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Book Tour – The Drago Tree

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The Drago Tree

All over the world, anywhere of historical interest or natural beauty that lends itself to development, has been given over to tourism. The setting for The Drago Tree, Lanzarote, a Canary Island off the coast of Morocco, is no exception. Tourism is a major theme in the story as protagonist, Ann, struggles to come to terms with the impact of tourism on the island. She sets herself apart, and longs for a place far from thrill seekers.

Often tourism decimates local cultures and environments: traditional land given over to golf courses, rivers and lakes to swimming pools. Farmers cash in and open a restaurant. Local businesspeople and governments sign lucrative property deals. Soon hotels are everywhere, and whatever there was of ‘local’ is subsumed and struggles to survive.

On Lanzarote, tourism has spawned a new wave of colonisation, that of ex-pats, as (mainly) the British seek a place in the sun.  It’s an odd situation, in that Lanzarote’s economy has boomed.  Further, many of the ex-pats feel as strongly as Ann about the island. And as strongly as some notable artists, such as César Manrique,  who developed sites of natural beauty and turned them into works of sculpture. His legacy means there are strong restrictions on all development and much of the island has been preserved in its natural state, or prevented from decay. Forts have become museums. There’s an ever growing and universal sense of civic pride.  Still, Ann doesn’t know all this. Her view is throughout the book staunchly anti-tourist.

As with every story, parts are culled, for no other reason than a lack of fit, or something similar has already been said and to say more would be overdoing it.

Here’s an extract that didn’t make the final draft, but it gives a good indication of the tone of The Drago Tree and Ann’s feelings about tourism.

‘This island, set to become as trodden over as Bali and Benidorm, was for Ann an idyll of igneous rock. Ann, the geologist, ought to know. Tourists only ever see the surface, only what they are told to see, look here, look there, taking it all in with the limited understanding of the pocket-book guide. Here on Lanzarote, humankind can view the earth’s subcutaneous layer smeared upon its skin. It baffled Ann that tourists should want to come here. Perhaps, like her, they hankered to be as far from the pastures back home as the moon.’

The Drago Tree

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.

“This beautifully constructed novel reveals the complexity we invite into our lives when we open our hearts to passion.” Robert Hillman, The Honey Thief

Isobel Blackthorn was born in London and has lived in Spain, Lanzarote, (Canary Islands), and Australia. She’s been a teacher, market trader, project manager and PA to a literary agent. Isobel received her PhD in Social Ecology in 2006. She now lives in rural New South Wales where she follows her passions for social justice, philosophy, current affairs, books and art.

Isobel is the author of a collection of short stories, All Because of You (Ginninderra Press), and the novel, Asylum (Odyssey Books). Her writing has appeared in e-journals in Australia and the US. Her second novel, The Drago Tree, was released by Odyssey books on 1 October 2015.

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Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn

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Website  http://isobelblackthorn.com/the-drago-tree/

Publisher http://odysseybooks.com.au/

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Interview With…. Isobel Blackthorn

Hi Readers and Booklovers! Today I am talking with Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel was born in London and moved to Aussie when she was 6. Isobel and her family spent around six years in and around Adelaide before they returned to London. Since then, she has travelled a fair bit between the UK and Aussie, and has had the opportunity to live in Spain and the Canary Islands.

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Welcome Isobel. Please tell our readers about yourself.
I was born in 1962 in London. My family moved to Australia when I was six. We were ten pound Poms and we lived in and around Adelaide for about six years, before returning to London. I’ve been back and forth between the two countries and I’ve also lived in Spain and Lanzarote, Canary Islands. I’ve been a teacher, market trader, alternative life-styler and PA to a literary agent. I also have a fascination for the occult. I received my PhD in Western Esotericism from the University of Western Sydney in 2006. It was after that, when my twin daughters left home, that I dedicated my life to my real passion, creative writing. My short story collection, All Because of You, came out in 2012 and since then I’ve had short stories and some non-fiction pieces published in journals in Australia and the USA.

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What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I’m an early riser. Up before dawn, sometime around five, and I do my best writing in those still hours before my day takes over. Writing is a huge passion and after waiting for three decades of my adult life to get to this stage so I’m on fire. When you get to my age, there’s a sense of urgency. I can’t waste time dreaming or fiddling about with inconsequential things when I have big goals still to achieve before I slip the coil.

If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?
At the moment I would love to hang out with Umberto Eco. I have so many questions for him. I’d love for him to show me around his extensive book collection and we could drink fine Italian wine and talk all day about medieval history and figures like Cagliostro, and esoteric sects like the Freemasons. There are many authors I would like to meet, and sadly some have passed from this life, like Doris Lessing, and my favourite Scottish author, Iain Banks. But with Umberto Eco I would have a unique chance to talk about both creativity and a shared special interest. I’m in awe of prolific writers, writers who can sustain a story for 500+ pages. I’ve just finished reading The Prague Cemetery, my third Eco to date, and I’m left with the feeling that something is missing in my life that can only be filled with another Eco.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
Asylum is my first novel and it has its basis in truth. Like the protagonist Yvette Grimm, I was an English-born visa overstayer and I really did invest my hopes in a palm reader’s prophecy that I would meet the father of my children before I was thirty. What a nut! That was the starting point for the story but I needed to make Yvette very different from me so I made her an artist. I can only paint walls.

Yvette’s quest takes her to Perth, and into a world of actors, artists, dilettantes and no-hopers. She’s estranged from Australia and offers a unique migrant’s perspective on what it’s like to find yourself an alien in this land. Asylum is basically a story of alienation. It’s also a black comedy about one woman’s struggle to make good the wreckage of her life, and heal her wounded heart.

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What are you working on next?
I’m working on two other projects. I’m venturing into horror, with more than a toe hanging outside that bed sheet. I don’t think I’m capable of straight ahead horror. Something always bends me back into satire. I’m inspired by the British film, “Sightseers,” directed by Ben Wheatley. How dead pan and matter-of-fact the killing was in that film.

The other project is satirical too. It’s about a young woman trying to prise from her mother the details of her father’s disappearance. The occult in all its dimensions features heavily in the story. It’ll be huge when it’s done; my homage to Umberto Eco.

Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
This question makes me feel boring. People tell me I have a talent for inspiring others, and it is true that I’m able to create grand schemes in my mind, which is good for writing, but I’ve fallen foul of this so-called talent many times. Beware of castles in the air. And I can’t recall the number of times I’ve conjured a vast vision of possibility for a friend, unaware that she or he is sitting there waiting without much patience for me to finish, having lost interest hours before.

Who are your favorite authors?
I adore Doris Lessing, Alice Munro, Fay Weldon, Iain Banks, Peter Carey, Chris Womersley, and of course Umberto Eco. And so many many more.

What do you like to do with your free time?
Free time? I have to remember to make that happen. Even when I’m reading, it isn’t really leisure time, because I have a sharp eye on everything the author is doing.

I love hanging out with my girlfriends for lunch or coffee. I adore long bus journeys and visiting my two daughters who are living in Melbourne. I can’t see enough of them. Writing is a solitary life. A writer makes enormous sacrifices for the demands of her craft. I try to strike a balance by spending time in my garden, growing my own vegetables, and hanging out with my cat, Psyche, the gentlest, sweetest cat ever born.

Tell us about your plans for upcoming books.
My second novel, The Drago Tree, is due to be released in September 2015, by Odyssey Books. Signing that publishing contract felt like stepping into another world. The novel is set in Lanzarote, a tiny island off the coast of southern Morocco, with stunning landscapes of calderas, lava flows and vast swathes of volcanic ash. The Drago Tree a romantic tale of geologist Ann Salter’s attempt to escape her life back in England, and find a new direction. Only she’s haunted by memories of her estranged sister Penny. I was going through a hard time when I wrote the story and would escape for hours of every day into a world of tourism websites, history and geology websites, Youtube footage, photos and best of all, google maps, whose little man toured the island the year before. One time on street view I actually clicked my way down the length of the whole island.

Where can people find you on the web?
I have a blog containing all my latest news along with all sorts of information about projects I’ve been involved in, and my previous publications.
https://isobelblackthorn.wordpress.com/asylum/
I can also be found on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IBlackthorn
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Isobel-Blackthorn/e/B005JGLS74

Any final thoughts?
I’ve really enjoyed this interview. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Thanks Isobel for being here today 🙂

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