Welcome to Barren Island Books, the author interview series that’s in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. You know the rules by now: my guests are exiled 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 those books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Aurora Walderhaug, author of humorous dark fantasy comic Mortis Comoedia, which appropriately was released for Halloween. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Aurora can be found at www.aurora-walderhaug.co.uk.
As part of her book launch, Aurora is giving away multiple prizes, including a copy of my very own Darkhaven – so stay tuned for the links at the end of the interview!
Aurora, 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.
I am an artist who loves the sight and smell of good old-fashioned ink and oil paint, and that of real physical books and a new CD or vinyl record. I like to pretend that the modern world - or perhaps I should rather say modern art, architecture and the modern way of dressing - never happened.
Like so many others, I harbour irrational fears for insects. Moths and butterflies, to mention but a few. Yes, butterflies can be very pretty, but only at a distance where you can't see their hairy little bodies *shudders * and the fragile structure of their wings that looks as if it would turn into dust at a mere, feather-light touch. Honestly I have no idea whether I would prefer to let a moth or butterfly land on me, or to wrestle the bear. Or punch the shark …
A Lepidoptera-free island for you, then :-) And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
If I had to describe my inspirations with two words I would say beauty and absurdity. An undying love for classical art, literature and music. And of course also an equal contempt for the usual bad stuff that comes to mind when one thinks of mankind as a whole – stupidity, ignorance and ugliness fuelled by an insatiable, everlasting greed. We are doomed indeed.
Well! To answer the last question, my books would be a good choice to bring with you into exile because they are something as unusual as fine art and comics at the same time. You can marvel at the meticulously drawn details in all the panels while laughing your arse off at the same time.
Sounds awesome! 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?
As one would expect from a person who grew up in Sweden, that would be a work by our national saint Astrid Lindgren: Ronia The Robber's Daughter. I loved the book and the movie to bits in equal measure. That tale has it all: a headstrong and independent little medieval robber princess living in an old castle in an enchanted forest inhabited by strange goblins and harpy-like creatures (that always scared me out of my wits) and an impossible friendship (or love story or whatever you prefer to call it). And the simple but naturalistic, black and white illustrations by Lindgren's long-time collaborator Ilon Wikland are gorgeous. I had never heard of the term "fantasy" at the age of six, of course, but it was a great introduction to the genre.
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.
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice was the book (and the film, I happened to see it before I discovered the book) that introduced me to gothic horror and the gothic aesthetic in the first place. As a true child of the late autumn, I've always loved to cuddle up to a good old ghost story, and I've always had a soft spot for vampires – but I never really took the plunge into gothic darkness before I got into Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (the first three in the series, that is. I still prefer to think that the rest of them never existed). The 18th century settings in the first two books also kindled a latent love for the period in me, which of course has affected my art, my view on history, and also my Halloween costume ideas quite a lot …
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.
Oh, why just ONE book? The Tale of the Ice Folk by the great Queen of Scandinavian pulp literature, Margit Sandemo, is not ONE book but a series of 47 (written in a feverish frenzy, allegedly caused and chanelled by none less than Lucifer himself, between 1982 and 89!). Some of them are great while others are crap, but the great ones make really good comfort reading. It is a tale of a bloodline ("The Ice Folk") cursed by an evil forefather sometime during the Dark Ages. The plot starts in late 16th century Norway, following the adventures and misadventures of the members of the Ice Folk through four centuries. If I had to choose one of those books it would be book number three, Avgrunden (The Abyss), centering around the tragic life of the beautiful, young and all-too-gifted witch Sol Angelica of the Ice Folk in late 16th century Scandinavia. Attracted to evil and hopelessly in love with Satan himself, Sol is still a gentle soul deep inside, fiercely loyal to her family and always ready to kill and die in order to protect it. (The first six books in the series were actually released on the British market sometime during the mid-2000s.)
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 …
Well, I tried to read The Lord Of the Rings at the age of twelve but was, like so many others, put off by its extremely long and tedious introduction to the habits of hobbits et cetera. When I heard that the movies were in production, however, I decided it was about time to give the books a second chance, as I wanted to be able to see the books and the films as separate entities before it was too late. So after almost ten years I finally picked up the first part again and was hooked from the middle and onwards.
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.
When I finally got round to reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde after seeing one horrible film adaptation (the one from 2005 with Josh Duhamel) and a really good one (the 2009 version with Ben Barnes), I just couldn't put the book down. The numerous philosophical questions and witty remarks about art that Dorian and his entourage strew around themselves throughout the book were of course very interesting to me as an artist, but the story is captivating in its own right. Yes, there is one single dull passage where the story goes completely astray in detailed descriptions of Dorian's vast collections of art, antiques and porcelain vases, but you can just skim through that part without missing anything, so don't be fooled by that.
Right. We’ll get those five 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 …
If I have to mention just one piece of music (even though I would hate it in the end after listening to it over and over again like a tortured prisoner in Abu Ghraib – oh horrible thought!) that would be The Angel and The Dark River by My Dying Bride.
The film would probably be Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth (I may have seen it a hundred times, but I think it's actually been a few years since the last time so I'm in an Elizabethan mood now).
The item would be a big jar of Turkisk Peppar (a brand of salty liquorice that is popular in Scandinavia). I wouldn't need a pencil or paper or any other artist materials since I could draw figures in the sand with sticks all day long … no one would see it anyway and I would go insane eventually, whatever kind of objects I chose to take with me.
Well, I guess so, but at least you'd be happy in the process! 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.
Really hard choice, but I think it would be Abode aka The World of Two Moons in Wendy and Richard Pini's Elf Quest, another great piece of literature that will always have a place in my heart.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
To celebrate the launch of Mortis Comoedia, Aurora is giving away multiple prizes! You will find the giveaways at the links below.
Ten copies of the book itself
Copy of Darkhaven
Copy of The Showing by Will Macmillan Jones
Ten copies of Dylan Dog horror comic
Devolution Magazine goody bag
Halloween art print set
Bookmark, magnet and button set
Beautiful Gothic bag