Yesterday I posted my review of Léonie Kelsall’s rural romance novel The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, and today I have a little Q&A that Léonie kindly did with me. I hope you enjoy hearing more about The Farm at Peppertree Crossing!
The property that is the setting of most of The Farm at Peppertree Crossing almost felt to me like its own character in the book (perhaps because it was so tightly entwined with the aunt the Roni only gets to know through her letters and living there?) – I am curious to know whether the setting or the character of Roni came to you first? Did you set out to write a rural romance novel, or was that where Roni’s journey took you?
Oh, this is such an easy question for me (so a great way to start an interview!) because it was unquestionably the setting that was the genesis for the story. The setting is lifted from my family property, where my teen daughter and I spend hours hiking, quad-riding, digging up history (that’s a whole story in itself – it’ll make it onto my blog one day!) chasing lambs and brainstorming books. We both feel a deep connection to the land, so paying homage to it in a book seemed a very appropriate action. However, the book didn’t set out to be a rural romance – in fact, I had no idea there was such a genre! – but, because of Roni’s journey to self-acceptance and finding trust, I had written it as Women’s Fiction – which accounts for some of the darker themes, which I (now!) understand are unusual in rural romance.
Moving to Pepper Tree Crossing, even if it is just temporary while she sorts out her inheritance, gives Roni a chance to escape from some pretty heavy stuff that is happening in her life in Sydney. As someone who works as a counsellor and I would imagine spends quite a lot of time working through or talking about difficult experiences, was it hard for you to get a balance of how much of Roni’s past to bring into this story?
Getting that balance can be hard, but in this case one of Roni’s coping mechanisms is a refusal to dwell on her past or see herself as disadvantaged. Because the story is entirely from her point of view, she refuses to revisit her past hurts, and only allows herself to briefly touch on or allude to her experiences – so this is all the reader is allowed to share.
I know it sounds cheesy, but I read this at a time where I felt like there were some parallels in the way that being immersed in life at Peppertree Crossing through Roni’s story gave me time out from what’s happening in the world today – specifically with COVID-19 and the perpetual bad news cycle/stress that comes with it. How important do you think it is for people to be able to get those little moments of escape through feel-good books or tv shows/movies at the moment?
Not at all cheesy, because guided escapism is incredibly valuable for mental health – so much so that I just did a radio interview on ‘The Joy of Escapism’. By ‘guided’ I mean that the viewer/reader is aware that they are indulging in an altered reality, it is a conscious choice to immerse ourselves in the fantasy to temporarily set aside the reality of our current situation.
I’m one of those people who has been using some of my extra time at home to work on my bread baking skills, so one of my favourite parts of the book was seeing Roni’s experience trying to revive and bake from her aunt’s sourdough starter. Was there a scene like this for Roni that was your favourite to write, or one that you think you would have had the hardest time doing?
There’s been a sourdough starter dividing its time between my kitchen bench and the fridge for years now (it’s so manky!) yet I actually found the baking scenes quite hard to write. I eventually realised that was because sourdough baking is so second-nature to me, I was tending to gloss over the intricacies – and inevitable failures.
By the way, I have a great crumpet recipe for that huge quantity of the starter you have to discard each day! (I will definitly be asking for that recipe! B)
Do you have something new you are working on, and can you tell us anything about it?
The Wattle Seed Inn is with the publisher right now, and will be out within a year! Set in the same district as The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, there is crossover with several of the characters. Until I get the go-ahead from the publishers, I’ll just leave this line here to tease you…
The Wattle Seed Inn: Three aching hearts, a ramshackle country pub and a tangled web of secrets
… Coming in 2021
And I’m working on the third in the series, which is tentatively titled ‘The Apothecary by the River’. As I think that sounds too much like a historical, I’m very open to suggestions!
Lastly, I’d love to know what you are currently reading, or whether there is something you have read recently and loved that you would like to recommend to us?
Honestly? I am currently rarely reading published works!
I always avoid the genre I’m writing in, as I think there is too much risk of transference of other writer’s quirks and techniques – so that rules out rural romance and most women’s fiction. As I also write as Laney Kaye, that adds another stack of genres on my ‘no’ list, including outback noir, romantic suspense and contemporary romance.
However, until recently I mentored pre-published writers, so I’ve been so spoiled with access to literally hundreds of manuscripts to work through. And I am critique partners with the talented Sandie Docker (yes, that does mean I get eyes on her stuff before almost anyone else!) and several US-based writers, so I have plenty of brilliant words to get through. That said, on my desk at the moment in Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, which was recommended to me by one of my mentees, Syed Masood (who has two amazing books coming out) – so I’m promising myself some time with that when I clear my writing commitments.
Thank you so much!
Thank you for your insightful questions!
Huge thanks to Léonie for coming on my blog! It is always so much fun to get a little look at the process that goes into a book, and I always appreciate the time authors take answering my questions. I actually have another Q&A to share next week, from one of Léonie’s fellow aussie rural romance writers – click here if you’d like to know who!
Léonie Kelsall :: Author Bio
Léonie grew up in the South Australian country – initially on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula in a tiny town where the school had a total enrolment of only eleven students, and later on a farm near the stunning Murray River. Her rural upbringing encouraged a love of books, for which she will be forever grateful.
She couldn’t wait to hit the bright lights of the big city when she graduated — however, a few years working in government departments saw her longing to make her way back to the country. She now finds herself dividing her time between her professional counselling practice in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, and her childhood farm, which provides the setting for many of her stories.