The book world can be pervaded by a number of trends at any one time. These hot young ideas will rise to the top of the bestseller charts but often come hurtling back to earth in a matter of months.
This is not the case for the genre now known as the ‘rural romance’ (or ‘red dust drama’ if you’re poetic). The rural romance is recognisable via its strong female protagonists who tackle the domestic and social difficulties of life on the land. This includes our heroines’ romantic escapades.
Though this style of romance isn’t necessarily new to those familiar with traditional romance, in recent years the combination of talented Australian authors and eager audience of readers have nudged it toward the commercial fiction landscape.
One author leading this popular genre is Fiona Palmer, who has just released her 3rd novel, The Road Home. A native of country Western Australia, Fiona is carving out a name for herself as a writer of sensitive and emotional country drama. We recently spoke to Fiona about the emergence of the rural romance and her own work:
- Could you tell us why you think rural romance is resonating so strongly with readers at the moment?
Well I’m not sure for others but the reason I read rural romance is for the scenery, the rural way of life, the small communities and the way the characters speak. I get it, I understand it, it’s what I live and experience on a daily basis. I personally love that way of life and maybe lots of others feel that way? It could be an escape for them. A way to leave the busy city and travel down a gravel road into the space of the outback.
– The country environment is obviously a very important element of the books. Perhaps with so many of us living in cities, readers are attracted to the very different world of rural Australia?
I believe so. It’s the sunsets, sunrises, the way the dust hangs in the air on a still afternoon or the heat haze shimmering over the top of a ripe yellow crop. These are just some of the things that inspired me to write in the first place, as I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone. And through writing, it’s a great way to be able to bring the bush to those that live in the city and yearn some wide open spaces and county men.
- Is there also a sense of female heroines proving themselves on a land traditionally controlled by men ?
Not just on the land. I like my females to prove themselves in anything they do, but yes mainly things that are done by men. It’s more about finding where they belong on their journey, striving to be great at what they can do whether its typically a man’s job or not. It’s having the guts to give it a go.
- Is there ever difficulty in making farm life believable while also creating an entertaining piece of fiction?
Sometimes I’ll want to set my book during a certain time, and I do have to be aware of what season it is. As you can’t harvest in the middle of winter, so I have to think of what aspect of farming can be done during the time I’ve set my book. Some things are flexible as lambing and shearing is dependant on the farmers, so I have leeway with a few things. But I wouldn’t say its ever difficult, as there is always something to be done on a farm.
- I also noticed there seems to be a real sense of fraternity and friendliness between writers within the rural romance niche?
Definitely. Joining the Romance Writers of Australia is the best thing I ever did. I have met so many wonderful, kind and generous ladies and we all stay in contact. I chat quite frequently with Fleur McDonald and Margareta Osborn, and through the wonder of Facebook and Twitter I’m always chatting to many more. We are very supportive of each other, posting new books up and directing our fans to their new books, congratulating each other on our successes and milestones. It has been amazing to meet these women and watch them as their work gets published and riding the excitement with them. It’s like Karma, the more love you put out, the more you get back.
-It’s such a popular type of book at the moment, what do you do to make your own books stand out?
For me, I like to describe the country the best that I can. I want the reader to feel as if they are standing in a paddock watching the most amazing sunset, or smelling the wool in the shearing shed. I also want them to experience life in the country so all my details on farming are as realistic as I can make them. And I try to make my books as unputdownable as possible.
-Do you have any writing influences?
I would say no, as I began to write my story before I had even read a rural story. Hence why I began writing my own. It was after I finished my first book that I found Rachael Treasure and I was hooked. I could say the romance books I read when I was younger have influenced me in that I’m now addicted to that genre. I’ll read any genre, suspense, crime, paranormal etc as long as it has a romance thread through it. I just love a happy ending.
The Road Home is available now.