WARNING – This post contains spoilers for Savage Island
When I went to the Wirral Book Awards with my standalone horror novel, Savage Island, I wasn’t expecting to win, but I love a good book award, especially those voted for by young readers, so I went for the craic, as they say.
My performance there ended with a Q&A, during which one boy put up his hand and asked if there was going to be a sequel.
Now, as Savage Island was written as a standalone horror novel, you can imagine how many survivors there were (I’ll give you a clue – more than zero, less than two!). This would make writing a sequel extremely difficult. I assumed he was joking.
Laughing, I threw his question back to the crowd. ‘Who else wants a sequel?’
Hands flew up. So many hands.
Hang on, were they serious?
‘Do you mean a sequel or a prequel?’
‘With the same characters or different ones?’
‘The same ones!’
This audience of avid young readers wanted me to write a sequel with the same characters … who were all (bar one) meant to be dead.
I returned to my car clutching my prize (reader – I won the award!) and thinking. Was there any way I could make this happen for them? And did I want to?
Well, there did seem to be more I could explore in this world. Savage Island was organised by a psychopathic billionaire, seeking more psychopaths to expand his empire, over whom he would have control, via means of recordings that showed them committing atrocities.
But what if he wasn’t just finding these psychopaths via means of personality testing, what if he’d been trying to createthem? What if Savage Island was just part of a programme that Grady, Ben and Will didn’t know they were inside?
And what happens when Grady, the psychopathic anti-authoritarian conspiracy theorist ends up forced to work in a suit for a billionaire?
Who are the other teens in the ‘graduate recruitment programme’? Other survivors of ‘the island’ or does Gold have several different ‘recruitment campaigns’ running?
These thoughts stuck in my head. So, I started to wonder, how could I resurrect Ben and Lizzie?
At the end of Savage Island Ben wakes on a beach, to see the bodies of his brother, Will, and the girl he loves, Lizzie. Then Grady walks towards him with malicious intent. I had intended this to mean that Grady kills Ben, but what if he didn’t? What if Ben survives the encounter?
Then I thought about who Grady is – psychopathic, anti-authoritarian conspiracy theorist – would Grady want to be taking orders from an old white guy for the rest of his life? Wouldn’t he see the advantage in keeping Ben alive – Ben who now hates Gold and will do anything to destroy him?
So, I decided to, not only have Ben survive, but to have Grady save him.
Throughout Savage Island, Grady has been the go-to guy for medication. His doctor father sent him with every possible pill and painkiller, so it didn’t seem a stretch that he would be able to feed Ben some sleeping tablets, which would knock him out long enough for Gold’s cameras to be satisfied that Grady had done his job.
Neither is Ben stuffed with medical knowledge. Could he really know that Lizzie was dead, just by looking at her? What if Grady had done the same with her?
So, I had a way to save Ben and Lizzie. That gave me three characters to start the sequel with. Grady, working for Gold, but trying to find a way to get out and Ben and Lizzie in hiding, waiting for their chance to destroy him.
It was brilliant to be able to write more about these characters I thought I’d lost (killing off characters is something I do, only regretfully), to explore more about who they are and who they have become after surviving the island (they have changed in big ways).
So, thank you to the students at the Wirral Book Award who inspired me to resurrect these old friends and continue their story. I’m glad I was able to do so for you (and for me)!
If you want to know more about Cruel Castle, or any of Bryony’s other books, please visit her website: www.bryonypearce.co.uk, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram @BryonyPearce or TikTok @BryonyVPearce