Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, Wildflower Ridge, is Maya Linnell.
Maya Linnell grew up in a small country town, climbing towering gum trees and reading her way through her family’s bookshelves before discovering a never-ending supply of novels at the local library. She found her feet in journalism, working at a rural newspaper before segueing into public relations and now fiction writing and blogging for Romance Writers Australia. Wildflower Ridge is her debut novel and gathers inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved. Maya currently lives in rural Victoria with her husband and three children.
Hello Maya. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Thanks so much for inviting me Amanda, I’m a big fan of your book reviews and bookstagram posts! I’m a strong, white tea kinda girl – the bigger the mug, the better – and can rarely resist a homemade bikkie or piece of slice. My husband wooed me with freshly-baked scones early on in our relationship, and they continue to make a regular appearance on our Sunday breakfast menu.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
My debut novel Wildflower Ridge is a rural romance set in western Victoria. I gathered a lifetime of inspiration for fictional characters, settings and storylines as a journalist at a small country newspaper, and I hope this is the first of many, many novels.
Can you describe Wildflower Ridge in just a sentence?
When an illness forces Penny McIntyre back to her family farm, she must choose between the city life she’s worked so hard for and the farming dream she buried long ago.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write Wildflower Ridge?
The characters came first – particularly my lead character Penny. I read a magazine article about a young woman who moved to the city straight out of high school and only returned to the family farm because she was ill, and it was the instant inspiration for my lead character. The Weekly Times newspaper was a wealth of inspiration for farming accidents and succession planning dramas, although the title took a little longer. For more than a year, my manuscript was called ‘Maya’s Book.’ One of my favourite Troy Cassar-Daley songs came on the radio while I was redrafting it, and I adopted the working title ‘Going Back Home.’ My publisher and I settled on Wildflower Ridge as the official title last November, highlighting a special setting in the novel.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary rural romance novel?
As a newcomer to the scene, I’m nothing like an authority on the subject, but my main aim was keeping things authentic. I added in the funny little farming phrases my husband uses, focussed on the everyday things that are important to my friends and family, and the themes that resonate within my rural community.
Can you tell us more about the chosen rural setting of your novel?
Setting my story in the Western Districts was a natural choice. My husband and I have spent many years in and around this side of Victoria. It’s a big farming area, the backdrop of the Grampians National Park makes for magnificent scenery, and I know the towns and regional cities well. As an added bonus, it’s a stunning part of the country with distinct seasons, huge red gum trees dotted across paddocks and rolling green hills set against an impressive mountain range, which often appears blue on the horizon.
How long did it take you to write Wildflower Ridge?
I began my first draft in October 2016 and first pitched in March 2018.
If Wildflower Ridge made it to the big screen, who would you like to cast?
Gosh, wouldn’t that be amazing!? In terms of appearance, I had the Hollywood actress Emma Stone in mind for Penny when I was writing the second draft, though of course if Wildflower Ridge made it to the big screen, they’d have to have an Aussie actor playing the role, surely!
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Wildflower Ridge?
That country living is wonderful if you’re prepared to give it a chance, and it’s never too late to chase your dreams.
How will you celebrate the official release day of Wildflower Ridge?
I’ve heard some people say release day is a bit of an anti-climax, so I did what every enthusiastic debut author does and scheduled two launch events! The first is a daytime event in Casterton, about an hour away from our house, which will hopefully help me ease a few nerves from my system, and the evening event is in the Portland, at my local library. Like all of my book events, they’ll be free and open to everyone, and I can’t wait to share the excitement with my friends and the community members who have cheered me along throughout my writing journey. My closest friends are campaigning to head out for a celebratory dinner afterwards, but I’m not sure I’ll have the stamina!
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
I’ve found the writing community so supportive, especially within Romance Writers of Australia. There are many authors who helped me with advice, encouragement and tips as I prepared to send my manuscript out into the world, and I’d love to give a big shout out to Alissa Callen, Cathryn Hein, Clare Connelly, Lisa Ireland, Alli Sinclair, Fiona Lowe and Rachael Johns for not only writing fabulous books, but for steering me in the right direction.
Is there a genre you haven’t tried writing yet, but want to in the future?
I think rural romance is a great fit for me, as I’m a country girl and I’ve always loved romance novels, but I also have a soft spot for cosy murder mysteries. Perhaps when I’ve exhausted my wealth of RuRo ideas, I might try my hand at something similar to Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman mysteries, or Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries.
Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
If you want to be a published author, immerse yourself in books and writing, and books about writing. There are so many fantastic resources online, in writing courses, on podcasts and YouTube interviews that will help you along your way.
Aside from writing, do you have any interesting hobbies?
I love baking (particularly biscuits and sweets), have been known to spend hours at a time in front of my Janome sewing machine whipping up skirts, bags and patchwork blankets, gardening (my burgeoning dahlia collection makes me inordinately happy!) and reading.
What is next on the horizon for Maya Linnell? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’m editing my 2020 book, another rural romance featuring the McIntyre girls from Wildflower Ridge. This story focusses on Angie, the youngest McIntyre sister, and a fixer-upper cottage that will put her relationship to the ultimate test.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
I can’t wait to read The One by my good friend and fellow debut author Kaneana May. Hitting the shelves in mid-June, The One is a commercial women’s fiction novel based around a TV dating show. I’ve already read the opening chapters, and I’m champing at the bit to find out what happens next! Another novel that’s sure to be a great read is A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Queensland debut author, Tabitha Bird.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
My late grandparents on my mother’s side. They were endlessly proud of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so full of love and laughter, always fond of endless cups of tea and lashings of butter. Even though they passed away more than a decade ago, my head still turns when I hear a British Derbyshire accent, and I’d love to have just one more cuppa with them both.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Maya. Congratulations on the publication of Wildflower Ridge!
Thanks so much for having me Amanda. I hope you love Wildflower Ridge!
Four sisters, one farm and a second chance at following your heart
Penny McIntyre loves her life as an ambitious city professional, with a marketing team at her fingertips and a promotion just within reach. So when she’s floored by a mystery illness, and ordered back to the family farm for three months’ rest and recuperation, she is horrified to find her perfect life imploding.
Within days, Penny has to leave her much-loved job, her live-in boyfriend, and her beloved city apartment … to return to the small country town in which she grew up. Back to her dad and three sisters, one of whom has never forgiven her for abandoning her family. And to her ex-boyfriend, Tim Patterson, who was the biggest reason she ran away in the first place.
When Penny’s father is injured in a farming accident and Tim campaigns to buy the property, she must choose between the city life she loves and the farming dream she buried long ago.
Wildflower Ridge is rural fiction straight from the heart.