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  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Writing contests, anosmia and grungy coffee shops with Stella Quinn

Brimming with warmth and humour, Stella Quinn’s new rural romance, A Town Like Clarence, roped me in from the prologue and kept me smiling throughout. There’s so much to love about Kirsty and Joey’s story, from the town committee who spends just as much time planning a community event as they do on project ‘Find Farmer Joey A Wife’, to the restoration of a vintage aeroplane with special significance for pilot Kirsty.

Sassy eight-year-old Amy, also deserves a special mention (and quite possibly her own story) and although I’m not usually a poetry fan, I was delighted by the bush poetry scattered throughout. I strongly suspect (and hope) we’ll be seeing more of these characters in future novels.

Here's a few fun facts about this month’s special guest, Stella Quinn:

1. I have the most romantic, creative, adventurous day job ... tax accountant.

2. I like craft and woodwork and have boxes (sheds, in fact) stuffed with crates of fabric, ancient knitting needles, half-crocheted beanies and tea cosies, and my children’s long-grown-out-of cotton outfits which may one day find themselves cut up and quilted

3. I’ve been a serial pest on Parents and Friends Committees until recently when my #4 child completed secondary school. Secretary, Treasurer, Sausage-Turner, Time Keeper at carnivals, Newsletter Chief, Blood and Guts Stall Convenor (sounds scary, I know, but it was G-rated and involved a lot of fake blood and plaster-cast pinkie fingers).

4. I love mowing.

Short and sweet questions

Current book on your bedside table:

Oh, lol, this is going to look like a set-up. I have three on the go because I rarely read just one at a time. West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge, because I have a secret desire to write historical fiction some day; The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan (my book club is reading this) and Paperbark Hill by Maya Linnell, just because!

Where do you do most of your writing?

I’m a coffee shop writer. The grungier the better. I like a constant hum of baristas telling each other about their latest tinder date, a tableful of sparkies having their start-of-day muster, and I love the dog-walkers who drop in for a latte and stay to pat every other dog within cooee. I eavesdrop shamelessly and, yes, I’ve patted a lot of dogs.

Favourite Australian holiday destination:

Palm Cove. I grew up in PNG which has similar beaches (although less crocs) and I love the Pacific Almond trees which line the foreshore there. These gorgeous trees grow throughout the Pacific region because their seed pods set sail like little square boats until they find fertile sandy soil.

What’s your preferred drop?

It’s an each way bet between coffee (skinny flat white, half-strength), diet coke, and champers.

Pet peeve:

Gosh I’d like to say it was global warming but actually it’s the fact that the diet coke people are trying to turn us long-term fans into coke no sugar people. No way nope nu-uh.

If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?

Books are essential of course, so it would be a lap lap (this is the PNG term for a sarong) and a fun, swishy, wide-brimmed hat that is totally impractical in a tradewind but looks awesome.

Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for:

Megan Mayfair. She made the jump from women’s fiction to cosy mystery a couple of years ago and they’re not only adorable, they have super tight plots and make for a wonderful read.

Australian book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2022?

I haven’t read ShimmeringSkies yet by Trent Dalton. It’s on my book shelf, and I adored Boy Swallows Universe.

Best thing about being a writer?

When people asked me what I was seeking when I began devoting a lot (as in A LOT) of time to my writing, I always used to glibly answer: “glory”. That kinda hasn’t changed. I love the glory moments when people send my photos of my books in the wild. Someone just sent me a photo of The Vet from Snowy River in a tiny hole-in-the-wall post office in Kakadu. It doesn’t get better or more glorious than that.

Worst thing about being a writer?

Deadlines crashing into each other like tectonic plates.

Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? What song/channel/podcast do you have on high rotation?

Music. I have a few go-to playlists (one of them is playing as I type now): Michael Buble, The War of the Worlds (Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version), Harry Potter theme music, Lord of the Rings theme music, and the recent addition to my addiction: Strictly Ballroom, the movie soundtrack.

Favourite perfume:

Fun fact about Stella (and her mother and one of her daughters): Stella has anosmia which, yes, was a thing before covid made it trendy. My children think this is the reason why I should be responsible for shovelling up all the dog poop in the yard while they lounge about painting their nails or scrolling through snapchat.

TV/film crush:

Gosh so many. Lucifer, Simon Baker in The Mentalist, Ewan McGregor in everything except the Star Wars prequels, the naked hottie in The Time Traveller’s Wife remake …

The best non-writing related prize I won was…

I won an ipod at a financial planning conference in Fiji, back when ipods were amazeballs.

Top three tips for aspiring authors?

1) Finish everything you tackle, because writing a middle and writing an end is harder than writing a beginning – so maybe start with short form fiction like flash fiction and 1000-2000 word story competitions so you learn to bring that story home.

2) Competitions are your friend. Australia is a small market and competitions are a way of having your work seen ahead of any slush pile.

3) Decide who you are writing for, and hone your craft accordingly. If esoteric lit-fic is your thing, then you’ll want to strip your prose down to the bones and focus on grit and theme. If women’s fic is your thing, maybe you’ll want to find the words to colour landscape, and parse relationships into their workable (or unworkable!) bits. Writing to market is a skill, not a cop out, and it takes talent and perseverance.

What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?

Redemption. I cut my romance writing teeth by inhaling Nora Roberts books, and redemption is so often the driving theme in her stories. I love the idea that no matter what “stuff” we live through, or cause, or suffer from, we can find a way through to a happier place with some luck, and some hard work, and some community input.

Proudest author moment?

Receiving a phonecall from Rachael Donovan of Harper Collins and hearing her she loved my manuscript and wanted to publish it.

My favourite thing about writing romance is ….

It makes me so happy. My books are not high drama toil and trouble, they’re fun. Bad stuff has to be got through of course, but I love to throw in a community of local characters who act as mirrors for the main characters so they can see other ways of living. Fun, cheerful, love-filled and slightly kooky ways. I particularly love writing the kid characters.

If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them…

Trashing romance is so yesterday. Yawn. The only cliché in the romance industry is the onlookers who are too lazy to think up some actual questions.

Find Stella online

Stella Quinn has had a love affair with books since she first discovered the alphabet. She lives in sunny Queensland now, but has lived in England, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea. Boarding school in a Queensland country town left Stella with a love of small towns and heritage buildings (and a fear of chenille bedspreads and meatloaf!) and that is why she loves writing rural romance.

Stella is a keen scrabble player, she's very partial to her four kids and anything with four furry feet, and she is a mediocre grower of orchids. An active member of Romance Writers of Australia, Stella has won their Emerald, Sapphire and Valerie Parv Awards, and finaled in their R*BY Romantic Book of the Year award.

A Town Like Clarence

When Kirsty Fox goes on the run to escape a crash-and-burn at work, she finds a family she didn't know she needed... A witty and warm rural romance perfect for readers of Rachael Johns and Alissa Callen.

They say a change is as good as a holiday. Joey Miles is hoping so after leaving the city behind, his stockbroking career in flames, to embrace a brand-new challenge: farming. But while returning to his hometown somehow feels right, he's got a long way to go to get back on his feet financially and the last thing he needs is the townsfolk meddling in his love life (or lack thereof).

To the townsfolk of Clarence, Joey has always been the ultimate tragic romantic hero - and it's time this hero had a happy ever after...

But Kirsty Fox is only in Clarence to dig up information about a World War II figure from her family's past - she has no intention of sticking around and finding out if Joey is as adorable as he seems. Kirsty doesn't stick around. Ever.

But when the locals of Clarence spy the chemistry between these two, a secret item gets added to the agenda of the next town committee meeting: matchmaking. This warm-hearted community will pull every trick in the book to show Joey and Kirsty everything they've unwittingly been searching for is right under their noses... What could possibly go wrong?

Chicken wrangling, an adorable kid niece, a secret in a cow shed and a big-hearted town full of meddlesome wannabe poets... This new romance from Australian author Stella Quinn is a knockout.


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