Maya Linnell is one of my favourite Aussie rural romance authors, so I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to answer a few questions for me about her books and writing! Maya’s latest book Bottlebrush Creek tells the story of Angie McIntyre as she attempts to renovate a country home of her dreams, with the man of her dreams, right next door to her over-enthusiastic – and often over-bearing – mother-in-law. You can check out my review of Bottlebrush Creek here, and I hope you enjoy getting a little sneak peek into Maya’s writing in our Q&A below!
Hi Maya! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog today! Firstly, as one of four sisters who grew up on a farm in regional Victoria myself, I’m interested to know how you came to have the McIntyre family at the heart of your books? Did they come to you as a full family when you first ‘met’ them, or was there one sister who came to you first and the family grew around her? (Is that too much like asking about your favourite child? Haha)
Hey Bron, so lovely to be on your blog again! The McIntyre sisters were a package deal when they came to me. I always knew there would be four sisters (I’m one of four siblings too, so it’s a dynamic I was familiar with). The sub-characters evolved as I wrote and I’ve loved spending time with this close-knit rural family.
Speaking of favourite children, is there one of the McIntyre sisters who is your favourite or that you relate to most? And has anyone’s story been harder (or more fun) to write than the others?
I started with my favourite sister, Penny (in Wildflower Ridge), although since finishing Angie and now Lara’s story, I’ve realised my favourite character seems to shift to whichever sister I’m writing at the time. They’ve all had their challenges and each story has had me delighted and frustrated at various times.
A central part of the story in Bottlebrush Creek is the big renovation Angie and Rob are taking on. I know you’ve had a similar experience when you built your own beautiful home. Did having gone through a similar experience make it easier or more difficult to write? And do you have any favourite (good or bad!) reno experiences/stories that you would have liked to include in the book but couldn’t quite fit in?
Absolutely. Getting hands on experience renovating and owner building gave me oodles of plot material. Angie and Rob’s story is 99% fiction, but it was easy to build on things that rubbed me the wrong way, or little conflicts that could’ve easily blown up into major arguments. During the earliest edits, my publisher Annette kindly suggested I rework a couple of scenes so they didn’t resemble a DIY guide to renovating (hehe!). Many tales didn’t make it into the book, including the plumber who nearly ruined our freshly varnished concrete floors by flooding the kitchen, and unexpected finds in the ceilings/walls/under floorboards in old buildings my friends have renovated!
One of the things I love about your books is their setting, which feel authentically rural and Australian, but without being cliched. Did you always set out to set your books on and around farms, was that just where your stories and characters took you?
Thanks so much, Bron, it’s lovely when readers use the words ‘authentic’ to describe my novels because I mostly write what I know. Every time I sit at my desk, I’m listening to the magpies and galahs in the gum trees. When I walk or ride my bike around our rural neighbourhood, I’m smelling sweet grasses, dry paddocks, damp paddocks or freshly cut hay (depending on the season). And every time I look above my computer screen, I see our livestock grazing and the odd wallaby or two. As a proud country girl, it gives me great pleasure to tell the stories of rural Australia and advocate for country living.
A theme that pops up in both books is the way food brings together families and communities, and how in baking in particular can help to comfort and heal people and relationships. Was this something that was important to you to include in your books, or is it an example of something you are passionate about coming through in your writing? (or maybe a bit of both?) And do you have a favourite recipe that your characters have baked in the books so far?
A bit of both! I strongly believe food is a language of love and there’s something so satisfying about baking for the special people in your life. In Wildflower Ridge, baking is used as therapy, for connecting different parts of the community, for celebrating and also as an olive branch. In Bottlebrush Creek, we see baking used as a weapon, as an outlet Angie craves but can’t have, and of course for connecting and comforting. I think scones are my eternal favourite (I’ve got a tutorial and five tried and true recipes here).
Bottlebrush Creek is your second novel, following Wildflower Ridge in 2019. Was the experience of writing it very different to working on your debut novel? And has writing your next one been different again?
It’s a mixed bag. I had all the time in the world to write my first book, but a firm deadline for the second and third. I learned many lessons during the editing process of Wildflower Ridge which helped me write Bottlebrush Creek (particularly cutting excess characters, scenes and plot lines) but I also faced more self-doubt wondering if readers would love Angie’s story as much as they loved Penny’s. Much to my relief, Bottlebrush Creek received an equally warm welcome!
What is your ideal writing set up, and do you have any particular writing routines/rituals that help you when you’re working?
Ideally, my three children would be at school and I could write uninterrupted from 9am-1pm and spend the afternoon handling book promo and managing my website, socials and blogs! As regional Victoria has just gone into lockdown again, I won’t have this luxury again for some time yet. Pre-Covid, my favourite set-up was an early morning walk or online yoga class before getting the kids off to school, a hot cup of tea and bum in the seat at 9am. My new Covid routine will be snatching writing time where I can in between online schooling. I think early morning writing (7-9am) will be my best bet for starting book four.
I know from all the behind the scenes peeks you share with us on social media and in your newsletter (both of which I love!) that you have been working on book 3, which is the story of another of the McIntyre sisters. Can you tell us a bit about which sister we will get to know next, and anything you might have in store for her?
Yes! I’ve just sent the second draft of Lara McIntyre’s story to my publisher. I’ve given it the working title of Magpie’s Bend, and although the title may well change between now and publication in June 2021, the plotline will feature Lara, a handsome newspaper reporter called Toby, a cheeky magpie called Vegemite (modelled on a magpie chick who flew into our lives last summer), Basil the troublesome kelpie, plenty of baking (particularly sourdough), and an unfortunate accident that lands the local shop in dire straits. Fans of the darling Eddie Patterson will also be delighted to hear he’s back by popular demand.
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?
I’ve always got a good book (or three) on the go! I’ve just started reading Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer, as she’ll be my next guest on the blog for Romance Writers Australia (Kiss & Tell With Maya Linnell), and I’m listening to The Dictionary of Lost Words on audio by Pip Williams. I also had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Petronella McGovern’s upcoming release The Good Teacher. A fast-paced thriller, it’s sure to be a bestseller when it comes out in September with Allen & Unwin.
Thank you so much!
My pleasure Bron, and big thanks to YOU for all your support (and your gorgeous photos of Bottlebrush Creek and Wildflower Ridge in the wild!
Thanks so much to Maya for coming on my blog for a chat again (last time was Christmas, almost 2 years ago!) – it’s always lovely to catch up and I hope everyone enjoyed reading it too. =)
Maya Linnell :: Author Bio
Bestselling author Maya Linnell was recently shortlisted as the ARRA 2019 Favourite Australian Romance Author for her rural romance debut Wildflower Ridge. Her new novel Bottlebrush Creek went straight into the bestseller lists on its June release, with both stories gathering inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved. A former country journalist, Maya now blogs for Romance Writers Australia, 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 her on Instagram and Facebook, sign up to her monthly newsletter for behind-the-scenes news and regular book giveaways at mayalinnell.com or buy Bottlebrush Creek and Wildflower Ridge here.
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.
A sparkling rural romance of changing relationships and family ties from the bestselling author of Wildflower Ridge.
Bottlebrush Creek is out now from Allen and Unwin (who kindly sent me a copy for review).
Bottlebrush Creek on Goodreads
My review of Wildflower Ridge.