Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. 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.
Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.
Her published novels - so far! - include Oh! What a Pavlova, The Cocktail Bar, Costa del Churros and The Ice Cream Parlour.
Book 5 is almost written...
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The Ice Cream Parlourby Isabella MayPublish: May 15, 2019Contemporary Romance
Costa del Churrosby Isabella MayPublish: Sep 19, 2018Contemporary Romance
The Cocktail Barby Isabella MayPublish: Feb 13, 2018Contemporary Romance
Oh! What a Pavlovaby Isabella MayPublish: Oct 03, 2017Contemporary Romance
I grew up in one of the most mystical towns in the UK. But without having anything else to compare the experience to at that young age, it all felt pretty normal to me, so back then I'd probably get most excited about a trip to the park or the sweet shop! Although we didn't climb up there nearly as much as we should have, I did love to gaze at the infamous Tor on the pea-green hill that overlooks Glastonbury town. Like a beacon calling you home, you can see it from miles away and it is quite a sight, especially at sunrise and sunset.When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was 40 by the time Oh! What a Pavlova was published but I guess I have been writing and crafting stories in my head forever - since primary school at least. It took 7 years of scribbles and self-doubt, writing groups, writing classes, a helluva lot of cake... and yet more self-doubt before my debut was in a good enough state to submit... and then be snapped up. A career break to raise my young kids definitely slowed things down on the word count front but I think it also helped free my imagination. I have so many ideas!Do you think that there is a need for good contemporary romance in the book industry? Why or why not?
I do. Sorry to say it but the UK industry (in particular) is absolutely saturated with same old two-a-penny formulaic romance stories. It really is. And don't get me started on the same old wishy-washy covers publishers like to churn out to keep things on brand! What about the author's identity? As you can probably tell, as somebody who falls easiest into the contemporary romance genre (although, in truth my writing varies between book to book and often crosses genres), this is a subject I am very passionate about.
Even when a new digi publisher sets up, they either poach mid-list authors from the larger houses, or don't live up to their brazen claims of being The Next Big Breath of Fresh Air. At least this was my experience when I decided to look for a larger platform for my 4th book, and it was very depressing. In the end I couldn't wait to go indie and get my words out there myself!
Whilst I 'get' that publishers have a bottom line to meet, readers deserve better. They deserve choice. They deserve unique voices and stories. Fortunately, there are now so many great indie writers out there who are providing some real competition to the releases of the big publishers and shaking the industry up. This is why I loved working with my former publisher (Crooked Cat) for books 1-3 so much. They buck the trend and publish some truly great fiction that's impossible to pigeonhole.Can you tell us a little bit about your book "The Ice Cream Parlour" and the revolving themes in this story?
The Ice Cream Parlour is my fourth novel and my first foray into indie publishing. It has also my favourite book to write so far. The story starts off on the island of Capri. We soon learn that all is not well in the Tonioli family's ice cream parlour... so much so that parents Antonio and Antonia insist on a move to Bath, UK, taking their twin daughters, Giovanna and Natalia with them. As the years go by, the unfathomable family favouritism of evil twin, Natalia, becomes too much for Giovanna to ignore. Especially when she does the one thing a sister should never do! Giovanna decides to open up her very own rival ice cream parlour, smack bang opposite Natalia's inheritance, causing quite a whirlwind in the city of Bath - and beyond. But not before an Eat Pray Love style trip to Italy where she spends months sampling gelato to inspire her 100-flavour parlour. Add a scoop of the Mafia, past-life regressions, and some larger than life secondary characters, and you have a (hopefully) unputdownable read. The reviews have been really encouraging so far!If you ever get writer’s block, where do you go to overcome it or what activities help you overcome it?
I'm very lucky. It's never really hit me... yet! I often procrastinate though, but I am disciplined. If you show up at your desk, the muse will show up too. You might only knock out 100 words, but ultimately it's all adding sand to the pit that is your manuscript.What other jobs have you worked in your life? How do they contribute to your stories and writing?
I spent 15 years working in foreign rights for children's publishing so my whole career has been about books in one way or another. That job involved a lot of traveling and definitely inspired the backdrop for Oh! What a Pavlova. I think it has gone on to inspire every book, to be honest, since they all involve elements of travel and culture and delicious food/drink. I have also co-founded an online women's magazine and played boutique literary agent. I've been a teacher in Bordeaux and a proofreader in Germany during my 3rd year at Uni. I have even been a cave guide at a popular UK tourist attraction during my student days... All of these jobs have definitely sparked the imagination.What is something that most people don’t know about being an author?
It's a marathon not a sprint. You start out dreaming that your debut will make it to Hollywood. I'm currently working on book 6 and will honestly be happy dancing if all it does is light up my current readership and maybe draw some new readers to my backlist. Celebrating the little victories is actually more rewarding, and what keeps you going!What inspired the intriguing plot of ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’?
Sadly, I was in a domestic violence relationship for a decade and I was eager to dispel the myth that an abusive relationship is abusive all the time. It isn't always the formula abuse takes. I think that's how and why many intelligent women - and men - get manipulated through techniques such as gas-lighting, and ultimately trapped in toxic situations. Yes, we see crime books that tackle the subject. But we don't read about it much in other genres or writing styles. Yet it is there in many forms. 'Pavlova' got some great reviews (and a couple of not-so-great ones!). I knew it would be a controversial 'Marmite' read. It's basically the story of a young woman who leads a double life. Slowly but surely, the countries she travels to for business - and the men she meets along the way - help her to see beneath the veil of illusion and plot her escape.Where is the story of "The Cocktail Bar" set and is it a real place? What was the hardest part about writing this book, if there were any?
This book flew out of my fingers in six months. It was an absolute joy to write. The hardest part was probably researching and learning about all these new (to me) cocktail combinations... without being able to sample them! Torture. I imagined the bar to be set in an institution of a hippie shop on Glastonbury High Street. Sadly, that shop (Gothic Image) was sold last year. It had been there for ever! I must admit to wondering if fiction might become fact... and I really had created a life-size River Jackson who would snap the place up and turn it into Somerset's most unconventional cocktail bar after all? Alas no. I believe it has been taken over by a crystal shop. When in Glastonbury, I guess...How do you think women characters have evolved over time in romance?
Great question and one I have never been asked before. Equality is the word that springs to mind. We are seeing more and more of it, as we should. One area that definitely needs working on though is the subject of food/diet/body image. Why do we continue to use the calorie-controlled trope of a female in fiction? It's enough to make me throw a book at the wall! If we want equality, if we want our daughters to smash those glass ceilings, then let us flipping well stop writing characters who dither as to whether they should eat a piece of cake... or wax lyrical over the size of their buttocks. It's so yesterday.
That's why I love to weave a foodie theme into all of my books. Food is love, food is life. Eat, drink and be merry. Don't justify a crumb! It's a rare one of us females who witnesses a male do it... so why are we?If you could bring to life one character from all of your books, who would it be and why?
Definitely River Jackson from The Cocktail Bar. I think of him as a much younger version of Jonas Jonasson's 'The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man'. He embraces life completely, always living in the moment and spontaneously. I think he could teach us all a lot.What is the significance of the title, Costa del Churros? How did you come up with the title?
I live on the Costa del Sol in sunny Spain. Gramatically speaking, of course, it should be Costa del Churro or Costa de los Churros (as I have been informed on more than one occasion by resident - and usually, it has to be said - pedantic, retired British males!). As a linguist, I was well aware the title might get questioned, but it's a play on words that ties in with the theme of the book. The gramatically correct titles above would have sounded strange to English-speaking ears. And, since the story features four British women who move to Spain desperate for a better life, it was important that the audience got the nuance. None of the women are exactly fluent in Spanish but 'churros' is their code word to meet up for flamenco lessons so their husbands and partners don't suspect they have a new hobbie. And churros con chocolate really do star in a fair few scenes!How often do you write in a week? Do you follow a certain schedule or write whenever and wherever?
I wish! At the moment the children are off school for the mahoosive 11 week summer holidays and so I have to snatch my moments when I can. A notebook is also a good idea. I carry one around with me so that even when I am watching my littlest kid at his football training, I can write a bit of dialogue or brainstorm some ideas. It's amazing how that all adds up though.What is the title of the next book you are working on? What is it about?
The Cake Fairies is being edited at the moment and I plan to release it in March. It's a time-slip; a tale of two baking fanatic cousins from 1969 who find themselves transported to London and the year 2020. Their mission is to complete a series of 'cake drops' up and down the British Isles in a bid to steer the general public away from screens and social media. It was definitely a giggle to write but it's a longer book at 100k words.When did you join AllAuthor? How has your experience been?
I joined in May this year and I am very happy with the experience so far. I especially love the weekly book banners!
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