not bother to inspect her too closely.

The top tables were covered with embroidered cloths. As Janet began to fold these priceless pieces away, she caught sight of a black, high-heeled boot. Knowing that such an object would have to be handed in, she knelt, only to discover that the boot’s owner was also beneath the table. Cautiously, Janet raised the tablecloth. It was clear from the woman’s clothing that she had been a feature of the previous night’s entertainment. The black boots stretched to the tops of her thighs, and her thong briefs left her bottom bare. Janet could see dark purple bruises on the woman. Long black hair covered the shoulders, but otherwise she was unattired. Touching a finger to the woman’s thigh, Janet found that it was still warm. She smiled with relief; the previous girl she had found after a party had not survived the night. If there was a protocol for dealing with the living, then Janet could not remember it.

Carefully, Janet rolled the girl over. There was a ring of dark blood caked around her mouth and nose. About her neck was a collar: broad and metallic it was fitted with a chain as though she was no more than an animal. The girl moaned faintly and Janet pulled her from beneath the table. She was a dead weight in Janet’s hands, and it took considerable effort to drag her from her refuge. With better light, Janet could see the marching army of little bruises down the insides of the girl’s arms, as though she had been filled with needles.

The sound of footsteps alerted Janet and her eyes flickered towards the door. The girl was moving a little, but not yet conscious. She heard voices, muted but occasionally familiar. Janet had only seen the proprietor of the galleries once before, but he was instantly recognisable. He was a large man, affluently dressed and with an assumption of command in his voice. His very presence chilled her. Beside him walked a second figure, familiar to Janet only as a type. While masks had become essential outside, they had become a fashionable accessory in other quarters. This mask would hardly serve to ward off the ashes and had clearly never been tested beneath the anger of the skies. It was high and white, like the crescent of the moon. While a functional mask would be heavy with filters, this one supported a riot of tubes leading from nowhere to nowhere, arranged as though they were flowers.

Janet dropped to her knees beside the girl and hung her head submissively.

“Is that the one, sir?” the proprietor asked, his voice oily.

“Yes.” The voice was male. From the corner of her eye, Janet could see the pair approaching. She heard the impact of shoe on flesh. The prone girl gasped faintly.

“We will, of course, see to it that she is cleaned for you.”

“No need. Her nose is broken. She’s not worth fixing and she’s no use ugly.”

Janet saw the flash of light on metal as the masked man drew a small instrument from within his coat.

“Be so good as to dispose of the body. Add any expenses to my bill.”

“By all means.”

Janet knew that she should look at the ground. She knew that unless instructed she should neither move nor speak. She knew her job and possibly her life depended on obeying the rules. The masked man raised the small weapon, savouring the taste of killing. She stood up.

“Stop!” she said.

The two men were so surprised that for a few seconds neither of them reacted. She could feel the heat of the proprietor’s anger as it focused on her. He unfolded the whip he had been carrying discreetly against his body. The shock of the lash sent her reeling off balance as pain burned in her cheek. She heard the dull thud of a bullet entering a body, saw the girl’s torso jump and twitch for a few seconds. The following silence seemed terrible and Janet could feel hot tears forming in her eyes. The salt made her skin sting as it entered the open cut on her cheek.

“As for what she wears, you may dispose of that as you please. I don’t want to bother with having it cleaned.”

“You are too kind,” the proprietor murmured, obsequiously. “If there’s anything else we can do…”

“You could give me the blond for a couple of hours. Or possibly sell her to me?”

“I’m afraid I’m not in a position to sell her, we don’t own her paperwork.”

The masked man shrugged, “No matter. You own her time. I’m more than happy to pay.” J

anet could feel her cheeks burning with indignation as they discussed her. She could see the pool of blood that was forming under the girl’s body. Terror knotted her stomach as she waited for further instructions and nursed her wounded cheek. She could see no hope of escaping from being prostituted and panic rose within her, filling her with nausea.

“She is clean, I assume?” the masked man remarked.

“All of our girls are clean,” the proprietor answered with pride.

“But not all of them are obedient, it would seem.”

“If sir would care to wait in the recreation area, I will see to it that she is attired appropriately and sent to you.”

“You do that.”

The masked man departed.

“If you please him well enough then you can stay on, but not at this post. Not with your current privileges. Understood?”

Janet nodded miserably. The proprietor turned his back on her, reaching into his pocket for the small com link he habitually carried. With an inspiration born of desperation, Janet ran at him. Hearing her footfall, he turned, raising the whip. He had been caught off guard by her attack: Knowing the horrors of the world only too well, most girls would willingly submit to any small task the galleries required them to perform. It had not occurred to him that Janet might be foolish enough to run when she had just been given a generous reprieve.

He was heavily built, but the force of her charge was sufficient to knock him off balance. Adrenaline and anger surged through her body and time appeared to slow around her. She saw the whip raised in preparation for a blow and felt the momentum of her charge burning out. The whip caught her across the arm and shoulder, tearing her dress and biting into her skin. The second blow opened her back as a strong hand flung her towards the ground. When the third blow came it seemed strangely distant, and the forth blow barely touched her at all.

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