Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
beach reading
starry skies to read under
reading in nature

Come to Hydra for an Island Love Song with Emma Cowell

  • Submitted: 31st May 2024

A visit to HYDRA and The Island Love Song

Emma Cowell is your guide today. Hydra is on the boarding pass, so let’s go! Come to Hydra for an Island Love Song with Emma Cowell

The Island Love Song Emma Cowell

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

I first visited Hydra in 2022 to experience Greek Easter on the island. I’d already heard about it as Leonard Cohen used to live there in the 1960’s and I’m a huge fan. His music always takes me back to Greece. I wasn’t prepared for how deeply I’d fall in love with Hydra. Its romance and charm captivated me, with no cars for transport, only mules and water taxis. It feels like time has stood still. I’d gone there to research the traditions of Orthodox Easter for my second novel, The House in the Olive Grove. However, the place burrowed under my skin and I knew one day I’d set a story on Hydra.

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

It easy to get there. A flight to Athens, a speedy taxi ride to Piraeus from my lovely friend Nikos, then a ferry for just over an hour. End result – you’re in heaven!

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

I returned to Hydra in 2023 to begin writing The Island Love Song. There is no substitute for being in the place you’re writing about when crafting a tale. The smells, sights and sounds of the island brought my characters to life for me.  Even when I’d returned to the UK, Hydra lived on in my imagination. If I squeeze my eyes shut, I can hear the clip clop of the mules’ hooves on the polished stone walkways and the mew from an island cat vying for attention.

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

I have friends who write historical fiction, and their research process is extensive. I’m ashamed to say that mine consists of mainly sitting in Greek tavernas, sampling delicious local cuisine, bothering chefs for recipes and eavesdropping! Over the fifteen years that I’ve been visiting Greece, I have made some wonderful friends in the country. They are my first port of call when I have a question about the culture. Rather than relying on a search engine for pictures or information, I’d rather travel to the source or as near as I can via a friend. I feel very lucky every time I go there. I come away with an experience or an idea that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.

Prophet Elias Monastery

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

In The Island Love Song I played around with Hydra having a voice of its own. If you’ve read The House in the Olive Grove., you’ll know that I made the honeybees that Maria keeps behave like a Greek chorus. In this book, I wanted to explore the fictional darker side of the island. From the surface, the paradise of Hydra with its crystal clear waters and rugged cliff faces looks like perfection. (And it is!)

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

The sisters in the story- Georgia and Ella- have a fraught and fractious relationship. Putting them in an idyllic surrounding, I toyed with the thought that the island was their puppeteer; changing the weather or creating circumstances to expose their murkiest deeds and secrets which become the root of their increasingly challenging interactions.

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

The Island Love Song deals with family relationships, drama and love, which seem to be regular themes in all my books. It isn’t intentional, though they’re rich veins to explore. Music, though, is at the heart of the story as it’s about a love song that haunts Ella, written about her by the man who broke her heart. It feels appropriate given Hydra’s musical provenance.

Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd has a house there and the island has been visited by rock royalty including Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

Map of locations in The  Island Love Song

Many of them used to hang out at The Pirate Bar which is mentioned in the book. It remains a family business from its origins and is run by Zeus and Fiona. Zeus’ mother, Wendy, who used to cook up her famous roast chicken in the kitchen hails originally from the same part of Surrey as me. I was encouraged to find her by none other than supermodel and Hydra superfan Kate Moss who is also from Croydon and is my best friend’s cousin. Wendy and I became instant firm friends, and she has a cameo in the novel and is thrilled about it!

If you’ve never been, I assure you, life won’t be the same after a visit to this magical place.


BookTrail Boarding Pass:  The Island Love Song

Twitter: @emmalloydcowell  

Insta: @emmalloydcowell

Back to Authorsonlocation

Featured Book

Whoever You Are, Honey

2024: On the Santa Cruz waterfront, every house is as perfect as the people inside, right?

Read more