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 Nancy K. Wallace, author of exciting new fantasy novel Among Wolves (first in The Wolves of Llisé series) – released today! When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Nancy can be found at fairysockmother.com and amongwolves.net.
Nancy, thank you 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.
Irrational fears, hmm … you know I’ve always been convinced that something lives under my bed. It’s always necessary to keep stray body parts under the sheet or they might be gobbled up and I never walk into my bedroom at night without turning the light on because that is just courting disaster. And then, there are airplanes. I’m not afraid they’ll crash; I’m just very claustrophobic. I really wouldn’t attempt to punch or wrestle anything – especially the creature under my bed.
I live in the same house where I grew up and I sleep in the same bedroom. That’s probably why I am still having issues with the thing under my bed. It’s helpful, however, to have my husband to protect me. I also work in the same library where my mother did – weird, I know.
I’m fascinated by fairytales and have a huge collection of fairytale, folklore, and mythology books from lots of different countries. I love being a children’s librarian because I still get to play with toys and puppets, and be silly. (Even if I weren’t a children’s librarian, I would still play with toys and puppets and be silly but people would probably look at me strangely.)
Sadly some people haven't discovered that being silly is one of the great pleasures of life :-) And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
Among Wolves combines my love of legend and oral history. Because my main character, Devin, is learning the oral chronicles in the provinces he visits, my novel contains a lot of small stories inside the central plot. The empire of Llisé is revealed through its history, piece by piece, as Devin learns each tale. The chronicles add an unusual element to the novel, giving it added depth and dimension.
I love stories-within-a-story! Looking forward to reading it. 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?
As a five year old, my favorite book was George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. This was a favorite of my mother’s and she read it frequently to us as children. I imagined the whole story taking place at my house. I was sure Princess Irene’s beautiful grandmother lived in my attic, just waiting for me to visit. I was equally convinced that the goblins inhabited the abandoned coal mine deep in the ravine behind our barn. I was especially careful to avoid even looking toward it when it was getting dark.
I loved that book as a child, too! 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 discovered Tolkien in high school and was immediately obsessed by Middle Earth. Part of me longed to be a beautiful elf but I think I am really just a peaceful hobbit at heart. Tolkien’s world building fascinated me and I ordered every critical evaluation of his writing through interlibrary loan at our local library. I became an expert on the man and his writing and wrote my undergraduate thesis on his essay “On Fairytales.” It was MacDonald and Tolkien who opened the door to fantasy for me and it changed my life.
Let's see if we can find you a nice big omnibus of all Tolkien's work, then :-) 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.
Patricia McKillip captivated me next. Her Riddlemaster Trilogy offers flawless world building with believable characters and exquisitely lyrical prose. These are my comfort books, the ones I reread simply to recall the beauty of the words and the emotional impact they have on 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 …
I moderate four Teen Book Discussion Groups and find myself sampling many novels I might never have chosen on my own. A book I resisted reading for the longest time was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I sobbed my way through it but it taught me so much about life and death and what really matters to those left behind. I think it is a book everyone should read. But if I take it on the island with me, I will need a big box of Kleenex, too.
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 an instant classic I would nominate The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Kvothe instantly captured my heart as a character. His tragic, mysterious past weaves through the story like a half forgotten song. (Gosh, I wish someone would say something like that about my work someday!)
Excellent! I'm surprised no-one's chosen Rothfuss as their instant classic before. Anyway, we’ll get those five books packaged up ready for your journey. And 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 would forego a piece of music for my guitar, so I could make my own music on cold, starry nights on the beach waiting for someone to rescue me. Oh, and I need a tablet and pen, please, because I would have to write. The movie is useless – I wouldn’t be able to use any electronic devices with no power. A blanket in Wallace Tartan would be nice, though. But, that’s four things; just how heartless are you?
Hmm, well, camping on the beach with a blanket, a guitar and something to write on is such a romantic image that we'll let you get away with it! We'll just tie the pen to the tablet and call them a single item :-)
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.
My island? How about something “West of the Moon, East of the Sun”? That would suit me very well.
That's it, then – you're ready to go. Thanks for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
The trailer for Among Wolves is available to watch below.