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 Dan Koboldt, author of action-packed sci-fi fantasy novel The Rogue Retrieval – out now from Harper Voyager Impulse. When he’s not being banished to a desert island, Dan can be found at dankoboldt.com.
Dan, 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 live in the Midwest, where I'm a genetics researcher by day and sci-fi/fantasy author by night. I'm also a fairly avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. I'd absolutely rather punch a shark than wrestle a bear.
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 grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, so some of the classic tropes from those genres found their way into The Rogue Retrieval. However, the central premise came to me when I read an article about Teller, the quiet half of the famous illusionists Penn & Teller. The article was about Teller's efforts to patent his illusions, because various copycats were using high-def video (among other techniques) to reverse-engineer them. I wondered how much modern technology had changed the traditions of performance magic. Then I wondered what a modern illusionist could get away with in a medieval society that didn't even have electricity. And that's basically what my book is about.
I'm really looking forward to reading it! 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?
I would say Dune, which remains one of my favorite books of all time. It's such a clever mashup of technology and swordplay. The more I read it, the more I appreciate the complex world-building that went into the book – religion, economics, history, and other elements all come together so wonderfully. Dune was one of my earliest introductions to sci-fi, and part of why I came to love it. The spice must flow.
I love Dune too! One of those books I've read too many times to count :-) 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.
That's easy: J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It sent me on the literary adventure of reading epic fantasy, which I've been doing ever since. I still remember where I was when I read the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, and the emotional impact it had on me. LOTR made me realize that I loved reading stories from secondary worlds. I loved the escape of it. That's also part of why I love writing speculative fiction.
Likewise! 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'd say The Onion but I'm guessing my desert island won't have high-speed internet. That knowledge will undoubtedly put me into a depressive state, and the cure for that might be Harry Potter. Those books, especially the early ones, are just so fun to read. I could spend a long time just thinking about the world of HP, and that's the best pick-me-up I could ask for. Plus, the books are long enough to keep me reading a while (and thick enough to make for decent weapons).
True, potential as a weapon is an important consideration in a book :-) 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 …
Outside of SF/F, my favorite genre is probably mystery. I don't read nearly as much of that as I'd like, but one surprise was Janet Evanovich's series beginning with One for the Money. I think I borrowed the first few from my sister-in-law, not expecting to get into it, but they're hilarious and fun-to-read books with fascinating characters. The movie was good, too.
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 like Ready Player One for this, for a number of reasons. I grew up in the 80's, so a world dependent on pop culture from that era was right up my alley. I also like a good underdog story, which this book certainly is. And who doesn't admire a culture where geekery is the path to fame and fortune? I'm a little disappointed that Ernest Cline's next book didn't reach the same high bar, but still looking forward to the film adaptation of RPO.
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 …
As long as we're talking 80's, I might as well choose a song that I'll need when on a desert island: Don't Stop Believing by Journey. My current favorite movie is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so maybe you could send along a copy of that once it becomes available. For my luxury item, I'll take my compound bow, because daddy's gotta eat.
This is a barren island, but I suppose you could shoot the shark … 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.
How about the island from LOST? I'm a big fan of the show, and I like to keep things interesting.
Ah, you’re planning to shoot the polar bear! That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
You can find out more about The Rogue Retrieval at dankoboldt.com/writing/rogue-retrieval.