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  • Writer's pictureStella Quinn

Fabulous Fiction with Stella Quinn & February 2021 guest Alissa Callen

(first published as part of the Romance Writers of Australia blog series, 25 February 2021)

Welcome to Fabulous Fiction, a blog by Stella Quinn which celebrates books so good, you just want to hug them when you’re done reading.

Alissa Callen’s novels are warm-hearted and touching. She writes down-to-earth rural communities filled with appealing, genuine characters. Snowy Mountains Daughter is the first book set in the high-country town of Bundilla.

Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen

STELLA: Tell us a little about your book, Alissa

Snowy Mountains Daughter is the first story of my new series set in a tiny book town.

The road home isn’t for the faint-hearted …

Peony flower farmer Clancy Parker was born and bred in the Australian high country. Small-town Bundilla is the only place she will ever truly belong, even if staying means remaining alone. The man she'd loved is long gone and single men are as rare as a summer snowfall.

As soon as he could, street artist Heath MacBride escaped his complicated family and traded mountain peaks for city concrete. Now a commission to paint a mural on Bundilla's water tower brings him home. It doesn't matter how long he's been away, the animosity of his cattleman father hasn't waned. As soon as the water tower is painted, he will be gone.

But between steadfast Clancy, who'd once been his muse, a free-spirited kelpie who becomes his shadow and a corrosive family secret, his best laid plans disintegrate. When life again backs him into a corner, will he have no choice but to leave or will he and Clancy have the second chance they'd each thought would forever remain out of reach?

STELLA: Why will readers find this book “hugworthy?”

Alissa: I hope Clancy and Heath’s story will resonate with readers as at its core are the central themes of home, belonging and finding the courage to face the past. Despite everything the hero and heroine and even the rural community go through, the story closes with a sense of hope and of peace.

Stella: I agree! I was lucky enough to read an ARC copy of Snowy Mountains Daughter, and I can add to Alissa’s hugworthy reasons ... the descriptions of the countryside! Look out for the up-country scene out on camp. Reading those words, I could have closed my eyes and smelled the dried wood crackling on the campfire, scratched the ruff of Bundy the kelpie, and fed him a sausage of his own.

STELLA: Okay, now let’s get to know the author behind the book!

USA Today bestselling author Alissa Callen is a country girl happiest living far from the city fringe. She draws inspiration from the rural world around her and from the resilience of local bush communities. Her books are characteristically heart-warming, authentic and character driven. Alissa lives with her family on a small slice of rural Australia outside Dubbo in central western NSW.

Author Alissa Callen

STELLA: Do you have a favourite genre to read? To write?

Alissa: My pre-deadline favourite genre to read was regency (Bridgeton anyone?). As for my favourite genre to write in, I don’t really have one. Thanks to living on a farm whatever book I write a rural thread always seems to weave its way in (much like how our kelpie sneaks inside to wake up my teenagers).

Stella: Our cavalier x shit-zhu x border terrier has his own special method of waking us, too. Usually it’s his well-chewed red monster getting plopped onto our faces as we sleep.

STELLA: Do you have “must haves” in a book for you to love it? And do you have “dealbreakers”, things that make you throw a book across the room?

Alissa: My two must haves are a self-sufficient heroine and an honourable hero. And in terms of deal breakers it is the flip side of the coin – feeble heroines and narcissistic heroes will be a DNF.

Stella: Oh yeah, totally agree. And heroines can show strength in different ways, even when they live in societies where women are living under oppression, or they’re from a generation where “the norm” was to submit to the opinions of anyone with a Y chromosome. Heath’s parents in Snowy Mountains Daughter are a nuanced pair, reflective of an older generation of Australians.

STELLA: Has a comment in a review from a reader ever stayed with you?

Alissa: I appreciate every reader message and comment but the ones that remind me of the power of words, and the value of storytelling, are the ones where my books may have been the first one someone has read cover to cover, or they have reignited someone’s love of reading.

Stella: I envy you having received such heartfelt responses to your fiction. Stories can be such a comfort, can’t they?

STELLA: How busy does writing life make you?

Alissa: If anyone has the secret to keeping all writing and life balls in the air, I’d love to know what it is. Every year I say I’m not going to be a feast or famine writer (i.e., write a lot or very little). But unfortunately this year writing has again had to take a back seat to real life, but as my deadline approaches finishing my current book is now front and centre.

Stella: The other ball in the air for me is reading. It’s hard to cram it all in!

STELLA: Okay, now for the nitty-gritty, Alissa:

Favourite Australian holiday destination? Snowy Mountains in winter.

Guilty pleasure? Chocolate and more chocolate.

Pet peeve? We have an electric farm gate and after driving down the driveway discovering someone has taken the controller from out of my car.

Favourite fictional couple and why? Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot from Persuasion. In the movie Rupert Penry-Jones plays Captain Wentworth. Enough said.

Best thing about being a writer? When the perfect sentence somehow appears.

Worst thing about being a writer? When not even an imperfect word will appear.

What themes do you love to see shining through in a book? Hope, redemption, second chances.

Three fun facts about you:

- Read the ending of a book first.

- Write the ending of own book last.

- My great-grandmother created the name Rexona.

Keep in touch with Alissa:

About your blogger, Stella Quinn:

When Stella Quinn isn’t sitting in the sun scribbling in a notebook, she can be found walking her dog, roaming her neighbourhood in search of the perfect latte, or thrashing her children at scrabble. She grew up in England, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and spent five (long!) years at boarding school in country Queensland.

Stella writes contemporary romance novels that are warm-hearted and filled with characters you want to be best friends with. She loves rural small-town settings, island settings, and everyday heroes. Imagine if Sea Change and Virgin River had a series of fictitious bookbabies ... they’re the books Stella writes.

She has two rural romances being published by Harlequin, and The Vet from Snowy River will be in a bookshop near you in June 2021. It can be pre-ordered here:

Her series include The Island Escape Series and The Clementine Springs Series, and she is an author for Sweet Promise Press’s Gold Coast Retrievers Series.

Stella Quinn’s awards in the fabulous world of romance include winning the Valerie Parv Award in 2018, winning the Sapphire Award in 2019 and 2020, winning the Emerald Award in 2017 and coming second in the Sapphire in 2018. Stella was shortlisted in the Australian Society of Authors/HQ Fiction Commercial Fiction Award in 2020, and in the 2020 Ruby Award for best contemporary romance. With her writing group (who published a Christmas anthology of novellas) she was shortlisted by ARRA for best small-town contemporary romance in 2019.

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