Beltane is my first novel and it’s set in Glastonbury. The original spark of the idea came from staying in a bed and breakfast near Glastonbury Tor with a friend almost ten years ago. It was very alternative. People had conversations about angels over the breakfast table. Daily group meditation was pretty much compulsory. The woman who ran it was a very strong character and to be honest, my friend and I found her a little bit scary. Years later I started wondering what if someone who ran a New Age retreat didn’t have good intentions towards their guests. And from that I had my antagonist, Maeve.
Because of that there was never any question as to where I should set the book, the practical considerations of writing a book set 250 miles from home (I live in York and it’s about a five hour drive to Glastonbury) didn’t really cross my mind at the beginning. About a year in I realised that even with the help of Google Streetview I had too many unanswered questions so I planned a holiday/research trip. It was fantastic to spend a week in the place that I spent so much time writing about and huge number of new ideas came out of being there.
One of the amazing things about Glastonbury is that you never know who you’ll meet. At the Chalice Well I started a conversation about the weather and within minutes the guy I was talking to told me he was a druid and that after buying his house he’d grown a tall hedge around it because he practised druidic rituals in the garden. My imagination was obviously working over-time as to what exactly these rituals involved but the conversation sparked another idea and I knew this was all going to have to go in the book.
I’ve been back to Glastonbury quite a few times since then. In fact, I’ve been so often that I now have friends there. I’m going back at the end of this month and I can’t wait! There is something about the place, for all its bonkersness, which I find really soothing. I honestly feel like it’s good for my soul to be there. OK, there’s a dark side to Glastonbury as there is anywhere else (and you only have to look at the vandals who’ve attacked the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill to see that) but there’s such a positive, creative buzz about the place and I just love that.
The festival will be on when I’m there this time. Much as I love music, Glastonbury Festival has never really appealed to me (well, apart from when I wanted to see Hothouse Flowers play there back in the early nineties but that’s a different story) and I have no idea if the place will be changed with the proximity of thousands of festivalgoers. It’s going to be interesting to get there and find out.