Welcome to Barren Island Books, an interview show in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. Every Thursday, I will be exiling my latest guest to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with these books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Amber Skye Forbes, a dancing writer who, well, dances and writes. Not at the same time, although she would like to. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Amber can be found at amberskyeforbes.wordpress.com.
Amber, thanks for joining us. First of all, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself – just so we know who it is we’re sending into exile. Illogical fears, unusual birthmarks, whether you’d rather wrestle a bear or punch a shark, that kind of thing.
Well, I’m a university student at Augusta State University majoring in middle education with English. But that won’t last long. I’m dropping this major so I can do a creative writing one at another university, one that’s online so I don’t have to go to class because lectures never interested me in the first place. Never. The concept of school is stifling. I much prefer self-education. School itself is just boring. Moving on …
I’d rather punch a shark. I’ll be in a boat while I punch a shark. It can’t do anything, other than try to jump up to the boat, but it probably won’t make it. I’ll just punch it again.
I also do ballet. I’m as flexible as a pretzel, so fear me.
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
When Stars Die is about Amelia Gareth, who, when learning that her brother is a witch, decides the one way to redeem her and her family is to join a convent and become a nun. But there is no redemption for witches, for they are hated in her world. But she is still fiercely determined to redeem her family, so she joins with priest, Oliver Cromwell, to fight for a place in Paradise.
There is no one set inspiration behind When Stars Die. I just knew I wanted to write about witches and convents, about why certain people are witches and others aren’t, and I wanted to pretty much dismantle the idea of religion and get people thinking about their own set of beliefs.
To be honest, I know people would enjoy my book, but I don’t know if they’d want to take it with them on a deserted island. Books you want to take on a deserted island should offer hope of escape, and When Stars Die may not offer that. It’s a pretty dark book. There are bits of light scattered throughout, but unless you’re a sadist, you’re better off reading this in the comfort of your own bed with blankets and stuffed animals and some tea.
Fair enough! One for future interviewees to read before they go into exile, then. So now let’s move on to the books you’re going to take to the island with you. First up, it’s your favourite childhood book – perhaps the one that got you interested in reading in the first place, or the one you read over and over when you were young. Which will you choose, and why?
The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne was my favourite as a child, so I suppose that would be one series I’d take with me. Jack and Annie go on all sorts of adventures, and I’m sure one of their adventures would give me an idea of how to get off this deserted island.
Next, the book that made the greatest impact on your life. This could be one that inspired you to become a writer, or one that made you look at the world in a whole new way – maybe even one that resulted in real-life romance or adventure.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It didn’t inspire me to become a writer, but it sure as heck has influenced where I’d like to take my writing once all my genre stuff is done. It was heartwrenchingly sad and achingly sweet. TFiOS did inspire a short story I’m having published in an anthology by AEC Stellar Publishing — a lot of real-life events inspired it too.
I'd agree, The Fault in Our Stars is that rare thing: a successful book that lives up to its hype! For your third book – and you’re probably going to need this one, all alone on a remote island – I’d like you to choose your greatest comfort read. You know, the one you turn to when you’re sad or ill or just need a little pick-me-up.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. This is the book that inspired my writing the most and really pushed me as a writer. I need to buy a new copy because the one I currently have has been read so much that the book has torn itself apart into three sections, and either one or two of them is hiding somewhere in my bedroom.
Fourthly, it’s your unexpected treasure: a book you didn’t expect to like but did, maybe one outside your usual genre or that you picked up with low expectations but were pleasantly surprised …
I honestly don’t have a book like this. If I have low expectations for a book, I don’t even bother picking it up. I will say I have had high expectations for books, only to be disappointed by them, but never have I bought a book when I have low expectations for it.
And finally, I’d like you to choose your instant classic – the book you think most deserves to be read and reread by future generations. It’s up to you whether this book is already considered a classic or is something more obscure.
I think Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez. It is very reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars and was a real tearjerker for me. I don’t feel like this book is as popular as it feels like it should be, and I’m actually pretty ashamed that her publisher doesn’t seem to be pushing the book as hard as it deserves to be pushed. I mean, it’s not in any bookstore in my area.
Yeah, I must admit, it's not one I've heard of – but now I'm going to check it out, so that's one more reader for it at least! Anyway, we’ll get your chosen books packaged up ready for your journey. Since we’re not completely heartless here at Barren Island Books, we’ll also let you take one song/piece of music, one film and one other item of your choice into exile with you …
I’ll take Storytime by Nightwish, Black Swan, and my favourite stuffed animal, my Hello Kitty from Build-a-Bear. My fiancé gave her to me, after all.
Aw. Your book may be dark, but it sounds like you're a big softie really :-) Now, before we whisk you away, you have one last decision to make: where you want your remote island to be located. You can choose anywhere you like for your exile, in this world or another.
I would like my remote island to be on Pandora. It seems like a nice, warm environment.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
If you are an author and would like to take part in a future edition of Barren Island Books, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.