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 Lindsey J. Parsons, author of the Return of the Effra trilogy. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Lindsey can be found at lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com.
Lindsey, 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.
Hi AFE, it’s a pleasure to be here!
I’m going to enjoy being exiled on a remote island, the peace and quiet will be great for me to do some serious thinking and plotting. These last twelve months or more have been really hectic and I need to get on with my second book, but finding ‘alone time’ seems impossible lately! I think I would have been well suited to the life of a hermit.
Apart from craving solitude, I love the outdoors and I’m never happier than when I’m riding in our local woods or walking in the fields. Other big loves of mine are archery, reading and writing.
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
There are so many inspirations behind Vortex, but the setting and ideas for many of the characters have been crammed inside my head since I was a teenager (no wonder they were desperate to get out!) I find music very inspiring, because it allows you to use your imagination, and just being outdoors surrounded by nature. I think Vortex would be a great choice to take to the island as it can take you on an adventure, open up a new world for you and suck you into an exciting romance – all in one book.
Great, 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?
As a child I read the whole of The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell so many times I lost count! I would just start the first book again as soon as I finished the last! It is full of adventure and wonderful descriptions of the Snowy River area of Australia. It has hand-drawn maps of the area where the story takes place, years later I looked it up and found out not only does it exist, but the maps were very accurate. One of my bucket list holidays would be to go riding in the Snowy Mountains and follow some of the trails described in these books. If there’s a compilation of the whole series I would love to take that.
Hmm, well, since there are sixteen Silver Brumby books I don't think you'll have room in your suitcase for them all! We'll see what we can do. Now, what about 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 Silver Brumby books were probably the instigators of my very short-lived and completely disastrous attempt at story writing as a youngster! I am a great fan of Richard Adams and read his book Shardik numerous times as a teenager, it probably had the biggest influence on my love of fantasy and adventure at that time. But I only started writing a few years ago and I think one of the big influences on me then was Harry Potter, which I love completely. After I left school and started work I had little free time and read less and less. Once I got married and had my first two children I had no time to read at all! It wasn’t till my eldest daughter started reading Harry Potter at the age of 9 that I picked up a book again. I had a really bad cold one day and feeling miserable I curled up in a chair, Amy’s copy of The Philosopher’s Stone happened to be within reach and that was that! So partly because it got me back into reading, and also because if they do a compilation it would keep me entertained for a very long time, I choose the complete Harry Potter series!
I'm not sure we can let you get away with seven books for the price of one this time, Lindsey – particularly with all those Silver Brumby books to squeeze in! So we'll give you Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. 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.
As I said before, I loved Richard Adams as a teenager; my favourite of his books has got to be Watership Down. My copy of it is so battered I had to cover it in sticky-back plastic to try and preserve the cover. I haven’t read it for a number of years, but would love the time to sit and revisit all the wonderful characters again. This would be one of my ultimate comfort reads.
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 tend to judge books by their covers. I know I shouldn’t and I usually try to allow people's recommendations to overshadow this, but an unappealing cover is a big ‘put-off’ for me. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was recommended by a couple of members of my reading group. This was well before it became a big film. When I picked it up off the shelf in the shop, the front cover was a great big put-off for me! I nearly put it back and walked away. It featured the bottom half of a young girl stood in a meadow next to a tartan rug. On the rug was a pair of men’s shoes placed on something white folded up. No dragons, or knights in armour, or castles, in fact nothing remotely appealing to me at all. As there was an offer on, buy one get one half price, I bought it anyway. I have to say it was a great read, I loved it very much and learnt a good lesson. It’s a bittersweet love story woven together brilliantly by the author and well worth reading if you haven’t already. So I’ll pick The Time Traveler’s Wife for this one.
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 do believe my choice for this is already a classic. I read it in my final year at school as part of my English Literature exam: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I wasn’t good at English at school and didn’t make it into the top groups doing ‘O levels’. So I missed out on studying Shakespeare and all the classical English Lit stuff. At the time I was eternally grateful and relieved to be in the top ‘CSE’ class instead. We had a wonderful teacher who really helped bring our set books to life. To Kill a Mockingbird was my favourite of all the books we read and made a lasting impression. We also managed to get a copy of the film (this was before DVDs) which is almost as good as the book itself. I bought myself a copy of the book last year and reread it and I still found it just as poignant as it was back then. Even though it’s set 60 odd years ago, I think it conveys an important message and should be highly recommended reading for everyone.
Right. We’ll get those five (er, 26?) 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 …
Oh thank you! That’s really kind! I’m assuming as I can take a film and a piece of music that a TV and stereo are already there? Choosing a film is difficult. I love films, my favourites at the moment are Avengers Assemble and the Bourne films, but that will probably all change tomorrow when I see yet another film to love! You can never get too many films. If I’ve really got to choose just one then I would most likely pick The Lake House. This is one of my favourite comfort films. If you’ve not seen it you should, it’s about two people who live in a house on a lake only there’s a two-year gap between the times they live there. They meet each other and start a relationship via messages they leave in the mailbox outside. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet by telling you what happens, but you should watch it – it’s great.
As for music, again that’s difficult; I listen to my iPod all the time and have hundreds of favourites. Could I just take my iPod? If not then perhaps the Something for the Rest of Us album by The Goo Goo Dolls, this choice will change tomorrow though.
One other item is easy: if I’m going to be marooned on an island I would like a mobile phone so I could keep in touch with my family. If that’s not possible then a photograph album full of pictures of them please.
You can have the mobile phone, 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.
I would like it to be somewhere that’s not hot, but just pleasantly warm in summer, and has loads of snow in winter; there must be a large castle to live in and lots of horses. Hope that’s okay?
You have very specific requirements, Lindsey, but nothing is beyond the magical power of our islands. That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Thank you so much for inviting me – it’s been great fun.
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.