I’m delighted to welcome none other than Jessica Redland back to my blog today. This time she’s here to tell us why a visit to the Lakes was the start of something wonderful – a brand new series in a beautiful setting! I know Jessica has loads to tell you, so I’ll let her get on with it.
I was one of the early guests on Sharon’s ‘Book Talk’ feature and am thrilled to be back today for another guest slot. Rather than being interviewed this time, I have carte blanche to talk about whatever I like *rubs hands together in excitement* As I can talk for England when I get going, I’m going to focus this down to one subject – my brand new series – although I could probably talk for England about that too!
On Monday last week (17th July), the first book in my ‘Escape to the Lakes’ series was published. It’s called The Start of Something Wonderful – a title which works on several levels as it’s relevant to a few plot points but also to the book being the start of a new series in a new location … and me hoping readers will think it’s wonderful.
Having a new book out in the world makes me nervouscited – a term my daughter started using when she was little to describe a mixture of nerves and excitement. The excitement comes from something new and shiny out there but the nerves come from fear about whether readers will love the story, the characters and, of course, the brand new setting. Especially as this is the first time I’ve strayed from my home county of Yorkshire.
With nineteen successful novels set in Yorkshire and readers who absolutely love my two settings of Whitsborough Bay (coastal) and Hedgehog Hollow/Bumblebee Barn (country) surely it’s a big risk to stray elsewhere? Yes it is! But I love the Lake District National Park so very, very much. It’s a place I’ve visited regularly since childhood and, on a holiday there a couple of years ago, I was taking in the beauty all around me and said to my husband, ‘I need to set a series here!’
At the time, my publisher – Boldwood Books – were rapidly expanding and specifically seeking authors who wrote (or were willing to write) about different parts of the country as books in particular settings like Cornwall, the Cotswolds and Yorkshire sell really well. I knew I didn’t have time to write a Lake District book at that point due to the other release commitments I had, but I knew I absolutely had to write books set there and I was worried I might be beaten to it. I had a conversation with my editor, Nia, who loved the idea and gave me the approval, unconcerned about it being a project for two years down the line. Phew!
There’s beauty everywhere you look in the Lakes. Some places are dramatic, some are gentle and others are more commercial. I have a particular affinity with Keswick, Derwent Water and the surrounding area and have stayed there a lot, so I knew I wanted to set my series there. The books needed to be authentic and recognisable as the Lakes so my plan was to keep the big towns, fells, lakes and landmarks exactly the same but create a specific fictional setting for my series, although I wasn’t sure quite where that would be.
Whenever we’ve visited Derwent Water, we’ve always followed the crowd round the east side of the lake where the lake cruises start and boats can be hired, up to Friar’s Crag (stunning views and very popular tourist spot), and round to the Centenary Stone. It’s a stunning walk but, during a stay over Easter last year, we decided to walk round the lake in the opposite direction and what a fortuitous decision that turned out to be because I found my inspiration there.
After wandering through a pretty village called Portinscale, we came across an open metal gate and a meandering pathway over a stream and through some woods. It all looked very magical and inviting. With a sign outside advertising food and drinks in the Lingholm Kitchen, we decided to explore. And that’s how I found my setting.
I’d originally been thinking about a story set in a dilapidated farm which got refurbished and repurposed but my thoughts switched to a dilapidated estate instead. The Lingholm Estate – a beautiful Victorian manor house in extensive grounds – provided the inspiration for what my fictional estate could become.
Part of the manor house is a private residence but the rest – along with various cottages and a boat house in the grounds – are holiday apartments. There’s a café on site, a stunning walled garden, and a social enterprise called AlpacalyEverAfter which runs alpaca walks. The place is amazing!
My mind was already buzzing with ideas but there was something else exciting – connections to Beatrix Potter. She holidayed in The Lingholm Estate with her family over a period of twenty years, the original walled garden provided the inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit and several other books were inspired by the estate and surrounding area.
I had definitely found my setting and Willowdale Hall was born. It’s not the Lingholm Estate but what Willowdale Hall could become is inspired by this amazing place, and I have borrowed the Beatrix Potter connection. I needed a bigger community beyond Willowdale Hall so I created the village of Willowdale. This is very much inspired by Portinscale but I’ve moved it closer to the estate and, making it fictional, I can adjust aspects to suit the needs of my series.
The first book in the series – The Start of Something Wonderful – tells the story of Autumn Laine, a greetings cards illustrator who has lost her creative sparkle while caring for her sick granddad, with whom she lives. When she loses her job on the day her beloved granddad dies, her world is in turmoil and she goes to stay with her parents in Paris. She hopes that Paris will inspire but even the artistic community in Montmartre fails to reignite her creative sparkle.
Her best friend Rosie – a penpal of 24 years who she’s never met in person – throws her a lifeline by inviting her to stay with her at Willowdale Hall. The connections to Beatrix Potter are a strong pull. Could Autumn’s visit to the Lake District be the start of something wonderful for her? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
I’m so proud of this book and I’ve been thrilled with the reviews that have come through so far. Readers have really taken to Autumn and Rosie and love the brand new setting so those fears about stepping outside Yorkshire have been allayed. I’m not finished with Yorkshire, mind. My next release in September – Christmas at the Cat Café – is a return to Whitsborough Bay’s Castle Street and I have plenty more Whitsborough Bay tales to tell. Although the Hedgehog Hollow series is finished, there’s more to come from the spin-off world of Bumblebee Barn too.
The second book in the Escape to the Lakes series is out in January and I’m writing it at the moment and absolutely loving being back in the Lake District. If you haven’t visited this part of the world, I hope you enjoy being taken there through the pages of The Start of Something Wonderful and, if you live there or know the area well, I hope you feel that familiarity.
Big hugs and huge thanks to Sharon for welcoming me today.
It’s been my absolute pleasure, Jessica. Good luck with the series, which I know will be a huge success. I’ve already read and loved The Start of Something Wonderful and it’s my new favourite of your books. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
About Jessica Redland:
Jessica Redland is a million-copy bestselling author of emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family, and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds and her brand new Escape to the Lakes series is set around Derwent Water in the Lake District National Park.
All of Jessica’s books are available in a multitude of formats: eBook, paperback, hardback, large print, and audio. Her eBooks are all available for FREE via Kindle Unlimited and six of her audiobooks can be listened to for FREE as part of the Audible Plus programme for Audible subscribers. Libraries internationally also stock Jessica’s titles in a variety of formats.
The Start of Something Wonderful
Find out more about Jessica on her website.
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