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 Lucy Middlemass, author of Jinger Barley and the Murkle Moon and Lying About Sarah, and contributor to the no-holds-barred YA short story collection Heathers. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Lucy can be found at twitter.com/LucyMiddlemass.
Lucy, 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.
Hello, thank you for having me. I’m frightened of running out of batteries, wearing the wrong shoes, being found out. Same things as everyone, really. I like doing what I’m supposed to and everything staying the same.
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’d worry about someone choosing to take my work into exile because they might find mistakes. THEN WHAT? They might come back and tell me, and it might be too late to change it. Or, worse, they might never come back and tell me.
My inspirations come from lots of places. Telly, other people’s books. Sometimes caring about something enough to write about it. In truth, that’s probably the main thing.
The only thing, I suppose, in a way: it’s necessary, though perhaps not sufficient. 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?
The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp is a lovely children’s book. I read it again recently and was pleased to find that not only does it have the best twist ever, it’s also beautifully written. Tyke Tiler is my hero.
Now there’s a book I haven’t read for a long time! Good stuff. 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 read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder a while ago, before I started writing, and it showed me books can be more than stories, which I liked.
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’d like another children’s book, this time But Where is the Green Parrot? by Thomas and Wanda Zacharias. It wouldn’t be too stressful because I already know the answer.
Unless the parrot moves around when you aren’t looking … 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 liked a book called Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly. It’s all guns and silliness but Scarecrow gets himself into some tricky situations and it’s great fun to see the author get him out of them.
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.
TSW Sharman’s The Theory of My Wonders is the sort of thing I wish I’d written. It’s imaginative and clever. TSW’s short story Yard Sale is in Heathers too.
I enjoyed Yard Sale, so I will have to check out The Theory of My Wonders. Anyway, 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 …
I don’t like many films, but maybe I could have a Buffy boxset? I’ll go without the music if it’d make it fairer. I’ll need a duster for the surfaces too, please.
You may be fighting a losing battle there, so the least I can do is give you a duster that never wears out. 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.
Somewhere on the Nottinghamshire coast would be ideal. I’m not much of a traveller.
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.