Rural fiction from the heart
A stint in journalism at the South Eastern Times was the stepping stone for Maya Linnell to transition from hard news to fiction writing.
The self-confessed “country girl” turned bestselling romance author said growing up in rural Victoria inspired her to explore the stories hidden within the hills of the state’s south west and western districts.
“I’ve always loved it (writing), I was always writing stories as a kid. My dad’s a journalist and mum’s a book worm, so it was a pretty natural progression.
“It (transitioning from journalism to fiction) was a different style of writing, but I think one of the really cool things was I got to spend a bit of time focussing on settings and describing things more, rather than the short sharp and shiny for the news. And of course, I didn’t have to let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Having published her debut book Wildflower Ridge in 2019, Linnell has since been named a finalist in the 2019 Australian Romance Readers Awards for the favourite Australian romance author category.
She said the book and its sequel Bottlebrush Creek (2020) followed the journey of four sisters.
“I’ve always been a country girl, and it’s really nice to write about things I know.
“Throughout the stories, I’ve got four sisters called the McIntrye sisters, and each of the books focuses on a different sister.
“In the first book I’ve got Penny McIntrye who comes back to the family farm after living in the city, the second book I’ve got Angie McIntrye who takes on this fix-up project that happens to be right next door to her in-laws, and then the third book I’ve got Lara McIntyre who’s looking to save their local shop.
“I think there’s nothing better than losing yourself in a good story, and romance is guaranteeing the readers a happy ending or at least a happily for now.”
Linnell said she chose to focus on a family of four siblings so she could draw upon memories and experiences from her childhood.
“I think there’s something really special about farming families and the dynamics of what happens with succession planning, particularly.
“I’m one of four; I’ve got two sisters and two brothers, so four’s a good number for me to know how to write about.
“I’ve also got a few farming friends; a friend who’s one of four boys, and a friend who’s one of four girls, so I’ve had different conversations with them. Their parents are the same age as my parents, and they’re kind of getting to that stage where they probably don’t want to think about giving up the farm but they’re conversations that will need to start happening in the next 10 years or so.”
Linnell was scheduled to speak at author talks across the country this year, however has had to host all discussions online via channels such as Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She will be appearing as part of Geelong Regional Libraries’ virtual author talks with Geelong author, friend and mentor Fiona Lowe (Daughter Of Mine, Home Fires, Just an Ordinary Family) on June 10 from 7.30-8.30pm.
Linnell said she was also fortunate enough to receive advice from Geelong author Alli Sinclair (Beneath The Parisian Skies, The Cinema at Starlight Creek, The Codebreakers) before hitting the shelves.
“We’ll be talking about the inspiration behind the story, probably a bit of my background in journalism and how I got to become a published author, and then we’ll talking about the Romance Writers Association because Fiona’s a member too and I’ve seen Fiona talk at different events.
“Fiona’s been a lovely mentor to me and given me really helpful advice throughout the process. She gets a little nod in the back of the book in the acknowledgements section.”
Linnell offered some sound advice to budding writers who may not know where to start.
“Try to work out which type of writing group you can join, whether it’s Writers Victoria, or it’s a local, in person writing group. There’s also the Crime Writers of Australia and Romance Writers of Australia – they’re people who know exactly what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and they’ve got advice and lots of support.
“There’s also so much information on podcasts. In most interviews authors will say how they got their publishing contract, share their tips and tell of the hurdles they faced so people don’t have to make the same mistakes.”
To register for Maya Linnell’s virtual author talk, head to grlc.vic.gov.au.