Today I’d like to introduce you to Aussie author Leisl Leighton, a fellow horse lover! Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination.
A voracious reader and born performer, she has had a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants. She writes rural romatic suspense and paranormal romance. President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017.
ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, VICTORIAN ALPS & HORSE RIDING
All my published novels so far have rural settings, mostly in mountainous or farmland regions, and the only explanation I can give is that I feel so at home where there are hills and mountains and, if I’m very lucky, snow.
When I was younger, my family holidays were mostly to the snow or going down to Merricks, near Red Hill, or up to Marysville, but some of my most memorable holidays have been ones where there have been trips into mountainous regions, and even better, if there is horse riding involved.
When I was nine, I started having horse riding lessons. I was by no means a natural, but I loved horses and I desperately wanted to be able to ride proficiently, with the hope I might have a horse one day. That particular dream never eventuated, but the horse-riding lessons led into some of my most memorable holidays.
It started when a family friend who also loved horses, the bush and horse riding, took me on a 5-day horse riding trek from Omeo through the Victorian Alpine region when I was thirteen. We rode along the high plains and down into the valleys, across rivers and back up again, staying in stockman’s huts and old woolsheds. I skinned rabbits, avoided snakes, survived sleeping in a shed with spiders as big as my face, and it was amazing and exhilarating and tiring and so much fun I still remember it vividly to this day. My sister was always a little jealous she didn’t get to come with me and our family friend, so mum and dad decided to enrol us in a horse riding camp down near Anglesea where we got to ride through the state forest and learn to look after the horses. We rode through heat and torrential rain, cold so profound that it snowed and we loved every moment. We did this every year through high school, and it had such a profound effect on me, that my husband thought it the perfect place to propose to me. He sneakily organised a special ride with just us and a stop in a lovely scenic place so he could pop the question. So romantic!
But I digress. Years after we finished high school and stopped going to the camps, my sister and I wanted to experience horse riding through the bush again. She particularly wanted to do a ride through the Victorian Alps and the family friend who had taken me all those years ago was keen to come with us too.
We found a place near Merrijig up near Mt Buller that took people on different length horse treks. Riding up Mt Stirling to Craig’s Hut and then down into the Howqua Valley and around Mt Buller. Staying in some of the famous old sheep yard flats and camping every night. It was a four day trek and we had the time of our lives. Out of touch with civilization – no phone signal for most of the time, which was really very relaxing. Riding hard all day through gorgeous mountain country. Setting up a tent every night with every muscle aching. Falling asleep in the cold autumn nights to wake to the kind of fresh you don’t get anywhere else. We are keen to go again.
It was on this trek that I started having an idea about a suspense novel set in an alpine region on a horse-riding stud. The idea bloomed and grew and before I knew it, I was writing a coming home novel with growing suspense and a hot and feisty romance. That book turned into Climbing Fear. It’s set near the small ex-goldmining town of Walhalla at the southern end of the Victorian Alps – a charming place I visited years ago when tour managing a theatre restaurant show around the La Trobe Valley. I poured all my love of the alpine region and the knowledge gained from my horse riding treks into the story. I hope the reader gets an amazing sense of the beauty of the Victorian Alps and the joy I feel when I leave civilisation behind on the back of a horse, seeing our gorgeous bush in a way that our early settlers did (although obviously not as hard as they had it!) I also hope they find Nat and Reid’s journeys home to discover themselves and each other, as fascinating and visceral as the setting.
A Coalcliff Stud novel—His beloved home is under threat, and with it the beautiful, haunted woman he’s never been able to forget …
X-Treme TV sports star Reid Stratton has everything—until his best friend falls to his death on a climb while shooting their show. In the fierce media fallout, Reid begins to question everything about himself. Crippled by a new fear of climbing, Reid returns to CoalCliff Stud, his family’s horse farm, to recover.
Single mother Natalia Robinson is determined to start afresh, away from the shadow of her past. A job at CoalCliff Stud where she lived as a child is the perfect opportunity to live the quiet life she always wanted. But she is unprepared to see Reid, and is even more unprepared for the passion that still burns between them.
But after a series of menacing events threaten the new home she is trying to build, Nat realises that Reid is the only person she can rely on to keep her and her daughter safe. Together, Reid and Nat must face the pasts that haunt them if they are to survive the present and forge a future of hope.
Discover more about Australasian rural authors at our Australian & NZ Rural Fiction website!