Melissa Hill sparkles with inspiration..


Some authors set their books in a place that they love, have visited or have travelled to. Some even set books in places they would like to go, that has a story to tell of its own. Melissa Hill has chosen to set her book The Hotel on Mulberry Hill, in her home country of Ireland but in the fictional place of Mulberry Bay for a very nice reason indeed.

Melissa, it’s over to you…

MElissa-HillMy home town. The fictional Bay Hotel at the centre of the novel was inspired by my own feelings about a hotel in my hometown – a place wrapped in significant personal nostalgia that will always hold a place in my heart.

My family celebrated a host of personal celebrations there; christenings, confirmations, birthdays as well as my own wedding.

Taken by the idea that a particular place or building could have such emotional resonance, not just for one person but an entire community, I wanted to explore what would happen if such an important institution were to come under threat.

Community: The locals populating the small town of Mulberry Bay are just  as important to the storyline as the main characters. The notion that community, and a great sense of shared history could be a real force for change against the odds is a powerful one, and perhaps relevant to small town life today, where family-run businesses and the heart of communities themselves are under threat from outside influences.

MULMy father:  Ned, the father in the novel has in the past sacrificed something of great importance to keep his family and the hotel afloat, and is reluctant to let go of their only remaining legacy.

This particular plot strand was again borne out of personal experience, as I discovered some time ago that when I was born, my own father – an avid Beatles fan – sold his much-prized record collection to buy me a pram.

(Booktrail – what a lovely man!)

Music: Following on from the above, music by the Beatles was the soundtrack to my childhood.

Summer afternoons spent playing in the garden with Here Comes the Sun in the background, birthday parties boogying to All You Need is Love; any Fab Four song or anthem I hear immediately summons a fond childhood memory, as it does for Penny in the story.

Interior Design 

I love interior design, and the idea of vicariously renovating a ramshackle old hotel and turning it into a beautiful contemporary space, perfect for relaxation appealed to me enormously. I had great fun going through each room in the hotel and imagining things for the characters to do – and even more fun finding ways to thwart them!

Thanks Melissa for sharing inspiration with us today. And I tell you something if there is someone that needs inspiration for a Xmas something special that sparkles ….

melissa xmas

A diamond from Tiffany and a literary one from  Melissa Hill. What more could you ask for?

Author Info:


Booktrailers unite! Jennifer Barclay – author and ultimate traveller!

Author and traveller Extraordinaire talks to the Booktrail today about books, travel, literary travel and more…. Jen, it’s over to you –

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Back in 2001 when I’d recently come to the end of six months travelling in Asia – having quit my job as a literary agent to have an adventure and decide what to do next – I had a conversation in a pub in Toronto with a woman called Amy who got just as excited as I did about the inspiration we got from travel.

One thing led to another and, after reluctantly binning the idea of starting a literary travel magazine, we put together a book proposal for a collection of eclectic, true travel stories by poets, novelists and non-fiction authors. It was published a couple of years later by Vintage Canada as AWOL: TALES FOR TRAVEL-INSPIRED MINDS. By the time it came out, I had already moved to France, where I was working as a freelance editor and in my spare time writing a book of my own.

In 2004 I returned to the UK and applied for a dream job as commissioning editor of travel writing (among lots of other things) at Summersdale Publishers. I started to learn more about a genre I’d always loved – literary travel, personal stories of extraordinary adventures. The first book I worked on there was Pedalling to Hawaii by Stevie Smith, and I generally worked with about a dozen narratives every year.


The new knowledge I’d acquired editing fabulous stories helped me to polish up the manuscript I’d been working on, and in 2008 I was proud to see my first book in print: MEETING MR KIM:  OR HOW I WENT TO KOREA AND LEARNED TO LOVE KIMCHI.

When I’d gone to South Korea I had no expectations whatsoever. I was simply looking for a travel adventure, and an opportunity came up. At first I found it hard to connect with Seoul, but then I left the city behind and went wandering around the small towns and villages, and soon I was discovering something really special through exceptionally welcoming people. The book is about allowing yourself to be surprised, taking an unknown path and seeing where it ends up. My books aim to be as much about life as they are about the places they’re set.

Making friends in South Korea - pic by Jen Barclay
Making friends in South Korea – pic by Jen Barclay

Still, I ended up being invited back to South Korea the following year and helping to promote the country as a tourist destination online for a while. By that time, I’d asked the publisher I worked for if I could reduce my hours to four days a week so that I could spend more time writing. And soon, another place was calling me.

Since moving back to the UK, I’d re-connected with the country where I lived for a year after finishing university: Greece. Greek islands appeared unbidden in my dreams regularly in winter, the language was somewhere locked inside my brain along with happy memories of childhood holidays, and it had started to occur to me that I would love to try an experiment: to see if it were possible to continue my work from home, but on a Greek island, where I could counterbalance the hours at the desk with walking and swimming in the sunshine. I didn’t want to feel I was always rushing through the year to get to those two weeks of holiday in Greece. If I lived there, I could enjoy more of the year.

FAlling in honey

FALLING IN HONEY: LIFE AND LOVE ON A GREEK ISLAND is inspired by this astonishing place that I found, a wild island in the south Aegean with only a few hundred residents (but thousands of goats). The book got some great publicity, featured in newspapers and magazines, and has now been published in North America and translated into Bulgarian, Polish and Latvian.

The Village in Greece where Jen lives (thanks for the pic Jen!)
The Village in Greece where Jen lives (thanks for the pic Jen!)

I’m writing this from Tilos, in my office in the village of Megalo Horio, a place that’s been inhabited for a few thousand years, with a view over the valley to the cave where the bones of the last elephants in Europe were found. As usual, I’m working barefoot, to the sound of birds and bees, and if I walk out the door to stretch I’ll see the sea and the mountains, and get a little love from the ‘office assistant’, Lisa the Labrador cross…

Living the Dream (c) John Ageos Daferanos
Living the Dream  – (c) John Ageos Daferanos

I’m now completely freelance, working as an editor and agent, and I especially love to work on books with an international flavour, especially travel memoirs. I continue to work as an occasional travel journalist and a writer for hire – I’ll do anything wordy that can be done from my home office. I’m also hoping to complete, over the coming months, my new book about what life on the island was like for the first two years. I’ve had a unique opportunity to live in a fascinating environment, and as always I hope I can somehow convey that through my writing.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dog to walk to a beach…

Jennifer Barclay

Editor and agent: