From Sydney to Scotland, I hope everyone is enjoying our series of armchair travel adventures. I’m delighted to welcome author Isabella May as my guest this week, and although Isabella lives in Spain, we’re actually staying quite close to home to explore her favourite location!
When you have spent toddlerhood through to your late twenties living in (arguably) England’s most mystical town – and you’re an author – it’s impossible not to feature said location in your books.
It’s a word that’s become rather iconic for mud, wellies, and Kate Moss et al posing for Hello! Magazine whilst glamping it up watching the biggest indie musicians in the world. But there’s so much more to my hometown than June’s annual music festival. In fact, the Glastonbury that most outsiders *think* they know, is actually Pilton; a village almost 7 miles away from the real town!
It’s fair to say that the ley lines and the quirkiness of the true Glastonbury have shaped every aspect of my creativity. Yet, for all its fame, Glastonbury rarely features in mainstream fiction. I may not be published with one of the Top Five, and I may not write formulaic commercial romcoms, but I am passionate about shining a spotlight on my former home, whenever a storyline permits. Glastonbury’s push and pull, its magnetism for lost souls and reinvention, and its hedonistic vibe make it impossible not to.
But there are layers to Glastonbury.
Beneath all of the cloaks, wands, crystals and mandalas, generations of farming folk and townspeople are rooted here to the town’s clay-rich earth. All of which makes for the ultimate story: a community steeped in the tradition of the land mingling with those in search of deeper meaning, fused with the generations of partygoers and the plain old eccentric. Glastonbury is a hotspot for plotting and character development. How can a storyline not take shape here?
My first novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’, looks at Glastonbury from an unconventional point of view; that of a successful professional young woman called Kate, who feels trapped there in the confines of comfort zone life – and an abusive relationship – when she is not traveling the world with her career. All she wants to do is escape the place and the limitations it has unwittingly put on her. It’s been fascinating to contrast that writing experience with my second novel, ‘The Cocktail Bar’, where we see rockstar, River Jackson, pine for his hometown so much that he returns there from his South American music tour (much to the disdain of the cider drinking locals and the hash-loving hippies) to open a cocktail bar!
In other novels in my backlist, I’ve simply made mention of Glastonbury here and there, until I wrote ‘The Cake Fairies’; a timeslip romcom that sees professional bakers, Polly and Annabelle, visiting the town’s local Tor fair, where they meet a fortune teller who transports them from 1969 to 2019… an act which feels totally ‘Normal for Glastonbury’, to quote the name of the town’s infamous blog, penned by the wonderful Vicki Steward.
Side note: Vicki has written a fantastically witty book about the town and I simply have to include a link to it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Normal-Glastonbury-Life-Englands-Magical/dp/B091F8PKVJ/
Moving on to the second of my 2020 novels, ‘The Chocolate Box’, we see an unlikely workplace reunion of former private school pupils from the town’s fancy school; a fate sealed with a Jumanji-style box of chocolates…
And in 2021, Glastonbury has provided me with just as much inspiration as ever! ‘Bubblegum and Blazers’ was published in June, and is a romcom set on a reality TV show (which I may have based in my former secondary school, wink, wink). That book was a delight to write and really helped me escape during the toughest months of the pandemic. Then in September this year, B&B was joined by ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ where we witness the return of River Jackson from ‘The Cocktail Bar’… and this time he’s back to run a retro VW camper van selling decadent hot chocolate and gingerbread biscuits in Glastonbury and the surrounding villages – as you do.
Whilst my current manuscript focuses on Weston-super-Mare and the Algarve (and copious amounts of gourmet custard tarts), and book 10 will be set in sunny Spain, where I currently live, there’s no doubt the carrot dangle of Glastonbury will prove impossible to resist for long…
In the meantime, I’d love to see it represented more accurately in bestselling fiction. As I have hinted above, it’s not just the beauty of the Tor, the Abbey, the Chalice Well, the Holy Thorn, and Gog and Magog that deserve our attention, but the real people of Glastonbury. These everyday characters do more than flit in and out for a weekend of mud, music, and magic mushrooms, they are the town’s beating heart, and they are brimming with stories to share with bookworms far and wide.
You can buy Isabella’s latest release, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ here:
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.
After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!
All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.
You can follow her Foodie Romance Journey series at the following hang-outs:
Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/@IsabellaMayBks
Instagram – @isabella_may_author
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Many thanks to Isabella for taking part – aren’t her book covers just mouth-wateringly gorgeous? Me and Mr T spent our brief honeymoon staying in Wookey, just a few miles outside Glastonbury, and we’ve visited the town many times since. It holds a very special place in our hearts too.