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  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Neighbourhood donkeys, black tie balls and inspiration with Maya Linnell

As originally published on the Australian Romance Readers blog HERE

So many threads of inspiration come together to make up a novel, and while some are impossible to define, others can be traced back to conversations with friends and family and little memories that jumped onto the page while I wrote, demanding a cameo role in my novels.

In Magpie’s Bend, Lara McIntyre isn’t impressed when her sisters start organising a singles ball to help save their general store. The leading man, Toby Paxton, isn’t especially thrilled with a wardrobe mishap on the evening of the event either.

The origins of this safari suit sub-plot hark back to a black-tie ball I attended in my 20s. The ball was part of a rural singles weekend aimed at attracting city girls from Melbourne (and country girls from interstate, like me), similar to Farmer Wants a Wife before it was turned into a TV show. Most of the bachelors wore their best black suits, but for me, three men stood out like sore thumbs. Two blokes were intentionally stealing the spotlight in wide-legged, retro safari suits, while one was completely oblivious to his fashion blunder, with distinctly odd socks poking out from under his suit pants.

Not only did I meet my future husband that weekend (Mr Odd Socks), but I had a snippet of inspiration for a novel. Fast forward fifteen years. I started drafting my third story for Allen & Unwin, and those safari suits and the romance at that fabulously rustic event danced onto the page.

The ball scenes were an absolute joy to write and, although I’m not sure if either of the chaps in the safari suits won any hearts that night, I’m ever so grateful for their inspiration.

A paddock of donkeys, big and small, just down the lane from our home in rural Victoria, also paved the way for a cameo in Lara’s story. These animals are smart, strong and oh-so stubborn.

Our real-life neighbour is a delight, often inviting us around to groom and ride her donkeys, nothing like the curmudgeonly Clyde McCluskey in Magpie’s Bend. McCluskey and his donkeys pop up throughout the story, and when he’s not complaining about his neighbours—Lara on one side and Toby on the other—he’s throwing in his ten cents about the general store fundraising events. I think we’ve all known a neighbour like that, haven’t we? But scratch a little further under the surface, and it’s easy to see how damaging loneliness can be, why community connections need to be nurtured, not ignored, and the truth that deep down, everybody wants to be loved.

Keen to find out how McCluskey’s donkeys are involved in the grassroots campaign to save the general store, and who ends up dancing to Nutbush City Limits in a safari suit? Then grab yourself a copy of Magpie’s Bend in paperback, ebook or audiobook.

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Magpie’s Bend

A big-hearted story of community spirit and farming families from the bestselling author of Bottlebrush Creek.

‘Maya Linnell knows how to tug on our heartstrings, with just the right dollop of reality … I couldn’t put it down.’—Catriona Rowntree

Bush nurse Lara McIntyre and journalist Toby Paxton are thrust into the limelight when an accident puts the beating heart of their community in jeopardy.

The small country town of Bridgefield can’t manage without their general store and post office, but Lara can’t stomach the idea of out-of-town buyers revamping it with no regard for what the residents want or need. She’s also unsure about where Toby’s allegiances lie in this fight.

Loyalties are put to the test as the locals attempt to save the shop, with personal agendas, old grudges and misunderstandings threatening their best efforts.

Featuring a black-tie ball, a fun run, a magpie called Vegemite and a snake-chasing kelpie called Basil, Magpie’s Bend is a story about rural lives, family, love and letting go.

Available to purchase via this link as well as in bookstores and department stores around the country.


'This book has such a big heart, curled around Lara and her big McIntyre family, Toby and his daughter and the newspaper, and the whole community. One final word, oh my, on the baking. Maya Linnell, you tempter! So much delicious baking in this book you’ll be ready to fire up your own oven and whip something up as soon as you finish reading. Or sit down with something while you read ... Enjoy!' Malvina


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