A Conversation with Fiona Palmer


Fiona, congratulations on the release of The Sunnyvale GirlsYou’ve got several novels under your belt now, so I have to ask: do you still feel the same buzz of excitement now as you did when you first started writing? Oh for sure. The build up to release day is always filled with excitement (and nerves). I think seeing the cover for the first time and then when I’m finally holding the book are the stand out moments. Because I live in the country, the nearest bookshop is 3 hours away, so seeing in shops is something I miss out on most times. But if I happen to be in the city and can see it on display, then this is a real ‘slap me’ moment. It never gets old. Where did your love of storytelling come from and when did you decide to try your hand at writing a novel? It’s funny, because I’m not sure where it came from. I didn’t intend to be a writer but I felt so strongly about my country lifestyle. I absolutely love it with a passion and inspiration I get from harvest, spring wildflowers, and gatherings around bonfire…etc, well it was the main factor why I started to create a story in my mind. I also love my movies and guess I created my own rural story when I was at the busiest point in my life. In 2005 I was working full time running the local shop, with a one year old and a new baby. Creating The Family Farm was my escape, as I didn’t have time to read. Then it grew to a point I had to write it down. I caught the bug and haven’t looked back since. Are you comfortable with your categorization as a ‘rural romance’ author? Or do you just write the story you want to tell and leave it to your readers and booksellers to categorize your work? I’m happy with the ‘rural romance’ title because I love writing rural with romance. All my books have romance, even my YA stories. If it helps readers find my stories, more the better. Who are your greatest writing influences? I wasn’t a big reader in my youth except for my mum’s Danielle Steel books. It wasn’t until I was a teachers aid (age 22) listening to Harry Potter did I dive back into books. So, I guess I have JK Rowling to thank for that. And Rachael Treasure’s Jillaroo was the first rural book I read, which encouraged me to send my manuscript to Penguin. What was your inspiration for The Sunnyvale Girls? Growing up listening to the older generation from my rural area talk about the Italian prisoners of war is what inspired me in the beginning. I then told my friend I wanted to write a book based on this and she told me about Giulio Mosca. He was on their farm during WW2 and had built their house. Just seeing Giulio’s photos and hearing about him was amazing. I travelled to Italy to find him and found his family which is something I’ll never forget.  He was just one Italian POW out of thousands. Are you still able to immerse yourself in a good book despite being engaged with writing your own? If so, what’re you reading now? Yes, I usually have books on the go while writing. I try to keep away from rural books and usually read YA as I love this genre. I’ve just finished reading The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty and now starting The French Prize by Cathryn Hein. Where and where do you like to read? At the moment I’m only able to find time to read in bed just before I go to sleep. But if I didn’t have a deadline looming I’d be outside sitting in my patio in the gorgeous spring sunshine. Tell us about your favorite book of the year. Liane’s book was great, although the ending didn’t wrap enough things up. I felt like Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. I was tempted to chase Liane up and ask her what happened to some of the characters. I did love Dinner at Rose’s by Danielle Hawkins as I had plenty of smiles and tears.

Fiona was speaking to Simon McDonald.