Fiona Palmer, author of The Sunburnt Country, answers Nine Naughty Questions

by |March 1, 2013

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona Palmer

author of The Sunburnt Country, The Road Home, Heart of Gold and The Family Farm

Nine Naughty Questions


1. I wonder, is a Romance writer born or made? Please tell us little about your life before publication.

Hmm, you know I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both? I think it was reading romance books at a young age that gave me the bug, but then again maybe it was just me, I could have been predestined to love romance.

My life before publication, well it was a simple country one, where my kids and work took up most of my time. Now the computer and my characters are my best friends. (I do have real ones, it’s just hard to see them as much with the distances out here.) I grew up and now live in my tiny five house town, and because it’s so small you find yourself on every volunteer list. Not that I mind but out here you don’t just get to do a secretary job for a few years. Oh no! The last lady I took over from had done it for 17 years, so I expect I’m in for the long haul. And that’s just one position I have. But in such a small community it’s needed and just what you have to do. Being an author doesn’t change that at all either.

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of Romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why Romance Readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

Yes, I think so. It’s a real emotional journey, you try to connect with your readers, and that takes a lot of personal stuff. I do get embarrassed when people I know read my work, well I used to. I think now that I’m published and the books are selling well I don’t cringe as much. But I do get emotional. On the outside, I think I come across as strong and impenetrable but on the inside, it’s a whole different story. (I’m rather a softy and can tear up at the simplest things.) Now, I’ve never been good with the spoken word, can’t seem to express how I feel, yet when I write it’s a whole different experience. I can pour my heart out to my computer, or in a letter, yet when it comes to my mouth…nothing comes out. So I wonder if this is why I can fill my books with so much passion and heart as it’s a form of release?

3. Please tell us about your latest novel…

My latest novel is about Jonelle Baxter, a 26-year-old mechanic from the small rural town of Bundara. Her town is struggling through a drought, which affects not only her business but her friends and family around her. And things go from bad to worse when a new city bank manager comes to town. Daniel Tyler has his hands full as he tries to rein in the spiraling debts of Bundara.

Click here to buy The Sunburnt Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Jonelle Baxter is a young woman in a man’s world – a tough, hardworking motor mechanic from an idyllic country family. But lately things in her perfect life have been changing, and her workshop isn’t the only local business that’s struggling.

Daniel Tyler is new in town, posted from the city to manage the community bank. As he tries to rein in the spiralling debts of Bundara, he uncovers all sorts of personal dramas and challenges.

The last thing Jonny and Dan need is an unwanted attraction to each other. She has enough problems just keeping her livelihood going and he’s fighting pressures that stretch all the way to Perth. It’s going to take more than a good drop of rain to break the drought and bring change in love and in life.

A moving and heartwarming story about the beauty that’s found in the bush, especially in the most trying of times.

4. Is the life of a published Romance writer… well… Romantic?

Ha ha, no. Didn’t you know that’s why we write romance? So we can get some in our lives! No actually, I can’t complain. I’ve just come back from a romantic weekend with the hubby. We are coming up to our 12th anniversary and it’s certainly getting better with age. But when you have kids, the romance is hard to find sometimes. That’s why taking time out together or even just for yourself is so important.

5. Of all of the Romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the Romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?

Well, when my husband proposed, I got the red roses, the cooked meal, nice set table and a gorgeous ring and that was very special and hard to go past. But I think in my writing I use more of the first sparks of lust/love. Nothing is more electric than that first meeting of eyes or that first kiss you’ve been hanging out to plant on someone. For me, the tension and lead up is just as important and sometimes much more exciting. I can still remember the moment when I went to work and saw my hubby across the road. I still remember what he was wearing, what he looked like. It’s those moments that tend to stay.

6. Sex in Romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can’t see a thing’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a Romance novel?

I think it depends on the author and what they feel comfortable doing. I enjoy reading it because you are with the characters for the whole lead up and then its like, wham, they shut the door on you and you’re missing the bit they have been building up to. It’s like someone steeling your cappuccino you’ve just watched being made to frothy perfection and hiding around the corner and drinking it. You’ve got to at least be able to enjoy it with them. I don’t like to go overboard, and I have my parents who read my work and they soon tell me if I have. They are like my censors. “Darling that part was far too vulgar.”

7. Romance writers are often Romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) Romance Novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

Oh gosh. I guess I would have to start with the first romance book I read, Summer’s End by Danielle Steele when I was in primary school. Julie Garwood’s Ransom was another that I picked up early and every few years I re-read. And Rachael Treasure’s Jillaroo was the first rural book I had read. I had just written my first draft so her book gave me the confidence to get mine out there also. I also love YA, I think it’s young love and that first attraction that hooks me in (also I still think I’m 17 – in my mind at least.) I just finished Storm by Brigid Kemmerer and loved it. And my publisher put me onto Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver, brilliant book on writing (and the only one I have).

8. Paranormal Romance writing is ‘so hot right now’, do you have any thoughts on why?

Oh I am a big fan of this genre. Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy is one of my favourites. One, because her lead character is a strong, determined, gutsy girl. My kind of reading, and so much like my own characters; and because they are so fast-paced. In addition, there is that magic component, or super powers side of it. They are all beautiful and love fiercely.

9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write what you love, what you know and just keep writing. I get Dory’s line from Nemo stuck in my head all the time, but change it to ‘just keep writing, just keep writing…’

Fiona, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy The Sunburnt Country from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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