Your first novel, the highly acclaimed Oh! What a Pavlova dealt with some dark issues, like domestic abuse. Will your second novel revisit this theme or do you have any other controversial issues in your cocktail shaker?
Thanks, Alice! Yes, Oh! What a Pavlova certainly got people talking and it also divided opinion, which was exactly what I wanted to achieve with a first novel; to come out there and spectacularly break the writing rules (of mixing satire with a serious subject), as well as the taboo that is domestic violence. Hopefully I helped dispel the myth that it is an ‘affliction’ that touches just the uneducated and the poor; that it has an ETD and always happens on a regular basis…
However, contemporary romantic comedy is the direction that The Cocktail Bar has taken, still with that spiritual thread running through it (like ‘Pavlova’), and still with a healthy dose of travel and all things foodie – okay, in this case, mouth-wateringly delicious alcoholic drinks! There’s a shot or two of controversy, courtesy of the woman who will stop at nothing to have her bartender and drink him – aka. Georgina Hopkins. The novel also touches very briefly on subjects such as infidelity, theft, and baby loss. That to one side, it is hopefully an enjoyable and uplifting read, set in the very unique Glastonbury High Street.
Oh! What a Pavlova did not fit into any one genre – is your latest similarly hard to categorise?
I’m a publishing nightmare, quite frankly. But I love to challenge the status quo and mesh a variety of genres into my books. Not because it’s fun to be awkward, rather it’s just the way I am. Variety is the spice of life and all that. I can’t see myself ever straying from weaving the spiritual, foodie, comedic, romantic and wanderlust aspects of life together. I suppose the genre that best sums me up is Contemporary. But in truth I could fit into any number of boxes!
Do any of the characters from your first novel make a reappearance in the second, or is it a whole different cast?
This is a completely brand spanking new cast. They’re electrically wild and funny, and ridiculous, and quite possibly all in need of a little self-help.
How did you pick the theme of cocktails? Did you have to do a lot of research??
I grew up in Glastonbury, and as a teen, you had very limited options when it came to a night out! The local pubs were nothing to write home about, the town’s infrequent attempts at ‘nightclubs’ in the nineties were a glam mix of shady and dodgy with dance floors the size of a bath tub… which is why we all headed to the neighbouring towns and cities for a good time instead. Anyway, an old friend of mine posted some snazzy pictures of her Florida road trip, where every stop seemed to incorporate serious cocktail drinking… and the seed of an idea was planted. What if a Cocktail Bar muscled its way onto Glastonbury’s infamous High Street? How would the locals react? How would it change the town? I headed straight for my little balcony overlooking the sea (here in Spain) and began to scribble!
In terms of research, yes, I had to do quite a lot. I love cocktails as much as the next person, but I could hardly call myself a proper connoisseur of anything out of the ordinary – well, not on a regular basis, anyway. It’s tricky to come by the ingredients where we live, for one thing! So this was the absolutely fascinating part of the process; researching all sorts of recipes old and new. River Jackson is hellbent on creating a bar that evades the stereotypical ‘Sex on the Beach’ style tipples. Hopefully he’s succeeded!
If you had to think of one cocktail which summed up the entire book, what would it be?
The Frisky Bison! It’s pretty much liquid alcohol apple pie, which sets the geographical scene of the novel perfectly (River’s hometown of Glastonbury, in his home county of Somerset), where on a bright, sunny day, the hue of the surrounding Somerset Levels’ countryside, really is a matching lime green. It’s also a bolstering, hygge-like cocktail, nodding at the kind of life River wants to lead now after a decade on the road touring with his indie rock band, Avalonia.
You seem very interested in food and drink, do you have any background in the food industry?
I often wonder if I am secretly Italian. I just love food and drink. I’m obsessed with all things cake and ice cream. I also adore the finesse and the art of a really well made cocktail. I guess I’m forever marveling at the way that all elements of concocting, cooking and eating bring us together – be that as a means of breaking the ice, or extending an olive branch…
Do you have a day job or are you a full-time writer?
I am a full-time part-time writer, if that makes sense. I especially ‘carpe diem’ while the children are at school, and am constantly sneaking off to cafes at the weekend!
Do you have a third book in mind, and if so, can you give us any inkling of where you’ll be going with it?
I do… and I am hoping it will be finished and signed up by the time you publish this article! It’s called Costa del Churros and is another fun, foodie, travel, romance and spiritual tale of four women breaking out of their comfort zones thanks to Flamenco… and a certain dance teacher by the name of Carmen. It’s set right here on the Costa del Sol, where I live, and has certainly given me THE BEST excuse to hang out in all of my favourite cafes and tapas bars.
Isabella lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.
As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).
She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’!
The Cocktail Bar is her second novel, following on from the hit sensation, Oh! What a Pavlova, published in 2017. Her third novel is currently being polished up and involves copious amounts of churros con chocolate: watch this space…