Léonie on her stunning property in the beautiful Adelaide Hills
I would love to introduce you to my June 2nd Author Stalker victim, the fabulous Léonie Kelsall (pronounced Lay-un-ie Kel-saul)...can you infer that this has been an issue for the lovely Léonie all her life? So I wanted to set the record straight. Or, you can just call her Lee.
So sorry for the delay in meeting my next victim but sadly my nose had an unscheduled meeting with the electric boot of my car yesterday and, between painkillers and Shiraz, I was in no state to do justice to the lovely Léonie on June 1st as planned!
I first met Léonie, aka Lee, at Sandie Docker's https://www.sandiedocker.com/ launch party for her beautiful novel, The Kookaburra Creek Café. Lee was one of the first trusted readers of Sandie's manuscripts, so I knew this woman knew a thing or two about this writing caper.
I clearly remember Sandie introducing us and saying 'This is my writer friend Shell. She can write but she is a terrible procrastinator. This is Lee. She also procrastinates, but also has several finished novels.' (I think Sandie was trying to tell me something...hint hint.)
Lee responded telling me that although she too loved to procrastinate, she had pushed through and had self-published several novels (you can find out more about Léonie's self-published works, written under a pseudonym, on her website).
Every now and then, Lee would message me to see how I was (code for check that I was actually writing and not procrastinating). And a friendship was formed<3
Roll the clock forward, and I was blown away when Lee asked me to be a beta reader of her current WIP, with a working title involving Lamingtons and Liverwurst! With a title like that, I had no idea what to expect. But several pages in...I was hooked. She had created a setting so real that I felt that I could have reached out and touched it. I was rooting for the characters and by the end they were my friends.
I LOVED this book. So you can imagine how thrilled I was for Lee when it was picked up by publisher Annette Barlow, from Allen & Unwin. And now the time is almost here, for her wonderful story to meet its readers. July 2nd 2020. But you can pre-order in now. You won't regret it.
So without further ado, I would love you to meet the gorgeous Léonie Kelsall.xx
Q1. What piece of advice do you wish you'd been given when working on your very first manuscript?
A: That was so very long ago, there was little advice to be found! But I wish I’d been told to just get the words down and worry about tizzying it up later.
If I’d known that when writing my first book, I could have ignored it, just as I do now :-)
Which isn’t to say that it’s not a fabulous piece of advice: it would save me so much time if I could just take it on board! Instead, I can spend as long on the first three to four chapters as I do on the rest of the book. I find I have to write and rewrite those chapters multiple times, with a crushing number of adverbs and adjectives, to get a feel for the setting and the character. And the real killer? Ultimately those chapters usually end up deleted, or at least severely edited.
Q2: If you could have written ANY book besides your own, what would it be?
A: Any of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Oh my goodness, they are so rich in detail and so evocative! I defy anyone to read one of those titles and not dream of being a Dragonrider.
The first is of one of my MANY writing spaces...if the front garden is tidy(ish) I work at a small wrought iron setting - which is written into The Farm at Peppertree Crossing - where I'm regularly interrupted by hungry magpies and frolicking skinks - and once a koala coming in to drink from the pond.
(Oh my...I just love your garden and house exterior Lee...must make it to Adelaide for a cuppa and a writing session one day. Shelley.xx)
Q3: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: I’ve been reading since I was three, so realistically it was sure to have been an Enid Blyton, although I now can’t see a tearjerker quality in them.
I remember sobbing when Aslan died in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
However, Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, which I initially read when I was about eleven, was probably the first book to score a hit on the ugly-crying button. I’m almost afraid to revisit it now, because I loved that book so much for so long...what if it now disappoints?
Q4: Coffee, tea, wine or ? (what is your favourite drink?)
A: Depends on the moment. I have at least two cappuccinos a day, thanks to my awesome Sunbeam Café machine (which is sadly on its last legs). Licquorice tea hits the spot in the afternoon and chamomile WITH lemon or ginger or something else (it’s cat wee by itself!) in the evening. But where is the chilli hot chocolate on this list?
(Sorry...I will be sure to add Chilli Hot Chocolate to the next set of Author Stalker questions. Shelley.xx)
Q5: What is the next book on your TBR (to be read) pile?
A: Well, Sandie Docker dudded me on my regular pre-read of her newest work-in-progress, so I may go back to The Banksia Bay Beach Shack, and see what has changed there since I read the original version. Or I have Fiona McIntosh’s The Diamond Hunter on my stack, or oh, I have such a ridiculous pile of not only new titles, but many old ones I’ve picked up because they were intriguing or recommended. I like to binge authors, although I never read more than three titles in succession. Last year it was a revisitation of Wilbur Smith -- I prefer to read well away from the genre I’m currently writing in as I think it’s far too easy to unwittingly adopt other writers’ inflections and peculiarities. So don’t ask me anything about rural romance books, my lack of current knowledge is embarrassing!
'This is one of dozens of photos I have of my 'special place', the farm where I grew up, and where I spend most weekends.
In the foreground is a limestone kiln Taylor and I discovered and excavated by hand, shovelling a hundred+ years' worth of wind-blown sand out of it. More pictures on my website!'
Q6: Choose one male & one female character from your novel. In a film adaptation, who would you love to see play them?
A: Oh, I’m so crap at this game, because the only screen time I get is watching Netflix with The Kid. I couldn’t even tell you the name of what we’ve watched, much less who is in it! Hang on, I’m going to have to head back into the mists of time… Okay, helped by Taylor (aka The Kid) we have a winner! I adore the ‘side characters’ in The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, so the matriarch, Marian, who turns Roni’s life upside-down with her odd bequest, would be played by either Dame Judi Dench - or, if she can’t pull off an old-money rural Australian accent, by Ruth Cracknell.
And the erratic, quirky Tracey, who is the polar opposite of Marian in almost every way, yet still her greatest friend - and who becomes a mother-figure to Roni, despite Roni’s reluctance to trust anyone - would be played by the delightful Noni Hazlehurst.
And, yes, that is two female characters; but I adore them both and love knows no gender.
Q7: Name one thing you couldn't live without?
A: No brainer: my kids. When I had only two children, I used to spend maudlin hours wondering what I would do if something dreadful happened to one of them. Now that the number of children has increased and the math is beyond me, I write sad bits in stories instead of planning.
Q8: What is your dream holiday destination?
A: I am so open to suggestions on this one! My youngest has been trying to get me to commit to a destination for a girls’ trip at the end of this year, when she finishes school - but I’m undecided. Almost everywhere I like the look of seems to have a heavy reliance on rocking a swimsuit-worthy body (spoiler: it’s NEVER happening!)
Taylor and I take frequent short breaks in rural locations, generally staying somewhere that is a little seedy, but nicely laid-back, boasting deserted beaches for exploring, a few cafes to eat in, and plenty of walking, reading and writing time. Not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right. So if you know of anywhere like that, preferably with an upgrade in accommodation...
Q9: If you had to choose a career besides writer, what would it be?
A: Hmmm. I couldn’t, as I’ve already had several careers and a professional writer is the one I’ve aspired to since childhood.
Q10: How long does it take you to complete your first draft?
A: This varies so wildly! I wrote two ninety-thousand word books in sixty days, thirty for each, back-to-back. Yet my current manuscript is sitting on eighty-thousand words and has taken me at least three months. There are more than a dozen other books scattered between those three, each written with a vastly different timeframe. The discrepancy is partly because I don’t plot -- beyond knowing the basic story and character arc -- but some stories just pour out. Others are there, but require a bit more bum-on-seat dedication to get it on the page. And of course, as I mentioned before, those darn initial chapters bog me down...
Accustomed to looking after herself, can Roni now embrace a different life gifted to her from an unknown aunt and a community ready to help? Or will the strings attached be her downfall?
'Everything you want in rural romance - heart, humour and hope.' Sandie Docker, author of the much-loved The Kookaburra Creek Cafe An unexpected inheritance, a traumatic past and a family whose secrets are kept by the town After a fractured childhood spent in foster homes, city-girl Roni has convinced herself that she has no need of anyone - other than her not-as-tough-as-he-looks rescued street cat, Scritches, and her unborn baby, who she's determined will feel all the love she's been denied. Despite facing a bleak future, Roni distrusts the news of a bequest from an unknown aunt, Marian Nelson. But, out of options, she and Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for the 800-acre property on the edge of the wheat fields of South Australia. However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks that Roni must complete before she can claim the property and a life that could change her future. With everything at stake, Roni must learn to trust in the truth of Marian's most important lesson: everyone deserves love. A captivating story of family, friendship and forgiveness.'
Leonie grew up in the South Australian country - initially on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula in a tiny town where the school had a total enrolment of only eleven students, and later on a farm near the stunning Murray River. Her rural upbringing encouraged a love of books, for which she will be forever grateful.
She couldn't wait to hit the bright lights of the big city when she graduated -- however, a few years working in government departments saw her longing to make her way back to the country. She now finds herself dividing her time between her professional counselling practice in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, and her childhood farm, which provides the setting for many of her stories.
Thank you Léonie for being my June 2nd Author Stalker victim. xx
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is available on July 2nd through all leading bookstores/online and is currently available for pre-order. If you would like to find out more about Léonie, you can find her here: