GUEST BLOG: My Inspiration for The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer

My latest release, The Sunnyvale Girls, has real life past and present moments weaved into it. My inspiration for this story originated from the Italian prisoners of war stationed on farms in our wheat belt area in rural Western Australia. One of my friends and her family told me about Giulio Mosca, who was on their farm Sunnyvale, during the war. Hearing about Giulio and his house building skills I set out to learn more.


This involved searching the archives for his prisoner records, which I found and requested. It was amazing to see these, and my friend’s farm written on the registered employers form. We learned so much about Giulio, where he was captured, where he went, where he was born and details about his father and also the ship he went home on. I couldn’t find out any more online. I had to visit Italy and search in person. A trip to Italy. Why not? So I packed my bags and went on a three week adventure to Italy visiting Venice, Rome, Montone, Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Naples, Pompeii….But the main stop was a little town of Chiaravalle in the province of Ancona, in the Marche region.


Through sheer luck (and maybe the foresight to write down Italian words for ‘looking for the council, shire, records office’) we bumbled our way through the streets and found the building that looked like the shire office after directions from two lovely Italian ladies, who spoke no English. Inside this building we came across a policeman, Mimmo, who spoke enough English to understand (with the help of the documents and translations I had) what we were after. Mimmo took us to a nearby building and through a lengthy discussion with a lady, who didn’t want to give out personal information; we ended up with a name and number. Thank God Mimmo went into bat for us. We were told Giulio’s daughters didn’t speak English, so he’d given us the granddaughter’s number. We thanked him and headed off down the street to pay some more money into our parking meter. Then minutes later Mimmo found us again and introduced us to Giulio’s daughters, who he must have called earlier, and who came down to meet us. Here we are in the street. There were hugs and tears and conversation where we had absolutely no idea what either one was saying.


Through their English speaking daughter Sylvia, we organised a lunch date and they came and visited us in Montone, where we were staying. Sadly we learnt Giulio passed away over twenty years ago from cancer. During our lunch, poor Sylvia had two conversations going trying to translate for both sides. But it was wonderful to share the stories of Giulio and to see the same photo’s he’d kept from Australia. His daughters said he never talked about the war times, except to say he’d liked being on Sunnyvale. It was a trip to remember and I came home with so much to write about. The Sunnyvale Girls is a book that will always hold a special place in my heart and I’m just so honored to have met Giulio’s family.


Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

9781921901454The Sunnyvale Girls

by Fiona Palmer

Three generations of Stewart women share a deep connection to their family farm, but a secret from the past threatens to tear them apart.

Widowed matriarch Maggie remembers a time when the Italian prisoners of war came to work on their land, changing her heart and her home forever. Single mum Toni has been tied to the place for as long as she can recall, although farming was never her dream. And Flick is as passionate about the farm as a young girl could be, despite the limited opportunities for love.

When a letter from 1946 is unearthed in an old cottage on the property, the Sunnyvale girls find themselves on a journey deep into their own hearts and all the way across the world to Italy. Their quest to solve a mystery leads to incredible discoveries about each other, and about themselves.

Grab a copy of Fiona Palmer’s The Sunnyvale Girls here

2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Australian Romance Author Showcase with…Fiona Palmer

As part of Australian Romance Month, Romance Specialist Haylee Nash will be interviewing one Australian Romance author per day. Much like a beauty pageant, each author will be using their charm, wit and grace (and the power of social media) to take home the Booktopia Romance Bestseller crown. Booktopia invites bestselling author of rural romance Fiona Palmer to the stage.

1. Describe the perfect date.
Oh this may sound really boring but for me any date is perfect without the following three things: kids, cleaning, cooking. Continue reading

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

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

Countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist: 40-31 as voted by you

Welcome to day two of the unveiling of Australia’s Favourite Novelist, as voted by you. Here’s the story so far:

50. Peter Temple
49. Jay Kristoff
48. Nikki Gemmell
47. Charlotte Wood
46. Andy Griffiths
45. Di Morrissey
44. Christina Stead
43. Christos Tsiolkas
42. Rachael Treasure
41. Morris Gleitzman

Don’t forget to pencil in January 25th as a big day on the calender as we celebrate the Australia Day weekend in style with the announcement of Australia’s top 10 Favourite Novelists, as well as the launch of our Australian Stories Initiative. There will also be loads of discounts and freebies on offer for the weekend.

But here we are. The countdown continues, 40-31 as voted by you.

40. Fleur Mcdonald

Fleur McDonald grew up in Orrorroo, South Australia but completed her secondary education in Adelaide.

After school she spent a couple of years jillarooing in South Australia and Western Australia.

Our Pick

Our Pick

Fleur lives with her husband and two children on a station near Esperance in Western Australia. She is highly involved in the daily management of their 8000 acres.

She is the author of the bestselling novels Red Dust, Blue Skies and Purple Roads.

Click here to go to Fleur Mcdonald’s author page

39. Jackie French

Jackie French’s writing career spans sixteen years, 42 wombats, 120 books for kids and adults, translations into nineteen languages, and slightly more awards than wombats, both in Australia and overseas.

Our Pick

Her books range from provocative historical fiction such as Hitler’s Daughter and They Came on Viking Ships to the hilarious international bestseller, Diary of a Wombat with Bruce Whatley, as well as many nonfiction titles such as The Fascinating History of Your Lunch, and To the Moon and Back (with Bryan Sullivan), the history of Australia’s Honeysuckle Creek and man’s journey to the moon.

In 2000, Hitler’s Daughter was awarded the CBC Younger Readers’ Award. To the Moon and Back won the Eve Pownall Award in 2005. Macbeth and Son, and Josephine Wants to Dance were both shortlisted for the 2007 CBC Awards.

Click here to go to Jackie French’s author page

38. Colin Thiele

Colin Milton Thiele (1920 –  2006) was renowned for his award-winning children’s fiction, most notably the novels Storm Boy, Blue Fin, the Sun on the Stubble series, and February Dragon.

Our Pick

Our Pick

Thiele wrote more than 100 books, which often described life in rural Australia, particularly the Eudunda, Barossa Valley, and Murray River/Coorong regions of South Australia. Several of his books have been made into films or television series.

In 1977 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the second highest level of the order, for his services to literature and education.

Click here to go to Colin Thiele’s author page

37. Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough was born in western New South Wales in 1937. A neuroscientist by training, she worked in various Sydney and English hospitals before settling into ten years of research and teaching in the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in the USA.

Our Pick

Our Pick

In 1974 her first novel, Tim, was published in New York, followed by the bestselling The Thorn Birds in 1977 and a string of successful novels, including the acclaimed Masters of Rome series.

In 1980 she settled in Norfolk Island, where she lives with her husband, Ric Robinson, and a cat named Shady.

Click here to go to Colleen McCullough’s author page

36. Fiona Palmer

Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth.

She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance.

Our Pick

Our Pick

She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has followed on from its success with two more novels Heart of Gold and The Road Home.

Click here to go to Fiona Palmer’s author page

35. Patrick White

Patrick White was born in England in 1912 and taken to Australia, where his father owned a sheep farm, when he was six months old. He was educated in England and served in the RAF, before returning to Australia after World War II.

Happy Valley, White’s first novel, is set in a small country town in the Snowy Mountains and is based on his experiences in the early 1930s as a jackaroo at Bolaro, near Adaminaby in south-eastern New South Wales.

Our Pick

White went on to publish twelve further novels (one posthumously), three short-story collections and eight plays. His novels include The Aunt’s Story and Voss, which won the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award, The Eye of the Storm and The Twyborn Affair.

He was the first Australian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1973, and is considered one of the foremost novelists of the twentieth century.

Click here to go to Patrick White’s author page

34. David Malouf

David Malouf is the author of ten novels and six volumes of poetry.

His novel The Great World was awarded both the prestigious Commonwealth Prize and the Prix Femina Estranger. Remembering Babylon was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Our Pick

He has also received the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He won the inaugural Australia-Asia Literary Award in 2008

He has lived in England and Tuscany however for the past three decades most of his time has been spent in Sydney.

Click here to go to David Malouf’s author page

33. Tara Moss

Tara Moss is the author of the bestselling crime novels Fetish, Split, Covet, Hit and Siren. Her novels have been published in seventeen countries in eleven languages, and have earned critical acclaim around the world.

Her non-fiction writing has appeared in The Australian Literary Review, Vogue, ELLE, The Australian Women’s Weekly, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, among other publications.

Our Pick

Moss hosted Natgeo Presents and the international crime documentary series Tara Moss Investigates on the National Geographic Channel, and has participated as a guest and panelist on numerous popular TV programs. She has also conducted hundreds of talks at literary festivals, schools, universities and corporate events.

Click here to go to Tara Moss’ author page

32. Paul Jennings

The Paul Jennings phenomenon began with the publication of Unreal! in 1985. Since then, readers all around the world have devoured his books.

Paul Jennings has written over one hundred stories and has been voted ‘favourite author’ over forty times by children in Australia, winning every children’s choice award.

Our Pick

The top-rating TV series Round the Twist and Driven Crazy are based on a selection of his enormously popular short-story collections such as Unseen! which was awarded the 1999 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Children’s Book.

In 1995 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to children’s literature and was awarded the prestigious Dromkeen Medal in 2001. Paul has sold more than 8 million books worldwide.

Click here to go to Paul Jenning’s author page

31. Thomas Keneally

Keneally was known as “Mick” until 1964 but began using the name Thomas when he started publishing, after advice from his publisher to use what was really his first name. He is most famous for his Schindler’s Ark (later republished as Schindler’s List), which won the Booker Prize and is the basis of the film Schindler’s List.

Our Pick

Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.

In 1983 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In March 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gave an autographed copy of Keneally’s biography Lincoln to President Barack Obama as a state gift.

Click here to go to Thomas Keneally’s author page

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow at midday as we continue to countdown to Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

Fleur McDonald, author Blue Skies and Red Dust, stops to chat.

The Booktopia Book Guru chats with

Fleur McDonald

author Blue Skies and Red Dust


1. Congratulations on the success of both Red Dust and Blue Skies. What is next for Fleur McDonald?

Thank you! I’ve just handed in Purple Roads, so I’m waiting for (and hiding from) the edits! But I must admit I love the editing process. All the hard work of the storyline is done and it’s just a matter of tweaking everything. There’s always heaps of modifications and adjusting, which means when I get the MS back, there’s loads of red pen…

I don’t like red pen.

Other than that, I’m thinking about Silver Gums, which is due out in 2013. As my ten year old son said to me a few days Continue reading

Fiona Palmer, author of Heart of Gold, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona Palmer

author of The Family Farm and now
Heart of Gold

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born and raised in Pingaring in Western Australia, 350km south east from Perth. Back then we had a primary school, I had two other kids in my year, but it closed in 1998. In year eight, I went off to boarding school in Narrogin, which was not far from the speedway track where I started racing at 16. I left school after year eleven…I had no academic ambitions and was better at physical work. I went off to College in Perth for a six months secretarial course. The one job I swore I’d never do as I’d be stuck inside…but now I’m so thankful I did as I learnt to touch type quite fast. This lead to a job at Continue reading


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