Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: July, 2016



One of the best things about the internet and all our fast and far-flung communication these days is that you get to meet great people you otherwise might never have crossed paths with. Today’s intrepid Reflector is one such person – Linda Visman.

I can’t even remember how it is we actually met – online, that is – but I had the lovely pleasure of meeting her for realz at a library event at Lake Macquarie a few weeks ago. Linda is a writer, reader and blogger herself, and she’s a big-hearted woman, generous in spirit and mind.

And here she is answering our Big Seven questions on life and love…

Who are you and where were you born?

I am the middle child of the five children (two boys and three girls) who lived beyond birth. I was born of working class parents in Oswaldtwistle, a cotton town in Lancashire, northern England, sixty-eight years ago – though I am sure there’s a mistake in the number there; I don’t feel that old!

I am a mother, grandmother, wife to my second, wonderful husband of eleven years and a lover of books. I am a former teacher of all levels and ages; the people I have taught in a formal sense range from four years old to eighty-three. And I am also a writer, after finally discovering, about ten or eleven years ago that I could write stories as well as uni assignments (thanks to hubby for encouraging me in that!).

What’s your most treasured childhood memory?

My family went through many hard times when I was young. We were poor, Dad worked hard to build our own house, then almost died of polio. I had to deal with a religion that created lots of guilt through my never being good enough. But there was always something I could do that allowed me to escape into different worlds. You guessed it – I was an avid reader. I can’t remember how often I would be so totally immersed in a book that I wouldn’t hear my mother calling me to do something. She got annoyed, but she understood – reading was also her pleasure.

What does home mean for you?

Even though I was born in England and have always had an unrequited desire to go back for a visit there, I love my adopted country where I have lived for over sixty-two years. Australia is and will always be my home. I can live and have lived in a wide range of locations, climates, geographical areas, towns – but not cities. I have been fortunate to get to know many lovely places in my journey through life, as well as many lovely people.

Because I have lived in so many places in my life, I have come to see home as being the place I am comfortable in with the people I love. It is where I am relaxed and happy and can do the things that interest me. My home now is with my husband in a lakeside village where others come for holidays. We have made this house our own, surrounded by trees and birds that make it really feel alive.

It is the place I have now lived in for the second-longest period in my life – twelve years. We have many friends around us who enrich our lives, and great country and gorgeous lake to visit and to sail on. It is also the base from where we set out to visit our far-flung family: my five sons, my husband’s three children and their families; our total of seven siblings, and some of our friends. We love travelling to see them all, but it is extra special when we come back to this home of ours.

Lake Macquarie

What makes you smile?

There are many things that make me smile, but particularly the following:

  • Seeing my grandchildren at play. I love when they want me to be with them;
  • a beautiful sunset (I rarely see sunrises J);
  • the beauty and grandeur of nature and its power awe me, but it is the little things in it that make me smile: the sound of the possums as they race across our galvanised iron roof at night; a flower blooming in a dead area; a pelican gliding in to land on the lake and putting down its feet to brake;
  • memories of my times teaching in remote area schools in the Northern Territory;
  • the sound of children playing – anywhere and at any time, but especially with an animal;
  • the thought of how fortunate I am in my life, even though we are not well off financially;
  • I even smile when I make a comment on a well-written post on Facebook or a blog, and I have to include a smiley face to show that.

I think those who do not smile much have very sad lives. I love the feeling when your mouth widens in pleasure, your cheeks and eyes crinkle and a wonderful feeling of joy envelops you.

What was the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?

When my children were still young (my eldest was fourteen), my marriage broke up – partly from incompatibility and partly from my falling in love with someone else. I had to leave him but, through circumstances I could do nothing about, I also had to leave my children behind. That was the hardest and worst thing I have done in my life.

The following years taught me how one decision could change lives so much – not just my own, but also those of others. The courts, so conservative then, refused to give me custody of my five beautiful and innocent children and I had to go through years of limited contact not knowing how that would affect my long-term relationship with them.

I have been extremely fortunate that in the end our relationships, both individual and as a family, are strong, loving and accepting. It could so easily have been terribly different.

Holland boys Maimuru 1982

Who or what is the love of your life?

That’s a hard one, because the love of your life can change over time. My children and their families, though, will also be my greatest love. That will never change. The love of my life for almost twenty years was a woman I met at a bible study group when I was thirty-six. She became my partner and we embarked together on a life of love, and loss of our children, a life that was at times insecure, at others stable, full of challenge and adventure and, in the end, loss.

Now, my wonderfully loving and supportive husband of over eleven years is my rock, my mentor and my soul-mate. Our relationship may not have the physical passion of our younger selves, but I am older and more settled now. We share a deep, honest, trusting and more mature love than we might have if we were young. Our love is full of respect for each other and free from the need to impress.

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

My dad went through WWII as a fighter pilot, and Mum as a munitions worker and worried wife. Dad first applied for assisted passage to Australia in 1947, but it wasn’t until January 1954 that he was successful. We left England for Australia that February, and this opened up possibilities and opportunities we’d never have had. Our lives changed beyond measure.

People tell me I’ve had an interesting life, and I agree. For a start, my working class Catholic childhood taught me both positive and negative lessons, but also gave me a real appreciation of where I came from and what my parents, grandparents and those before them went through that resulted in my even being in this world. It has given me an appreciation for history and a strong dislike for institutionalised religion.

I have been fortunate that decisions I made that seemed wrong to many at the time have actually given me a greater experience of the world and of people in both a personal sense and a more balanced perspective on life. I have learned what fear of those who are different or who do not conform means – from both the receiving end and from working with Indigenous Australians in New South Wales and the Northern Territory. From my dad, I have learned the value of living with an attitude of gratitude.

I have discovered just how important family is; circumstances could have led them to deny me, or me to deny some of them, but didn’t. I have discovered how wonderful it is to have children who are good people of whom I can be proud, and who are carrying on a legacy of love and care for their world and its inhabitants. I have discovered the destructive nature of hate and the redemptive nature of forgiveness through my personal relationships and through observation of the past and of the world around me.

So I suppose I can say that past experiences, my history and background have worked, with my own efforts and insights, to give me more understanding and acceptance of people, and also a strong sense of what is wrong with our political, economic, social and religious systems, and the need to change them for the benefit of all. It’s also made me aware that, being an introvert, I need to retreat from the world at times and renew myself.

Thank you so much, Linda, for sharing this glimpse of you with us, and with such honesty and warmth. Cheers to a long and fruitful friendship in words!

For those who’d like to find out more about Linda and her writing, you can browse her wonderful blog here.




Last night I went to an arts networking soiree in what passes for the big smoke in my shire – the town of Blayney.

My kind of town, Blayney has a population of about five thousand – a figure that jumps to a whopping almost seven thousand if you include all the little villages dotted around her. It’s essentially a farming centre, a place to get the tractor serviced, and set as it is in the spectacular green and gold hills of the Central West of New South Wales, it’s endlessly beautiful, too.

But the truly wonderful thing about living in a shire like this is that it’s brimming with people who do stuff rather than talk about it. Over the past two years I’ve called this place home, I’ve met a seemingly disproportionate number of artists and they’re an eclectic bunch.

There’s Rebecca Price, the silversmith, who makes exquisite, bespoke jewelry in her workshop on the main street, White Rock Silver. There’s Tom Miller the blacksmith and his partner Monika Altmann who have a magical bush gallery called Metal as Anything out at Newbridge. There’s Cecily Walters who creates images from handmade felt that look like dreamy watercolours, and Loretta Kervin, who paints and crotchets her sunshine onto just about anything. There’s the rainbow joy of Tracey Mackie’s canvases capturing the creatures we share this space with – the cows, chooks, horses, dogs and sheep.

There’s internationally renowned Wiradjuri artist, Nyree Reynolds, whose ethereal depictions of people and place seem to step out of the ancient mists that clothe these hills. Nyree spends a great deal of her time with the school children of the region, too, switching their little souls on to the power of their creativity, and – so I learned last night – always paints while cuddling either a Siamese cat or a chihuahua.

Last night I also learned that there’s a piano museum in the tiny village of Neville – the only piano museum in Australia. There, they restore old pianos – as old as the 1840s! – bringing them back to life not only as playable instruments but so that a new generation might marvel at their breathtakingly intricate craftsmanship.

And I’ll never forget the lad who swaggered into the pop-up art gallery in town last Christmas, boots dusty and still smelling of the paddock, with his portfolio of photographs under his arm. Gorgeous! And his photos weren’t too bad either.

None of the people I’ve just mentioned do what they do for the money or the glory or because someone in Sydney thinks it might be fashionable. They do this stuff because they love it, because they want to create beauty, and because exploring and recording and expressing our experience of life always makes a contribution to understanding who and what we are as humans. And I’ve only mentioned a handful of them here.

Our networking soirees happen every winter via Charles Sturt University’s Arts OutWest program – by the sparkling energy and enthusiasm of Tracey Callinan, who heads up the team, and Penny May, who’s just joined them as our local mover and shaker. Clinking glasses with us last night was also General Manager of Blayney Council, Rebecca Ryan, who spoke about all the creative ways she’s promoting our shire to the rest of the country – and the world. Rebecca’s vision is that when people find out what’s on offer they’ll want to spend whole holidays here, visiting each of the villages, discovering our artists, tasting our produce, delighting in the landscape, breathing in the fresh, cool air…


As we were all chatting away, inspiring each other, I was reminded of a comment made a few weeks ago by a young woman over the other side of the world, in London, when she was asked about what Brexit – the UK’s exit from the European Union – meant to her. She said, appearing astonished that anyone should ever consider a boundary to connectedness a good thing: ‘The future is global and local.’

And so it is. It’s an idea that’s being harnessed by my publisher – The Author People – right now. Breaking boundaries. Valuing the authentic over mass-market corporate machinery. Valuing passion and its multilayered transactional power over productivity spreadsheets. Many of us are tired of being told what to buy and what to love. But the tide is turning. Or perhaps returning to a time when how and why things are made is of equal importance to the thing itself. A time when there was no metropolitan monopoly on the vanguard.

It’s a little-known historical fact that no-one embraces the new like rural Australians do. Our farmers were among the first in the world to embrace the automobile and the aeroplane, and then radio, and now the internet. The tyranny of distance makes it so. And I think our future will show a resurgence in the worth of our cultural connectedness to the land out here, too. Our diversity, complexity. All our colours.

Why not? After all, my novella, Wild Chicory, is making her sweet mark these days – a story, ultimately, of how I came to live and write in this place, the flowers of my country lane sprinkled across her cover. A little piece of Blayney Shire set free across the globe.

wild chicory bec-min

The launch of Wild Chicory at White Rock Silver earlier this year, photo by local scriptwriter Joe Velikovsky.
The photograph that heads up this piece shows one of the garden installations at Metal As Anything.






I love ships. I love their sweeping, classical lines; their slow but mighty power; their history. Without them, we’d never have discovered all the worlds beyond our shores. Empires would never have reigned their terrors so far and wide; but neither would the globe have become small enough to bring us all together, mixing us around, blending cultures, sharing ideas.

This love affair with ships began when I was eleven, in 1979, and I was travelling with my parents and my brother from Denmark back to England after a tour. For some reason lost to the mists, we boarded a vessel that, in my memory at least, was some kind of Scandinavian version of the Fairstar – a notorious Aussie floating party palace, thankfully also now lost to the mists.

It was an overnight journey, and after dinner Mum took me to the disco that was raging on board. Our parents obviously believed in giving us a broad, if random education in diversity wherever we travelled because my memory prior to that disco is one of becoming quite practically lost, en famille, some days earlier, somewhere in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and asking Mum why the ladies in the windows were all wearing their swimming cossies – and why my thirteen-year-old brother had lost interest in finding our hotel.

Anyway, the Scandinavian shipboard disco was just as unfathomable to small me. Boogie music thumping and rainbow lights flashing through a darkness thick with cigarette smoke, Mum and I were dancing away when I was literally whisked off my feet by a giant Viking – long blond hair, long blond beard, seven feet tall – who then began tossing me in the air to the beat of the boogie. That was the most amazing fun I had had in my young life, of course, and I’m sure the Great Dane would still be tossing me in the air if Mum hadn’t yanked me out of there, a bit freaked out, no doubt, at how off his face Sven must have been.

I was more interested in wanting to know why he’d been wearing clogs – actual wooden clogs – if he was Scandinavian and not Dutch – indeed not a Dutch farmer from the nineteenth century. Mum answered with something typical, such as: ‘I don’t know. He must like clogs.’

And I’d probably still be nagging her for a better answer, if she were still here with me, and if I hadn’t at that moment felt the rocking of the ship in our little twin-berth cabin.

‘What’s that?’ I asked Mum.

‘That’s the ship moving through the water,’ she told me.

‘Where are we?’ I asked the black night.

‘Somewhere in the North Sea,’ Mum said. ‘It’s rough out there.’

And the thrill that planted in my brain topped the whole experience. We were inside the belly of a ship, being tossed on the sea.

‘Can we go back out and have a look?’

‘No. Go to sleep.’

In the morning the sea was grey and calm and boring and English, but the thrill of the night before stayed with me and has done ever since.

I haven’t had a chance to relive the experience very often over all these years, only coming close to it on my honeymoon with Dean, in Cairns, North Queensland, when we took a big catamaran out on the Great Barrier Reef and where, on our return to port, the sea turned bone-judderingly choppy on us. It was so madly rough, most of the passengers were playing tag for the bathroom. Even Dean, who can sail yachts, was green. But I was gripping the rails and wooting: ‘YEAH!’

Those who know me will understand what a contradiction this is. I’m terrified of my own shadow. I hate flying and most of the time I hate driving too. But put me in a sturdy vessel on the sea, and I just go: ‘YEAH!’

Maybe it’s some ancient memory in me, whipping up on the wind. I don’t know. Even still, and strangely enough, I never imagined I would ever write a story about the sea. Until, of course, I randomly read Annie Boyd’s – her history of the SS Koombana ­– and my own, Jewel Sea, rocked out of my heart and onto the page.

Writing that tale was an exhilarating experience in itself. I became that ship – a luxurious Edwardian party ship, she was, carrying the cattle and gold and pearls that made her passengers some of the wealthiest people in the world. And I became the storm that took her down, pulling her to the bottom of the sea off the coast of Western Australia, where she is yet to be found.  

I can’t wait to share her with you. Only sixty-nine sleeps until official publication day. But who’s counting…

Jewel Sea Preliminary for Kim_Page_2



If you’d like to know more about Jewel Sea, you can here.

Jewel Sea Preliminary for Kim_Page_2


Don’t judge a book by its proverbial, so the saying goes – oh but how we do.

I once had a fairly influential publishing industry fabulosa come up to me at a festival and say, ‘Yeah right, you’re Kim Kelly – with the moody ladies on your covers. My girlfriend and I were only having a laugh about them yesterday.’

She meant that in the nicest possible way, of course. Those of us who’ve been around the traps for a while have learned to have a sense of humour about the reductive nature of our books’ outer apparel – especially if you happen to be female and write anything that involves a bit of girl-boy action.

I’ve heard a lot of laughter over the years from all sorts – publishers, designers, booksellers and authors. ‘If I see another girl in an Akubra…’ is the most common refrain.

I’ve also been asked some serious questions about the phenomenon of women’s fiction in particular being so uniformly dumbed down this way before it’s even left the warehouse. And up until fairly recently, I’ve shrugged in response, repeating the generally accepted wisdom: ‘It’s not the author’s decision to make. Sales & Marketing know what they’re doing…’

Do they? I wouldn’t know. No-one from Sales & Marketing had ever had a conversation with me about any aspect of my work.

That all changed for me, though, a year ago when I jumped ship from traditional Australian publishing to The Author People – a deliciously disruptive, international publisher whose mission it is to smash boundaries and expand possibilities for writers, through cleverness and collaboration.

One of the first things my publisher there, Lou Johnson, asked me was how I’d felt about my marketing to date – and more specifically, how I felt about my book covers.

‘Er, um,’ I said. ‘Maybe we could try a different tack from the moody ladies…?’

‘Right. Well, let’s do that,’ was her response.

And so we did.

WC coverThe cover of my first book with The Author People – Wild Chicory – is a wonderful story of clever collaboration in itself. The field of chicory that appears in the image is from a random photo I’d taken the summer before along the country lane on which I live. And the little girl running through it is Lou’s daughter, Ruby, captured by her dad and Lou’s husband, the photographer Douglas Frost. The designer who put the images together to create such a gorgeous, dreamy vibe is Alissa Dinallo.

And now, for my next novel, Jewel Sea, we’ve all teamed up again – minus any random photos from me. The exquisite image of the seashore with its sparkling gold-edged swash is Douglas’s and the delicate composition of the design is Alissa’s, but if you look closely, you can see the faint impression of a map of the coast of Western Australia – a map which adds more than a little magic to the story of this cover for me.

This map was created by writer, historian and designer, Annie Boyd. She’s an amazingly accomplished person and I’ll have to dedicate a separate blog post to tell you all about her down the track. But for now, I have to tell you it was a book Annie wrote a couple of years ago that inspired me to write Jewel Sea in the first place – Koombana Days – the story of the life and times and disappearance of a luxury passenger ship in a storm off the coast of Port Hedland in 1912, and one that contains this very map.

Throughout all my scribblings I’d refer to Annie’s map of the coast just about daily – as well as to her lively history, her timeline of events and the photographs she reproduced in her book. But really, if I hadn’t stumbled across Annie’s work a couple of years ago when I was just idling on Goodreads, searching for something interesting to lose myself in, there would be no Jewel Sea at all.

Annie Boyd’s influence on me is in every page of my story, so how could she not be part of the cover as well?

We could so easily have gone for a moody lady for Jewel Sea – the narrator of the story, Irene Everley, certainly has some shifting moods and she is arrestingly beautiful, too – but the story is much more than Irene. It’s about fatal desire and loss, greed and theft, courage and redemption.

Another tale about Australia, the beautiful, moody country that made me.


The Nor’West Run
Annie Boyd, Blue Ruin Design

For more information on Annie Boyd’s Koombana Days, go here.

For more information on Jewel Sea, go here.