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Guest blogger: Leonie Kelsall

16 August 2020

Write what you know

All writers have heard—and possibly railed against (or is that just me?)—the saying, ‘Write what you know’. The idea behind the adage is that we can more accurately portray that which we have experienced. I’m not sure I completely agree with the advice—I mean, some of us do write sci-fi and fantasy, so there’s already an issue there!

However, as rural romances The Farm at Peppertree Crossing (2020) and The Wattle Seed Inn (2021) are set in the Murraylands—which, not entirely coincidentally, is where my family farm is located—in this instance I was easily able to take the advice to heart!

Big sky country, the farm is hot, dry, unforgiving—and incredibly beautiful, offering something different each season.

Open, rolling plains are marked with pockets of seemingly arid, grey scrubland that, when you venture into their depths, reveal a spring wonderland of spires of tiny native orchids, bright capeweed and soft carpets of moss in clearings between the mallee box.

The occasional flowering blue gum encircled by smaller wattles, the warming air, loud with busy native bees dressed in fluffy, soursob-yellow pollen trousers, is thick with the honey-sweet fragrance of the distinctive flowers.

Hollows in the hot red sand beneath spiky gorse bushes provide safe refuge for kangaroos; the gritty dirt idly scraped smooth by sharp claws as the doe-eyed creatures lazily recline through the heat of day.

As the frost settles in a brittle white sheet on the barren earth, autumn finds native hopping mice and echidnas nestled into beds of dry gum leaves and twigs in the shelter of granite outcrops that have protected their families for aeons.

And nights turn magically purple, alive with the mournful hoot of the hunting barn owl.

Finally, winter brings the longed-for rains. The creek flows—seemingly a miracle each year in a landscape of such harsh beauty. There is a brief moment of respite, a peaceful tranquillity spent drowsing by the wood fire as the land becomes temporarily somnolent before, regardless of our interference, it once more bursts into the lush verdancy of spring.

No matter the season, as Roni discovers in The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, being privileged to live in such beautiful countryside is an inspiration that is almost too wonderful to capture in words—so I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.

A little about my latest release, from Allen & Unwin …

The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is the story of an unexpected inheritance, a traumatic past and a family whose secrets are kept by the town.

Thirty-year-old Roni is the product of a foster system gone sadly awry. She’s streetwise, prickly, defensive and, above all else, she’s hurting as she struggles to carve out an existence in Sydney.

Facing an unexpected pregnancy, about to become homeless and jobless, the only bright spot in her life is her rescued stray cat, Scritches.

However, one letter could change everything.

In South Australia, rural matriarch Marian faces her mortality with her customary forthrightness. Deciding to right the wrongs done by her family, she bestows her estate upon her estranged niece, Roni. However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks—which disguise life-lessons gleaned from the tragedies of her own past—that Roni must complete before she can claim the property that could change her future.

Roni plans to sell the farm and return to Sydney, but her decision is complicated by an unexpected friendship with her aunt’s life-partner, a reluctant attraction to the farm manager, Matt—who inexplicably seems to believe he has a claim to Peppertree Crossing and is clearly hiding secrets of his own—and by the appearance of her mother.

Slowly unearthing the years of dark secrets hidden within the tiny rural community, Roni must somehow survive betrayal, heartbreak and loss if she is to eventually find joy. Above all, she must learn to believe in the truth of Marian’s most important lesson: everyone deserves love.

The Farm at Peppertree Crossing from Allen & Unwin: available in print, ebook and audio from all bookstores.

You can find Leonie here: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


One Comment
  1. 17 August 2020 7:15 am

    Great post!

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