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 Natalie K. Martin, author of Together Apart and the Pull short story series. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Natalie can be found at nataliekmartin.com.
Natalie, 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.
Hm, I always find these questions the hardest! At the basic level, I’m now into my thirties, from Sheffield but grew up in London for the most part. Right now, I’m doing some travelling and am three months into my second season in Goa. I sometimes get disorientated walking down stairs, and I get a mental block when I have to write the letter ‘W’. Also, I hate pulling hair from plugholes. Yuk. Oh, and I’d rather punch the shark.
*shudder* Plughole hair is the worst. And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
Well, my main inspiration is life, and that it’s very often hard. I like to tackle serious subjects, particularly around relationships and most of the time, they’re very normal characters. I got fed up of reading about middle class, university educated women working in PR and advertising because I couldn’t relate. My books are serious, but hopeful at the same time.
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?
Ooh, so many! I’d have to go for Judy Blume’s Deenie. Or any of her books actually. I was into vampires and stuff beforehand, and then I found these books about girls and puberty and boys, and that was pretty much that.
Judy Blume! Now there's an author I haven't read in a while :-) 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.
The Beach, by Alex Garland. I found it by accident and it definitely wasn’t the type of book I’d have picked up ordinarily and it blew my mind. I’d always wanted to travel and it sounded so adventurous. I've read it at least 20 times and I still don’t get bored.
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.
Joanne Harris’ Chocolat or Five Quarters of the Orange. I love how she writes. Everything is so rich, it’s like a sensory overload. It’s like wrapping myself up in a huge, comfy blanket.
Perfect comfort reading! 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 …
Ooh, that’s a tough one! I think it has to be Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. I’m not a big reader of the ‘classics’ but it was so well written and utterly tragic.
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.
There are too many to choose from, but if there has to be just one, it would have to be Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It’s a true story, but it’s something I think all people should read. It’d be on the school curriculum if I was in charge – it’s one of those books that makes you think and cherish what you have. And not enough people do that.
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 …
Music: it would have to be something feel-good and timeless. Like the Immaculate Collection by Madonna.
Item: my writing playlist.
Haha, that's a cunning way of getting extra music onto the island! 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.
Oooooooooh. Fiji. Or Samoa. Somewhere beautiful and tropical please!
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
My backpack is already full and waiting :)
If Natalie ever returns from her island, you can find her on the following social media sites: