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 Davie Graham, author of The Silent Blade Chronicles (the first of which is A Sword for Hire). When he's not being banished to a desert island, Davie can be found at davidgraham01.wordpress.com.
Davie, 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.
Hi, and thanks for inviting me along. I was born in Scotland, and lived and worked there as a carpenter for more than half a century. For many years I had been toying with ideas for a series of fantasy books, but for some reason I could never seem to get the thing off the ground. But then, about two years ago, my life took a new turn and I suddenly found myself living in Wales with a wonderful new woman. It was she who began to encourage me into my writing, and lo and behold I found a formula that seemed to work for me.
I do not have many fears, other than heights. The idea of being more than head-height from the ground scares the living daylights out of me; after all, falling from any given height, at any given velocity, is not good for the human body.
Fighting animals would not scare me, however. In fact I seem to be one of those people who possesses an affinity with animals, and I seem to understand them much better than humans. I think this is reflected in my writings, as many of my characters are animals – or can become animals.
Interesting … so tell us more about your own work. What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
One man in particular has inspired me, and that is the Master of Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien. Having read his works over and over, it is only natural that I should want to write fantasy tales.
But the real inspiration for The Silent Blade Chronicles eventually came from a dream … a very vivid dream, which to this day has lived in my memory as clearly as the night I dreamed it. At the time it scared me, because I never usually have very vivid dreams. But after a while I decided to write it down, and this became the poem that introduces the Chronicles right at the start … this tells of the birth of my dragon god, Nightwing, and was to become the core element of my books.
As for the reason other people would want to take my work into exile with them? Well, I deliberately wanted to write a fantasy series that is easy to read, without too much politics, and contains a fair amount of light humour. My main characters are not typical heroes – in fact one of them does not even want to be a hero, and would rather be in bed dreaming about butterflies. So it is a tale of friendship, which can be picked up at any time when you want to put a smile on your face.
It sounds like the perfect companion for exile to a barren island! 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 first books I remember reading all the way through are the Biggles series, by Captain W.E. Jones. As a small boy in the sixties, I found these were truly adventurous stories and I loved them. There is one which always sticks in my mind, and it is called Biggles and the Black Peril, and I think of them all that is the one I would take with me.
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 answer to that again has to be Tolkien’s The Hobbit. This was the first fantasy book I ever read, and I was enthralled by it (still am, in fact). It is not the longest fantasy book in the world, but it is one I can easily read over and over again. Of course this tale of dwarves, hobbits, wizards and dragons drew me away from the adventures of Biggles, and rapidly led me into the fantasy genre.
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.
There is one other fantasy author of whom I am a very big fan, and that is Sir Terry Pratchett. So of course, if I needed a pick-me-up, I would reach for one of his books straight away. The man is a true genius with word-play, and his characters are so rounded and “real”. There is, of course, so much Pratchett to choose from, but if I am only allowed one, then I think it would need to be one of my favourites, Carpe Jugulum.
Interesting how every Barren Islander has a different favourite Pratchett :-) 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 …
For this I would need to choose something by M.T. McGuire. She is a fairly new author, but her books are already spreading out into the world, and having read the first two I think I would like to take one of hers. The first one, Few are Chosen, would be best to take, I think, as it starts the tale nicely, and although it leads into the second book, it also stands out on its own merit.
Excellent choice – we're always pleased to see books by previous BIB guests being picked! 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 could cheat here and say The Silent Blade Chronicles, but that would not be a fair answer. So I suppose it would need to be a true classic, and I would choose Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Having this book with me in exile would be really handy, as I could use it as a sort of “how to deal with being stranded” manual. But joking aside, it is one of the true classics, and a worthy read.
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 …
For a song I would definitely choose Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, as I could stand on the sandy shore and sing along with it as loudly as I wanted (and do the big “air-guitar” solo at the end).
For a film I think I would like to take Avatar, as I believe this is one of the best CGI films ever made.
As for one other item of my choice, I suppose asking for a boat would be out of the question, so I think I would like to take my Playstation, fitted with a dongle to receive the internet.
Indeed, it's safe to say that a boat would be considered rather a cheat, so the Playstation it is! 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 am not a lover of very hot places. However, if it is possible, I would like to be stranded on a small island just off the coast of the Garramor Realm (you will find Garramor in The Silent Blade Chronicles). There I know I would have peace to enjoy playing Bohemian Rhapsody as loudly as possible, just to annoy the wizards of Mount Oragil, and I could watch the dragons fly overhead through the night.
Sounds perfect. So that’s it – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Thank you for having me … happy reading, everyone!
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.