My Da used to tell stories of tyrants who would seek out others’ arcae and turn them into slaves. For the ruthless citizens of the Roman Empire, nothing reaps more power than holding another man’s life in your hands. Still, others hunt the world over for their own arca, to posses it before someone with impure intentions does. Of course, there is an added benefit to protecting your own arca: as long as it remains intact, you are immortal.
Now tell me, what would you do if the arca of one of the most feared men of the Empire washed up on the shore by your home? If this pretty pearl caught your eye, and you were custom-bound to protect it? What if the man whose soul rests inside will stop at nothing to take it from you, even going so far as to search out your own arca to kill you first?
Olivia with YA-Mag: Rosie, welcome to the Young Adult Magazine! I’m very excited to be chatting with you about THE PEARLIAD. It’s such an interesting world!
YA: Let’s talk about Effie Seabright. How did you two first meet? What makes Effie the perfect character to tell this story vs. any other character?
Rosie Pugh: The trilogy started for me with the concept of arcae, and the alternate universe that they exist in. The idea behind the The Pearliad is that the moment a human being is born, the Fates assign them an ‘arca’ and place it anywhere in the world. It could be any kind of everyday object, created to blend in with the mortal world, and the person is given no clue as to where their arca is. You can only live as long as your arca remains intact; if your object is destroyed, you will die. However, there is one important draw to finding out what your own personal object is – because if you can recognise and possess your own arca, you can live forever.
To explore this world, I wanted an outsider who was as unfamiliar with the workings of the Empire as the reader would be. As a teenager myself when writing it, I knew I wanted a first person account from a young female protagonist. It took next to no time for Effie to spring fully-formed into my head, and into the world I had created for her.
YA: What sets Effie’s story apart from other YA epic fantasies, like THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Phillip Pullman or Garth Nix’s ABHORSEN series? What will readers find that isn’t anywhere else?
RP: I personally am not a huge fan of high fantasy, but my stories are always full of otherworldly ‘what if…?’s. I suppose the thing that marks The Pearliad out is that there is nothing magical or supernatural afoot in the everyday life of the characters – the only difference between the arca universe and our world is that arcae undoubtedly exist, and each human’s personal object is the key to their own death. Because these elements are a given, the struggles and dilemmas are all completely human and relatable: would it be easier to kill someone if you did not have to physically harm their body, just their object? Would this make people more ruthless, more capable of terrible things? Or would a deeply engrained societal rule, preventing the holding and destruction of another person’s object, make murder less frequent than in our world? Effie’s story is an exploration of morals in a world slightly different from our own, just as much as it’s an epic adventure.
YA: What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?
RP: The main influence was Roman myth, especially Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Other than that, a huge inspiration was the island of St. Kilda in the Outer Hebrides (the most remote part of the British Isles), on which I based the Indigo Isles, Effie’s home. I was fascinated by this amazing place, and I based many details of the Indigo Isles on this historic community. I’m actually hoping to make the trip to Scotland and visit it myself this summer!
YA: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?
RP: I only stopped being a teen a year ago, so my favourite YA books are still contemporary! I absolutely loved Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy; I think the idea is fantastic, and I was so emotionally invested in the characters by the last book that I definitely cried at least once when I read it for the first time. Other favourites include Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series, and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.
YA: What is story behind the title THE PEARLIAD?
RP: The title of The Pearliad, along with the sequels, The Buttonica and The Ribbonid, were there from the beginning. The Pearliad is the story of a pearl, in the same way Homer’s Iliad is the story of Ilios; The Buttonica the story of a button; and The Ribbonid the story of a ribbon. I wanted to get the classical flavour of the series across to the reader straight away.
YA: This is the first book in the Arca Trilogy. What can you tell us about what lies on the horizon for Effie?
RP: Effie’s journey has only just begun! She now finds herself in Roma, the bustling capital of the Empire, surrounded by unfamiliar people who she doesn’t know if she can trust. Her choice remains: either she can give up the pearl and hand the most dangerous man an eternity to extend his power, or put her faith in two brothers who say they can find her own arca before it is used to destroy her. However, she knows that only one of them is telling her the whole truth…
YA: You first started writing Effie’s story when you were seventeen. What advice would you give to that younger gal if you could whisper in her ear across time?
RP: It sounds clichéd, but I’d tell her not to give up. When I was hit with yet another round of rejections for The Pearliad from literary agents, I started to doubt in my story and my writing ability. I am so glad that I never lost faith in it, but to know that I’d get there in the end would have been a huge driving force!
YA: If you could cast the Dream Film of THE PEARLIAD, who would you cast for Effie, Hamish, Stickings, and the rest?
RP: I was asked to do this for Effie, so the illustrator could better imagine what she’d look like for the front cover! When I wrote the book three years ago, the perfect person to play Effie would have been actress Freya Mavor. She looks very similar to the Effie in my mind, and even has a Scottish accent! However, now she’s probably a bit too old for the part.
I imagine Hamish being played by Gerard Butler (again with the Scottish accent). Gideon Stickings is a little more difficult, but I think Bradley Cooper in fifteen years time would play him perfectly (is that weird?!).
YA: What’s up next for you in YA land after this trilogy? Any pet projects you can tease us about?
RP: I’m afraid that my primary focus for the next year and a half has to be my degree! My publisher has been very understanding about the fact that I’m still at university and the timescale for the publication of the trilogy stretches forward about four years from now. After that, I have at least two other stand alone novels planned, and who knows what else will have inspired me that far in the future!
YA: All right, last one! If you could spend one day with Effie, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to Effie about her past or future?
RP: I think Effie and I would be great friends. I’d love to have her show me around the Indigo Isles to see her in her element. If I could give her any advice, it would be to stay true to herself and her heritage, no matter what anyone else tells her. And to remind her that she is, and always will be, a good person.
YA: Thank you very much, Rosie! And again, from YA Mag, congratulations on THE PEARLIAD! We look forward to hearing more from you in years to come!
Readers, be sure to check out Rosie Pugh at www.RosiePugh.com. Or follow her on Twitter @Rosie_Pugh.
THE PEARLIAD, published by Limehouse Books, is now available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!