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 Katherine Harbour, author of Thorn Jack (first in the Night and Nothing Novels trilogy). When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Katherine can be found at katherineharbour.com.
Katherine, 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 Sarasota, Florida. I collect books. I’ve also begun my inevitable collection of cats, although I’ve only had one for two years. I used to paint weird characters onto canvas, now I just write them into stories. I’m half British and of Russian and Filipino ancestry. I’d rather not wrestle a bear or punch a shark, although I did get a baby rattlesnake out of someone’s house once.
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 wanted to write a story where the faeries were a haunting, to complement the heroine’s coping with the death of her wild, beautiful sister, and Thorn Jack was inspired by the Scottish ballad ‘Tam Lin’. Other inspirations were Gothic literature from such authors as Arthur Machen and Mary Shelley, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Celtic mythology, Grimm fairy tales, and the book Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland. I think Thorn Jack’s combination of fantasy, romance, mystery, and horror would appeal to someone in exile.
What a list of inspirations! That alone would make me want to read Thorn Jack, even without the fascinating plot and the gorgeous cover :-) 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?
That would be a tie between A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. They were very Gothic for children’s books, and very British. I’d choose these because of the settings, the interesting characters, and the smart heroines.
Hmm, I suppose we can let you have two since they’re both such classics! 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 Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. They made me want to go on an adventure. After I read one, I became a true bookworm.
Now you’re getting a bit cheeky ;-) We can’t let you take all the Nancy Drew books, but we’ll give you the biggest anthology we can find! 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.
My comfort read would be Moonwise by Greer Gilman. The book, breathtakingly gorgeous in its mythical language, takes me out of the world for a while. It sets the perfect mood for a story about a modern girl seeking her best friend in a magical forest.
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’m going to choose the book that set me on the path to loving fantasy. Before that, I’d never read any fantasy at all. A friend loaned me The Time of the Dark, by Barbara Hambly. It’s about a young drifter and a female scholar who become trapped in a medieval world of magic and mayhem. After that, I was hooked, and it wasn’t a far path to Dungeons and Dragons …
So I guess, indirectly, we have Barbara Hambly and your friend between them to thank for Thorn Jack! 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 Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. The vivid characters, the lyrical prose, and the futuristic Romeo and Juliet story make this an outstanding tale about a girl who falls in love with a robot.
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 …
The song would be my current favorite, Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. The movie would be Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, and could I take an iPad? Maybe I could luck out on some WiFi.
Indeed, and we’ll even throw in an everlasting battery! 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.
Since other worlds are pretty sketchy, I’ll choose somewhere near Great Britain. There’s rarely any snow, there’s plenty of rain to grow things, and there are some really pretty days.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!