Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: March, 2016

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SYNCHRONICITY

You know I’m fond of a little bit of magic: the way love trails through our lives and things sometimes happen right when we need them to; the way connections appear and disappear and reappear as if part of a crazy plan we can’t see; the way sweet coincidences bring a blast of sunshine for no discernable reason at all.

A particularly sweet slip of synchronicity occurred in my little corner of the universe just recently, one that involves a book, a very important book, at least to me – Power Without Glory by Frank Hardy.

I was thirteen when I first read this bestselling page-turner about grubby politics and fist-thumping thuggery, set in Melbourne in the early twentieth century. I read it, as I read so many books, on the floor of my parents’ small but well-stuffed library. Barely out of pigtails, half the shenanigans that unfolded throughout the story went straight over my head, but it switched me on in so many other ways, the debt I owe Power Without Glory is incalculable.

For all that I didn’t understand, this novel fascinated me, shining a bright light on the truths that lurk in the dark halls of power. It sent sparks through my young mind about a diverse bunch of issues – the evil that is gambling, the even greater evil that sends young men to war, as well as the arguments for republicanism, which continue today, with the idea that not every Australian calls England ‘Home’. I related to that last spark: no-one in my own home was interested in toasting the Queen. I could recognise the story of the Irish in this novel as an echo of my own history, too.

And there’s no doubt in my mind that this book is a big reason why my own writing focusses on Australian social history today, and why I am ever mistrustful of the right-wing of the Labor Party. I use a different frame for my own novels, but the driver of my narratives, the fire that stokes my curiosity, springs straight from the engine that Frank Hardy gave me.

So, imagine how thrilled I was about twenty years later, in 2000, when I was an editor at Random House and a copy of Power Without Glory landed on my desk – the same edition as the one I’d read when I was a kid – and I was asked to produce the 50th anniversary edition of it. I squealed with untold thrill. A thrill that would remain untold, too, for no-one in the office could have known of its significance to me, and wouldn’t know, because I couldn’t tell anyone of my secret writing dreams back then.

I held that 50th anniversary copy of Power Without Glory to my heart with silent promises to myself: One day… One day, I will be brave enough to write my own stories.

It would take another four years before I would find the courage to do that, and since then, stories have charged out of me like freight trains. But that’s not the end of this story, of course.

A couple of weeks ago, idling on Facebook, I came across a blog conversation on another writer’s page – it was Sophie Masson chatting with Michael Johnson about his new novel, Noah’s Park, and his past exploits in publishing. Michael mentioned that while a publisher, he bought the paperback rights to Power Without Glory – the very same edition I’d read as a kid.

I laughed out loud with deeper and deeper delight. Michael Johnson happens to be the father of my publisher today, Lou Johnson – Lou, who also happened to be one of my colleagues at Random House back in 2000 when the anniversary edition was published and I was too shy to squeak about anything.

Funny, funny old world. I can’t think of Lou’s dad Michael now without shaking my head in envy and disbelief: you had lunch with Frank Hardy? Really? Really. Just a little snippet of everyday magic.

 

If you’d like to read Power Without Glory, you can get a copy here.

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REFLECTIONS OF YOU
JENNY

Well, hello there and happy Sunday. As promised, here is our very first guest, our first intrepid Reflector, for my Reflections of You series of interviews, putting the spotlight on the loveliness of our everyday, and uncovering the many colours of who we are.

I’m chuffed to introduce you to Jenny Lawday here, someone I met about five years ago, at a market day in the Blue Mountains. Jenny was there with her shop, Poppy & Belle, where she makes exquisitely quirky jewellery, handbags, purses and all manner of beautiful accessories. It was a grey and drizzly mountain day that day and I was feeling a bit glum when I came across the bright splashes of joy that are her creations. She probably doesn’t remember, but my husband Dean chose one of her bracelets for me to cheer me up. It did! And I cherish it still.

And here’s Jenny now answering the same Big Seven questions that all Reflectors on these pages will.

Who are you and where were you born?

My name is Jenny Lawday, I was born in Ryde, New South Wales, Australia, and now live in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains with six of my seven children and my husband.

What’s your most treasured childhood memory?

My most treasured childhood memory is trout fishing trips with my parents at Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains. My father taught me to gut and fillet the fish we caught, which we would cook fresh that night for dinner. We would also go on long walks in the bush and have campfires to boil the billy over for tea. An appreciation of the Australian landscape and the love of outdoor adventures has stayed with me into adulthood. My favourite place today is walking through one of the many beautiful bushwalks in the Blue Mountains…  

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What does home mean for you?

Home for me means family, love and security. It means somewhere where people know and love you for who you are.

What makes you smile?

Seeing my children laughing together makes me smile.

What was the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?

The hardest lesson I ever had to learn was that I was not invincible. Ten years ago after a period of illness I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. This period in my life was a steep learning curve in letting go of the reins and accepting help, accepting that I could not do it all, and learning that I could take time to look after my own wellbeing as well as my family. During recovery I learnt a lot about myself and the way the mind map works.  

Who or what is the love of your life?

The love of my life is my husband. He is my soul mate and my best friend.  

What does your past, your history and family heritage mean to you?

My parents emigrated from England to Australia with my three older siblings before I was born. I didn’t grow up with my grandparents around me, but heard stories about them from my parents and elder brothers and sister who were close to them.  Knowing where my parents grew up, about their childhood experiences and family relationships gives me a sense of who I am and why I have the values that I do. To be able to pass on knowledge of our family’s history, the place in the world where they were born and brought up, to our children gives them the opportunity to hopefully want to learn more about their family heritage, to pass onto their children, too.  

Thank you so much for sharing that blast of sunshine with us, Jenny, and cheers to the sound of children laughing. Is there a better sound?

You can check out Jenny’s gorgeous shop Poppy & Belle here.

Oh, and here’s that sweet bracelet Dean bought for me – I think I’ll wear it this afternoon…

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REFLECTIONS OF YOU

You know, lovely readers, I believe every one of us has a wonderful story to tell, and that all those stories make up the fabric of who we are. Sharing them brings us and our many colours together, and makes us a whole and beautiful thing.

So, I’m making an addition to this little corner of my Kim Kelly kaleidoscope – a series of interviews with extraordinary ordinary people I admire for their spirit, their strength and style – and I’m calling it Reflections of You.

For as long and as often as time allows, I’ll be chatting with all kinds of people, sharing small glimpses of their lives and loves, their experiences of being a being.

Memories. Wisdom. Laughter. Lessons hard wrought. The stuff of real life. I hope you enjoy meeting whoever you’ll meet here.

Now I wonder, I wonder who my first guest will be…

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ONE FOR THE GIRLS

It’s International Women’s Day again and all kinds of wonderful ladies of the girl variety are being asked what they would tell their younger selves if they could.

I’d tell small Kim to stop worrying. I’d tell her that most people are kind and only want the same things you do; and they’re all as frail and faulty as you are, too. I’d remind her more often, as my own mother tried to tell me, usually exasperated at my too-easily crumbling confidence: ‘Why should you care what other people think? Just be yourself.’

Because being yourself is the most powerful thing you can do. And forget telling all this to small Kim. I needed to hear it only last year.

I’m almost forty-eight years old, and yet I’m so programmed to capitulate to others’ expectations, I found myself in an excruciating bind between what I wanted and what I was being offered. It had been building for a while – oh, for about twenty years.

Do as you’re told, and be grateful – that’s the basic instruction for most women working in publishing, whether you’re a writer or an editor. If you speak up or object, there are a hundred other women knocking at the door, ready to replace you.

Last year, I made the decision to step away from that door altogether, at least for a while, and at least as far as the big-house publishing scene goes. The door remains ajar, and in the chink of light I can see from here a lot of good feeling remains, too.

But for this next chapter in my life, I’m constructing my own door.

I am working only with those who value collaboration and conversation. I am listening only to those who speak with respect. Because I only have one life and I want to make the best books I can with every moment I have left to me. Because my books are made of love and wonder, a bigness of heart that doesn’t always fit into spreadsheet boxes, or genre pigeon-holes, or covers that depict a sales department’s idea of what a woman should be. Because women’s literature is better than this.

I keep waiting for the fear and regret to kick in. I keep waiting for my flimsy and as yet unvarnished door frame to fall over.

But it hasn’t. Only good things have happened since I made that decision. My little Wild Chicory, so much a cry out against the machine, a yearning to express who I am and why I do what I do, seems to have the loudest and richest voice of all my stories so far, so I’m being told now. And whatever might happen in the future, however I might succeed or fail, I’ll own that future as I have never done before.

So cheers to that, and to you, too, for whatever brave and bold thing you are willing yourself to do. Do it.

 

You can find out more about Wild Chicory here.