Published in January this year, Wild Chicory is Kim Kelly’s first novella.
I haven’t yet had a chance to crack the cover but once I’d read the blurb I was sold, possibly due to the fact that as an immigrant myself, I tend to relate to stories about people’s journeys to Australia.
Turns out I was just a bit more curious so I asked Kim to contribute a post on one of her passions and she’s come up with a fabulous one explaining her fascination with Australia, its history, culture and contradictions – surely just a taste of what you can expect from her little novella.
Kim is the author of four novels, all lorikeet-coloured tales about Australia, its heritage and its people. An editor and literary consultant by trade, stories fill her everyday – and most nights, too.
Love is the fuel that fires her intellectual engine. In fact, she takes love so seriously, she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life.
Originally from Sydney, Kim now lives in Millthorpe, a tiny gold-rush village in the wide, rolling hills of central western New South Wales, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.
Wild Chicory is available for purchase at the following links:
Australian stories are my thing. I write them and I help other writers write them as an editor or mentor, and I’ve been doing this now for twenty years. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a contemporary or historical fiction, a fantastical love affair set in Paris or the reflections of a returned soldier simply wanting to get his thoughts straight on the page, if it’s told by an Australian, to me, it’s important.
We’re a small country in terms of population, and we’re often told that, apart from our First Nations Indigenous Australians, we have no culture of our own. And at a glance, sometimes that can seem true. Our storytelling markets – be they books, tv or film – are dominated by American and British tales.
I’m not American, though, and I’m not very British, either. My ancestry is a mix of mainly County Kerry Irish and German. Yet my forebears came to Australia, at the latest, more than a century ago. I have no other home but Australia, and I have a lot of history here – history that could have happened in no other land.
I was also raised in a marvellously multicultural area of Sydney – the La Perouse peninsular, on the northern tip of Botany Bay. There, my best friends were Koori, Greek, Italian and Serbian. So I’ve always had a sense that the broader canvas of Australian story is rich in diversity and colour.
It’s no surprise then that my own storytelling is steeped in a quest to explore the many faces that make up who we are. I am endlessly fascinated by our contradictions, too, from our legendary droughts and floods, to our generosity and energy that can be as vast as the continent itself, as well as our sometimes startling small-mindedness. All of my novels are joyful, romantic explorations of what makes us tick and how elements of the past can shine a light on who we are today.
My latest story, though, Wild Chicory, is a little bit different – and a lot more personal. It was inspired by stories my Irish grandmother, Lillian Kelly, told me when I was small. Stories of coming to Australia in the early twentieth century, of Irish boys then going off to war to fight for this new land; stories of being poor and Catholic in inner city Sydney when times were tough and prejudice was high; stories about enduring love and laughter. Stories that make up a very strong and bright cultural thread in me and, in so many ways, inspired my love of storytelling in the first place.
We’re calling Wild Chicory a novella, because she’s quite a tiny thing in comparison to the chunky novels that have come before her, but I think she’s probably better described as a love song. A love song to my grandmother, and to all of us who have somehow come across the seas to call Australia home.
About the Book
Wild Chicory is the story of a journey from Ireland to Australia in the early 1900s, along threads of love, family, war and peace. It’s a slice of ordinary life rich in history, folklore and fairy tale, and a portrait of the precious bond between a granddaughter, Brigid, and her grandmother, Nell.
From the windswept, emerald coast of County Kerry, to the slums of Sydney’s Surry Hills; and from the bitter sectarian violence of Ulster, to tranquillity of rural New South Wales, Brigid weaves her grandmother’s tales into a small but beautiful epic of romance and tragedy, of laughter and the cold reality of loss. It’s Nell’s tales, tall and true, that spur Brigid to write her own, too.
Ultimately, it’s a story of finding your feet in a new land – be that a new country, or a new emotional space – and the wonderful trove of narrative we carry with us wherever we might go.
In many ways Brigid and Nell are Kim and her grandmother Lillian Kelly, and many snippets of story in this work belong especially to them. It is primarily a work of fiction, but while the Kennedys and the O’Halligans in Wild Chicory are not the Kellys and O’Reillys of Kim’s own family history, they have sprung direct from her heart, and show readers just how it is she came to be a writer of stories herself.
If you would like further information on Kim and her book, please visit the following links: