June 2009

Fiona Palmer

Fiona Palmer, who lives in a rural West Australian town, has just released her debut novel The Family Farm. She is married with two children and has been a speedway driver.

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  1. 1. What inspired you to write The Family Farm?

    My surroundings and our way of life. Just the passion I have for this tiny place where I live. I just wanted to tell a yarn.

  2. 2. When did you first decide to write a book and how hard was the writing process?

    About four years ago I started and it was easy to write. It was all pre-planned in my head like a movie and it just flowed out. I found the hardest thing was making the time to sit and type - in amongst work, kids, housework!! If I ever got stuck I'd just go for a walk around the back paddock and by the time I'd get back I'd have the next chapter planned and ready to go. The mentorship I won (with the Australian Society of Authors) helped me to format the manuscript properly and helped with that side of things.

  3. 3. How did you go about getting published?

    Well I went straight to Penguin, as I was a huge fan of Rachael Treasure's, with a letter saying I wrote similar to her and thought they'd be interested, even though I didn't have an agent. The next thing I got was an email requesting the full manuscript. That's my lucky slush pile story!

  4. 4. Why did you base the story around your local area Pingaring, rather than choosing a made-up town?

    Just shows how much I love my hometown. Why make up a town when I was living in a perfect little one.

  5. 5. Describe Pingaring for those who've never been there (let's face it, that'd be most of your readers!)

    There are five houses, one of which is mine, a shop, CWA and a hall in the main street. We have a closed-down school which we now use as a community centre, and tennis and golf club. Plenty of wide open space!

  6. 6. What's it like living in a place where everybody knows everything about each other?

    Good and bad. Nothing ever stays quiet - the grapevine works a treat. But everyone is still there to help each other. It's almost like a large family. I work in the local shop two days a week, I ran it with my mum for three years (that's when I wrote The Family Farm) and I love it. I know everyone and get to say hello and have a chat, it's a great job.

  7. 7. How similar are you to your character Izzy?

    There are definitely parts of me in Izzy. I like to have a go at things blokes do and I enjoy a good laugh and I'm out of my comfort zone in a city. Izzy could be any country girl. Hopefully she's likeable, she's giving, helpful and dedicated.

  8. 8. Will any of the locals recognise themselves in the book?

    I should think not as none have been written in. But there are probably likenesses in some.

  9. 9. What was your life like growing up around farms? I believe you named Izzy's farm Gumlea after your aunt and uncle's place?

    I loved growing up here. I feel as if I had the best childhood. I would spend every alternate weekend out on Gumlea with my cousins driving cars and riding bikes. Taking turns to drive the loader as we picked rocks and collected wood for bonfires. There was always something to do. I even loved sheep work, it was better than being inside.

  10. 10. Can you ever imagine not living in the country?

    No. I lived in Perth for six months whilst at college and it was hard. Couldn't wait to come back home again. I do like going to the city, it's just after a few days I really look forward to going back home.

  11. 11. Is opposition to women working on farms something you have experienced or seen?

    No, not first hand. There are actually a few female farm hands working in our area. My husband works for CBH outloading and storing of the grain and my dad's a contractor. The only hands-on I get is if I go and help my uncle shift machinery from one side of his farm to another or taking the kids for rides in the header or tractor. We go for rides in their pop's truck at harvest. Before I had my kids I used to drive a tractor at seeding time for a local farmer, and did some roustabouting and worked on the crutching cradle.

  12. 12. What about the dangers of working on the land?

    Anything can be dangerous if not done properly or carefully. There is lots of heavy machinery and big tools needed to run farms so there are always possible accidents, but you could get hit by a bus too.

  13. 13. Tell us about your speedway racing career.

    I got into it at 16. Third-generation speedway driver, so it was in the blood. I was driving a homemade go-cart at the age of three. So I loved racing and got to race for seven years before I stopped when I was pregnant with my first child. I was club champion in my division in 2001 and went in a State title. I was the only girl and loved it but only made it to the second heat due to a bent steering arm. But my dad still races and I sometimes am his pit crew. The only downside is it's very expensive if you want to be competitive. My car was a cheapie but I still had fun.

  14. 14. How has Rachel Treasure (author of The Rouseabout and Jillaroo) inspired you?

    Well she's opened the door for country books, it's like she wrote just what I wanted to read. So when I read her first book I knew straight away that I'd have a chance at getting mine published. Rachael's a great person who's so down to earth.

  15. 15. What books do you enjoy reading?

    I read through the Twilight books, Harry Potter books and then anything that we read at our local book club. We just read Water for Elephants (by Sara Gruen) and it was brilliant. I will read most things, as long as it's engaging.

  16. 16. How did it feel to hold your published book in your hands for the first time?

    Weird! It was a very bizarre feeling, but I had a smile on my face from ear to ear.

  17. 17. What message do you hope readers will take from your book?

    Do what you want to do, it's your life, take control and make the changes. Never give up.

  18. 18. What are you working on now?

    The next book is about a female roustabout who learns to shear and eventually starts a shearing school. It will take you into the world of shearing sheds, clean shearing competitions with romance thrown in.

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