Murraylands features in fiction novel 'The Farm at Peppertree Crossing' by former local Léonie Kelsall

INSPIRED: Léonie Kelsall's time spent growing up in the Murraylands has provided inspiration for her new fiction novel, The Farm at Peppertree Crossing. Photo: Supplied.

INSPIRED: Léonie Kelsall's time spent growing up in the Murraylands has provided inspiration for her new fiction novel, The Farm at Peppertree Crossing. Photo: Supplied.

Léonie Kelsall's time spent growing up in the Murraylands has provided inspiration for her new fiction novel, The Farm at Peppertree Crossing.

The rural romance novel follows pregnant city-girl Roni as she and her rescue cat Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for an 800-acre property in South Australia bequeathed to her by an unknown aunt.

It is a story of family, friendship and forgiveness, and looks at how Roni deals with the unexpected inheritance, her traumatic childhood, and a family full of secrets.

It is set in the Murraylands and features Murray Bridge, where Léonie went to school.

She said she was intrigued by the notion that "without new blood, rural towns are slowly dying", and decided to explore that as part of the story.

"For example, the town where I spent my very early years had 11 kids at the whole school - now the entire town has a population of 14," she said.

"So I was intrigued initially by the idea of repopulating one of these ghost towns, and wondered what would happen if a girl from the city, who has never considered a rural lifestyle, was to inherit a large acreage she has no idea how to handle, but is fated to fall in love with?

"How hard would it to be to adapt to not only a lifestyle that is alien, but to a tiny community who have known each other all their lives, where you are not only an outsider, but the subject of gossip?"

Léonie, a registered professional counsellor, said there were various other ideas and influences for elements of the story.

She wanted to "reinforce the importance of being able to ask for and accept help", as well as encourage people to accept others' differences, and highlight the joys that can be found in "the intricacies of relationships, the breadth and tapestry of the human experience, and how the aspiration to be better and do better can change a person's life".

"I felt that, now more than ever, we need to focus on the good in humanity, the redemptive power of love, so I wanted to create a story, a world, that would allow that," she said.

"The fact that I was a little in love with a share farmer who worked our family property when I was a teen may have also had something to do with the genesis of the story.

"Also unusual in this genre is the romantic relationship between two of the older female characters, which they have hidden for several decades because of the fear of negative judgement from the small community."

The first print run of the book sold out two weeks after its release, and was ranked number three in the national Top Ten Bestsellers in Romance.

A Q&A session and book signing will be held at Murray Bridge Library at 2pm on Monday, November 23 as part of a South Australian tour.

For more information, visit www.leoniekelsall.com

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