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 Kindra Sowder, author of urban fantasy Follow the Ashes (Book 1 of the Executioner Trilogy) and owner of Burning Willow Press. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Kindra can be found at kindrasowder-insidemymind.blogspot.co.uk and burningwillowpress.wix.com/kindrasowder.
Kindra, 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 transplant from Rancho Palos Verdes, California and now reside in Spartanburg, South Carolina with my husband, step-son, and our two fur babies (non-fur baby in the works). I have been writing as long as I can remember, but formulated the world and events behind the Executioner Trilogy when I was 15, only to see it evolve into something I would’ve never dreamed of. Now, after a small snag in publishing, I own an independent press I co-founded called Burning Willow Press. We take on all manner of speculative fiction in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy realms. As far as unusual fears? Mine is the fear of heights. My husband says that it’s not the height; it’s the fall I’m scared of. While this could be true, I still say I have an immense fear of heights. I know that’s not so unusual. If you want to know what really grosses me out there is a small list that includes ticks, maggots, and lice. The thought of all three makes me insanely itchy (and it’s starting now that I’m thinking about them).
*scratching* I'm not surprised. 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 have extremely high hopes for my own work. The inspirations behind it came from images I could clearly see in my mind when I was thinking this whole thing up. My husband and mother (whom my main character is named after) have been my largest supporters and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I’d probably still be sitting in front of an unfinished book 1 instead of book 3 right now. Why would someone want to take it to exile? It is a story about love, loss, and fighting for your life no matter how hard the struggle. It’ll show them that, even in the direst circumstances, you can always fight your way out. This trilogy is the epitome of this.
It sounds wonderful! 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?
I have always been an avid reader but the one that really inspired me when I was younger was a book we had to read in 6th grade. It was The Giver by Lois Lowry. I own this book and still love to read it, even though it is considered Young Adult fiction. It has also been a huge inspiration in my writing and started my passion for Dystopian fiction, which is one reason I am currently delving into this genre as well.
You know, I've never read The Giver, but I really ought to – I know it's considered one of the founders of the YA dystopian genre. 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 can definitely say every work I have ever read has inspired me in some way in my writing, but one that really hit home for me was The Dark Half by Stephen King. As for most writers I know, Stephen King’s work has been a huge inspiration for them as writers and you usually hear this from horror writers, which I am not. I can say that the love for this author is one that I share with my mother and my husband as well as my mother in law. You should see my collection that is taking up about two walls of shelves in my living room.
That's one impressive collection! 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.
I really don’t have a tendency to read a lot of sad books. I normally stick to horror, fantasy, science fiction, and Dystopian. Something action packed with a powerful message behind it. The one I love to dig into when I’m sad is Carrie by Stephen King. Yes, this book still has a profound impact on me and with two movies based on it, I just can’t stay away. Most would think it would be Nicholas Sparks or maybe even Danielle Steel, but not for me. I have been told I am a very unusual person and I connect with Carrie on this level, which causes this work to mean the world 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 …
One that I had heard about in high school and picked up not expecting to like it was Sabriel by Garth Nix. I absolutely adore this book and have since I first picked it up. I wasn’t expecting much out of it because of who suggested it, but ended up loving it in the end. Trust me, I was just as shocked as the other person.
I enjoyed Sabriel too, though I've never read the sequels. 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 am a die-hard Anne Rice fan and I consider anything she writes to be a classic. One of my absolute favorites of hers that I actually didn’t read until I was around 16 is (and I struggle with this decision because there is another of hers I love just as much) Pandora. Like I said, I struggle between this one and The Vampire Lestat, but if I had to choose it would definitely be Pandora.
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 …
Well, since I am allowed these other items, this question will be an easy one. One song that I would love to take with me is my absolute favorite of all time. Carry on My Wayward Son by Kansas is a song I hold near and dear and could not live without it.
One film. Again I would have to take my absolute favorite. It is a little obscure even with its fantastic cast and my two favorite actors. It is The Fountain starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weiss. It has such a powerful message and I recommend everyone watch it.
As far as the other item, since I am an author, I would absolutely need my laptop and hopefully there is an electrical outlet in exile!
Not to worry, we'll give you 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.
I would be perfectly content with my exile taking place on one of the Hawaiian islands, if at all possible. Somewhere beautiful and highly inspirational. Perfect.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
You can follow Kindra on Facebook and Twitter. Burning Willow Press is also on Facebook and Twitter.