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 Laura Bickle, author of the Anya Kalinczyk urban fantasy series, the Hallowed Ones series for young adults, and a new contemporary fantasy novel Dark Alchemy – coming 24 March from Harper Voyager Impulse! When she's not being banished to a desert island, Laura can be found at www.laurabickle.com.
Laura, 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 the Midwestern U.S. with my husband, where we’re owned by five semi-reformed feral cats. I’m working on cat number six, but he’s quite shy and seems to show up only when he wants.
My professional background is in criminal justice and library science. My husband and I are amateur astronomers, and I have a collection of vintage She-Ra action figures that is quickly growing out of control.
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 always have a lot of fun writing fantasy. I love asking those ‘what if’ questions and building worlds around the answers. What if a large-scale apocalypse hit the earth – are the Amish better equipped to survive than the rest of us? What if a dragon lived in the salt mines beneath Detroit? What if the descendants of the Oracle of Delphi survived, and could still predict the future?
For Dark Alchemy, I wondered: What if there was a town in the Wild West that had been founded by an alchemist back in the gold rush days? What if some of his alchemical experiments remained behind to the present day, to be discovered by a stranger who comes to town?
It’s so much fun to explore those questions, and there are really no limits.
Dark Alchemy sounds awesome, and I completely agree with you about the fun of writing fantasy! 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 think this has gotta be Puff the Magic Dragon. My mom read that one over and over to me as a little girl, and I’m sure that Puff can keep me from feeling too homesick. A close runner up would be Serendipity by Steven Cosgrove. I read that book until it fell apart. And what’s not to love about a pink sea monster with enviable eyelashes?
I’m not familiar with the book, but I’m going to guess nothing! 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.
My all-time favorite book is Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown. I read it when I was a pre-teen, and fell in love with fantasy ever after. It was the first book I’d read that had a female protagonist who slew her own dragons. I was hooked on the genre.
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.
A friend gave me a copy of Crafting with Cat Hair several years ago, when I was working at a library. It was, hands down, my favorite book to shelve. It always makes me smile. I’m sure that if I was stranded on an island, this would make me feel right at home.
At the moment, the cat hair is blowing about like tumbleweeds at my house. For the record, I’ve never been moved to actually do anything with the cat hair (other than vacuum it up). I'm not that ambitious. Perhaps there will be wild cats on the island with excess hair that needs to be made into finger puppets.
Since nothing is beyond us here at Barren Island Books, we’ll make sure you have plenty of feline company on the island :-) 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 …
When my husband and I were dating, he lent me Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it really made me laugh out loud. I kept the book and kept the man.
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 gotta go with that 1970s classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It’s all about pursuit of dreams, even when that pursuit flies against the expectations of The Flock. This is another one that my mother read to me when I was little, and it’s permanently engraved in my brain.
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 …
Hm. Let’s go for Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain,” The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and a machete. Because you can’t go to a deserted island without a machete, or somebody will think that you’re not taking the adventure seriously.
That is absolutely true, though I think you may be the first BIB guest to realise it :-) 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’d like to be dropped off somewhere in the Galápagos Islands, please. Hopefully, the sea lions won’t eat me.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Thank you so much for the chance to visit with you and your readers!