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 Nathan Garrison, author of epic fantasy novel Veiled Empire – out now from Harper Voyager Impulse! When he’s not being banished to a desert island, Nathan can be found at www.nathangarrison.com.
Nathan, 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.
Thanks for having me! I'm a soldier by day, writer by night, and husband and father at all times. If I could take my laptop and my family into exile I think I'd have a swell time of it. No pesky people wanting to make small talk and such. My two greatest fears are clowns and open water (ProParentTip: don't let your single-digit-aged children watch Jaws or IT), so a red-nosed shark juggling atop a unicycle would be the most terrifying thing ever. I'll face the bear any day. Pretty sure I could take 'em.
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
The basic premise for Veiled Empire came about as a result of combining a few premises that, at the time, I hadn't seen much of in the fantasy I had read. Mainly, excessive use of violent magic, a main character who is completely immune to sorcery (or so he thinks), and an action-heavy narrative. Now, I think all these elements make for a great one-time read, but taking a book into exile necessitates multiple read-throughs. Having a cast of intriguing and unique characters, a multi-layered plot, and nothing being quite what it seems are all crucial aspects to an extended stay in a reader's hands. Also, if for some reason you need to incite an uprising among the natives of your island, you might find a few pointers on what to do (and what NOT to do) for a successful revolution.
It sounds really interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading it! 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 Chronicles of Narnia for sure. My parents read the series to me and my sisters over and over again for bedtime, spawning a love of books in the three of us (as of this month, we're all published writers). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite. Not only is it one of the greatest adventure stories of all time, but it also has some great life lessons. And Reepicheep!
Reepicheep is the best :-) 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.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson. While this didn't inspire me to become a writer (honestly, I can't remember a time when I WASN'T jotting down stories), it did open my eyes to the magnificent possibilities of the written word, not only in fantasy, but in all literature. Some people complain that this, the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, was the weakest of the bunch and "hard to get into." I still have no idea what they're talking about. I was drawn in by the very first words, and once I hit the siege of Pale I was hooked for life. Erikson did the seemingly impossible by widening the scope further than I'd ever seen before, while at the same time getting right down in the trenches with the characters. I will ever strive to ascend to the level of his masterful storytelling, even knowing I'm now hopelessly far away.
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.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, hands down. It's hard to believe so much awesomeness is contained within this single meager tome. It has the most memorable characters in existence doing the most outrageous things, yet Lynch makes me believe every word of it. Heck, if he published a thousand word book that was nothing but the Gentlemen Bastards bar hopping and causing trouble, I'd read it until the pages fell off the spine.
Agreed, Scott Lynch is awesome! 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've had so many pleasant surprises it's hard to pick just one! But since you're making me choose (you tyrant) I'd have to go with Hyperion and its sequel Fall of Hyperion. Yeah, I chose two books. I'm a rebel like that. I had only heard that they were "pretty good" with no other information when I picked them up. Now, whenever someone says the phrase "mind blowing" these are the books I think of. Absolutely fantastic on all levels.
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.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. I can't think of another book that gave me so many feels as this. Absolutely superb. I have no problem recommending this to anyone with even a passing interest in fantasy.
Definitely. It’s a wonderful book. Anyway, we’ll get those five, er, six 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 …
Song: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. My favorite classical piece, and also quite long. I could listen to a movement a day and never get bored.
Film: The third Avengers movie. I don't care if it's not out yet, that what I'm taking and you can't stop me.
Item: My laptop with a strong wifi signal. That way I can keep writing novels and sending them to my agent and editor. Also, I can Netflix Doctor Who episodes.
Sounds like a great life to me :-) 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.
Hawaii. That'll do.
That's it, then – you're ready to go. Thanks for joining us, and enjoy your trip!