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 Christi J. Whitney, author of young adult fantasy novel Grey (the first book in the Romany Outcasts series) – out today from Harper Voyager! When she's not being banished to a desert island, Christi can be found at christijwhitney.com.
Christi, 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.
Thanks for having me! Okay, first of all, I think it would be pretty epic to punch a shark in the face, but being that I’m not fond of ocean water (unless it’s in the Caribbean and I can see my toes) I don’t think I’ll be accosting a shark anytime soon. Also, I have a fear of jellyfish – a morbid, terrifying, paralyzing fear of those spawns of evil. I also hate crowded elevators.
A little about myself? Well, I’m a former high school theatre teacher, and I still work in the arts as much as I can, whether it’s directing, acting, or scriptwriting. I’m a geek. Always have been – even when I was younger, and it wasn’t anywhere near cool to be a girl AND a geek. I make costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions because I love dressing up as characters. I’ve been a Whovian since I was 12, and that’s saying a lot, growing up in America. And, let’s see … oh, I’ve convinced myself I was British in another life … and maybe a tad bit now.
On behalf of my people, I welcome you to the ranks of honorary Brits ;-) And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
I’ve always loved fantasy, whether it’s about other dimensions or hidden worlds within our own. I also adore fairy tales in any form. Grey was my way of combining those loves. My students inspired me when I was teaching, and I wrote large portions of the book during little breaks in my school day. Grey would be a great book when going into exile because it provides an escape from everyday life. You know, something to take your mind off countless meals of coconut milk and suffering through blistering sunburns.
Sounds good! 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?
Gosh, I had so many when I was young. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. But I’ll go with Beauty by Robin McKinley. I read that book countless times during the summer of my fifth grade year, and it was very special to me. It also fueled my love for that particular fairy tale, which is my absolute favorite of all time.
You’re the third guest in the space of a few weeks to pick a Robin McKinley book, so I can see I’m going to have to read more of her work! 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 Chronicles of Narnia. I know, I know. That’s an entire series. If I had to pick just one book from there, I’d pick The Silver Chair. It was the first fantasy novel I ever read on my own. I discovered it one day in my school library when I was in fourth grade, and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever read. I devoured the entire series from there, and I love them so much. I even bought a beautiful hardback set when my son was born to read aloud to him. I was so proud the first time he read through the series by himself. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and reading the Chronicles of Narnia led me to many of his other wonderful books as well.
Others before you have tried to sneak the entire Chronicles past me, so I admire your honesty! 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.
Without a doubt, it would be The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I’ve gone through it several times, and it has been such a huge help in my life when I’ve gone through tough times. He’s a wise man with some wonderful advice and sound teaching.
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 …
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. It was the first book I read by Austen, and I didn’t really think it would be my thing, despite enjoying classic literature. But I fell in love. We won’t even talk about Pride and Prejudice, which I read immediately after.
I’m not surprised you liked it – after all, you can’t get much more British than Austen :-) 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.
Well, it’s already a classic, but I’d have to choose The Hobbit. The story and the characters just stay with you, and I have such fond memories of reading it as an early teen.
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 …
Oh, yay! That should make things a lot more pleasant.
For my piece of music: The theme music from Doctor Who, and since we didn’t specify, make that a compilation of all the variations of it, because yeah … that song is just amazing. It was my geek anthem when I was younger, and it’s my theme now. It gives me the feels.
For my film: The Princess Bride. Do I even need to say why?
For my item of choice: Well, because I’m convinced it’s actually real, and no one will make me believe otherwise, I’m going to choose the TARDIS. Again, no explanation really needed.
Being able to travel anywhere in time or space sort of defeats the purpose of island-based exile, but I guess I can live with it ;-) 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.
Well, I’d want my island to be in the most amazing place ever, so I’m going to choose Narnia.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
The trailer for Grey is available to watch below.