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 Elizabeth Hull aka C.N. Lesley, author of Darkspire Reaches. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Elizabeth can be found at cnlesley.wordpress.com.
Elizabeth, 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 think perhaps I should explain the reasoning behind the byline. I was going to use my own name, but when I googled it, I found there was another me, already published as a fantasy writer. The dear, sweet lady is Fred Pohl’s wife. We not only share an identical spelling of our first name, but also of our middle name, Anne. This is when the need to be not me came into existence.
Fears? Mm, I don’t like heights, but I don’t intend to climb any trees on the island. I guess I could find a really long pole to knock coconuts down, instead. I don’t like snakes so that stick is going to do double duty.
I presume you are going to have to let me take my reading glasses as I won’t be able to read these books if I can’t have them. This means I will always have fire on a day with clear sun, given the right angle to get the rays through the lens and aimed at some dried grass. I shall be able to have cooked fish as I can swim and dive.
Sounds like you're all set for life on a barren island! And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
Darkspire Reaches was a short story that got way out of hand. Once the heroine came into being, she wouldn’t shut up and then along came the wyvern. I gave in gracefully at that point. I just had to know what happened to them in the end. (Admission there, I am a pantzer and not an outliner.)
It is a story of not quite fitting in and not knowing why. The answer, when it comes, is shocking. Nothing was as it seemed. Sacrifices come first, and then hard choices. Kristell Ink, my publisher, is billing it as a dark romantic fantasy. There is more about the book here.
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?
This has got to be the Collection of Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. I can remember joining the local library and finding this in the children’s section. Some of these stories are both magical and somewhat gory, but all seem to have an underlying message. I guess they were a form of teaching for children at the time they were originally written.
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.
I think everyone will expect me to say Lord of the Rings, and yes, it is a favourite book, but not the one I will choose for this category. Frank Herbert’s Dune has to be my choice. I see new facets every time I read the book, so it is a good forever choice. Dune also totally hooked me on science fiction and fantasy. I read LOTR after this, and yes, it was all in one book then.
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.
Again, I am thinking of a book I can reread again and again. Something to take me to a totally unconnected world, and for me, perhaps this shouldn’t be fantasy or science fiction, so I choose Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I can have a good cry reading this. My family will tell you I sobbed when the cat got squished in Hocus Pocus, so yes, I am a softy.
Nothing wrong with that! 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 …
Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer. This was a course book for English Literature, and I was having a huge problem staying awake during class while the lecturer read to us in what he had been instructed was Middle English dialect. It was unutterably boring and incomprehensible. Since this book was one in the end exams, it had to be understood, so I started blocking out the droning and began to sight read. Once I got the hang of letter substitutions and reversals, and allowed for the terminology of the time, yes, it was a fascinating book. I prefer this version of the story to the later play penned by Shakespeare.
I also choose this book because it would take me time to relearn how to read it and this would be stimulating.
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.
The Illiad by Homer. All of it, as translated by Samuel Butler. I love tales of Ancient Greece, and I think just about most of them are in here. That will keep me entertained for a very long time.
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 …
My song will have to be Harry’s Game by Clannad. I could listen to that over and over. Film? Now I shall pick Lord of the Rings, the extended version on Blu-ray, please.
I am torn with my last item. I would like to bring my cat, but that wouldn’t be fair. He needs his soft bed and his constant supply of food and water. I think I will choose a frame tent. At least I will be able to keep dry, and it might help to keep the bugs and nasty critters away at night.
Excellent. 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.
The island has to be on my world of Darkspire Reaches, but in the southern hemisphere and nearer the equator, so it would be pleasantly warm, but still get the occasional rain. It is my world and therefore I haven’t given it any shark-infested waters. Aside from that, the flora and fauna are very similar.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Thanks for the experience!
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.