Maya Linnell is a Victorian author who took the scene by storm with her debut novel in 2019, a novel that is calling me from my desk and connected to her latest release Bottlebrush Creek. I had planned to go back to the debut before I picked up the new one but it wasn’t to be, so now I need to make time to go back to it.
I have recently read Bottlebrush Creek and loved it, if you’re interested please feel free to check out my review HERE.
Hi Maya, welcome to Mic Loves Books and thanks for talking to us today.
Lovely to be here, Michelle, thanks for having me!
Bottlebrush Creek is your second novel, can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
Sure thing! I was a country journalist at a twice-weekly newspaper before becoming a mum and decided to have a crack at writing a novel in 2016, when I was close to having all my children at school. I started pitching my manuscript early 2018 and signed a two-book contract with Allen & Unwin in July 2018. It was a surreal experience, and I was so delighted when my debut rural romance Wildflower Ridge was so well received, hitting bestseller lists, scoring a place in the Better Reading Top 100 books of 2019, and finals in the Australian Romance Readers Awards. It’s been a wonderful welcome to the publishing world.
Can you tell us about Bottlebrush Creek?
Bottlebrush Creek hit the shelves on June 2 in paperback, eBook and audiobook. It’s pure escapism with plenty of on-farm family drama, troublesome tradies, cute calves, a family dairy farm and a meddling mother-in-law. Angie McIntyre and her partner Rob embark on an ambitious renovation project in south west Victoria, but their dream build soon becomes the very thing that threatens to drive them apart. Bestselling author Victoria Purman described it as ‘A heart-warming, funny and poignant story about the joys and heartbreaks of country living. A winner!’
What inspired the story?
There were so many threads in this novel that are dear to my heart. I’ve set it on a family dairy farm, as my best friend from school lived on a dairy farm and I was roped into helping many times. I couldn’t help but add in cute calves, because we bottle-reared a handful of calves at our rural property in country Victoria at the same time I was writing my first draft, and although they’re adorable, they’re quite a bit of work. I also gave my leading man, Rob Jones, a passion for vintage motorcycles and included a few special bikes from my Dad’s beloved collection. And of course, the ‘fixer-upper’ theme in the novel has plenty of fact weaved in with fiction.
You have recently built your own dream home, how many of your building experiences ended up in the book?
Quite a few. There were so many challenges we faced as an owner-builder couple, and I could see how the many decisions, stresses, joys and hard work could have a very big impact on a less established relationship. The characters in my book, Angie McIntyre and Rob Jones, are only a relatively new couple, and I put them through the wringer. The tile-delivery scene in the book is almost pure memoir and although it was really nerve-wracking at the time, it made for a great writing. Although I didn’t have trouble with the tradesmen on our build, after speaking to many female owner-builder friends, I discovered plenty of tradies only want to deal with the man of the house. Madness, right? So, of course I’ve shone a spotlight on inequality in the book.
Did you spend time living in a van or shed while you built?
Thankfully we didn’t live in a caravan while we were building, like Angie, Rob and Claudia (though we seriously contemplated the idea). Instead we decked out a tin shed as a mini-house for the duration of our owner-builder project. It was very cosy living in 60m2 with three children for three years, but it helped keep costs down.
Bottlebrush Creek is filled with interesting characters, do you have a favourite?
Thank you! I have so many favourites, and funnily-enough the little minor characters have a way of stealing my heart, like old Mrs Ellis the battle-axe from the dahlia society, and Mr Kent, the goat farmer who tries to trade a trailer-load of goats instead of paying for something.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a couple embarking on a building adventure?
Brace yourself! Haha! We started out with so much enthusiasm, and we were completely knackered afterwards. We finished up with a lovely house and our marriage in-tact, but there were times during the build when we felt like driving a tractor through our half-finished walls of homemade bricks and walking away. I think you need a lot of patience (something I found particularly challenging) and understand that your budget and timelines can very easily to blow out. In fact, there’s a line in the book where one of the minor characters warns Rob about this exact thing.
Rosa did some questionable things, though her heart was always in the right place. Do you think she overstepped and would you react in the same way as Angie?
I loved writing Rosa, she really called to me and I could see things from her perspective as well as Angie’s. I think mother-in-law and daughter-in-law dynamics are ripe with drama and it’s very easy for feelings to be hurt and good intentions to be taken the wrong way! Angie finds it really hard to accept that her mum is gone, while Rob’s mum is always there, and I sympathised with her on many occasions.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
Yes! I’m going over the first draft of my 2021 release, which tells Lara’s story and her project to save the Bridgefield General Store. Lara had a pretty rough trot in Wildflower Ridge, and was quite a polarising character, so it’s great spending time with her and working out how her story pans out. I’m also brainstorming ideas for Diana’s story, which I really hope I’ll have the chance to tell in 2022.
What’s the piece of writing advice you have been given that resonates with you the most?
There’s loads of great advice and encouragement out there, but I especially loved this quote from Robert McKee. I wrote it on a post-it note in 2016, stuck it to my computer, and referred to it many times to stop myself sending my work out into the world before it was in prime condition.
“Secure writers don’t sell first drafts. They patiently rewrite until it’s as ready as possible” – Robert McKee.
Thanks for your time and good luck with the release of Bottlebrush Creek.
My pleasure, Michelle. Thank you for all your wonderful support of Aussie books!
Bottlebrush Creek is a sparkling rural romance of changing relationships and family ties from bestselling author Maya Linnell.
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.
BIO: Maya Linnell
Maya Linnell was recently shortlisted as the ARRA 2019 Favourite Australian Romance Author for her bestselling rural romance debut Wildflower Ridge. Her second novel Bottlebrush Creek came out June 2, with both stories gathering inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved.
A former country journalist and PR writer, Maya now prefers the world of fiction over fact and blogs for Romance Writers Australia. She 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.