Going Back to Find Something New

FullSizeRender_3I’ve been coming to Glastonbury (the town not the festival, as I’ve explained a lot in the past few weeks) every year or so since I started writing Beltane six years ago.  It’s become a kind of spiritual second home and I love it for its quirkiness, its willingness to embrace the alternative and the sheer creative energy of the place.  My sister said to me a while back, “Why do you keep going back? Don’t you get bored?” I told her that there’s a joy in revisiting the places I’ve come to love.  And, as it’s been a very stressful and difficult six years, it’s relaxing to go back to somewhere I’m already familiar with.

When I was heading down the M1 for this visit, I expected it’d follow the same familiar path.  I’d go to the Chalice Well and enjoy the peace in the beautiful garden, I’d walk up the Tor, I’d sit in the silence of Magdalen Chapel, wander around the bookshops and drink green tea in The Hundred Monkey’s Café (by far the best place for tea and cake in Glastonbury, in my opinion).  Only it didn’t work out like that.  I didn’t do most of those things.  Instead I discovered new special places and I’ve now got a new favourite spot in Glastonbury.

FullSizeRenderThe Avalon Orchard is perched on the slope of the Tor.  If you come to the Tor by what I call the steep side (which is the side furthest from the centre of town) there’s a gate on the left of the path up the Tor, under an arch of greenery.  There is another way from the other side of the Tor through the woods. I came that way but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve got stout boots and are prepared to meet wild campers doing their mid-morning ablutions (yes, he had his pants around his ankles – most embarrassing!)

Few people seem to find the orchard.  It took a walk with a man who’s lived in Glastonbury all his life for me to discover it but it’s well worth a detour on a trip up and down the Tor.

FullSizeRender_2Now you might be wondering, what’s so special about a few apple trees?  They are lovely trees; old, gnarled, lichen covered.  Some of them are bent and twisted, others fallen to make seats or benches of living wood.  I arrived a few weeks too late for the blossom but I could see fruit forming, small bright green misshapen globes peeking out between the leaves.  On a sunny day, it’s a gorgeous spot.  There’s a lovely view across the Somerset Levels and it’s quiet. I was there on a very windy day when it was hard to stand even on the lower parts of the Tor but it was peaceful and sheltered in the orchard.

The National Trust take care of the orchard which is why there’s nice gates and carved name plaques but other than that it’s remarkably untouched.  I’m told they don’t know who planted the orchard or when or what varieties of apples grow there.  Glastonbury was once Avalon, the Isle of Apples and it’s lovely that there’s a reminder of that.

FullSizeRender_5I’ve found it so difficult while life has been tough to do new things.  It’s been much easier to cling to the old, even if it’s worn out and a bit tatty.  I’d thought, after the very hard few months I’d been through that I was going to Glastonbury to relax into what I knew.  Turns out I was wrong about that. I was ready to discover new places and to do new things and they were all, in different ways, as special as the beautiful Avalon Orchard.

If you’ve got a favourite place in Glastonbury or if you’ve recently discovered a wonderful new place then I’d love to hear about it. You can add a comment below, tweet me at @Alyswestyork or post on my Facebook page @alyswestwrites.

Meet My Character

Thanks ever so much to Sharon Booth of The Moongazing Hare blog for asking me to do this blog tour.  You can read Sharon’s brilliant blog here.  This is the first time I’ve done one of these blog tours so I hope I’ve done it right.  If not then please let me know…

1. What is the name of your character? Is s/he fictional or historical?

She’s called Zoe Rose.  She’s the heroine of Beltane, my first novel and is fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?

The Tor
The Tor

The story is set in the present day in Glastonbury.  Anyone who’s been to Glastonbury (the town, not the festival) will know that it’s more than a little alternative.  There are shops on the High Street selling everything you need to be a successful witch, Goddess workshops are regularly held in the town and people openly practice Paganism.  It was therefore wasn’t much of a leap to think that if supernatural things were going to happen anywhere then they’d happen in Glastonbury.  Another day I’m going to blog about meeting a druid for a cuppa as that really was an education!


3. What should we know about her?

Zoe is a struggling artist in her late twenties. She comes to Glastonbury to work on the illustrations for a children’s book about King Arthur.  This is a really important commission for Zoe and she’s been struggling to produce any decent work at home in London. Her best friend suggests she stays at Anam Cara Healing Retreat which is owned by the healer, Maeve.  However, Maeve is not all she seems…

Statue at Chalice Well
Statue at Chalice Well

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Zoe has strange dreams that she’s had all her life and she’s learnt that if she draws these dreams they don’t bother her anymore.  While she’s in Glastonbury she has a number of dreams of the same man.  And then she meets him.

Initially Zoe doesn’t recognise Finn McCloud as the man from her dream but she’s instantly drawn to him.  When Finn finds out where Zoe is staying he warns her not to trust Maeve.  Zoe’s already worried about the pretty odd things that are going on at Anam Cara and Finn’s words make her ask even more questions.  But Maeve’s one determined lady and she’ll stop at nothing to make sure Zoe doesn’t find out her secrets.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

At the beginning of the book, Zoe simply wants to complete the illustrations for the King Arthur book and hopes that will lead to more work as an artist.  Then her dreams become increasingly important as she realizes that they reveal the future.  But there’s a lot of other things going on in Glastonbury and without realizing Zoe’s ended up right in the middle of it and, in the end, her only goal is survival.

High Street
High Street

6. Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?

The title is Beltane and at the moment the only place you can read more about it is here. Hopefully one day that will change.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I’m afraid I can’t answer that one at the moment.  Submissions are out.  When there’s any good news you’ll be the first to know.

And the tour carries on. I couldn’t find anyone to hand the baton on to (all my writing friends seem to have already been on this particular tour, got the t-shirt and come home with a few dodgy souvenirs) but my good friend and contemporary women’s fiction writer, Julie Heslington, is also doing this blog tour this week and you can read her blog here.

Thanks for reading about Zoe and Beltane.  Have a lovely day xx