I love learning about how and why authors choose their material, and I love even more when authors find inspiration in their normal lives, so when I was offered the opportunity to have Julia Ibbotson write a guest post about her amazing book, The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen I had to accept. I think her story is compelling, and I want to make all the recipes RIGHT NOW. But don’t take it from me, let Julia tell you about it in her words.
English afternoon tea and cakes in a Victorian rectory….
I wrote my first novel at the tender age of 10 years old, and I was desperate to be an author. The book was about my passions at the time: horses, farms and childish adventure, set in quintessential English countryside with afternoon tea and cakes on the large rectory lawn after a gallop in the hills…a local mystery solved over tea, in a sort of early teashop/coffee house mystery style. The stuff of romantic dreams for a little English girl from the city suburbs! But it never even made it to the publisher’s desk, and remains unpublished to this day!
Then, many years and two marriages and a long career in education later, on a romantic whim, my husband and I bought a dilapidated Victorian rectory in the middle of the English countryside, a mile from the nearest village, and spent the next four years renovating and restoring the house and gardens to their former glory.
I researched the house’s history: who lived there? What was it like for them? What happened to them? And because I love cooking for family and friends, I also wanted to incorporate recipes in my book: what were our family favourites? What recipes did previous occupants make? What did they eat in Victorian times or in the world-wartime when food in England was scarce? I documented it all and found my friends from across the world loving the idea: “Write a book about it!” Biting my nails with doubt, I decided to take a chance.
It was to be, I decided, the true story of our renovation of the rectory, but also about the history of the house and the village, and, because the kitchen was, and is, the heart of the home, I wanted food to somehow be the thread that held it all together. So I included recipes at the end of each chapter: cream scones, chocolate fudge cake, sticky toffee pud….
I wrote every weekend after a long week at work as a senior university lecturer. I wrote in my vacations. I took some annual leave simply to write. Once again, the creative juices began to flow, after many years of writing academic texts to a formula. I found that I was really enjoying it; so much so, that if I didn’t get to write on a particular day I felt lost.
Yes, some days it was hard going, some days I spent far too long on the distractions of Facebook and other social media, some days there was too much coffee drinking. At times I doubted my ability to write a whole book. But overwhelmingly I loved it. And gradually I got into a routine of writing and scheduled my days in the same way that I scheduled my professional days in my paid work. After all, I wanted to be a professional writer!
My book took shape and took on a life of its own. And then it was adopted first by an American publisher and now, this year, by a UK publisher. It felt wonderful! An author at last!
The Old Rectory has won awards at international book festivals and five star reviews, so this new author is beaming over her tea and cakes on the rectory lawn – or even over bubbly and chocolate fudge cake (from the recipes in the book, of course)!
I am now engaged in writing the first novel of a trilogy which follows a woman’s life through from the 1960s to the millennium. The first is called Drumbeats and will be out later this year; it’s set in the 60s in West Africa. It is a story about romance and tragedy against the backdrop of a small war-torn nation, about a young girl finding out what it means to grow up. Please do look out for it. Like The Old Rectory it will be available from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and Barnes & Noble, in paperback, Kindle and Nook.
Thanks for sharing my English afternoon tea and cakes on the rectory lawn today!
About the Author:
Julia Ibbotson is the award-winning author of The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, first published to acclaim in the USA and now re-launched with a brand-new cover by her new English publisher in the UK. Julia has been writing creatively all her life (unpublished!) but her day jobs to pay the mortgage have been as a school teacher and latterly a university academic, gaining her PhD at the age of 57. She delights in being a wife and mother to four, with four little grandchildren. She loves reading, gardening, growing food, cooking for family and friends and country life. Having published many academic texts and papers, she came late to actually publishing her creative writing, at the age of 60 plus, when she was persuaded to write the story of the renovation of her Victorian rectory in The Old Rectory. She has combined memoir, history, research, story and recipes in this first published book, which has won a number of international book festivals in the biography category, gained 5 star reviews on Amazon, and has been widely featured (along with her house) in the media. She has begun to delve into the world of blogging, Facebook and now has her own website at www.juliaibbotson.com at which she also posts blogs regularly, about writing, life and her passions. Her new project is a trilogy of novels following the life story of a new character, Jess, through from fleeing to West Africa as a volunteer teacher/nurse in the 1960s to the millennium. The first of the series, Drumbeats, is due to be published later this year. You can find out more on her website and on her author page on Amazon.
About the Book:
Author Julia Ibbotson and her husband glimpsed the old Victorian rectory on a cold January day. It was in dire need of renovation, in the midst of the English moorlands and a mile from the nearest village, but they determined to embark on a new life in the country, to make the sad neglected house glow again and to settle into the life of the small traditional village. As Julia researches the history of the house and village, supervises the renovations and cooks for family and friends, she records their journey. This real-life, award-winning account focuses on the quest to “live the dream” and, in the end, to find what is important in life. As the book foregrounds the centrality of the kitchen as the pulse of the family and home, each chapter ends with delicious but easy recipes, both current favourites and those from the historic period unfolding within the chapter: Victorian, Edwardian, wartime and present day. Reviewers have been fulsome in their praise, including “ enchanting”, “a talented writer”, “charming story”, “delightful”, “a jewel”, “ a great writer”, “inspirational”, “truly engaging”, and “destined to become a classic”.
Purchase your copy at AMAZON.
Watch the Book Trailer: