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 Jessica Cage, author of The High Arc series (starting with Revitalized and continuing with the newly released Guidance of Rasmiyah). When she's not being banished to a desert island, Jessica can be found at jessicaswritersjourney.blogspot.co.uk and writergirl25.wix.com/jessica-cage-author.
Jessica, 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 a mother of one and an author. My son is the biggest part of my decision to chase my dream. He was the reason I began, but I have come to learn that this journey is much more about me than it is him. And I am accepting that it is okay for it to be that way. I am birthmark free but I am terribly afraid of large masses of water. I promised myself that I would get over this fear, and each year during the summer I challenge myself to face it. This year I managed to go to the lake … still have hit the sand, but I was close enough to hear the waves crashing. Then my stomach knotted up and I ran for the car.
I hope the fact that you’ve agreed to be stranded on a remote island means you’re getting closer to beating that fear :-) And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
My work is unique in the way that I like to take the commonly told stories and put my own twist on them. I think it is easy to duplicate what is already out there, play off a storyline that has been rewritten a million times and gain the interest of readers who love that story. I have never been a fan of the easy way – yes, I will admit to being a bit lazy at times, but when it comes to my writing, I aim to take the reader to another place. Even if the names of the characters or their classifications in the paranormal world are something you have heard before, their stories, their lives, their background and journey, will be different each and every time.
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?
My favourite book while growing up, that I read over and over, was Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree. No, it isn’t a paranormal fiction, but it was a book that took me out of that safe zone for the first time. I just remember reading it and thinking, I want to write like this. I want to write stuff that will take readers to a new place in their literary worlds. I think I have managed to do that with my works. Even as an adult, I still have that book and will gladly read it on any given night.
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 Twilight books made the greatest impact for me – at least in the way that it gave me another push towards publishing my own works. I read those books, and yes I have heard the bashing, but I enjoyed them. Because they were different, and they didn’t stick to the stereotypes. Even though I had written these stories, these worlds that were different than what anyone would expect, I still had fear that no one would accept them. Reading the Twilight series, I realized that the world isn’t as prejudiced to new ideas as I had feared.
Well, whatever critics may think of the Twilight books, there's no denying that they've inspired a lot of people. 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.
If I could just take my entire Vampire Academy book collection I would be so content. Whenever I need an emotional hug, I pick up one of these books and just dive right in. They are the kind of books that just make it easy to escape the real world. When you’re feeling like the real world sucks, well, what better way to take a quick vacay?
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 …
The Divorce Party by Laura Dave. I found this book at the dollar store in my neighbourhood. I am not even sure why I picked it up. Possibly because I had a bunch of bubbles and toys for my son and thought, hell, I deserve to spend just one dollar on myself. It was one of the best dollars I have ever spent. This story was totally unexpected and much more intense than I was prepared for, but I couldn’t put it down. I just had to keep reading, and when it was over, I read it again.
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 choose Neverwhere, written by Neil Gaiman. It is a book that challenges you not only to enjoy the story but also to pay attention. There are all of these twists and turns that just keep you on your toes. I think classics should be challenging, they should make the reader use that brain power and race to find out the big secret before the author reveals it to you.
I’d agree, Neverwhere is a wonderful book and thoroughly deserves classic status! Anyway, 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 …
I choose Waiting to Exhale as my movie, and then Katy Perry’s Roar as my music (I am sure I will regret this after about two weeks). They will help to counteract each other when affecting my mood. I would also want to take pen and paper, an unlimited source please. No? Well, a notebook or two. I am a writer and I must write. Otherwise the characters inside my mind would drive me insane.
I know the feeling :-) 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 choose a world I created for a work in progress. It is a world where alchemy, the laws of science rule and there is a spot there, between fire and ice, where it’s a breathtaking view. The sky is a mixture of the red of the fire side and the cool blue that radiates from the ice side. And the water is warm and cleansing. The world ceases to exist when you are there. It is a place of comfort, where the people travel to erase their woes. I described this place and as I was writing it, illustrating it through my words, I wished I could go there, see it in real life. Sometimes, during a hard day at work or a moment of writer’s block, I close my eyes and imagine I am there.
Sounds amazing. So that’s it – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
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.