Like all writers, I sometimes dream of being locked away from all humanity so that I can have the time to, a) write, and b) get through the enormous ‘TBR’ pile that has actually become an entire room. A desert island would be even better, assuming it’s the sunny, sandy kind with palm trees, hot springs, and no dangerous animals.
As I only get to take five books, I’ll have to survive without Bushcraft 101 and Cooking With Coconut and opt for a couple of LONG books that I’ve been meaning to read for years, as well as something to feed my writing, and something to remind me of home.
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
This is one of the books I used as a doorstop at university (the other was Clarissa by Samuel Richardson). Despite owning it for twenty years, and despite being told by many wise people that I simply must read it, I still haven’t read it. It’s just too darn long. However, stranded on a desert island, I’d be forced to do so. And if I really can’t get on with it, I can always use it to build a raft.
Catch 22, Joseph Heller
After War and Peace, I’ll need a laugh. When I first read Catch 22, I thought it one of the biggest, boldest, funniest and most complex novels ever written. That was many years ago – I need to re-read it. It would remind me of my husband, who quotes from it wherever possible. And it is of course about going insane, which I might well be doing myself after some time alone in the sun.
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s work has had a big influence on me, as I once awkwardly told her at a book signing (she looked suitably unimpressed). Her writing is so astonishing and immaculate that I often find it difficult to write after reading her books. It feels there’s no point in even trying. Alias Grace – with its enigmatic heroine, its dark humour, and its clever patchwork structure – is my favourite. I’ve read it five times and, each time, I learn something new about the writing process. Maybe another five times and I’ll know what I’m doing.
Story, Robert McKee
This is the book about writing that I’ve been meaning to read for several years, but which is just too long for me to be able to face. Although primarily about screenwriting, it is said to be essential reading for novelists wanting to learn about and improve their story structure. And who knows, with enough time on my hands, I might feel the urge take up screenwriting.
A Blank Book and a pen
My draft second novel, The Story Keeper, is set on an island (albeit a Hebridean rather than a tropical one) so this would be the perfect place to write it. And without the distraction of Twitter and small children, I might even get the novel finished by the time the rescue boat turns up to take me home.
Anna Mazzola‘s debut, The Unseeing, published in 2016, is based on the life of Sarah Gale who was convicted in 1837 of aiding and abetting James Greenacre in the Edgware Road murder. Read our review. The Unseeing is out in paperback on 26th January 2017.