Palmer aims to bridge the divide

Headshot of Sarah Ison
Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

In the heart of WA’s Wheatbelt region, Fiona Palmer has seen another annual harvest, and with it the release of her latest novel Secrets Between Friends.

Taking a break from the fields, Palmer is set to speak at Capel Library on Tuesday, September 12, where she will launch her book and share her experiences leading up to its publication.

Born and raised in the four-house town of Pingaring, Palmer admits she’s never felt lonely in the isolated region she calls home.

“My family own two houses down there, so we make up half the town,” she joked.

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“I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all though, I find inspiration living out here and it’s pretty much how my writing began in the first place — writing about these experiences and our life.”

While Palmer’s previous novels drew directly from these sun-scorched days spent in rural WA, Secrets Between Friends shifts in setting to the coastal South West and beyond.

Opening in the port town of Albany, Secrets Between Friends follows three best mates setting out to recreate a school trip from decades ago. Instead of rediscovering old memories, however, the three women instead find a gulf of secrets lying between them as they embark on a luxury cruise.

Palmer shared how important this choice of setting was to the book, emphasising how she used it to drive much of the plot.

“Being stuck on a boat, these characters can’t escape each other and hide, so they’re forced to deal with their issues,” she said.

“The ship having port in Albany is also a great showcase of a part of WA that I love.”

Only conceived in July of last year, Palmer says the journey to completing the novel started with a phone call from fellow author Rachel Johns.

“She wanted to go on a boat cruise and we thought a three-day cruise would be fun,” she said.

“Before I even got on the cruise, I already had an idea, a synopsis and the first few chapters fleshed out, but the experience provided great research I couldn’t get back home.”

As in all Palmer novels, Secrets Between Friends hinges on friendship, family and romance, following women of character.

“The heart of my books are the strong female leads,” Palmer said.

“They’re developed from experience, from the women I’ve grown up with out in the country and also from the kind of woman I strive to be.”

Moving from rural fiction to broader women’s fiction, Palmer said she hoped her books would bridge divides across the country.

“I use my books as a way to close the divide between city and country, and to bring to light the hardships out here,” she said.

“Really it’s just about giving people an understanding and to share and involve everyone in the regional experience.”

Palmer will be at the Capel Library on Tuesday from 6.30pm.

Entry to this event is free.

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