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Maya Linnell’s ‘Magpie’s Bend’ a best seller

COULD Maya Linnell have imagined that she would be on top of the best sellers list and be a prize-winning author?

For a small-town country girl, she has travelled an amazing road to be both of those things.
Maya lives the life that she writes about, thus her books ooze a warmth and authenticity that others fail to grasp.

Magpie’s Bend is Maya’s third book in a series on the ‘McIntyre family’, and specifically Lara – the second of four girls, and is set in the fictious town of Bridgefield in Western Victoria.

It is always a pleasure to catch up with Maya – who despite all her literary success, remains incredibly humble and very grounded – although being a country wife, a mother of three children and still living in a small country town will generally do that.

J.F. How has the book been received and what feedback are you getting?
M.L. I’m so thrilled that Magpie’s Bend has flown off the shelves and onto the bestsellers list. It was the bestselling Australian romance novel the first week it was released (number three overall after international authors Lucinda Reilly and EL James), and was featured in the Weekend Australian Top 5 Romance bestsellers list three weeks later (July 3). The feedback continues to blow me away, with regular letters from readers who loved spending time with the McIntyre family. It was also great fun weaving in real-life experiences like community fundraisers, home butchering, calving and snake dilemmas, and creating a country journalist character based on my experience working on a small newspaper.

J.F. How have COVID restrictions impacted the promotion of your latest book?
M.L. It’s been quite the experience! The local Magpie’s Bend launches were rescheduled to early August, thanks to the early June lockdown in Victoria. We made it to Queensland for the second leg of the book tour and got halfway through when Brisbane went into lockdown. It was a mad scramble to cancel the rest of the events, including two appearances at a writing festival, and then home quarantine for two weeks on our return. Luckily, we had paddocks to roam and kind neighbours to deliver essentials.

J.F. I noticed that you got some inspiration from the fight to save St Brigid’s Church in Crossley – do you think this is why your books are so relatable to a country audience?
M.L. It comes naturally to write about real issues that impact the communities around me. Sue Elms from the ‘Friends of St Brigid’s’ committee was very helpful in explaining how and why they rallied around to save their beautiful church at Crossley. I also interviewed our local post office team here in Narrawong, as our general store’s closure was the first spark of inspiration for Magpie’s Bend. So many real moments, comments and scenarios are threaded through my stories, so it’s very humbling when reviewers highlight the authenticity throughout the novels.

J.F. How have you managed through COVID with the kids at home and home schooling?
M.L. I dedicated Magpie’s Bend to my three children, because most of the edits took place during lockdown. They sat at the dining table with their schoolwork, and I edited and wrote whilst keeping an eye on their studies. Of course, there were times that didn’t work so well, and I had to try new things to maintain momentum. Some days I’d drive the car down the paddock and work there with no kids, no internet, no noise, just my manuscript. Noise cancelling headphones came in handy too and I was grateful we had space around us, a quiet beach at our doorstep and lambs and calves to help distract us from lockdown challenges.

J.F. Diana (the eldest of the four McIntyre sisters) is likely to be the basis of your next book – where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
M.L. Inspiration is everywhere! Mostly my characters come from my head, but they’re enriched by the traits and mannerisms of the people I meet and the news articles I read. I also like living vicariously through my characters. In my 2022 book (working title: Rosella Hill), Diana is starting a micro-flower farm, something I’d love to do myself.

J.F. What lies instore for the future for Maya Linnell, and how far forward do you plan? Are you already considering the next series after the McIntyre family?
M.L. As I’m already contracted for a 2023 book, I’m currently brainstorming ideas for my fifth novel. It’ll be a whole new setting, and a new cast of characters. Having spent half a million words writing about the McIntyre family, this is an exciting prospect, but it’s also nerve-wracking, as there’s so much love for these characters and my fictional Western District town of Bridgefield. The publishing world works at least a year in advance. So, although I’m currently promoting my 2021 release, Magpie’s Bend, I’m at the pointy end of drafting my 2022 release and planning my 2023 release.

J.F. How does it feel to have had such an amazing start to your career as an author?
M.L. I’m still pinching myself, especially making the bestseller lists alongside authors I’ve admired like Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. I’m especially grateful for the grassroots support from south-west Victoria and my hometown in south-east SA. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and I couldn’t do it without my family and the amazing publishing house Allen & Unwin, cheering me on.

J.F. How have COVID restrictions impacted the promotion of your latest book?
M.L. It’s been quite the experience! The local Magpie’s Bend launches were rescheduled to early August, thanks to the early June lockdown in Victoria. We made it to Queensland for the second leg of the book tour and got halfway through when Brisbane went into lockdown. It was a mad scramble to cancel the rest of the events, including two appearances at a writing festival, and then home quarantine for two weeks on our return. Luckily, we had paddocks to roam and kind neighbours to deliver essentials.

J.F. I noticed that you got some inspiration from the fight to save St Brigid’s Church in Crossley – do you think this is why your books are so relatable to a country audience?
M.L. It comes naturally to write about real issues that impact the communities around me. Sue Elms from the ‘Friends of St Brigid’s’ committee was very helpful in explaining how and why they rallied around to save their beautiful church at Crossley. I also interviewed our local post office team here in Narrawong, as our general store’s closure was the first spark of inspiration for Magpie’s Bend. So many real moments, comments and scenarios are threaded through my stories, so it’s very humbling when reviewers highlight the authenticity throughout the novels.

J.F. How have you managed through COVID with the kids at home and home schooling?
M.L. I dedicated Magpie’s Bend to my three children, because most of the edits took place during lockdown. They sat at the dining table with their schoolwork, and I edited and wrote whilst keeping an eye on their studies. Of course, there were times that didn’t work so well, and I had to try new things to maintain momentum. Some days I’d drive the car down the paddock and work there with no kids, no internet, no noise, just my manuscript. Noise cancelling headphones came in handy too and I was grateful we had space around us, a quiet beach at our doorstep and lambs and calves to help distract us from lockdown challenges.

J.F. Diana (the eldest of the four McIntyre sisters) is likely to be the basis of your next book – where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
M.L. Inspiration is everywhere! Mostly my characters come from my head, but they’re enriched by the traits and mannerisms of the people I meet and the news articles I read. I also like living vicariously through my characters. In my 2022 book (working title: Rosella Hill), Diana is starting a micro-flower farm, something I’d love to do myself.

J.F. What lies instore for the future for Maya Linnell, and how far forward do you plan? Are you already considering the next series after the McIntyre family?
M.L. As I’m already contracted for a 2023 book, I’m currently brainstorming ideas for my fifth novel. It’ll be a whole new setting, and a new cast of characters. Having spent half a million words writing about the McIntyre family, this is an exciting prospect, but it’s also nerve-wracking, as there’s so much love for these characters and my fictional Western District town of Bridgefield. The publishing world works at least a year in advance. So, although I’m currently promoting my 2021 release, Magpie’s Bend, I’m at the pointy end of drafting my 2022 release and planning my 2023 release.

J.F. How does it feel to have had such an amazing start to your career as an author?
M.L. I’m still pinching myself, especially making the bestseller lists alongside authors I’ve admired like Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. I’m especially grateful for the grassroots support from south-west Victoria and my hometown in south-east SA. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and I couldn’t do it without my family and the amazing publishing house Allen & Unwin, cheering me on.

Maya’s success may have been more than she could possibly have hoped for, but it is truly well deserved. As an avid reader of all things country, I will be waiting impatiently for the next instalment – Diana’s story. Take a moment with a cuppa and get to know the McIntyre family – there’s every chance you will recognise them by another name.


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