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 Andrea Baker, author of the Worlds Apart series. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Andrea can be found at www.andreabakerauthor.com.
Andrea, 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.
Thank you for inviting me AFE, it’s a real pleasure to be here! I am a pretty ordinary person really - daughter, wife and mother to a gorgeous eight-year-old girl. In the real world I’m a Programme Manager, which is almost as tedious as it sounds but it pays the bills. I much prefer the world of a writer though.
My illogical fear is heights – I’m absolutely terrified of anything higher than the second step of a ladder. I’ve tried tackling it head on, and although I’ve achieved the challenge I’ve set myself each time, it hasn’t rid me of that fear. Having said that, the greatest fear I have ever known has been where my daughter is concerned – but I guess that is totally logical.
Like many authors, I’m quite an introvert at heart, but if I had to make a choice I would wrestle a bear any day. Sea creatures (real and fantasy) are my second most illogical fear!
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
The inspiration behind it is easy. The story – a girl descended from the almighty Savant, but trapped in a different world – has stuck with me for about three years now, but the inspiration, the point that pulled it all together for me, was a thunderstorm … You see I live just a very short distance from the castle base of my novel (yes it really does exist), and I was travelling home from work one day late in 2011, when we had a thunderstorm. The lightning lit up the castle, and it was that cliché moment, where the light bulb goes off. Suddenly I knew how to pull it all together. The core of the book, the first thirty thousand words, were written within six weeks of that moment, even while I was working full time, and trying to be a good Mother, too.
I hope that readers find it inspiring. I’ve based my fantasy world, or one of them, right here in reality – very little gives it away as being unreal to start with. From there I’ve tried to weave the elements in slowly, one at a time, to allow the reader to adjust and accept each step. The final third of the book is the real fantasy world however, and I hope the snippets of stories to come, and the story itself, will keep readers wanting to dive back in – perfect for an isolated sojourn.
Great, 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?
I like easy questions – it would have to be the Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis. One of my all-time favourites (and I’d take it as one volume), I spent many hours reading, re-reading, and making up my own stories with these characters. My daughter is now just starting to get into the books (and the films), and I can still feel that stir you get when a book really captures your imagination, when I read, or hear her read, snippets from the series. I used to spend hours pretending to be Lucy!
Well, I agree it would be hard to pick just one of the Narnia books, so I'll let you take the series if we can find it in a single volume! 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.
Another easy one – the author is Lucy Maude Montgomery, who wrote the Anne of Avonlea series. These are inspirational stories, even though they are dated now. The community, the passion that the master character has, their grief, trials and happiness all were painted for me so clearly in those novels. I know I tried hard to be a better person because of what I read in these books, tried to believe in my dreams, and to take others' feelings into account. I might not have quite succeeded, but I still believe there are some wonderful lessons to be learnt in these books, despite their dated setting now.
I think there are eight Anne books in total, Andrea, so I can't let you have them all! But I'll add Anne of Avonlea to the list. 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.
I can’t pick one! For me reading is an integral part of my life, and if I am trying to work through a situation then I will read, read and read some more until I get to grips with it. The books themselves are almost irrelevant here, and I will rarely pick up a “self help” type of book. It’s as if my mind needs that escape in order to have the time and freedom to process the things that are bothering me. I know that sounds a cop-out, but it is true. With the two series I’ve already chosen, I would have all the comfort and solace I would need, providing I get my one luxury item too …
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 …
My unexpected treasure … hmmm that’s more difficult, as all books are so precious. Let me think – I know, it would be the final book in the Boonsboro series by Nora Roberts. There was a section there that was completely unexpected. I write paranormal romance as you know, and yes, I will admit to liking a little romance now and again. I’d read Books One and Two after major surgery earlier this year, when I just wanted to switch off from the recovery and the hospital surroundings. I’ve never been good at letting characters go at the end of a book, so I went ahead and pre-ordered “The Perfect Hope”, which came out about six weeks ago now. While I found it quite formulaic and predictable as the closing novel of the trilogy, there is a passage that really stood out, where one of the characters experiences the life of a soldier in the battle of Antietam. The imagery and emotion contained in that one passage was, for me anyway, full of clarity. As a reader I found myself propelled into an awful situation. I’m not a great fan of military fiction, but this piece was short enough and very appropriate to the story, therefore it worked. I didn’t expect to feel that kind of impact from this particular series.
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.
Sorry, I have to go with a cliché here and say Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The darkness, the passion, the anger, and the heartbreak make it something everyone should read. I’m a firm believer that books can shape your beliefs and actions – after all we learn by experience, and if you’re an avid reader, you experience the story as you read it. There is so much tied up in this one novel, it should be compulsory reading …
Right. We’ll get those five … er, four 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 …
Another cliché I’m afraid, it would have to be a recording of my family – my daughter talking and singing, so I could pretend she is there with me.
Excellent. You didn't pick a song or film, so maybe we'll give you a couple more books from the Anne of Avonlea series instead … 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.
This links back to the previous question for me, because I would go to the world I have created for Leah. She can slip away in time and place, and relive events in the past – if I went there, even in exile, I would never be alone.
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.