This blogging world often develops into a full circle at times. My latest author interview is with Western Australian rural romance author Fiona Palmer, who funnily enough went to the same rural high school as myself!
Fiona has written many books, eight of them in fact, in conjunction with working on a local farm, being a mother to two children and living the author life in rural Western Australia.
Today I am sharing Fiona’s thoughts on her writing experiences so far.
Five minutes with…..author Fiona Palmer
As a farmer’s daughter, when I read your books, I am often transported back to my childhood, especially with Heart of Gold. (My birthday is in August, which was always at shearing time on our family farm)
How important is it you to maintain an accurate representation of the rural life to your readers?
It’s very important for me because I have grown up with it and still live this life. My books probably go more in depth into the real running of farms, the machinery, the real names and uses than any other rural books out there. I want it to be factual, and for the most part they are except for the fictional characters I’ve put on these farms. I use real life experiences and events for my stories. My own or my friends, or stories heard from other farmers. To me it’s the part that makes my books relatable and believable. I also hope that I am giving a city reader, who may not have been to a farm, the experience and also details necessary for them to understand what it’s like. Sometimes I might even go into too much detail (as my publishers didn’t understand what ‘fly blown’ meant and asked me to elaborate!!!).
Can you share your writing process with us? eg, are you an early bird, write at night, write at smoko? Do you have any mentors or fellow writers who help support you?
I have a great network of writing friends, especially Rachael Johns, who helps with support and understanding. I’m quite isolated but Rach is only an email away and she knows exactly what writing a book is like and the publishing side of it. We help each other through the tough times and celebrate the great times. I have a very spasmodic writing process, especially now that I work on a farm when I can. When I have a book due, I start writing it 4 months before the due date and try to get 10k words done a week. If I have things on like kids, appointments, meetings, events, work…that interrupt my word count then I have to make that up the following week. If it means staying up later then I do that. During harvest and seeding I don’t write at all, long 14hr days at work prevent my brain from functioning when I get home. So I write in between those big events. Both my kids are at boarding school now, which frees up a little more uninterrupted time. But back when they were little, I used to snatch an hour here or there and I just had to be prepared to be interrupted. Which also meant I had to be quick to get into my story to make the most of what little time I had. (It took 3 years to write that first book with two little babies!!) Now its down to 3 months.
Which of your books do you most identify with or loved writing the most & why?
I guess I’d have to say my first book because it was the love of my rural lifestyle, the inspiration I get from living out here and our rustic way of life that led me to put fingers to the keyboard. That first book The Family Farm was so much of me and my life, from my experiences to my dreams, all played out with my characters. It’s what started the ball rolling on this amazing career I now have. If I didn’t dream up such a story and had the drive to ‘just write it down’ then I wouldn’t be here today.
What book do you wish you had written?
Harry Potter. I love those books and when I was a teachers aid and the teacher started reading them to the kids I was so taken by it I went out and got it so I could finish it asap. It ignited my imagination and my love for reading again. I love the magic of it all. I think it started my creative juices flowing and maybe that’s where the story grew for my own stories.
Can you share your number one writing tip or organisational tip for aspiring writers? (apart from “Just Write”)
I think if you feel passionate about your story, that you believe in it then its up to you to write it. Don’t think about if anyone with like it, or worry it will never be good enough. Start off writing it for you. Write what you want, what you know and what you love. That’s what I did and many other writers have done. You can’t procrastinate over what you’ve written, get it down first and then you can fix it, change it, improve it. The editing process where a lot of the magic happens, it polishes a book til it shines so don’t expect what you write to shine straight away. Be kind to yourself and just enjoy the story you write.
How do you keep your stories fresh and relatable to your readers after writing many books?
Good question. It’s something we do worry about. But I believe if you create a story with certain characters then they become their own fresh people with something to tell. I usually get an idea, like a Vietnam Vet thread, or a story from the newspaper that spikes my interest and I will run with it. The characters you create are the centrepiece for the story. They need to have their own traits and quirks that set them apart from any others. It’s what keeps us on our toes to try and make interesting fresh stories for the readers.
Can you share a photo and story of your dog? I am assuming from your books you prefer kelpies and blue heelers over border collies? There are quite a few writers who have dogs as company to their words. There is even a hashtag on Instagram #writerswithdogs
My love of Kelpies came from the very first dog we got. Gidget was free and only very young, probably too young to leave her mum. But she was very smart and adorable. She lived to the ripe age of 18 and probably would have lived longer but she was run over five years earlier fracturing her pelvis in two places so towards the end she couldn’t walk, was going blind and deaf and we decided to put her to rest after she got quite sick. Since then it’s always been black and tan’s with the white accents that steal my heart. But I do love all dogs. They just love you unconditionally. (The photo is of our dog Pippa and her friend Silvie sleeping on the couch after the kids have gone back to school!) So very spoilt they are!
Tell us about your next book/project….
My next book is called Secrets between Friends and its set in Perth. It’s not a rural book so I’m stretching my wings here and writing a Women’s Fiction book about three friends who go on a boat cruise from Fremantle to Albany on a reunion. Even though they are best of friends they are all keeping little secrets and some big secrets from each other and even themselves. It’s a journey on self discovery, hopes and dreams, betrayal and shocks. Hopefully it’s a story that will connect with everyone and I had a blast writing it. I have lived in Perth so I got to draw on that part of my life for this story and I got to showcase a bit of Albany while I was at it.
A bit more about Fiona..
I try to stay active on Instagram and Facebook, with probably far too many dog photos and sunrise/sunsets, and keep everyone up to day with my whereabouts with talks, book signings and new releases. I also have a website www.fionapalmer.com where you can buy signed copies of my books.
Thanks for having me Lisa! We went to the same high school and if you read The Family Farm my main character went to school there also but she was a hostel kid, like me.
You can find more about Fiona’s books here and you can buy all eight of Fiona’s books for $130 (signed & includes postage) for a short time. Fiona is on Facebook here , Twitter here and Instagram here.