It is a pleasure to welcome Maya Linnell to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, an author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Magpie’s Bend we sat down for a chat. Thanks Maya!
Hello Maya. It is my pleasure to welcome you back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. I greatly appreciate the time you have provided to answer a few questions. To begin, can I interest you in a strong white tea again, or would you prefer another beverage?
Hi Amanda, thanks so much for having me. Well, you won’t believe it, but since our last interview we’ve bought a coffee machine and I’m currently at my keyboard with a flat white made from Aussie-grown and roasted beans. Strong white tea will always have my heart, but I now start my morning’s writing with coffee.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’m still pinching myself that my third book with Allen & Unwin – Magpie’s Bend – is officially out in the world and that Bottlebrush Creek (2020) and Wildflower Ridge (2019) have been so well received. I thought my dreams had come true when I scored my first publishing contract, and then when my books were sitting on library and bookstore shelves across the country, but it just keeps getting better! As a girl who started writing as a country journalist, and always wanted to be an author, it’s so thrilling to have made the Better Reading Top 100 with my first two books, finals in the Australian Romance Readers Awards and bestseller lists beside Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts.
What kick-started the creation of your latest novel, Magpie’s Bend?
I always knew I was going to write about Lara McIntyre in my third book, so that part was easy, and then I just had to work out the storyline to go with it. Luckily for me, living in a small rural community, there’s always inspiration right at my doorstep. The general store in our town had a really tough time and looked like it was going to close, so I applied that spark of inspiration and added a big dose of ‘what if…?’ to transform it into a fictional plot. There are so many little snippets that formed part of the story, from a family friend who religiously writes to the royal family, the singles event where I met my husband, the local fun-run I helped organise years ago and friends touched by dementia. And then there was the tame magpie that flew into our lives, leading perfectly into the next question…
What is the significance of the title to the book?
Nipper, a super friendly little magpie who came to live with us in summer 2020, was the avian inspiration for my third novel. Nipper sat on our shoulders, lapped up the attention from our entire family and happily flew off into the sunset one day. However, in my new book, Lara doesn’t feel quite the same way. At one stage of the story, I had Lara joking she should name her property ‘Magpie’s Bend’ because the birds were driving her around the bend, but that line was cut in the editing process. There’s also a location in Bridgefield that Toby and Lara refer to as Magpie’s Bend.
How different was the experience of writing Magpie’s Bend, compared to your previous releases?
Well, there was the whole Covid experience… It felt like we spent most of 2020 in lockdown here in country Victoria, with much of the writing and editing of Magpie’s Bend squeezed in between helping my three children with online learning. I’ll admit, I’m much better at writing than teaching. Pandemic aside, the story came to me quite easily and I really loved giving Lara her time in the sun.
What issues do you explore in Magpie’s Bend?
I love threading strong women and topical themes into my novels. In Lara’s story I dive into difficult family dynamics and single parenting, rural volunteerism, the ongoing decline of services in country towns and community spirit. Of course, Lara’s story wouldn’t be complete without touching on the abusive relationship with her ex-husband, although this is not the main focus of the book.
Let’s talk setting. What made you decide to base your new novel in the small country town of Bridgefield?
It was very easy to dive back into the town of Bridgefield, which was also the setting for Penny’s story in Wildflower Ridge. It’s the home of the McIntyre family, with the gorgeous green paddocks of Western Victoria, the backdrop of those majestic mountain ranges and all those beautiful redgum trees. Although Bridgefield is a fictional town, it’s based on a region I know and love, which as a writer, makes it a really appealing setting.
Did you have an affinity with a particular character in Magpie’s Bend and why?
As mentioned earlier, I was smitten with Toby throughout the story. He’s a single Dad, trying to make the best of a stilted relationship with his ex-wife. He has a beautiful relationship with his whip-smart daughter Holly, royalist mother Alice, his dear ageing father Eric and his sassy sister Belinda. He’s also a country journo like I was, he wears odd socks (one of the first things I noticed about my husband when I met him) and he isn’t afraid to get in and lend a hand, even when he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Plus, he knows how to rock the Nutbush – need I say more?
What is one thing you would like your audience to take away from the experience of reading Magpie’s Bend?
I really hope readers close the book with a smile on their faces and a warmth that comes from seeing two characters forging a way forward after rocky pasts.
How do you balance life with writing?
I’m still finding my groove, post-Covid. Prior to lockdown, I was very disciplined and had a set routine that worked perfectly. I’m not sure if it’s the uncertainty of last year and knowing the normal can be ripped out from under us at any moment, but I’m really hoping to settle back into a more productive schedule once the Magpie’s Bend book promo tour is done. At the moment I write and handle the administrative side of author-life from 9am-3pm while the children are at school. This involves writing or editing, depending on what stage of the book I’m at, then working on my monthly newsletter, book reviews and author interviews for my blog, emails, updating my website and socials. At the moment the admin stuff is continuing after the children are in bed. As a devout bookworm, I read before I go to sleep and find my days (and words) always flow better if I exercise in the mornings. I try to ignore my computer on the weekends, and spend that time with my family, in the garden, reading and baking.
What is the best part of being a published author?
Hearing how the books and the completely fictional world of the McIntyre family have made their way into readers’ hearts. Those messages and emails from the bookish community absolutely make my day! And if I can sneak in a very important second best thing, it would be the support of a fantastic publishing house. The team at Allen & Unwin go above and beyond to make my novels the best they can be and get them into the hands of readers.
What book is next on your reading pile?
The Dressmakers of Yarradarrah Prison by Meredith Jaffe. As an occasional sewer, the premise of this novel had me captivated from the get-go. Released by Harper Collins in May, it’s about a group of prisoners sewing a wedding dress for one of the inmates’ daughters.
What is next for Maya Linnell, do you have any works in progress you would like to share with your readers?
I’ve just started the second draft of my 2022 novel, working title Rosella Hill, which is Diana’s story and my final book with the McIntyre sisters. It’s all about a micro flower farm, which completely indulges in my love of dahlias. If readers would like to stay in touch and find out all the updates, I’d love their company on my newsletter, which goes out the first weekend of every month with giveaways, news and interviews. Sign up is at www.mayalinnell.com
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews Maya and congratulations on the recent publication of Magpie’s Bend.
Many thanks for the warm welcome, Amanda! Happy reading xx Maya
A pitch-perfect rural romance of community and family from the bestselling author of Bottlebrush Creek.’A ripping good read…Maya’s deep understanding of living in country Australia and down-to-earth good humour gives her story great authenticity…We can’t wait for the next book to find out what happens to another member of the McIntyre sisterhood.’ – Australian Country on Bottlebrush Creek
Bush nurse Lara McIntyre and journalist Toby Paxton are thrust into the limelight when an accident puts the beating heart of their community in jeopardy.
The small country town of Bridgefield can’t manage without their general store and post office, but Lara can’t stomach the idea of out-of-town buyers revamping it with no regard for what the residents want or need. She’s also unsure about where Toby’s allegiances lie in this fight.
Loyalties are put to the test as the locals attempt to save the shop, with personal agendas, old grudges and misunderstandings threatening their best efforts.
Featuring a black-tie ball, a fun run, a magpie called Vegemite and a snake-chasing kelpie called Basil, Magpie’s Bend is a story about rural lives, family, love and letting go.
Magpie’s Bend by Maya Linnell was published on 1st June 2021 by Allen and Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Maya here: