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 Brooke Johnson, author of young adult steampunk adventure The Brass Giant – out now! When she's not being banished to a desert island, Brooke can be found at brooke-johnson.com. She is giving away a gift card to one lucky participant, so stay tuned for the giveaway at the end of the interview.
Brooke, 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.
Well, I’m terrified of spiders, so please don’t send me anywhere with a large population of spiders. Or dinosaurs. I still have nightmares about being chased and eaten by dinosaurs. Thanks Jurassic Park.
My survival skills will probably consist of running from anything that might bite, sting, peck, or have carnivorous tendencies, and I will likely perish within the week, just enough time to read through the five books I’m taking with me.
Well, at least you’ll spend your last week on Earth with the best books ever! Now, what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
The Brass Giant came out of a random sentence that popped into my head one late night of insomnia: “A machine is truth.” I wondered who might say that and why, and so a city was born. I’ve always loved clocks and all things mechanical—I used to hang out in my grandpa’s shop while he worked on trucks and such—so naturally, I was excited to put that love into a book.
As for why anyone might take it with them in exile … it would make excellent kindling.
Or they might be interested in building a giant mechanized robot. Either way.
Oooh, I vote for the robot :-) 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?
I’m not sure of the specific title of this one, but I’m sure there are multiple variations of it these days. When I was little, I had a padded hardcover treasury of illustrated fairy tales that I would read nearly every day. I treasured that book, with its gold-edged pages and colorful pictures. I loved the stories of princesses and adventurers, and to this day, fairy tales are my favorite kind of story.
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.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. That book was my first real foray into fantasy literature (not just fairy tales), and it pretty much changed my life. I went from being uninterested in reading to being a reading fiend, and it was also the book that made me decide to be a writer. J.K. Rowling was the first author I remember realizing was a woman, and I thought: well, if she can write something awesome, then so can I.
I love J.K! Harry Potter has had such a brilliant impact on so many people. 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.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I can’t think of a better pick-me-up. It’s a book I’ve turned to many times, whether I was sick or depressed or just wanted to escape the world for a few hours. It’s my absolute favorite novel.
And since Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite author of all time, I can’t fault you there :-) 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 …
So, I’m part of an on-again-off-again book club that reads young adult lit, and one book that we ended up reading was Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I didn’t expect to like it. I’m not fond of dystopian fiction. First person teen narratives often annoy me (either they are too simplistic or sound unrealistic). And I hate present tense. I hate it.
But then I started reading this book, back in a time when I stubbornly read every book I bought all the way to the end regardless of how much I hated it. And something weird happened. I liked it.
I don’t know if it would hold up to my current reading standards, but I remember being absolutely absorbed into the story and heartbroken by the end of it. It was a perfect novel in my mind, and I refused to read the sequels because I didn’t want to ruin the perfection of the story that I had captured in my mind.
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.
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers. It’s the third book in her His Fair Assassin trilogy, published just last year, but it’s my favorite of all of them. I would read that hardcover until the pages fell out, and I recommend it and the rest of the series to anyone who likes historical fantasy and assassins.
Me! Me! I’ll definitely look into that one. Anyway, 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 …
Song: King and Lionheart by Of Monsters and Men. I don’t know what it is about that song, but it breaks my heart and I love it.
Film: The Princess Bride. No other movie on this earth will ever be as wonderful.
Thing: A sat-phone with a fully charged battery, for when I get cold and hungry and am ready to be rescued.
Aha, then it looks as if you’ll live to read another day after all :-) 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.
Somewhere rainy. With moors. And glens.
Actually, just make it Scotland, in island form.
And if we can put a castle there too, that’d be great.
Done! That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Now enter the giveaway to win a $25 gift card …
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