Léonie Kelsall is a chameleon of the fiction world, writing fantasy, steamy contemporary romance, suspense, outback noir, sci-fi and most recently rural romance. Her latest release, The Wattle Seed Inn, was published by Allen & Unwin in paperback, eBook and audio this month. The story follows PR executive Gabrielle as she tackles a major fixer-upper project in South Australia’s countryside. Converting the dilapidated inn into a thriving business is no mean feat and puts her smack-bang in the path of local stonemason, Hayden. As with Léonie’s 2020 novel The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, The Wattle Seed Inn is full of warmth and humour. Baking, charming characters and a familiar small-town setting make for a fabulous, feel-good read.
As well as writing, Léonie works as a professional counsellor and has a backlist of quirky jobs including a blacksmith, door-to-door electricity salesperson and a museum’s historical interpreter. When she’s not working, Léonie can be found bake-testing the food in her novels, walking her dog Bear and helping out at her family farm. Head across to her website for full details on her extensive book tour.
Short and sweet questions
Current book on your bedside table:
What kind of monster has only one book? Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Syed Masood’s The Bad Muslim Discount, Maya Linnell’s Wildflower Ridge & Bottlebrush Creek, Karly Lane’s Take Me Home.
Where do you do most of your writing? I have a desk in my library near the wood heater – and close to the back door so I can let the dog in. And out. And in.
Favourite Australian holiday destination: The Kid and I head to Robe in South Australia 2-3 times a year for great coffee, food, relaxation and refilling the creative well.
What’s your preferred drop? Whatever some kind person has poured into my glass. However, I did rediscover Passion Pop on a trip to Robe a couple of years ago – it holds a lot of 80’s themed memories!
Guilty pleasure? Darrell Lea Dark Licorice Chocolate Blocks – and now that I’ve Googled exactly what it’s called, I discovered it’s on special…that’s serendipity, right? I have no choice but to buy!
Pet peeve: People who lie or obfuscate. Writers who claim a marginalization to justify writing it. Oh, wait, that’s the same peeve.
Favourite fictional couple and why? Patty and Anton in Summer of My German Soldier, because that was the first book that really made me cry. (I mean, everyone cried when Aslan died, right? So The Chronicles of Narnia doesn’t count). The story holds so much angst and hope – I’m scared to re-read, in case it’s not everything that I recall it to be!
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be? Clearly, books are essential, so… a razor and moisturizer. Because who wants to be furry when the hot rescuers turn up?
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for: I read a lot of unpublished manuscripts (actually, more than I read books, so my TBR pile moves slowly!) and Emma Babbington has a wonderful knack for deeply descriptive phrasing without superfluous words, and for giving her characters memorable quirks.
Book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2021? I honestly don’t know, as there is always so much coming out, and so little time to read it all!
Best thing about being a writer? The hours, and my friends are always with me.
Worst thing about being a writer? The hours, and I tend to neglect ‘real life’ friends.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? Music…I generally have a song or style for each book, from Dolly Parton to Neil Diamond to Split Enz. But if I can’t choose, I opt to stream Radio 5MU – plays all the best ‘older’ stuff, plus has a ton of farming news and interest pieces.
Favourite perfume: Chanel No5
TV/film crush: Sandra Bullock
The best non-writing related prize I won was … A wheelbarrow full of booze! Fortunately, it was still in bottles.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
1. Be prepared to write multiple books before you get signed…they’ll be sitting there waiting for you to revisit them. I know. I still have some sitting there!
2. Don’t slavishly take onboard advice: write like yourself. If you follow all the rules, your style won’t be distinct.
3. Don’t be afraid to chase your publishing dream through alternate avenues. There’s more than one way to skin the rabbit (there are four cats in this house: I was afraid to finish the idiom correctly)
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing? Love is love. Everyone finds it somewhere different, whether it’s in a person, an animal, a place, a building, a hobby. But wherever it’s found, love will only make the world a better place, so don’t judge others for their passion.
Proudest author moment? I don’t actually feel pride about anything to do with writing. More an awareness that, although I’ve worked toward this for three decades, I’m simply incredibly lucky, fortunate to be offered publishing contracts when others are far more talented and deserving. So, while I feel gratitude, relief, happiness, and humility, it’s never pride.
My favourite thing about writing romance is …. I can fix the world for my characters and give them the happy ending that can be so hard to find in real life – and that provides hope and escapism for readers.
If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them… I’m the one who gets to sit at home and work in my pyjamas and still make bank. Though, with COVID lockdowns, that’s not so much of an ‘in your face’ retort now!
Three fun facts about the author:
- My three kids were born in different decades: Eighties, Nineties and Noughties.
- I Google how to pronounce my own name EVERY time I have an appearance to make (it’s hard!!)
- I research every dish I mention in my books by actually making it. The Farm at Peppertree Crossing has a strong focus on sourdough bread and lamingtons – and I put on 10kg during edits! Fortunately, The Wattle Seed Inn is slanted more to French slow-cooked dishes, and The Dandelion Cottage (working title of my 2022 novel) has a healthy-food focus, so I brewed lots of water and milk kefir, made chia tarts and got rid of the weight. HOWEVER my current book features a talented and passionate Italian chef and a whole lot of traditional CWA style cooking (think jelly cakes, cream horns and coffee kisses), so I predict the stretchy pants will come out again.
Find Leonie online:
Bestselling rural fiction author, Maya Linnell, gathers inspiration from her rural upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved. Her third novel, Magpie’s Bend is out June 1, following Bottlebrush Creek and Wildflower Ridge. A former country journalist and radio host, Maya also blogs for Romance Writers Australia, loves baking up a storm, tending to her rambling garden and raising three little bookworms.
She writes to a soundtrack of magpies, sheep and chickens on a small property in country Victoria, where she lives with her family, their menagerie of farm animals and the odd tiger snake or two.