The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen is my first “real” published book (I’m not counting the many academic papers and texts I’ve had published, as to me they’re not “real books”, the ones you can snuggle down with by the fire or in the sunshine by the pool and lose yourself in them).
It might never have happened had I not gone with my husband to academic conferences in Australia and America and had our new-found friends there not persuaded me to write about the Victorian rectory in the middle of England’s moorlands that my husband and I had just bought and were renovating. It took us a good three years of toil, sweat and (many) tears. But it was all worthwhile in the end, not least because my book was written as a result of it all.
It’s won four international book festival awards (London, best in biography category, Paris, New York and New England) and gained some lovely five star reviews on Amazon. I hope I’m not being greedy but I hope that there’ll be even more after the book tour.
My book tells the story of the renovation, not only of the house, but also of lives, of the historical research we undertook, unearthing tales of the people who lived there, and their lives in the Victorian, Edwardian and wartime eras, and in the present day! History seeps from the stones the house was built with and it’s there in the walls of the kitchen and it’s in me as I cook for my family and friends. I can imagine those bygone days, those cooks who made meals in my kitchen so many years ago, leading lives so very different from that of mine today. The book tells of my belief that the kitchen is the heart of the home and of our love of having family and friends around the table, laughing and enjoying food together. The end of every chapter has recipes pertaining to the era or event depicted in that chapter: food for the soul like Sticky Toffee Pudding, English cream tea, braised lamb shanks, Victorian pound cake and boozy plum pud.
The publication of my book was wonderful because, as the years went by, I never thought I would really write and publish, yet this was my childhood passion. I loved farms, horses, dogs and adventures (albeit on a little-girl scale) and I wrote about them copiously. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, and eventually wrote my first novel at the age of 10. It was never to see the light of day, never to be published. Indeed it never arrived on a publisher’s desk. Most of my stories were locked up in dusty drawers and cupboards, in old cardboard boxes, having moved house with me 12 times in my life. I always wanted to be an author, but cries of “that’s not a proper job!” diverted me into the job all girls were recommended in those days – teaching (“so convenient when you marry and have children of your own – you get the school holidays”). I taught English in secondary schools, where I taught about other people’s books, and then in universities as an academic where I taught teachers. But yes, I wrote even then, but mainly academic texts and papers on my research.
And then came the moment when I took my friends’ advice (“you write really well”, “write about this amazing rectory”, “write about the house and the village – it’s like Midsomer Murders!”) and I decided to take the plunge and write creatively again – and actually publish this time, for real!
I announced the “birth of my baby” on my blog (www.juliaibbotson.com) and that was really how it felt. I gave (actual) birth to two daughters, so I know how real the metaphor is – the joy of pregnancy, the pain of labour, the glorious elation of a new baby appearing to the world, and being placed in my hands. Just like authoring a published book.
It’s available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in paperback, Kindle and Nook editions.
And, as for now, I’m encouraged to go on writing, but now it’s my preferred genre, novels. My next book is called Drumbeats and is the first novel in a trilogy about Jess. This one is set in the 1960s, the era of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the monochrome mini dress, the gamine haircut, the thick full fringed Mary Quant bob, the oversized sunglasses, the knee high white laced granny boots, and the Saturday night “hop”. Those were different times then, more innocent times.
My gentle, innocent (fairly), young heroine Jess is eighteen years old and fleeing her stifling family to become a volunteer teacher and nurse in the African bush, in Ghana. There she grows up, comes of age, and learns some of life’s not-so-sweet lessons. It’s a story of love, loss, adventure and tragedy set against the backdrop of war torn West Africa in the 60s. It’ll be out in the autumn – hopefully in time for the Christmas stockings, so look out for it on Amazon, also in paperback, Kindle and Nook editions.
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.