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 Sandra Giles, author of the Collision Of Worlds series (the first being Plead Insanity). When she's not being banished to a desert island, Sandra can be found at sandragiles.blog.com.
Sandra, 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.
Hmm … Well I guess my most recognisable feature is my blue fur. I have two forms, which will come in quite useful when trying to confuse any possible attackers. The first is my ‘regular’ form, which is large, blue and furry. The second is the form I take on to interact with humans. My host, as it were. I best steer clear of that form if I’m to fight any bears or sharks, though. Speaking of which, I think I’d go with punching a shark. I’ve seen Brother Bear, and would hate to be responsible for another Koda-type incident. Likewise, I’ve seen Finding Nemo and the little critter might benefit from the local shark being brought down a peg or two. As for fears, I have none. Or at least none I’m going to share with the person about to exile me. Oh wait, I have a strong fear of chocolate and ice-cream. And pizza. I really hope nothing quite so horrifying will find me …
Mwah ha ha! Consider your barren island loaded with tasty snacks! Oh … hold on a minute … *returns to questions sensing trickery somewhere* And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
If someone chose my novels to accompany them, I would question their sanity. I don’t think my novels would be of much comfort, unless what the reader is looking for is a way of seeming tougher than they are. I think Jared, my main character, could teach a thing or two about how to think on your feet and use what’s given to you. But be careful when you read the novels, or you might find yourself jumping at small sounds and driven round the bend. There’s a reason my first novel is called Plead Insanity, you know.
Saying that, there is a lot of humour in there for anyone who needs it. I think the novels would help someone in exile look on the bright side a lot more. My characters suffer a lot more than the average human (mostly because they’re far from being human) and yet they’re able to laugh and joke. I’d like to think they could help others do the same. I’m all about positivity, and so the novels might turn your stomach or make you wince, but they will offer comfort in the form of comic relief. Call it a reward for putting up with my writing.
Nothing really inspired me to write to begin with, as such. It was a matter of trying my hand at something, and that something turning into a novel, and then a series. Once the first novel was finished it was my characters who drove me forwards. Very regular things inspire the plots, such as seeing something out of a train window or daydreaming about weird and wonderful things. A couple of plots stemmed from basic daydreams, which is quite odd. I’d just be staring off into space with my mind reeling with strange predicaments when part of me would say ‘hey, that should be included in a novel!’ The same happens with actual dreams, but I never remember them long enough for it to go any further.
I know what you mean – I'm sure I've dreamed several amazing plots, only to forget them instantly upon waking! 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?
My childhood was filled with the usual suspects book-wise, or at least for people around my age. They’re all short and sweet, and I really don’t want to choose something that would be over with too quickly. I’m stranded, after all. I’ve just searched for an edition of the Mr. Men series grouped together as one big book, but there are only collections, so I’ll have to rule that out. One book I have kept from my childhood is a large hardback of rhymes, including Humpty Dumpty before it was frowned upon to kill him off. But I want to say something I don’t have, because you’re going to give it to me, right? I need to make the most of this.
This is really hard! Oh, I know the perfect book! Where’s Wally? I know it’s not the most descriptive book ever, but it’d keep me occupied for quite some time, and might inspire some interesting hallucinations where red and white clad figures start presenting themselves to me. At least I’d have company, even if it’s only in my head.
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.
If it wasn’t so boring, I’d answer all of these questions with different novels from the Harry Potter series. I’d probably choose numbers three through seven, just because they’re the longest! But as I can probably recite them all word for word anyway, I’ll just take the one. It might be good for killing spiders or something. I’m not a fan. Of spiders, that is. Of course I’m a fan of Harry Potter, or I wouldn’t suggest taking one of the books.
So I’ll go with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The series as a whole changed and shaped my teenage years, though I can’t give any of them credit (or blame) for me becoming a writer. The Goblet of Fire was the first book I’d ever been excited for. It’s also probably the first I ever pre-ordered, and now I’ve just realised that I have it! I see your plan. You’re not going to provide me with any of these novels, assuming I love them all so much that I already have them! Well played.
Sorry, I’m easily distracted. Where was I? Right, the series definitely had the greatest impact on my life, no question. This specific book was my favourite for a very long time, and possibly still is, though there are more to choose from now so the decision is harder. It never inspired real-life romances or adventures, but I was around Harry’s age when it was released, and could envision myself being the witch to his wizard and partaking in many adventures with him. I didn’t mean for that to sound sexual in any way, but I was just a couple of years into puberty, so the thought might’ve been there! I don’t really remember!
Oh, I think we all know the truth: Harry Potter was totally your first fictional crush :-) 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.
Y’know, I can’t actually think of anything that fits the bill. I don’t really seek pick-me-ups through novels. As per usual I’ve turned to the internet for answers (I’m going to miss that luxury!) and there is a book called 365 Bedtime Stories, which features a year’s worth of Disney tales. I think the nights will be the hardest, once the sun has set and I have only my overactive imagination for company. The book is of course aimed at children, not that it’ll stop me from reading it. It also features stories that are relevant to certain holidays, i.e. Christmas, so it’ll be nice to have some form of festivity when the time comes. It might help me keep track of time. Looking back at the initial question, I’m not so sure it’s the best choice, as I’ll most likely turn into an emotional wreck after reading these stories. Disney has that effect, but I’ll stand by my answer!
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’m very much into series as opposed to standalone novels, so this is really hard. The series I took a chance on is fantasy, so still in my preferred genre, but I only started reading it because there was an offer in-store of three for a fiver. Good reason, no? The series is Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires, and I wasn’t a fan to start with. The main character, Claire, struck me as a total wuss and kept breaking down in tears. But that was just for the first few pages or so, and soon I grew fond of her and the strange world she immerses herself in. I really love the series and it was a definite surprise, plus Myrnin is a classic character. I love him. He’s totally nuts, which I guess I can relate to. I’ll choose Bitter Blood as I haven’t read it yet. It’ll be nice to have something new to read while I’m stranded.
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.
Oh man, I already chose a Harry Potter novel, and they’re definitely instant classics that should be read and reread. I’ll go with a novel from one of my favourite authors seeing as I’ve neglected her so far. Kelley Armstrong was actually the author who got me into fantasy, or at least contemporary fantasy, which is what I write. I think I’ll choose to take Broken, which isn’t really a classic but should be. It combines Jack the Ripper with portals and zombies. I probably should’ve chosen it as my comfort read! I’m actually quite excited about being exiled now, as I really want to get down to reading these books.
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 …
That’s awfully kind of you. So is there going to be electricity? Or are you really just being cruel and allowing me to take things I can’t actually use? In which case I’d rather choose something with Johnny Depp on the cover. I’m only human! Well, kind of. But seriously (and obviously I’m taking this very seriously) I think I’ll choose to take Pirates of the Caribbean with me. Not only does it have Mr. Depp, but it is also Disney and something I can watch countless times without getting sick of it all. None of the book series I wanted have a version that is one long novel, but these DVDs are available in one case. Am I allowed them all? Oh, but it says ‘film’. Darn, I have to choose! Fine, At World’s End has the longest runtime, which means more Depp. Perfect!
The song I’ll choose is Planetary (Go!) by My Chemical Romance. It’s so much fun that I’ll happily listen to it on repeat for a few hours at a time, and they’re my favourite band.
An item of my choice? That’s hard. Can I take a cruise boat? That way I can live in it (assuming I’d otherwise be out in the wilderness) and enjoy luxuries such as food and whatnot. When things are running low, I can take it down to the nearest point of civilisation, and to pay for it all I can arrange for cruises every so often. They charge a fortune for cruises, so I’d be set!
I like your thinking. 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’m steering clear of the world I’ve stuffed my characters into as they’d find me and kill me for torturing them so much, so it’ll definitely be somewhere here. I’d like it to be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, perhaps near Australia or Madagascar. I just want to be somewhere hot for a change, so I’m not fussy.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Will do! I’d send you a postcard but I don’t think they’re sold in exile.
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.