Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Maya Linnell is the author of several books about family dramas set in rural areas and writes what is referred to as rural romances – stories of romance that take place in rural settings, like farms and farming communities. Like many authors, Maya released a book in the midst of the pandemic, and as a result, lost out on all her appearances and launch events. Maya was still able to see her book released on the 2nd of June – some releases have been pushed back to later in the year, or even next year. Maya appears below to promote her book during these hard times.
Book: Bottlebrush creek
Release date: June 2 2020
Publisher: Allen &Unwin
Hi Maya, and welcome to The Book Muse
Lovely to be your guest Ashleigh, thanks for having me!
- First, can you tell my readers about your latest book, Bottlebrush Creek, and when it will be released?
Bottlebrush Creek hits the book stores on June 2 in paperback, eBook and audiobook. It’s pure escapism with plenty of on-farm family drama, troublesome tradies and a meddling mother-in-law. Angie McIntyre and her partner Rob embark on an ambitious owner build project in south west Victoria, but their dream build soon becomes the very thing that threatens to drives them apart. Bestselling author Victoria Purman described it as ‘A heart-warming, funny and poignant story about the joys and heartbreaks of country living. A winner!’
- When your book was released, what events did you have planned that had to be cancelled when COVID-19 hit?
Yes! I had events lined up from May to September, including panel events at Clunes BookTown Festival (Vic), The Romance Writers Australia conference (WA), Koorliny Arts Centre (WA) and Success Library (WA), the Northern Beaches Readers Festival (NSW) plus extensive events in bookstores and libraries across Victoria, SA, NSW, Queensland and WA.
- Both of your books are rural romances – what is it about this genre, where there seem to be many authors, that appeals to you, and that you think is so popular with authors and readers?
RuRo is such a great fit for me. I’ve always been a country girl, keen on telling the stories of rural people. My job as a journalist at a small twice-weekly newspaper provided a wealth of inspiration for conflicts and characters, so I’ll never be short of stories to tell. From a reader’s perspective, I think our city population has a nostalgia for country living, while those who are already enjoying the rural lifestyle can relate. What’s not to love about escaping into a book where days are spent in wide open paddocks, driving down quiet country roads, handling animals, producing food for the nation, and working with the seasons? And I think there’s something so special about guaranteeing readers a happily ever after, especially when there’s so much uncertainty in these everchanging times.
- When did you begin writing, and what made you decide to submit a novel for publication?
I’ve been writing stories since primary school, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I decided to have a crack at writing a novel. I enrolled in a ‘Write your First Draft course’ with Writers Studio Australia in 2016 and pitched the manuscript to publishing houses in 2018. It’s been my lifelong dream to be an author, so I was always writing my manuscript with the sole purpose of becoming published.
- What kind of research, if any, do you do for your books, or do you draw on your own experiences to build your characters?
I do a mixture of both to make sure my books are as authentic as possible. I find it easiest to write what I know, so I added in an owner-builder storyline to Bottlebrush Creek, called on childhood memories of helping at a friend’s dairy, and added in a few vintage bikes from my Dad’s beloved motorcycle collection. Research-wise, I ran the dairy scenes past a local dairy farmer to check for accuracy and updated technology, had my Dad read all the bike scenes, sought advice on small-scale cropping from a hobby-farmer, checked medical-related scenes with a nurse and called an expert from Ballarat Uni with questions about a feral animal sub-plot.
- You’re also a journalist – what publications and general areas do you write for?
I trained as a cadet at the South Eastern Times Newspaper in SA, and spent many happy years doing the rounds as a country journo, photographer and radio host. After the newspaper I moved into PR and now I spend my days writing for Allen & Unwin and blogging each month for Romance Writers Australia, but occasionally contribute to publications like The Owner Builder Magazine and The Victorian Writer, and take on contract communications jobs.
- Did your own experiences of motherhood and home ownership inform how you wrote Angie, Rob, Claudia and their overarching story?
Absolutely. Having spent three years building our own home (handmade bricks and all), I knew a renovation would add the perfect amount of action, drama and conflict. During the build, and the three years since, many people assumed my husband built the house and I simply watched from the sidelines, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This was one of the themes I explored in the novel, with a mix of ‘helpful’ locals, feuding family members and misbehaving animals adding an extra layer of strain to Angie and Rob’s new relationship. And I think as a mum, I think it’s impossible to write without drawing on my own experiences. There’s so many facets of everyday life to work with; the trouble with sleep patterns, the messes and mishaps and of course the joys.
- What other themes did you explore in Bottlebrush Creek and why?
As well as shining a spotlight on women in the workplace, I wanted to examine the dynamics of motherhood, changing relationships, community volunteerism, and the challenge of living next door to a very well-intended mother-in-law.
- When you’re not writing articles and rural romance, do you dabble in any other styles and genres?
After I’ve worked on my manuscript, finished any pending book reviews and author interviews for my blog (Kiss and Tell for Romance Writers Australia) and monthly newsletter, and updated my socials, I’m all tuckered out!
- Who are your favourite authors, or favourite books?
There are so many fantastic Aussie authors, it’s hard to choose but I love Natasha Lester, Fleur McDonald, Barbara Hannay, Fiona Lowe, Alli Sinclair, Victoria Purman and Rachael Johns. For overseas authors, I can never go past Marian Keyes, she writes with such humour and razor-sharp wit.
- Do you re-read these favourites?
I’m not a fan of rereading and rarely do so. Up until recently, I used to give books away as soon as I’d finished reading them, except for really, really special ones. Now that I’ve had two published, I’m more of a book hoarder – perhaps it’s because I now understand how much work goes into every novel!
- If you can, name the top five books you will always go back to in any genre.
Anne of Green Gables is one I’ve returned to several times – I read it as a child, listened to it on audiobook when breastfeeding my daughter, and then read it to my daughter when she was seven. Such a beautiful story.
- What does working in the arts industry mean to you?
It means putting my heart and soul into my writing, and hoping I create something that reaches out and touches people, makes them smile or makes them think. The messages I’ve received from happy readers has been the most unexpected and uplifting side of being a published author.
- Going forward, the arts – books, television, music and many other things – are going to be what gets us through these trying times. What would you say to people who think the arts don’t matter much or who want their art for free?
I read an excellent piece by Natasha Lester recently, and fully agree that now, more than ever, these are the times for stories. I think people wanting their arts for free should consider whether they’d expect a free bus trip, a free trolley of groceries delivered to their doorstep every week, free entry to the swimming pool/gym/football stadium, free fridges and freezers. Art is a unique product that requires a lot of time and dedication, and I’d hope people could put an appropriate value on that.
- What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
I’ve got three little bookworms and acreage, but when I’m not hanging with my family or writing, you’ll usually find me reading, baking (sweet things are my favourite, especially self-saucing pudding), sewing bright, colourful skirts for myself and my girls, learning piano or gardening (dahlias and roses are my favourite).
- Finally, do you have any tips for aspiring writers or journalists?
There are so many book launches online during the pandemic, which means aspiring writers can tune into a different book launch almost every day of the week. It’s the perfect way to understand more about the process of writing a novel, different writing routines and if they don’t share their publication story, you can simply ask! I’ve watched loads of launches and author events in the last three months, and it’s quite fun learning the different career highlights, inspirations, and the story behind the story.
Thank you Maya, and good luck with your writing!
Thanks so much Ashleigh!
Bottlebrush Creek is a sparkling rural romance of changing relationships and family ties from bestselling author Maya Linnell.
Between managing a bustling beauty salon, hectic volunteer commitments and the lion’s share of parenting two-year-old Claudia, Angie McIntyre barely has time to turn around. And with each passing month, she feels her relationship with fly-in, fly-out boyfriend Rob Jones slipping through her fingers.
When Rob faces retrenchment, and the most fabulous fixer-upper comes onto the market, Angie knows this derelict weatherboard cottage will be the perfect project to draw their little family together.
There’s just one catch: the 200-acre property is right next door to Rob’s parents in south-west Victoria.
It doesn’t take long for rising tensions to set a wedge between the hard-working couple. Angie and Rob have to find out the hard way whether their grand design will draw them closer together or be the very thing that tears them apart.
Maya Linnell was recently shortlisted as the ARRA 2019 Favourite Australian Romance Author for her bestselling rural romance debut Wildflower Ridge. Her second novel Bottlebrush Creek is out June 2, with both stories gathering inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved.
A former country journalist and PR writer, Maya now prefers the world of fiction over fact and blogs for Romance Writers Australia. She loves baking up a storm, tending to her rambling garden, and raising three little bookworms. Maya lives on a small property in country Victoria with her family, her menagerie of farm animals and the odd snake or two.
Follow Maya on Instagram and Facebook @maya.linnell.writes
Purchase her new novel Bottlebrush Creek here
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