Jennifer Scoullar is a bestselling Australian author who is passionate about conservation and her love of the land and all of the living things on it shines through in her story-telling. Her latest release is The Mallee Girl, a compelling tale of bravery and brumbies. I read and loved the story, and was able to ask Jennifer a little about herself and the book.

Hi Jennifer, welcome to Mic Loves Books and thank you so much for answering my questions. I loved The Mallee Girl and your love of the Australian wildlife certainly shone from the page.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

As a child I was an avid reader and wrote poems and stories. I always expected that I’d grow up to be a writer. Then life got in the way and I followed a different path. University, a career in the law, marriage, children – for a long time I imagined that my dream of being a writer was dead. Yet there was always this small, chiding voice inside my head, urging me to have a go. So I did, and once I started, I knew I’d never stop.

Where does your story inspiration come from?

I’ve always enjoyed a deep affinity with nature and I channel this passion into my books. For me, the natural world is full of drama, risk and exquisite beauty … And so is falling in love. For me, nature and romance seem to be the perfect fit.

You worked in the law, and as a foster carer. How did that influence the elements of abuse and toxic families in the story?

Quite a lot, actually. Cade and Pippa’s backgrounds are an amalgam of many dysfunctional families that I encountered during my work as a legal aid lawyer and as a foster carer. And I also encountered plenty of women struggling with domestic violence in their marriages. Unfortunately, this is still a shockingly common problem.

The new novel is The Mallee Girl. Can you tell us a little about it please?

The Mallee Girl is the story of Pippa Sullivan. She’s a young woman who’s grown up on an isolated wheat and sheep farm, with a domineering fundamentalist father. She imagines that marriage to Cade might be an escape, but he turns out to be a violent and controlling man. She’s exchanged one life of confinement for another – a far more terrifying one. When she finally finds the courage to leave, she ends up at Brumby’s Run, a wild horse sanctuary in the Victorian High Country. And there, far from the dust and drought of the Mallee, she has a chance to heal. But Cade is a vengeful man, and as they say – you can run, but you can’t hide …

Do you think of The Mallee Girl as a sequel to Brumby’s Run, or a linked story?

I see it as a linked story, not a direct sequel to Brumby’s Run. It revisits some of the same characters, and is set in the same world, but it’s not a follow on to the earlier narrative.

Do you think there will be more stories to come out of these characters and the horse sanctuary Brumby’s Run?

There are none in the pipeline at present, but as they say – never say never. 

I have so many questions but don’t want to create spoilers. The towns that Pippa lived in, are they actual places? Some of the towns mentioned are very real but Kilpa and Currajong aren’t familiar to me.

As you say, many of the towns mentioned in the story are real, but Currajong and Kilpa are not. An author always has more leeway with fictional places. They are, however, based on actual towns. Which ones I won’t say!

Is Brumby’s Run based on an actual horse sanctuary? It would be an amazing place to visit if it was.

The property named Brumby’s Run is based on several real life brumby sanctuaries. Amazing people all around Australia are dedicating their lives to helping and protecting the brumbies. One fine example is Victoria’s  Mountain Brumby Sanctuary.

You write amazing animal characters that I can’t help but fall in love with, do they ever have real life inspiration? We could all use a dog like Duke at times.

All my animal characters have real life inspirations. I own six dogs myself, and also board dogs for local people. I have four horses, three cats, a flock of heritage babydoll southdown sheep and a multitude of memories of beloved animals that have passed. I also live on land rich with wildlife, including lyrebirds. Too many wonderful stories to fit into my novels. And yes, I’ve had a couple of Dukes in my time.

You have a lifelong connection with horses, have you owned brumbies?

No, I’ve never owned a brumby. My friend and fellow rural author Karly Lane owns several of them, however. I follow her adventures with great interest.

Is there anything new that you are working on that you can tell us about?

Yes, I’m deep into writing a new novel, that will be released by Penguin Random House in April 2023. It’s a very modern take on the rural fiction genre. It’s also another linked story, including a character and a landscape from Journey’s End, one of my favourites. The story revolves around Del Fisher – a star country reporter who thinks she has it all. She’s just become engaged to the man of her dreams, and has scored a plum job as an investigative journalist at Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. But life has a way of turning ambitions on their head. Del’s perfect future is about to be derailed by an unimaginable betrayal. You’ll have to buy the book next year to discover what happens next!

Thank you so much for your time Jennifer, and I have to say that the rerelease covers of your backlist are just gorgeous. Good luck with the release of The Mallee Girl.

The Mallee Girl is published by Penguin Randomhouse and is available now where all good books are sold.

Jennifer Scoullar can be followed on Facebook, and Twitter.