Welcome to my first blog of 2022! Every month I feature an Indie Author and ask them to tell us a little about their working process. My guest this month is Isabella May who writes Foodie Romance Journeys. So make yourself a cuppa, get comfy and let’s get chatting to Isabella.
Happy New Year, Isabella! Welcome to my blog. Can you tell us what made you decide to become an Indie Author?
It wasn’t a conscious choice. My first three books were traditionally published with a small publishing house that championed storytellers with unique voices (although my books are romantic comedies, they have many layers to them and sometimes cross genres). After my third book, Costa del Churros was released, my publisher decided to close one imprint down and focus entirely on the darker arm of its business, so many of us romance authors either needed to change genre or find new homes for our work.
I saw this as a brilliant opportunity to hook myself an agent and either a bigger publisher or a seriously proactive digital publisher who could bring my novels to a wider audience. My fourth book, The Ice Cream Parlour, got some amazing feedback when it was out on submission, however, that old chestnut ‘you write really well but you’re trying to do too much’ was the predominant feedback from The Gatekeepers, so I decided to steam ahead and do my own thing. Since then I have written another five books!
I can’t quite say I have never looked back because I have (foolishly) dabbled with the subbing game every couple of books down the line. Ultimately though, I have decided to protect my mental health (I take rejection badly) and carry on building my brand, doing it my way. Being indie is great. Yes, it’s hard work but I have complete control over every aspect of my books – from cover through to characters. I work with a fabulously talented editor and I have a small but growing – and incredibly loyal readership. If the agents or publishers want me, they can knock at my door now. I liken my jittery experience to dating and I am done and dusted with the chasing, LOL!
How do you decide on the cover and title for your books?
I have a long list of potential Foodie Romance Journey titles to add to my series (all are standalone books too, by the way), but I need to work backwards and be sure that I have a cracking cover first.
I am a bit of a (stubborn) anomaly in rom com fiction since I favour photographic covers for my novels. Food is such an integral part of my stories and I have yet to see an illustrated cake that can make me drool as much as a real one! Sometimes I will add a smattering of tiny illustrations to the cover to help convey the genre. I am a marketer’s worst nightmare but it’s important to me that my books have a true USP, especially as I don’t have the weight of a big publisher behind me.
Title-wise, I try to be mindful of SEO but again, I find that often thwarts my creativity. I carry out thorough searches before I commit to a new title to check that nothing similar exists, and I try to stay in tune with foodie trends. My April 2022 release is called The Custard Tart Cafe and I’m hoping it will tap into the taste buds of bookworms who are enamoured with the current Portuguese pastel de nata craze…
What was the inspiration for your latest book?
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar was published in September. I have watched the Christmas romance genre grow substantially in the four years since I’ve become a published author, and I was curious to see if I could pull a festive novel off. TTLB was an absolute joy to write and it garnered some great reviews, so I plan to bring out one Christmas book every year for the foreseeable future. I have a fair few prospective titles lined up so I just have to hope and pray nobody else pinches them!
How do you go about your research?
That’s a great question. I think it’s easy to assume that there is little to research when one pens a rom com, but setting, backstory and character development are crucial. In The Custard Tart Cafe, for example, since the story takes place between Weston-super-Mare and a rural town just inland from the Algarve, it was vital that I got the finer details right. I researched the Grand Pier’s history (including the fire that destroyed it a few years ago), I also needed to refresh my memory of my time spent in São Brás de Alportel (particularly its flora, fauna and local foodie specialties), and I spent a great deal of time watching videos of traditional Portuguese custard tarts being made, not to mention reading up on the history of Lisbon’s Jerónimos monastery and its nuns.
In short, if you want to spin a convincing yarn, you have to put in the groundwork…
Have you ever been to any of the countries featured in your books?
Yes, I have spent time in many of them. Before I became an author, I worked in foreign rights sales for children’s books. It was a wonderful job! I got to travel all over the world to visit my clients at book fairs and on sales trips. Aside from that I just love planning holidays and city breaks at any opportunity. Obviously all of that has come to a bit of a halt since the pandemic!
What are your hobbies when not writing?
The aforementioned travel planning! I also love to bake, but my creations are very much substance over style. I am a Level 4 Pranic Healer and spiritual development is very important to me so I go on as many Pranic Healing courses as I can when my teacher visits neighbouring Gibraltar. Naturally I am a bookworm, and I also enjoy the theatre, cinema, learning new languages, and long walks in the sunshine. Oh, I have quite a penchant for cocktails too!
This all sounds fascinating, Isabella. Thanks so much for talking to us today. Wishing you lots of success with your fantastic books.
Isabella’s latest books
Buy link: mybook.to/custardtartcafe
River and Alice miss Somerset. Christmas isn’t Christmas without family and friends, even when you live in quaint Cornwall.
When River’s aunt Sheba dies unexpectedly, leaving him her ancient VW camper van, nostalgia nudges him and Alice back to Glastonbury – and the surrounding villages – to rediscover their roots whilst serving the most decadent hot chocolate and delectable gingerbread from their renovated ‘bar on wheels’. A bar on wheels complete with a fold-up stage to host local talent competitions rivaling anything Simon Cowell could dream up, even if he’d gorged on a truckle of Cheddar cheese!
As the villagers sip their cocoa and ice their gingerbread houses amidst the festive backdrop of song, dance, and slightly more unconventional talents, River and Alice find themselves in an unexpected race against time: Zara, their chocolate supplier is leaving Glastonbury on the twelfth day of Christmas, keen to put a string of disastrous relationships behind her to make a fresh start. Bruno, their gregarious and gorgeous baking supplier is secretly smitten with Zara – ticking every box on her New Year’s wish list. If only they can get them together for one experimental kiss under the mistletoe… They’ve even enlisted their customers’ help in their mission to wrap this budding romance up in all the jingle bells and whistles. How hard can it be?So, ho, ho VERY tricky, as it turns out…
Buy Links: mybook.to/twinkletwinklelittleb
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 – @IsabellaMayBks
Instagram – @isabella_may_author
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y2q5audb