Kim Kelly joins the Australia Day Blog Hop and A Reader’s Heaven in a honest interview. Kim Kelly is the author of Black Diamonds and This Red Earth. Her newest book, The Blue Mile is set to come out in a few short months, and in anticipation for that, we sat down with Kim and asked her a few questions.
What is it about being classified as “Australian Author” that you most identify with?
Everything! I’m an Australian writing stories about Australia, all of which in some way explore the question of who we are through our history. I can’t imagine not writing Australian stories, because I can’t imagine my fascination with this place and its people ever running dry. There can be a bit of a persistent cringey view out there that we don’t have an interesting past or a distinctive culture and I will forever be compelled to say to those who think that: ‘Are you having me on?’
Did moving from the Blue Mountains to the Central West affect your writing?
I don’t think where I live has too much to do with what I write, as I’d probably still write what I write even if I was trapped in a cardboard box. It’s where I’ve been that fires my imagination – places that keep calling me back, and keep whispering stories to me. Lithgow and Nyngan are two such places, and while I’ve never lived in either, I can’t think of these towns without considering them to be some kind of heart homes. Other stories have lately sent me to Sydney, Hill End, the Snowies, and I’ve got one tumbling round the back of my mind set in Lightning Ridge. Maybe one day I’ll write about Blackheath or Katoomba, or Orange, where I live today. Or maybe one day I’ll do something completely whacky and travel outside the state!
What was it about Lithgow that inspired you?
First, the landscape. Driving down into the valley from Blackheath on cold winter mornings to take my two boys to soccer when they were small was almost magical – the golden light on the sandstone cliffs, the shapes of the escarpments falling and rolling into the hills. Lithgow remains one of my favourite places for its natural beauty. But once I started poking around the history of the town – the mines, the small arms factory, the politics – well, I was hooked. I fell in love and had to express it. Even today, every time I drive through the valley I can hear Francine and Daniel from Black Diamonds chatting on their back verandah in my mind.
What were the last five books you read?
In ‘real’ life, I’m a book editor, so among any recently read pile of mine you’ll find a couple of yet-to-be published manuscripts from other authors, along with the old tbr and tbc piles on the bedside. I’d never tell you what I didn’t enjoy – I have too much admiration for all authors who make it to the end of writing a novel – but when I fall for a book I tend to fall hard and it eclipses everything else. The most recent novel that did that to me is Jonah by Louis Stone, an Australian classic I’d never heard of until a couple of months ago. It’s a funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes savage tale of the adventures of a small-time gangster and his best mate during the Paddington Push in inner Sydney a hundred years ago, but it’s so alive, such a slice of Australian life, it reads as if might have been written yesterday. Wow, just wow. I can’t believe it bypassed me for so many years.
What do you wish your readers would ask you? What’s the answer?
Question: I’d love to read some new Australian fiction but I don’t know where to start.
Answer: Start with Kim Kelly! Seriously, start in the Australian fiction section of your bookshop or online store. Browse the shelves, see what blurb takes your fancy, then take a risk. And if you love what you find, tell your friends and family and the postman. Please! Australian authors often get a bit lost in the wash with all the competition from overseas, and word of mouth is still the best way for any new author to begin to mark their mark.
What’s got you most excited about The Blue Mile coming out this Autumn?
The Blue Mile is a story about ordinary people dreaming large – a Harbour Bridge labourer and a dressmaker. It’s a story inspired by and brimming with love for my grandparents, wondering what their world was like in 1930s Sydney. But most exciting of all, my publisher, Pan Macmillan, thinks it’s my best yet and they’ve chosen it as a leading title for next year. I’m thrilled and proud and a bit shocked about that!
Win This Red Earth
I am currently reading This Red Earth and I asked Kim to describe her second novel in her own words.
This Red Earth is a story of love and courage set during WWII. Nyngan boy Gordon Brock is a young geologist whose life is derailed by the brutal Japanese invasion of New Guinea, while his fiancé Sydney beach girl Bernie Cooper ends up in the outback searching for him, and for herself, amid the devastating drought of those war years.
Comment on this post for a chance to win a new copy of This Red Earth, by Kim Kelly. The contest is open to anyone with an Australian address. Entries close at midnight on January 28th. The winner be announced here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages no later than Feb 4th 2013. Continue the Blog Hop for more chances to win. The Blog Hop is over, see who won here.