Western Australian novelist Fiona Palmer is one of Australia’s most popular writers of rural romance, with heartfelt stories featuring characters we’d like to get to know in real life.
Fiona grew up in the small Wheatbelt town of Pingaring, where she spent weekends on a farm run by her aunty and uncle and attended the local primary school before boarding at Narrogin Residential College for her secondary school years.
After leaving school, Fiona did odd jobs, including rouseabouting, tractor driving and working on the Co-operative Bulk Handling grain bins, where she met her husband-to-be. At secretarial college, Fiona learnt how to type — fast — and she says this has come in handy when typing up long stories. She worked as a secretary at the Shire of Lake Grace and as a Teachers’ Assistant, before marrying and having two children, and for seven years was a speedway driver.
While running the local shop in Pingaring with her Mum, Fiona began writing down a story that was “roaming around” in her head, and which became her first book, The Family Farm.
Fiona’s new novel, Secrets Between Friends (Hachette Australia), is a departure from the usual rural setting of her first eight novels. Instead, it is set on the Western Australian coastline and is about three friends who embark on a luxury cruise, where long-held secrets threaten their friendship.
In this guest post on Shelf Aware, Fiona reveals some of her favourite authors and books, and gives us a glimpse of some of her bookshelves.
Q. Fiona, how would you describe the work that you do and how you do it?
I try to write a book a year and this is usually done between seeding and harvest. So in about 3-4 months I try to write the first draft and I aim for 10k a week. A bit of juggling goes on as usually in this time I will have a new book release in September so I’m doing blogs, social media, book events and tours as well as family things.
Q. What can you tell us about your new book?
A. Secrets Between Friends is about three friends, plus Peter, who go on a reunion cruise. It’s not all smooth sailing as they soon find out — they are keeping secrets from each other and also themselves. And they have nowhere to run! So they have to confront these issues. It’s a story of romance, family dynamics and friendship.
Q. Where are the main bookcases in your home or office? Do you also keep books in other places at home (or elsewhere)?
A. The main ones are in our office as my husband didn’t like my books all over the house, he wanted them in one spot. So they are mostly in the office but I’m now spreading to the kids’ bookshelf in the games room and soon I’m actually going to move them all down to our community centre (which is our old primary school that closed down in 1998) and put my books in the old library room for the community to borrow. It should please the husband and give something back to the community, who mostly come to me for a book anyway. I will keep all my author signed ones from my friends and favourite authors at home though. I do love to look at them.
Q. How are your books organised/arranged?
A. In genre. I have my own from my first to my latest and the ones I buy are grouped in a rural section, YA and other. There is also a section that is a mix which is ‘my to be read’ pile.
Q. What sorts of books predominate?
A. I would say romance. I have romance in just about all the genres! Then its rural fiction and most of these ones are signed by my author friends so they are very special. YA is my next biggest.
Q. Describe your favourite reading place.
A. At the moment it’s in my bed. It seems the only time I have left to read is just before I go to sleep. Otherwise it’s when I’m on holidays at the beach that I power through a heap of books as that’s my special time. Or if I’m not ahead of schedule I will read by the fire at night after dinner. I don’t find time to read as much as I’d like.
Q. What book/s are you reading right now? Why did you choose that book/those books and what do you think of it/them so far?
A. I’m reading Rachael John’s ARC of The Greatest Gift as she sent it to me and I’m loving it. Rach and I write quite similarly, so her books are what I love to read, as we tend to write what we love. Plus it’s nice to read a book before it’s even out in the shops.
Q. What are your favourite books and/or who are your favourite authors?
A. I love series, mainly because they last longer. Sarah J Mass, I’m a big fan of, and I loved Harry Potter. Also the Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. Then there are books I love to read from Tony Park to Liane Moriarty to the latest women’s fiction. My favourites tend to change each year as I read.
Q. In the event of an emergency, if you could save just three books from your collection, which books would they be – and why would you choose them?
A. Julie Garwood’s book Ransom. Because I ended up with this hardcover copy many many years ago before I had any books and I found myself re-reading it every year. I now don’t have the time to read it anymore but I’d love to revisit it because I knew I enjoyed it. Next would be Harry Potter, maybe the first one, just so I can stay familiar with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Besides I look like Hagrid when I brush my curls. It’s hilarious. And last would be Rachael Treasure’s book Jillaroo as it was this book that gave me the confidence to send my first book off to Penguin which then lead to a contract and a career as a writer.
Q. If you could sit down for afternoon tea with your three favourite characters or authors, who would they be, what would you serve them, and what would like to talk to them about?
A. Oh, interesting. Jack West Jnr from Matthew Reilly’s books because he sounds awesome. I like Indiana Jones and I reckon Jack would have some stories to tell! Plus who doesn’t love a man who can get you out of a jam and save the world.
I’d love to chat to Liane Moriarty and ask her just how she does it!!! The Husband’s Secret was so well crafted. Lastly I would like to have coffee and Tim Tams with Rowan Whitehorn from the Throne of Glass series because…well he is a Fae Prince warrior. That is something I’d love to see in the flesh!
Find out more about Fiona Palmer here.
You can purchase Secrets Between Friends here.