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 Sarah Remy, author of recently released epic fantasy Stonehill Downs. When she’s not being banished to a desert island, Sarah can be found at sarahremy.wordpress.com.
Sarah, 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.
Ooooh, excellent. Illogical fears? Flying. Love to travel, hate to fly. Plumbing. Who knows where all those pipes lead? Nowhere pleasant, I’m sure. Pipe breaks in my house? I run the opposite direction.
No unusual birthmarks. I’m nowhere near the ocean, and I put bear bells on my dogs when I walk in the woods, so I don’t anticipate any unexpected ursine wrestling.
Right. All kidding aside, I live on the high desert side of Washington State, I work part-time at a local elementary school, and I’m also an equestrian.
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 tell a good story, and I’m world-building centric. Take my stories with you onto a remote island, and you’ll soon forget you’re surrounded by palm trees and sand fleas. I’ll take you somewhere new and different; I provide escapism.
Stonehill Downs is a bit of a dark fantasy. There are a few chills and thrills amongst the twists and turns. Best pack a bright lantern and a warm blankie for your exile, otherwise you’ll be jumping at island shadows.
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?
You’re going to make me choose. I hate choosing. My favorite childhood book was A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I wanted to be Ged. I still want to be Ged.
Agreed, Ursula Le Guin is amazing :-) 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 Hobbit was the book that made me realize I wanted to write about fantastical worlds and sword fights. Also loyalty. On the other hand, All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot inspired me to spend my life surrounded by animals. Can I get two for the price of one?
Hmm. I'm not sure even we can find a box set that combines those two books! But since you asked nicely instead of trying to cheat, we'll let you have both ;-) 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.
Jo’s Boys, by Louisa May Alcott. Orphans, family, true love. It’s my macaroni and cheese book.
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 …
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. I picked it up in an airport, on a layover, so long ago when it was first out. I was very doubtful going in, because it wasn’t my usual sort of read. Now it has a permanent place on my bookshelf. If you haven’t read it, go do so. You won’t regret it.
It's been a while since I read it myself, but I'll second the endorsement. 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.
Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. A cleverly written classic, and very easy to enjoy. Also, who doesn’t love Holmes and Watson?
That's very true. And also gives me an excuse to do this:
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 …
You kill me with kindness, you do. Music? Anything by Dave Matthews. Film? The Muppets Take Manhattan. Extra item? An extra-large box of assorted See's Candies, please.
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.
Oh, that’s easy. The island of Roke, please. If I’m lucky, I’ll run into Sparrowhawk.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!