Today I’m excited to welcome Aussie rural author Fiona Palmer to my blog. In celebration of her latest release, The Sunnyvale Girls (which is out in stores today – run out and buy a copy!) the lovely people at Penguin Australia arranged for me to be able to ask Fiona some questions on life and writing. Check back in later today for my review of The Sunnyvale Girls.
Q1. Hi Fiona and welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To get started – what was the road to publication like for you?
It was a quick one. Writing my first story The Family Farm took three years in-between working and have two kids. But once I had the manuscript polished enough I sent the first three chapters to Penguin. Not long after I had a requestion for the whole manuscript, then an email from the publisher who loved it. I didn’t realise how amazingly fast that was until I talked to other authors. I was in the right place at the right time.
Q2. Share a little of your writing routine: do you have a favourite place to write (such as a study or café) and is there anything you consider essential to the creative process such as coffee or music?
Gosh, I’m so boring when it comes to writing. I get the kids off to school and then head into our office. It’s your average cluttered shared space, one of those ‘everything’ rooms where stuff that doesn’t have a home go. I do like a coffee or chocolate when I have a mental block. (Not sure it works but I’ll keep trying it) And I love music playing in the background, it can really help me get into the moment and focus. Sometimes the songs slide on past without me even hearing them but they are there when it counts.
Q3. Would you consider yourself an extensive plotter of more a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of writer?
Definitely a plotter. I will have the story churning through my mind until I can see the character and what will happen to them. Once I’m happy with this rough synopsis I type it out (3–5pages) and it becomes my guide. Sometimes I can go off in different areas, so I don’t follow the guide down to the letter. As the story grows better ideas can pop up or the characters want to tread a different path and I’m open to that also.
Q4. What motivated you to include the story of Italian prisoners of war located in Australia into The Sunnyvale Girls?
I grew up knowing there had been many Italian POW’s on farms in the area. Some Italian POW’s returned after the war and worked hard until they had their own farms. So that was the initial inspiration that led me down that path. I wanted to write a story about them and connecting it to rural Australia. Then once I learnt about Giulio Mosca, an Italian POW on my friend’s farm, it grew into a big story.
Q5. Like Toni and Flick, you have also visited Italy. Can you share something of that experience?
Oh I loved Italy. I’m ready to go back. It’s a shame I can’t win the competition!! I had many experiences over there that were just amazing. Finding Giulio’s family, driving on the wrong side of the road (literally), getting locked in the Florence train station toilets, seeing the statue of David, the Duomo, living in a medieval village that sat on a hilltop and walking through the farming countryside. Gosh I could rattle on all day and I haven’t even started on the food!
Q6. The Sunnyvale Girls balances both a contemporary story with the life of character Maggie back during the time of the Second World War. Did you find this easy to achieve or were there any difficulties or complications in blending the two into one book?
This was new for me, I’d done flash backs in my previous book but nothing that was in a different era. I loved the challenge in trying to make it authentic and to do that I talked with many of the older generation in my town. All the real little stories they gave me just fitted in so perfect with what I needed for Maggie. Her sections were my favourite to write and at times I found them the easiest.
Q7. You have farming experience yourself and your care of the land and respect for those who work it comes through in all of your books. What do you feel are the greatest challenges currently faced by farmers that people perhaps aren’t that aware of?
The isolation. It’s hard to know if someone is struggling with life if you don’t see them for weeks on end. It’s a tough life, one that people love and that’s why the thought of having to leave seems like the end of the world for some. I can understand that. My town has 5 houses in it and a shop. Even if the shop closes I still don’t want to leave. This is home for me. It is hard when you have to drive for miles just to interact in sports or other activities. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q8. Share 5 of your favourite books and/or authors
- Dinner at Rose’s by Danielle Hawkins
- Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure
- Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
- The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
- Ransom by Julie Garwood
Q9. What do you like to do to relax away from the keyboard?
Watch my favourite TV shows and movies. I love to sit back and relax, let the screen take my mind away. Or reading a book. My two favourites.
Q10. And lastly….what’s next for you?
I’ve just finished the 3rd book in my YA series called The Betrayal. Now I’m getting into my next rural book called The Farmer’s son. I love both genres and love the break it gives me switching between the two.
Thanks so much for your time Fiona. Fiona is currently touring Australia in support of The Sunnyvale Girls and you can check out the dates here and see if she’s coming to a place near you.