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 Elaina J Davidson, author of the Lore of Arcana series (of which the first is The Infinity Mantle). When she's not being banished to a desert island, Elaina can be found at elainajdavidson.blogspot.co.uk, multiversetales.blogspot.com and bardsandtales.blogspot.com.
Elaina, 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.
Thanks for having me (although exile might be pushing it, lol!) How hard it is to talk about myself! I’ll give it a go. Well, I consider myself a traveller, geographically, in life, in imagination and in my work. I love learning new things, seeing new places and going where no one has gone before! Illogical fears? There was a time I was terrified of spiders, but having lived in a sub-tropical region for a time (where spiders are frequent and visible visitors) I seem to have overcome that. I chase them away now, rather than grab the nearest broom! Lol, wrestle a bear? If I had to choose, I’d rather be on land wrestling a grizzly than in the ocean – can’t swim very well! With a few coconuts to hand, I’d take pot shots – I have good aim!
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
Years ago I read a book on Alchemy, a dictionary of terms, and I wish I could today recall the author to thank her (it was a ‘her’, that much I know!) for the proverbial light bulb moment that happened when I came across a section about the alchemical steps to enlightenment. I’ve always scribbled (poetry, short stories, little notes as a teenager, children’s stories later) but that moment had me grabbing pen and paper and frantically scribbling notes and thoughts. The rough draft of THE INFINITY MANTLE was born then, the first volume in my LORE series. There have been name changes and major edits, but essentially the tale remains one about enlightenment, through darkness and shadow, and every reader, I believe, will emerge thoughtful … and clamouring for what comes next!
I’m sure of it. 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?
Boy, this is hard. I started reading early and read voraciously (still do!) and by age ten persuaded my dad to allow me to use his library cards to read from the adult section of the library! How do I choose just one book from my childhood? Read them all: Beatrix Potter, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Willard Price, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Alice, Narnia and anything else that caught my fancy. Aesop, Anderson and Grimm. Okay, one book. Then it must be Brothers Grimm, read over and over because I loved the imagination, the touch of darkness, the morals, the journeys they took me on!
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 first book that comes to mind is The Eagle and the Raven. I don’t recall the author (it was some while ago!!!!), but I do remember the Romans, the Gaul, the Britons, the gladiatorial ring, the pastoral/historical lifestyle, war and tactics. It was fantasy and history rolled into one and I fell in love and, yes, it set the tone for my writing style, a mixture of reality and fantasy, a mixture of heroism and villainy. But I’d say the book that grabbed me (more recently) and really inspired me would be Gardens of the Moon, volume 1 of Steven Erikson’s Malazan series. This proved to me Fantasy could be complicated and remain a damn good read.
Hear hear! 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.
Now you’ve put me on the spot. I’ve read Lord of the Rings many times (and watched the movies!), but I’ve also reread Wilbur Smith’s When the Lion Feeds and The Sunbird – a mixture thus of fantasy and reality for comfort. To Kill a Mockingbird versus Steven Erikson’s Malazan series and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time? Choose only ONE??? Push me, and I’d pull a compilation of Robert Frost’s poetry from my shelf and consider myself comforted. The imagery is beautiful and the message inspirational.
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 didn’t expect to like The Sunbird. It’s one of Smith’s lesser known books and at the time I read it I hated reading in first person (that has changed!). The cover certainly didn’t grab my attention either, and yet, from page 1, I was completely hooked. Until then Smith’s books were set in real time and were pretty much set in the real world, but with The Sunbird he created parallel tales set in different times. Yep, the reader in me loved it, the writer sat up and took note!
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.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. You’ll have to choose which one goes into exile with me, can’t decide!
Oooh, tricky. Coelho or Tolkien … Coelho or Tolkien … gah. It’s almost as if you knew my Achilles heel is a complete inability to make decisions. Which means I’m going to have to let you have both. Maybe if I bind them into a single volume to make the world’s weirdest omnibus, the Barren Island Powers That Be won’t notice … So, yeah, we’ll get those five (*cough* six *cough*) 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 …
My musical likes are as varied as my book likes, lol! The Blues, Trance, Classical et al. Pet hate is Jazz, it irritates me no end, sorry. I’d rather listen to Heavy Metal before listening to Jazz, and I don’t much like metal anything music-wise. The right music brings peace, inspires, and various pieces fit various stages of writing. A battle scene requires hectic beats, racing heart, a pastoral event requires something more serene, and so forth. Howard Shore’s Evenstar (from LotR) is the one piece of music that really relaxes me … and raises gooseflesh too! Love the entire score, but Evenstar is pure magic.
As for my film choice, Braveheart gets to me every time I watch it. Braveheart it is. Quite fitting, don’t you think? A movie about freedom when in exile will certainly inspire an escape plan!
One item? A solar-powered night light. To signal passing ships. To frighten the bejeezus out of nocturnal visitors. To spotlight crabs on the beach. And snakes. And, yes, them big, hairy spiders. To read in the dark when the fire goes out!
Excellent choice. 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 have to say I’m not one for tropical islands. Too much wind, too hot and too many big bugs. They look pretty in the pictures, but are quite a trial. On the flipside, a cold and barren spit of rock isn’t pleasant either! Fine, here I’ll turn to an island in LORE and mark it on a map for you: out in the Western Ocean of Valaris, an island in a chain, known as Danak. It has Mediterranean weather (sometimes hot, sometimes not) with lovely trees and streams, height and gorgeous beaches. It also possesses a natural harbour … might be able to entice a ship or two in! Any exile could happily laze days away with good books to hand!
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.