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 Katrina Jack, author of the Silver Flute Trilogy. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Kate can be found at www.katejack.co.uk.
Kate, 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.
Well I’d rather chill out and relax in the sunshine of my tropical island. Bears are dirty fighters and sharks have no morals whatsoever! A little about myself, eh? Well I’m a fifty-something spinster, still living in the same house my family moved to when I was five. You’ll gather from that, that I’m not very adventurous – apart from my writing, which is a thrill a minute. I work in an office, own a cat who is the spawn of Satan and spend most of my spare time reading, writing and Go Go dancing. (That last bit was a lie.)
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
The inspiration behind the Silver Flute Trilogy is mainly down to American author Jim Butcher and his Harry Dresden series. It was the first set of YA urban fantasy books I’d ever read and I was immediately hooked. It made me decide I wanted to go the same route myself, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then one day, at work, I was staring out the window at the Littlewoods building, on Edge Lane in Liverpool – that was when inspiration struck. I thought what a wonderful location it would make in a book and from that day on, I kept seeing locations everywhere I went: the Liverpool Anglican cathedral, St Luke’s bombed-out church and so on.
Why would someone take my book into exile with them? Well it’s different from the usual run-of-the-mill YA urban fantasies on offer. The main protagonist, Jeremiah Tully, is not only a musician, he’s also mute, which made some of the dialogue a bit tricky. It’s set in a world very close to our own, with one huge difference – it’s infested with demons, ogres and a breed of half-demon half-ogre known as Gangers. The story is fast-paced, colourful and dark in turn, has engaging characters, both good and bad, and sweeps the reader along in its wake.
It sounds fascinating! 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?
C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I loved all the Narnia books, they were so different from the usual children’s novels on offer back then. I felt I could identify with the characters and I absolutely adored the idea of walking into a wardrobe and emerging into a world filled with delightful and eccentric characters.
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.
Alas, no romance and no adventure. The book that opened up a whole new world for me isn’t actually a book, not in the strictest sense. It was an old, out-of-date, leather-bound diary. Why did it change my life? Because it was then I began to write in earnest. I filled its blank pages from cover to cover with short stories, fairy tales, derring-do adventures and drawings. That was when I was fourteen, a long time ago, but my enthusiasm for reading and writing has never waned. I wish I still had that diary; it would be fun to read its contents and see how my writing style has changed.
Nothing is impossible here at Barren Island Books, so we'll make sure to unearth that old diary for you! 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.
That would be any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, particularly the ones featuring my favourite character, Sam Vimes. They always make me smile and help me forget my blues.
Tricky to choose, but we'll begin at the beginning and give you Guards! Guards!. 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 …
Funnily enough my brother pointed me in the direction of an Italian detective series called Inspector Montalbano, based on the books of Italian author Andreas Camilleri. The TV series was superb, with fantastic stories, backdrops and actors. I decided to try one of the books, The Gull’s Dance, expecting it would lose something in the translation, or the screenplays would be much better than the books. How wrong I was. The translation is excellent and the screenplays have closely followed the books. The writing is fantastic, Camilleri is a master storyteller.
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.
For me it would have to be Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Although the style of writing is very different to what we’re accustomed to today, it contains lessons and comments on society that are still applicable, especially in the current economic gloom.
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 …
Hmm, let me think. Piece of music, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Film, Little Miss Sunshine. And a big crate of vodka.
We'll get you the biggest we can find! 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.
It would have to be an island of my own making, let’s call it “Kate’s Place”. It would have all the usual perks, sunshine, palm trees, flamingos (orange, not pink), and copious amounts of food and drink.
That’s it, then – 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.