Since I started writing The Cake Maker’s Wish (all the way back in 2015), my imaginary idea of reviving a dying little village by importing people from around the globe has gone a little more global (and viral).
Today, you can buy an Italian house for only 1 Euro, in the same country that previously gave away castles, monasteries and towers. Ireland has called for residents of Australia and USA to emigrate to the tiny island of Arranmore. Spain has had a problem of abandoned villages across the country, so the officials from Galicia set about giving away one of these villages. In all of these examples, the goal has been to give the properties to someone who has detailed plans to renovate, restore and add capital back into the local area, to save a dying population and/or economy, and restore economic trade to the local business owners. This is exactly the premise that I used for the setting of The Cake Maker’s Wish, though at the time, I didn’t know it was really ‘a thing’.
Where it all began…
In 2015 I travelled to the UK on a writing trip to meet with my UK publisher and agent, to delivery an author talk in Abergavenny in Wales and to do research to look for a new story. I travelled with my dad, my sister and my sister’s baby (who was 14 months old). As part of that trip, we rented a stone cottage in the Cotswolds where we based ourselves for ten days and travelled the area from there.
I was lucky enough to get to know some of the locals. Two of them—men who’d grown up in the village in the fifties—made me a cup of tea to tell me about what life was like when they were young. In that conversation, they lamented the fact that the village had changed so much from when it was owned by the Lord of the Manor, which had created a unified, collaborated feel through the workers, with a thriving community spirit. Over time, as the village was sold off, wealthy investors from the city would buy up cottages as holiday homes, but that meant that most of the properties were sitting empty for most of the year. The village couldn’t function as it used to, no longer community-sufficient, with people having to travel further and further away to find work and services and the house prices forcing workers out of the market.
I was really touched by their sadness and went back to my rented cottage and sat down with a notebook and pen and thought, well, I’m a writer, surely I can bring this village back to life on the page. And that’s how it started.
I confess to being truly delighted that my imagination has conjured something that isn’t completely out of the box at all, that its themes and efforts of small communities trying to survive and hold onto their connections is very real, and that equally real efforts are happening around the world right now to save them. In my heart, I am a girl from the village. I may have been born in Brisbane but I have now spent almost fifteen years living in small country towns. I know the huge beating hearts that live in them and how important it is to support them and celebrate them. This is exactly what my new novel does.
The Cake Maker’s Wish is out 2 June but you can pre-order it now from all good bookstores and online retailers. I look forward to sharing the imaginary village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds with you very soon!