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 Sharon Van Orman, author of the Sophia Katsaros Series (the first of which is Lykaia). When she's not being banished to a desert island, Sharon can be found at nondeplumeblog.blogspot.co.uk, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-Van-Orman/104637372952495.
Sharon, 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.
Hello, thanks for having me, this sounds like great fun. I am a full-time writer. I live in Nebraska with my family and an assortment of critters. I have a deep dislike for clowns. A love of treehouses and fuzzy slippers. How big of a shark are we talking about here?
Let's just say, some of our sharks make Jaws look like a guppy … I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle. So what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
I firmly believe that inspiration can be found in almost anything. The world is full of great stories just waiting to be tapped into. All you have to do is look. As for my work, I operate under the notion that if someone chooses to suspend their reality for mine, it should be time well spent. That’s what I aim for.
Great, 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?
Alice in Wonderland. For my fifth birthday I was given a giant pink picture book of Alice in Wonderland. I would sit for hours and read the words, immerse myself in the story. I’d also stare at the pictures, imagine what was behind that tree or down that castle corridor. I was fascinated by it and I haven’t stopped reading since.
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.
Well, I’ve read many books that have left an impact on me. However, if there was one that changed things for me it would have to be Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. It wasn’t so much the book itself, which I love, but something she said on her website.
She had a section for authors and she spoke about how she wrote big sprawling historical fiction novels that were weird and hard to categorize. And that when she did write, she wrote sporadically and in pieces. She didn’t use an outline, like most people were taught to do. And she said that most people were taught to write with an outline because you could teach people to write with a timeline. But that didn’t mean it was the only way to write.
At the time I had the middle of a novel and an ending, but not the beginning. And just having someone say that I didn’t have to write from page one to whatever, really resonated with me. That one comment made it possible for me to just write, and not worry about how it was proper to write.
An excellent lesson for all of us: write how you want to, not how someone says you should. Now, 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.
So … I’m stuck on a deserted island, I’ll be turning a lovely shade of red and will likely want something to distract me from that. Something light-hearted will have to do … Kim Harrison or Charlaine Harris should fit the bill.
Tell you what, we'll let you have a True Blood box set :-) 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 …
My next book is a series by David Weber. It's called the Honor Harrington series. It’s science fiction. And while I do like that genre, I’m really more of a fantasy reader. I found the first few books at a used book store and started reading them. I loved them and hunted down the rest of the series. Pleasantly surprised is certainly how I felt about that bargain find.
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.
I read a lot of books, both those put out by major publishers and some that are from smaller presses. Or self-published. I know of several great writers and have had the chance to work with three of them. So, I’m going to use this chance to spotlight them. Lucia Adams, Gerald Johnston and Paul Freeman. They are all so different, but so very talented. I’d happily read their books over and over and not lament the time I spent doing so.
So that's Vein Fire, Dropcloth Angels or Tribesman … well, since you're supporting some awesome indie authors, I guess we can let you have all three ;-) We’ll get those 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 …
Piece of music … something by Norah Jones.
Film … Moonstruck.
One item … well, how about something big and inflatable?
Excellent. 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.
The Maldives. Endless sun and crystal clear water. Perhaps I can get someone to air drop me one of those fruity drinks with a parasol in it?
You never know your luck. So that’s it – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Thank you so much! This was fun. I’ll go pack my sunscreen!
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.