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 Jordan Rivet, author of the Seabound Chronicles: a post-apocalyptic adventure series set at sea. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Jordan can be found at www.jordanrivet.com.
Jordan, 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! I actually live on an island already (Hong Kong), but it's cosmopolitan and always very busy. If the Hong Kong streets were suddenly deserted, I'd run for my life! I'm from Arizona originally, so I fear humidity and rattlesnakes.
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
Seabound is set on a cruise ship called the Catalina sixteen years after an apocalyptic catastrophe. The inspiration came when I was on a boat in the middle of Victoria Harbour and an old cruise ship called the Star Pisces sailed past. I looked up and thought, "Man, it's like a floating city!" I got to thinking about what would happen if a group of people had to survive at sea on a floating city like that for an extended period of time. I needed a reason for them to be there, hence the apocalypse. Seabound would be a great choice for a desert island because it's all about being marooned at sea! The action kicks off when the desalination system gets destroyed, so it would also serve as a cautionary tale and might even provide some survival ideas.
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 got the first two Harry Potter books for my 11th birthday. I literally grew up with the characters, and they featured prominently in my childhood, especially once my siblings started reading them too. We used to make deals over who got to read the new releases first (I have eight siblings, so negotiations could be tense). I'd choose Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the desert island because it's the best one!
I agree – it's my favourite too! 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'd choose The Eye of the World, which is the first book in the epic Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I started reading Wheel of Time in high school on my dad's recommendation. It's completely absorbing. My mom used to say I got extra quiet whenever I was reading a Wheel of Time book because my head would be totally in that world. Robert Jordan's death was the saddest thing that happened to me in college, and I read the fourteenth and final book in the series after I moved to Hong Kong. The series carried me through my formative years and demonstrates how immersive and all-consuming a fantasy world can be. The no-holds-barred world-building is what made me want to write science fiction and fantasy, even though I got my start in creative non-fiction and travel writing. I chose the name Jordan for my SFF pen name in honor of Robert Jordan (which is also a pen name). The characters also spend a lot of time walking and camping in The Eye of the World, which I'm sure I'd be doing a lot of on my desert island.
I also went through a stage of being immersed in Wheel of Time as a young adult. I lost momentum when I caught up with as much of the series as existed at the time (around Book 9), and I must admit, I haven't read the last books yet. But you've inspired me to restart!
Now, 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.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has just the right dreamy, beautiful quality that cheers me right up. I can't get over how exquisite the descriptions are.
I really must read that, since people keep recommending it to me! 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 …
I didn't expect to like Frankenstein. The subject just seemed kind of gross. But the book is chock full of interesting ideas and lends itself to some great conversations about human nature. Back when I was a teacher, my class had some of our greatest discussions on that book (second only to Crime and Punishment, a book that wins at everything but might be too depressing for exile).
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.
This diverges a bit from the SFF theme, but I have tremendous respect for Barbara Kingsolver. I think The Poisonwood Bible is a book for the ages and should be read alongside the greats. It would also be a good choice for life on an island because the characters deal with quite a bit of hardship in their environment.
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 …
Sweet. I'd choose A Thousand Years by Christina Perri (you may remember it from a certain vampire love story) because it's the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding (apologies for the sappy interlude). My favorite film is The Princess Bride and I will fight anyone who tells me it's not awesome. The other item would be a damn good desalination system!
Of course, you know what you're talking about :-) 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.
Oh, this is a tough one. I think I'd go with an island off the coast of Alaska. It's really pretty up there, plus it would be less humid than a tropical island. Otherwise, any island without mosquitoes would be acceptable.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Just a quick note to add that Seabound is on a one-week $0.99 sale at the moment, so if you think you might want to read it, you should download it before next Thursday!