Behind the Story: A Prison in the Sun (Canary Islands Mysteries Book 3)

When I was first told that a prison incarcerating gay men during General Franco’s regime in Spain, I was a foolish twenty-seven year old with aspirations of becoming a writer and not a clue how to go about it. The year was 1989. Back then, the true story of the prison was a dark secret whispered among locals and no one else. The Canary Islands government was silent.

It took me almost thirty years to feel equipped to tell this story. By then I was living in Australia, I had three novels set in the Canary Islands and I knew I needed to write a fourth. I felt torn as I also wanted to produce something literary, a work set entirely in the Canary Islands in the 1950s. Trouble for me was I no longer lived there, I was not born there, my Spanish was adequate but by no means sufficient to chat with locals, and above all, I am not male and I am not gay. I am also not rich! The research needed for such a literary approach would have cost many thousands in travel and accommodation. Twice I applied for funding but was unsuccessful. So I resigned myself to the notion of positioning the novel alongside the two mysteries I had already written, knowing that approach would constrain the way A Prison in the Sun could be told.

The prison cells at La Colonia Agrícola Penitenciaria de Tefía, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

I felt apprehensive. I had a lot of conversations with numerous respected authors and publishers. There was talk of the inappropriateness or lack of my fitness for the task, being neither male, gay nor from the islands. Lionel Shriver was mentioned along with political correctness. Most encouraged me, championing my efforts and bravery. I took this very idea of appropriateness and also of contemporary conversations around sexual preference and created a conflicted character, millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore. I decided I would have him tell the story of the prison. After all, he wants to write a novel with his name on the cover for once, and there is the small matter of his ghostwriting gigs winning prizes for other writers. I had so much fun being Trevor. Best of all, I popped him in a holiday let which was a house I was poised to buy back in 2017. The only reason I didn’t was the owners took it off the market. I think they did me a favour, as you will find out if you read the book.

Screenshot taken from documentary La Memoria Silenciada Tefía – Twelve men crammed in a barn.

As for the prison in Tefía, Fuerteventura – or rather concentration camp for that is what it was – I spent many many hours brushing up my Spanish so that I could read newspaper articles, blog posts, doctoral theses and academic books. I read James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. I took copious notes on the economic, political and social history of the Canary Islands from the 1920s. I watched YouTube videos. I read everything I could find on the prison. I am indebted to former prisoner Octavio García, whose testimony and activism helped raise awareness, in Spain at least, of this ignominy. Also to Professor of History Miguel Ángel Sosa Machín who interviewed Octavio and produced a novella, Viaje al centro de la infamia (which I read). His efforts gained much publicity in the noughties. It would have been impossible for me to write this novel prior to efforts of these two men.  I read up on what it was like to be gay in Spain. I recalled my closest friends of that time, who were both local to the islands and gay. The result is as authentic as I, a humble female author in her fifties, could make it. I did not shy away from the brutal truth of prison life. I put myself there. I lay down in the prisoners’ cots. I trudged up the hill in the searing sun and the raging wind to assemble in the quadrangle. I imagined what it would be like to break rocks all day. To be starving.

Not wanting to give Trevor an easy time of it, I put him through his paces. And what he goes through provides relief from the harsh reality of Fuerteventura in the 1950s. To say more would spoil the novel. Here is what one reviewer has to say:

“The author has used her deep knowledge of landscape, politics and history on the Canary Islands to give us a page-turning juxtaposition of savage past events with present-day drama, mystery and murder.

The book weaves two stories together over decades: a present-day author uncovering revelations of sadistic and gut-wrenching homophobia in the past while anguishing over his own sexual orientation. Matters heat up as he finds himself battling for his life, caught in the crosshairs of a murderous drug deal.

The result is a tapestry of events that will keep you reading to the last page.” – Veronica Schwarz.

You can find A Prison in the Sun here : http://mybook.to/prisonsun

 

A Matter of Latitude #BookTour Wrap Up

A Matter of Latitude Book Tour

There were thirty stops on this tour, with twenty-two reviews, all of them filled with praise. No one made these reviewers say what they have, which makes this a tour worth celebrating. Below are quoted extracts from the tour. My hat is off to tour host Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources. She is efficient, prompt and incredibly well-organised. And a big thank you to the bloggers!

Tenesar

Book Tour Review Highlights

“This book in set in Lanzarote and the author paints a beautiful description of the island.” The Divine Write

“Not only a mystery, but a great drama about corruption set in a lovely island…This story is thoughtful and emotional and is telling about themes like corruption, ecology and the characters have depth and as always the atmospheric setting is beautiful…” Fany Van Hemelen

“This is a great read, a proper whodunnit based on corruption in what most of us will consider the idyll of Lanzarote. The story is told in first person, with alternating viewpoints from married couple Paula & Celestino (every now and then a chapter creeps in told from the viewpoint of Richard, an author wanting to write a captivating thriller – a genius move, if you ask me!)

The web of corruption is gradually revealed, and Celestino’s “disappearance” is only the start. (By disappearance, read: being forced off the road, over a cliff, hunted by a rabid dog and wanted by those whose fraudulent and corrupt methods he seeks to expose).

The conclusion will keep the reader guessing on many points. Will Celestino return to his family safely? How did those paintings end up in such strange locations? Whose body did the author find? So many questions, but all nicely tied up at the end. I can thoroughly recommend this book to lovers of a good mystery.” – Just 4 My Books

“So this is the second book that I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and I still can’t decide which book I liked best! This was a really intriguing mystery/thriller and while quite slow paced it kept you hooked from the beginning….The character development for both Paula and Celestino was great and I really enjoyed watching it progress as the book did. There was a few great twists and turns and I was really excited to see how it ended. Will most definitely be keeping my eye out for the next Isobel Blackthorn book!” NZFMNBlog

“As someone who has enjoyed holidays in the Canary Islands for many years I just couldn’t resist reading this book – and it gives a totally different take on life there! If you thought Sicily was the only island purported to have mafia, think again as they appear to be front and central in the Lanzarote based thriller!

This is an engaging, enthralling story of fighting against corruption in a closely knit island community. It involves plenty of secrets, danger, mystery and suspense to keep you turning the pages right to the very end. It is a story where you’re never quite certain about just who is trustworthy and who is corrupt. It is also a tale of romance as Paula strives to uncover just what has happened to her husband – and why. I found it a fascinating story and will definitely be looking out for more by this talented author in future!” – Splashes into Books

“Another beautiful written tale about the Spanish island and another excellent mystery from Isobel Blackthorn. One of the things I enjoyed about this and a previous one I read (Clarissa’s Warning) is the incomer to the island that is now the place she sees as home. I speak no Spanish and so these characters would be me trying to settle on the island and so they speak to me in a way; the women from elsewhere struggling to fit in and learn the language. That’s hard enough but when you throw in trying to solve the disappearance of her husband then it becomes and even more difficult task and this is so wonderfully woven into the story.

The mystery element of the story kept me guessing to the end and I was fascinated by the corruption angle as it’s something I know nothing about. The author keeps up the suspense all the way through to the end. It’s a great book and as before now I really want a holiday!” Kirk72

“What is always noticeable about Isobel Blackthorn’s writing is the amount of dedication she puts into bringing the culture of her locations to the forefront. In both Clarissa’s Warning as well as A Matter of Latitude, I cannot help but admire her efforts to respect the identity of the locations where she sets her story.

The beauty of A Matter of Latitude is in the use of two prominent and distinctive voices in the story. That of Paula and Celestino….An exciting thriller that has many layers. It is definitely worth a read.” (as is this review! Check it out!)  Trails of Tales

“I’ve really become a fan of Isobel Blackthorn’s writing. She is an incredibly gifted mystery writer and A Matter of Latitude just proves that more. The mystery in this novel is so compelling and keeps you guessing all the way to the end. I love that. I really am not a fan when a reveal comes to quickly and that isn’t an issue at all here. Love this story! The characters feel real, which made me nervous for them. I highly recommend checking this one out!” Jessica Belmont

“Matter of Latitude is a slow-paced mystery thriller, with wonderful descriptions of the idyllic setting in Lanzarote…capturing the atmosphere and culture of the island….a fascinating read with a strong sense of culture….”  Orlando Books Blog

“My first read by Isobel and one I really enjoyed. Having a passing acquaintance with Lanzarote and recognising a lot of place names it made it more real for me.

A fast paced read. Crisp, fresh prose and an insight of Lanzarote away from the tourist resorts. This book will have you second guessing yourself as to who the culprit is! Red herrings galore and while not a gruesome book it is not as cosy as I thought. Art, corruption, murder and sunny Lanzarote. What more can you want?  A good read I recommend to you all.” BertyBoy123

“I really enjoyed the way Blackthorn combined suspense with an authentic feel for the surroundings and the native inhabitants. The struggle of ex-pats to fit in, despite loving the country they have adopted. You can live in a foreign country, speak the language fluently, adapt to the country and new culture, and yet many decades after living there still be considered an outsider or the foreign person.

The story starts with the attempt on Celestino’s life, and I will admit for a moment I thought I was in a post-apocalyptic plot. The beginning of the book really set the stage, even if it threw me for a minute. Meanwhile his wife and child are waiting for him to turn up, and when he doesn’t Paula starts to investigate his disappearance.

I thought the subtle pressure pot plot of the paintings was an extremely interesting way to go about this storyline. The guilty know exactly what is staring them in the face, hence the reactions, but it takes a while for the meaning of the pictures to sink in for others.

At the heart of this plot is the corruption that allows companies and people to profit off the destruction of our environment, but instead of going for other more well-known industries who are guilty of this, the author shows us how corrupt works at a lower level.

The kind the working man can see and is dragged into, albeit inadvertently. The real estate industry is highly exposed to corruption. It is a way to launder money and evade taxes, and on a more fundamental level it exposes the environment and thus humans, to an even greater risk. When land, fields, property and houses are gained by fraudulent means and sold on to developers.

Bought under false pretences, with the sellers pass on property on the basis of it not ruining or the buyers changing the environment. To do so these buyers have to be working hand in hand with the local and sometimes national government departments to get planning permissions. The corruption flows deep and steady.

It’s an environmental thriller about corruption combined with the eccentricities of expats.” (quoted in full) – Cheryl MM Book Blog

This is a thoughtful and emotional work, that kept me absorbed from beginning to end. Recommended.” Lis Carey’s Library

A Matter of Latitude is a mystery that also highlights the corruption and the destructive influence of tourism on the small island. The writing captures the characters relationships to each other and the idyllic setting of Lanzarote. An interesting read that kept me guessing.” – Rainnes

“All in all, this will be an awesome next read for anyone who loves an insightful, interesting look into relationships, and how differently we can all see things. It’s also for anyone who loves a mystery… This is also for anyone who loves a novel where the author has obviously put work into the setting, and the lore. I’d say this would be perfect to enjoy on your next holiday on the beach or wrapped up cosy in front of the fire if you’re staying in the UK this summer.” Vain Radical

“As I mentioned I have read previous work by this author and I knew that the story would be descriptive, where the scenery was as important as the story and I was not disappointed. As you follow the mystery, you are introduced to some amazing scenery and highlighted throughout are important landmarks to the country…Whilst this is a mystery, there is also an insight to how money and corruption is spoiling the landscape and whilst places rely on tourism, it shows what damage it is causing. Another good mystery that will keep you reading to find out that will happen next.” Terror Tree

“This is the first book that I have read by the author, and I am looking forward to reading more by her…The author paints a perfect picture with her descriptions of the scenery. Making me feel like I must give this place ago in the future… I think anyone who loves mystery novels will enjoy it.” – Bakers Not So Secret

“I really like this story, I thought it was well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  I have been a fan of this author’s works for a while now and this is another fabulous book by her!

I thought that the setting for the book was great and the author did an excellent job with the descriptions in the book as at times I really felt as though I was there with the characters, the author did a great job of drawing me in to the story and I found it was one I needed to carry on reading.  The plot was compelling and I wanted to find out how the mystery would all end!

I loved the different characters and I thought that the storyline was great – highly recommended!” Donna’s Book Blog

“Well wasn’t this a nice intense little journey!…It is interesting to see the struggle of making a life as an ex-pat, on this gorgeous island, something that may still affect me in the future, so this lifestyle was something I was interested in learning more about. The struggle of not being accepted is a fear I think most people have and so to be abroad with a missing husband is doubly scary!…I have previously enjoyed Clarissa’s Warning, also set in Lanzarote, and Isobel’s writing where the scenery and backdrop take a life of their own. This was no different, the imagery used could have you sitting in the sun, soaking the ray of Lanzarote. I wish I was, less the hit and run.” Zooloo’s Book Diary

“A Matter of Latitude is an intriguing, suspenseful novel that weaves together modern global issues. The opening scene is an impressive attention-grab that keeps you turning pages for a very long time. The characters are interesting. I particularly enjoyed the focus on the politics of tourism. Having lived in the Dominican Republic, I identified with many of the issues, as well as the hypocrisy of ex-pats complaining about it. The novel sags a little in the middle and the character POV isn’t very distinctive, making changes in character voice a little hard to follow. However, once I got in the flow, I could follow the plot even if I wasn’t sure who was telling the story for a few paragraphs. Overall, this was a good suspense novel that gave me plenty of thinks.” Author Becca McCullough

I read and really enjoyed Clarissa’s warning and was very excited to see what Isobel Blackthorn would come up with next. I was ensnared by this mystery and kept guessing until the very end. I really enjoy Isobel’s books and can’t wait to dig into another one soon.” – J Bronder Book Reviews

“A Matter of Latitude shows Lanzarote in a light I’ve never seen before. First, in terms of imagery. As a tourist, I never visited the north of the island and it was interesting to read about the daily life of locals. Secondly, was through the tropical storm that occurs at the beginning of the story. The ignorant part of me never imagined that the island could have terrible weather like that, nor did I ever consider how it would affect local life.

However, it was the commentary on Lanzarote’s politics that opened my eyes the most. The author is actually a resident of the island for the insight into corruption was detailed. It backhanders politicians are taking from businessmen who want to illegally cash in from the tourism industry are nothing new in comparison to the rest of the world but are shocking just the same. The fact that much of the available funding goes to non-natives shows that politics is everywhere in the world, even on small, magical islands. Also, the heavy focus on the negative effects of tourism on the island made me consider my trips there from another point of view.” – Joyful Antidotes

Visit the A Matter of Latitude reviews page for more reviews

Find your copy on Amazon

A stunning review of Clarissa’s Warning

In this busy world of ours, authors can generally expect reviews of one or two paragraphs. Every now and then one comes along that is much more than that. I am delighted to share extracts from this very long and heartwarming review of Clarissa’s Warning by Kamal of Kiri Books.

“Set in the picturesque setting of an unspoiled island, Fuerteventura – one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa and Spain, the story weaves all the elements of an archplot in a masterly stroke. The story has a classical design with linear time-flow, causality, single protagonist, consistent reality, active protagonist, external conflict with the exception of the ending, which remains open. Sitting on the top of the story triangle, ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ demonstrates infinitesimal elan over its elements.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

Claire is a wilful character with a conscious desire. And she gets a chance to fulfil her desire, courtesy, the lottery-ticket. She has the capacity to fulfil her desire and is appropriately reflected by her independent decisions and strong-willed actions. She holds the cohesive bond with the readers with the glue of empathy. As the story progresses, gaps between expectations and result keep on widening, raising the conflict level and upping the potential of the climax. Placement of the crisis, along with the design, is suitable and controls length of the climax with a palpable fervour. The flashbacks are sporadic, fact-filled and meaningful; especially the flashback of Claire mother’s demise is very graphic and emotive.

The story has a riveting rendition of the Fuerteventura and its history – the belly juice of a beetle that made it preferred inhabitable area of the wealthy, the captivating array of social and personal lives through the lens of colonialism, and the abundance of beauty of nature and traditions. The dialogues are crisp, colloquial and contextual.

The subtext dominates everywhere. When Claire mentions there are five routes to Tiscamanita and she had taken them all, she establishes herself as an exploratory and inquisitive person. She wants to restore a ruin is, in a subtle and indirect way, symbolic of her fierce desire to mend her broken past….

Her unresolved grief, of her mother’s demise, make her inner substance resonate with the subliminal energies rather too fittingly…Sensing the opportunity, the spirits use her as a conduit to express their anguish, warn her, wreck her, take help from her, or plainly observe her.

The story navigates with the enlivened characters, each with a backstory and a brain of their own…The plot has plenty of twists and turns and the structure of scenes, tightly knitted in neatly separated chapters, is taut and spill-proof…

…The anticipation of the unknown and narrative integrity keeps the conflict cocooned and growing, to burst in the final scenes with brilliantly planted and spaced expositions. In the final acts, the veiled and vilifying esoteric elements snatch away the driving seat, chase Claire to run for her life, a sprint in which she discovers the version of truth that alluded her throughout. She welcomes her own metamorphosis, and comes at terms with becoming fearless after making eye-contacts with the ever-evading reality. The light of Mafasca and the legend of Olivia Stone heightened the curiosity-quotient in this tightly-packed thriller.

Recruiting the latent energies of a scarred soul in defeating the malice play of the supernatural, Isobel Blackthorn has created a protagonist that constantly sheds layers of insecurity and vulnerability, one at a time, to expose the solid-substance she is made of.

A terrific and transforming piece of work by Isobel Blackthorn!

#TheDragoTree On Sale!!!!

The Drago Tree in English and Spanish for only $0.99

Haunted by demons past and present, geologist Ann Salter seeks sanctuary on the exotic island of Lanzarote. There she meets charismatic author Richard Parry and indigenous potter Domingo and together they explore the island.


Ann’s encounters with the island’s hidden treasures becomes a journey deep inside herself as she struggles to understand who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. 


Set against a panoramic backdrop of dramatic island landscapes and Spanish colonial history, The Drago Tree is an intriguing tale of betrayal, conquest and love, in all its forms.

¡MIRA! This weekend only – The Drago Tree e-book edition reduced to $0.99 in both English and Spanish! (in some territories the Spanish edition is free). Follow these links or search online for non-Amazon e-book editions.

Este fin de semana sólo – el árbol drago se redujo a $ 0.99 tanto en inglés como en español! (en algunos territorios la edición española es gratuita). Sigue estos enlaces o busca en línea para ediciones de e-BOOK NO AMAZON.

viewbook.at/TheDragoTree

viewbook.at/ArboldeDrago

Clarissa’s Warning Book Tour Round Up

Book Tour Reflections

Is a book tour worth the effort and the expense? This is a question on the minds of many authors as we think about ways to promote a new release. I have nine novels and a short-story collection under my belt so far, and after struggling for years to find reviewers, I am turning more and more to Book Tour service providers.

It is not uncommon for me to send out two hundred individual email requests for one title. Each of these reviewers I source using online databases and then scrutinise to see if they are available and a fit.  Usually, I get a 10-15% take up rate and half of those do not follow through. It is a risky process too, because you may end up with some poor reviews and even one or two  DFNs – Did Not Finish – from book reviewers who simply did not like your book, or worse, have no qualms trashing your creative output.

When it comes to Amazon, the idea is that customers leave reviews, but how many readers will do that? Many or most will not be all that confident leaving a book review, even in this age when everyone has an opinion and every company wants your views on their product or service. Only verified purchase reviews count in the algorithm, but all reviews count towards Social Proof that your book is worth buying. This is why us authors are always on the hunt for more reviews. Authors please note not all book bloggers are able or willing to share their reviews on Amazon. If you are looking exclusively for Amazon reviews, you might think twice about a book tour. 

I can happily say Rachels Random Resources takes the pressure off tired authors. Her service is excellent, she is highly professional and her reviewers are gracious. I am so impressed, have signed up as one of her reviewers. Below is a list of review highlights from the Clarissa’s Warning book tour. (copy and paste the urls to view the whole review)

 

Fuerteventura

Find Clarissa’s Warning on Amazon

Highlights from the Clarissa’s Warning Book Tour

“It’s nice to see the gothic genre given a more modern take. Gothic fiction combines mystery, horror, death and romance, traditionally in the setting of a building of Gothic architecture i.e. medieval, but any old, large imposing building will do. The heroine is generally unassuming, naïve but no sissy, and likeable. Claire Bennet from Colchester fits the bill perfectly. She’s had a lottery win and is using that money to buy a wonderful old building on the island of Fuerteventura which she’s admired every year during her summer holidays. It is probably a foolish thing to do, as the house needs a lot of work and it’s a huge leap for an ex bank-employee to take, but Claire is game. She’s even prepared to ignore a warning from Aunt Clarissa who informs her that the astrological and other psychic signs aren’t favourable to this rash venture. However, her warning comes too late. Claire is committed and so ignores anything she doesn’t want to hear.

She embarks on her plans, encountering some pleasant locals and some less so, and slowly her house becomes habitable. She’s forced to move in a little sooner than intended, and some inexplicable happenings began to occur. Claire is rattled, but she’s made of stern stuff and begins to investigate what might be behind it all. She’ll make some alarming discoveries, but also encounter true love.

This book is rich with description and thus we can conjure up the appearance and atmosphere of Fuerteventura in vivid detail in our minds. We quickly get to know Claire by sharing her wry humour and down-to-earth approach as we share her space, mental and physical. Aunt Clarissa is a colourful, eccentric figure but something of a cornerstone in this book, and Paco is another.

It’s an enchanting, exciting read and definitely has you considering whether there’s more than meets the eye in this world of ours.”

http://www.booksarecool.com/2019/clarissas-blackthorn-enchanting/

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

“Isobel Blackthorn stole my heart, after she made it drop to my stomach. Her capability of amalgamating horror, romance, mystery and travel had me floored.

The language and presentation of the plot has all the makings of excellent story telling.

I am not saying that it is a story unlike any other. Most haunted house tales do follow a certain line of story development. Despite that ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ is not predictable. The suspense was steadily built throughout the book and the ending was completely out of the blue.”

https://trailsoftales620253622.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/blog-tour-clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn/

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“This is a suspense filled, spooky story with legends, rumours, danger and romance all playing an integral part in events. If you’ve never been to Fuerteventura, you’ll probably feel like you have after reading this and if, like me, you’ve already visited, you’ll have memories of visits rekindled whilst reading it. The whole community and Claire’s integration into it are shared, as her friendships and even a romance develop alongside the restoration of the property. It is an engaging read that you’re never quite sure just who will survive to the end! The research into the previous occupants of the house, the steps taken to protect herself and the peril she faces make this a story that I enjoyed reading and have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who enjoys a suspense filled paranormal mystery and romance.”

https://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com/2019/03/21/clarissas-warning/

Cofete
Photo by JF Olivares

“I liked Claire’s character and was really pleased when she wins the lottery and becomes a woman of great means!!  I loved the way that despite not having to watch the pennies, she still does!  I also felt quite sorry for her at times as she had no belief in what her Aunt Clarissa had told her, but the local tradesmen obviously knew all about the old ruin and this meant she had great difficulty in getting anyone to work on it without really knowing why!

The story built up slow and steady, giving you plenty of time to take in the other parts of the story, such as Claire’s difficult relationship with her father and her relationship with her Aunt Clarissa.  The supernatural part of the storyline was done really well and I did enjoy the spooky things which were happening.  I loved the setting of this book, having been to two of the Canary Islands but never to Fuerteventura.  The history behind the ruin and the local opinions were really interesting also.  A suitably spooky story which was enough to make my hair stand on end and I did love the ending, although I won’t tell you what it is because it will definitely spoil the whole book!  Would recommend!!”

https://stardustbookreviews.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/isobel-blackthorn-clarissas-warning/

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“The backdrop of Fuerteventura for this story was just exquisite, with the local cafes, the volcano and the heat. All descriptions adding to this story building a wider picture of where Claire is and the history. To mix it in with the supernatural too was just delicious and cleverly done and adds a lot of tension in the book because it was so contrasting….This is my first read of Ms Blackthorn, but after reading this, getting a taste of her writing, I can safely say it will not be my last outing!”

http://zooloosbookdiary.co.uk/bookreview-of-clarissas-warning-rararesources

Fuerteventura
Photo by JF Olivares

“I really found myself falling in love with pretty much everything and was completely sucked into the descriptions, it was like a little mini holiday in my head.” https://nzfnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/book-review-clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources/

“This is the first book that I have read by Isobel Blackthorn and I must say that I found her writing to be particularly impressive. There is a great sense of location throughout and the fact that this was set on one of the Canary Islands was something that brought a unique factor.” https://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.com/2019/03/blogtour-clarissas-warning-by-isobel.html

“All in all, Clarissa’s Warning will be a great read for anyone who enjoys a good self-discovery novel, with enough spooky happenings for mystery lovers as well.” http://www.vainradical.co.uk/blogs/clarissas-warning-blog-tour/

“This is a fantastic paranormal thriller. You are kept guessing at the person out to get Claire and the haunting.” jbronderbookreviews.com/2019/03/20/clarissas-warning/

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

“Apart from possibly the ghosts this read like a beautiful love letter to Fuerteventura. I could capture so much of the island reading this even though I’ve never been. I now want to.  There is so much attention to detail in this book, not just with the island but the history of the house being renovated and the people linked to it. Also though the renovations themselves. You could really imagine the restoration as it happened over the time period in the book. Everything is just so beautifully written.

It’s a slow burner which isn’t something I normally enjoy but I think possibly because it’s so descriptive I found it easy to follow and allowed myself to be swept along with the story rather than wishing it would hurry up and get to the action. Again credit goes back to the writing to be able to keep my poor attention span involved in the book.”

https://kirk72.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources-iblackthorn/

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“I recommend checking this intriguing story out!” – Jessica Rachow book blogger

“While this is a slow paced read, it has depth and detail and triggers imagination. It is vividly descriptive….If you have any interest in history you will appreciate this book.” – Dog’s Mom Visits book blog

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“The author had a way of bringing even the smallest character to life, the picturesque detail lets you easily imagine the locals and you get to find out as much about Gloria who run the local café as you do about Claire…This is a gentle slow-paced mystery, which I read fairly quickly. With its mixture of genres, this has got something for a lot of readers. This is the 1st book I have read by this author and checking my kindle I am glad to say I have some more of their books to read.” –

http://terror-tree.co.uk/2019/03/clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn/

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“This was a fun and easy read. It’s not particularly a scary book, and there is nothing that will make you jump. However there is an underlying menace throughout the story that gradually builds up as the tale progresses and Claire becomes in more and more danger… You got a sense of how isolating it would be to move to a strange country all on your own and try to complete a project like this.

Within the novel I especially liked the way the story mixed up descriptions of the island with some history and some supernatural events yet kept things grounded with the detailed paragraphs about the restoration work. By the end you felt as invested in wanting it all to work as Claire did.

All in all this was an easy and enjoyable story that almost needs a category of its own of ‘Cosy Ghost Stories to read by the fire on a cold winters night’ Even if the story doesn’t make you jump the descriptions of the Island will certainly warm you up!”

Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn – a review

Don’t Let Them Fall! – a desert island protest

The ancient ruins of one desert island paradise

Cofete
Photo by JF Olivares

Don’t Let Them Fall!

I wasn’t planning on writing a novel set on the desert island idyll of Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands’ largest and driest island, with some of the world’s best beaches. Situated some 60 miles off the coast of southern Morocco, Fuerteventura really is an island of beaches. Then I met a photographer native to the island, a man with a grand passion. JF Olivares runs a Facebook group in which he posts his beautiful photos and also educates all who cross his path on the special heritage of Fuerteventura. He posts on the flora and fauna, the geology and archaeology, the landscapes and the changing seasons, and shares his photo-documentary of the many buildings in ruins.

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

Old farmhouses dot the landscape throughout the island, especially in and around the inland villages. Some have been restored, and of course at vast expense, but too many have been left in ruins while new buildings are constructed, sometimes right next door. What is being lost is not only rock and mortar but a whole heritage, a story of a way of life of a people who lived in one of the planet’s harsher climates. These buildings are an integral part of Fuerteventura’s cultural identity.

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

It was images like these that prompted me to brush up on my Spanish and engage with Jf Olivares’ posts. He decries what is happening to the Canary Islands as a result of unregulated tourism. We soon became good friends as I told him I shared his passion. I had a hand in restoring an ancient ruin on Lanzarote back in 1988, purported to be 300 years old, a ruin I partly owned at the time. It was my dream home in my dream village on my dream island and I had to let it go. Little wonder I was drawn to these old ruins of Fuerteventura!

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

My own connection to Fuerteventura goes back to 1989, when I visited, staying in Corralejo and Tetir. I was taken there by my local friends from Lanzarote, where I was living. The first time I went, it was for a festival. Corralejo was so vibrant and alive and I met a man, Pedro, a local artist. The attraction was strong, so strong that he wanted me to live with him in a little village called El Time. But I was already being swept up by another man, the highly charismatic Miguel Medina Rodriguez. I was back then like a feather on the wind. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had stayed, with Pedro, with Miguel, or alone on the islands that had embedded themselves in my heart. They were heady, Bohemian days.

I have dearly wanted to move back to the Canary Islands. Last year I came close to buying an old farmhouse in a tiny village but the sale fell through. So, I did the next best thing and wrote a novel set there, a novel about a woman who wins a lottery jackpot and restores a ruin in a village called Tiscamanita. I love it that my characters can live my dreams!

Clarissa’s Warning was written to help raise awareness of these lovely old buildings slowly falling back to earth. I am indebted to JF Olivares for inspiring me to write this book, and for letting me use his photos. I am now at work on another novel set on Fuerteventura, again thanks to JF!

You can read more about Clarissa’s Warning here

Here is a link to Clarissa’s Warning on Amazon viewbook.at/ClarissaWarning

Clarissa's Warning

Clarissa’s Warning is the third novel in my Canary Islands’ series, which began with The Drago Tree

Here is the link to The Drago Tree on Amazon viewbook.at/TheDragoTree

 

 

Tourism and Literature: The role of authors in protecting local culture

Since I write novels set on the Canary Islands, here are my thoughts on the role of the author when it comes to travel fiction:

When an author chooses to write unreflectively about a foreign country, one not their own, aren’t they just another kind of tourist?

Tourists arrive at their destination with their suitcases and their sunscreen, wanting warm sunny weather, sandy beaches and a small taste of local culture. They come, they stay, they take, and they rarely understand the land they are visiting, or its people. They are happy to view local culture not as lived reality, but as artefacts incarcerated in museums. The tourism industry doesn’t care about preserving local cultures. Its only care is profit. This toxic combination of indifference has devastated communities and fragile environments the world over. The Canary Islands are just one example of local cultures overridden by this hedonistic juggernaut.

When tourism means constructing vast hotel complexes built on protected land, when tourism means more oil-fired power stations to fuel desalination plants to fill private swimming pools and water golf courses, when tourism means allowing off-road vehicles to churn up fragile soils and destroy local habitats, when tourism turns its back on local people, their culture and traditions, their ancient buildings, their basic needs for good housing and secure employment, then tourism has no conscience. It’s amoral.

Literature, at its best, is not.

Literature has always had an educational part to play in raising awareness, albeit in a limited audience, of critically important issues. At the heart of all good fiction is a deeper morality.  Literature can be a tool for change, affecting the outlook and attitudes of tourists, at the very least, fostering a shift away from shallow consumptions towards a deeper empathy for visited cultures and environments.

Each country produces its own literature. Much of it will celebrate and criticise, in overt or covert ways, the various strengths and weaknesses of its own land. Some works will be translated into other languages. Most will remain obscure, as most writing fails to reach large numbers of readers. From Gabriel García Márquez to Isabel Allende, authors strive to portray insight into the human condition, or in the Canary Islands, Carlos Guillermo Domínguez, Luis León Barreto  and Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa, to name only three.

Resisting the voracious appetite of the tourism industry and trying to instil in holiday makers and tourist operators good ethical habits is difficult, multifaceted and enduring. Local governments may impose restrictions. Activists may campaign to save local sites. Whole communities may rise up in protest, as was seen when the Spanish government awarded oil giant Repsol drilling rights off the coast of Lanzarote. Almost all of these campaigns and policies take place internally, driven by local people, along with a few environmentally aware individuals from other countries, those who have chosen the Canary Islands as their home.

Is it the role of the local author alone to compose works that inform readers, including tourists from other countries, of the issues faced by their community? Can activism ever be that exclusive?

All fiction writers can and must add their weight to the campaign. The foreign author has a moral duty to alert their audience to the complexities of context, not least the setting of their story. Otherwise, the author is appropriating that setting and giving nothing back. They become a kind of literary thief, fulfilling the appetites of the literary marketplace for more crime fiction, more thrillers, more romance, more escapism.

There is a distinct opportunity for fiction writers, whether they are from, or writing about the Canary Islands. Stories set in exotic locations are popular. Readers enjoy stories set where they are spending their holiday. Travel fiction is fast becoming a genre all of its own, ill-defined, a catch all for books with interesting settings. Most of that fiction is pure page-turning fun, but it needn’t be.

It cannot be denied that no matter how much empathy the foreign author may have, their works, inevitably based on limited understandings of local conditions, will always miss the deeper essence and the nuances, the sensibilities of a culture acquired over lifetimes of knowing. For this reason, novels set on the Canary Islands written by foreign authors might be seen as intrusive, appropriating, even insulting, and received with derision over appreciation, rejected as another form of cultural imperialism.

Yet literary activism in the form of raising readers’ awareness has no geographical limits. Works produced in this spirit are driven by passion. Passion is the fire that blazes in the heart of the writer and makes their works vibrant and alive. Passion has no fixed abode.

Literature, like all art, should contribute in raising cultural and environmental awareness in whatever way it can. It has a moral duty to inform and provide insights, challenging stereotypes, educating as it entertains. Otherwise, the author of fiction, even if she is an interloper from another land, is reduced to being an entertainer alone, there to satisfy the same desire for escapism that drives tourists to foreign climes.