Isabelle Broom is the Book Reviews Editor for heat magazine, but this week she’s adding a new section to her CV – author. Isabelle’s sun-kissed debut, My Map Of You is to be released this Thursday, so I sat down with her to ask about the move from book reviewer to book writer.
How did the idea for the book come about?
Ever since I first visited Zakynthos back in 2000, while I was still at uni (showing my age now – yikes!), I felt this pull towards the place. I felt at home there; I still do, perhaps more so than anywhere else I’ve lived. It was this feeling I wanted to explore in more detail, and Holly’s story grew from that. I wanted to write about someone searching for a place where they could feel truly at home and at peace.
Why did you set it in Zakynthos?
Whenever I would start daydreaming, my mind would always take me to Zakynthos – it still does, in fact, a lot of the time – so it was an easy choice for me as a setting. Having lived and worked on the island, and visited regularly for over 15 years now, I know it so well. And it’s beautiful! The people are brilliant, the weather is glorious, the food is amazing and it’s the place I love most in the whole world.
How did your job as a Book Editor affect your choice to write a novel?
I’d actually starting writing My Map Of You before I became the Book Reviews Editor at heat. Before that, I just wrote the odd review for the page, as I was and always have been an avid reader. I’ve been writing since the age of about five, and it was more coincidence than anything that I ended up in this job role at the same time as embarking on the road to becoming published. My job is fantastic, though, because it’s afforded me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing book-world people, all of who have been so supportive.
How would you describe My Map of You in five words?
A genuine dream come true.
What was the toughest part of writing it? And the most rewarding?
Do you know what, I learnt a lot writing this book, the key one being just how important it is to plan. Needless to say, I blundered my way through my first draft thinking that I could just organically unravel the story and not lose my place. I was wrong about that – oh so wrong! Planning is a must if you want to avoid plot holes or, even worse, just running out of steam before you reach the end. I had a few moments where I got stuck, and didn’t know how to get my characters from one scene to the next, so I’d say that was the toughest. But at the same time it’s fun, too. Writing is the only thing more magical than reading, in my opinion. I think the most rewarding part was reaching the end, which actually changed quite a bit during the first edit. There’s nothing quite like writing those two words when you reach the conclusion, and knowing that you’ve done the story justice. It’s very emotional at that stage.
How did you go about writing it? Did you do it in a café or at home, all hours of the day, etc?
Oh, gosh, this book was written in so many places. At my desk at heat magazine, in the café down the road from work, in coffee shops, on the beach in Zakynthos, on trains, at my parents’ house in Cambridge, at a random hotel in the middle of Leicestershire somewhere and my own London flat, of course. I was at it all hours, too. When you work full-time and have a precious dog to look after, every spare second is golden.
Any tips for someone who’s thinking of writing their own novel?
Write what you want to read. An author gave me that tip and I’ve never forgotten it. You have to be passionate about your subject and your characters, and write the book you want to write; as opposed to what you think will sell. Trends change so often and so randomly – it’s impossible to predict what will be a hit and what won’t when it comes to subject matter, so you may as well do what makes you happy. It’s worth bearing in mind that whatever subject and format your debut appears in will set the bar for your career as a writer, so be sure to pick one you can go back to over and over. My theme is escapist, and each book I write will be set in a new location. That way I get to indulge my two loves: writing and travel!
My Map Of You, published by Penguin Random House, will be released on April 21st. It’ll set you back £7.99, and don’t forget to check out my review of the book itself.