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 Tonia Marlowe, author of futuristic crime thriller Strange Bodies, now available on Amazon. When she's not being banished to a desert island, Tonia can be found at www.antoniamarlowe.com.
Tonia, 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.
Illogical! What's illogical about trusting some flimsy flying machine? Nasty things that fall out of the sky! I don't think I should mention my birthmark in the shape of … no. I have wrestled a koala bear (except that koalas aren't actually bears and they are very smelly). A shark swam right over the top of me once but that was in an aquarium and punching wasn't really an option. Shame though because I would have, if necessary. Us Aussies are tough like that.
*resists the urge to ask more about Tonia's birthmark* 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 guess my inspirations come mostly from the books I read, and my concerns for the sorry state of the world. That always churns in the background and sometimes – a painting, a news item, a passing phrase – will compel me to write. Frankly, my books and stories are pot-boilers, not the ones anyone would care to read more than once, I suspect.
What better accompaniment to exile on a barren island than a good pot-boiler? Anyway, 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?
Has to be Alice of course, a book, or rather books, I still read. It has nonsense, it has a rabbit, it has magic, adventure, excitement and lots of silly poems. My very favourite – Jabberwocky. I learned that at about age 8, word perfect, and can recite it to this day.
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 question is far too hard. I've been a hack/freelance writer on and off most of my working life and think it was my bank book that made the greatest impact – especially the tiny balance each week. In recent years, since I turned my hand to writing fiction, I would say the book that has left lasting memories is one by the late Reginald Hill, Arms and the Women. The sheer power of the writing ensures I would read it again and again. (Similarly with so many of his books.)
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.
Jane Austen. The inimitable gentle sarcasm of the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice have been quoted so often, and I do love it, but I would opt for Emma, poor misguided and well-meaning Emma.
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 …
John Barth's epic, The Sot-Weed Factor, which runs to an amazing 800 pages. It is a satirical epic of the colonization of Maryland (around 1680) based on the life of an actual poet, Ebenezer Cooke, who wrote a poem of the same title. It is a large, loosely structured work, with digressions, distractions, stories within stories, and lists (such as a lengthy exchange of insulting terms by two prostitutes). The fictional Ebenezer Cooke (repeatedly described as "poet and virgin") is an innocent who sets out to write a heroic epic, becomes disillusioned and ends up writing a biting satire.
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.
Hell, you really can't go past Shakespeare, can you. I mean, it's all there. No more to say, really.
Hold on ... you're asking to take the whole of Shakespeare? I'm sure that counts as more than one book! Still, I suppose we can find a Collected Works somewhere ... OK. We’ll get those five 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 …
Music - Mozart - violin concerti; film - Some Like it Hot; other – a manicure set.
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.
A coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef, thank you.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
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.