Almanac Literary: Lament in 2020

 

 

 

 

2020 has been a trying year. One, which many will look back on and want to forget. But, to be honest, I will reflect on 2020 as both exciting and fulfilling; the year my debut novel, Lament, was published. A real, hard-copy book with my name on the cover! Such a thrill for someone whose first love was reading.

 

Lament is a work of historical fiction; a re-imagining of the Ned Kelly story if the doomed Glenrowan Siege had come to fruition. It is the culmination of many years of research and writing and looks at the question, if the police train had come from the tracks as was planned, what would have been next for the Gang?

 

My teenage years were spent growing up near Wangaratta. We even lived at Glenrowan for a time, driving past the bigger-than-life Ned Kelly statue each day on the way to school. The Kelly legend is a big part of the town’s identity and the North-East is still known colloquially as ‘Kelly Country’.  I have memories of my mother working in a retirement village in the local area, allowing me to meet residents who had family connections to the Kelly Gang. Hearing these stories fuelled my interest in the Kellys and their exploits. With this upbringing, how could I not write about them?

 

Living now in Western Victoria, near Ballarat, this area also became central to the story. Ballarat was a prosperous, thriving town in the 1880s. Surely a place that the Kellys may have headed if they were escaping the north-east of the colony. Imagining Ned and the gang on the banks of Burrumbeet lake, or riding through the grassy hills of Smeaton, they felt very real to me.  I wove my fictional story around events that took place in 1880, always wanting to keep at the forefront of the story that these events could have occurred.

 

I was able to delve into Ned and ask the question, who was he? There are firm camps when it comes to the Edward Kelly and the Kelly Gang. Some think of him only as a killer. Some a rebel. A criminal – yes. A victim of circumstance – perhaps. Where do I sit then? My Ned is what many 20 year old blokes are even in this day – full of bullshit and bravado. Idealistic – because aren’t we all when we’re in our twenties? Fiercely loyal. Confident. Killer – yes. Merciless – no.

 

It is sheer luck that I ended up marrying a Kelly many years later. I’d like to say there was some family story passed down the generations, of which I am the keeper, but sadly we have no relation to THE Kelly’s of the north-east. Working with a story that is a part of Australian folklore, which countless people have written about before should have been intimidating. How could I possibly have something to say that hasn’t been said before? But the story was one I was desperate to write, and for a long time I never thought it would be published. I entered my manuscript into the Hawkeye Books Manuscript Development Prize and it was a thrill to be short-listed, and eventually offered a publishing contract.

 

The most interesting part of this very long process of writing and editing, which has taken a little more than six years, has been my research into Ned, Dan, Joe and Steve. Ian Jones was long considered the expert of all things Kelly and I read his books on Ned and the friendship between Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt a number of times. I trawled through websites, watched movies and read articles about the Gang. But my favourite rabbit hole of research to fall down was the Trove website. If you are unfamiliar with Trove, it is an online database of books, pictures and, most importantly, newspapers. If you want to read a primary source about the hanging of Ned Kelly, Trove is the place to go. Aptly named, it really is a treasure trove for writers, historians and the plain curious.

 

Stuck for an idea to write about, pick a date, find and paper and have a read. Without a doubt, inspiration will hit! Reading about the people and events of history from a first-hand perspective is not just informative but incredibly interesting. To read the very words that came from the mouth of Ned and Judge Barry at his trial, or to read the words of Aaron Sherritt’s wife after the murder of her husband was moving. It gave me a window into the lives and thoughts of people from 140 years ago and I realised how much we still have in common. Driven by ideas of love, loyalty, justice and fairness.

 

Another challenge of writing Lament was understanding that my characters were both fictional and based on real people. People with descendants, who rightly feel proud or protective of the legacy of their family member. I did rely on primary sources like news articles and photographs to help me construct the characters, but ultimately they are a work of fiction. I hope that I’ve written each and every one with some redeeming features.

 

Lastly, because this is the Footy Almanac – a Ned Kelly fact that relates to football, if you can believe it! Ned Kelly was only eleven when he saved the life of Dick Shelton, a seven year old lad pulled from a flooded river. Dick Shelton’s grandson went on to become Ian “Bluey” Shelton, who was a Bombers premiership player in the 1960s. (Thanks to www.ironoutlaw.com for the great fact!)

 

Putting words out into the world can be intimidating as a writer, and I’ve found that feeling magnified with a novel. Revealing a piece of yourself in public. But, I’m pleased to send my book into the wild, knowing it is a story that I have loved writing and crafting. I can’t ask for more than that. I only hope now that it can find a reader or two who enjoy it as well.

 

Lament is released in October 2020. Visit www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/lament/ to pre-order your copy or you can visit www.hawkeyebooks.com.au/nicole-kelly to contact me. Otherwise follow me on Twitter @ruralvicwriter

 

 

 

 

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About Nicole Kelly

Is a teacher, mother, writer and all-round lover of words!

Comments

  1. Kevin Densley says

    I’ll certainly buy a copy, Nicole!

  2. Nicole Kelly says

    Thanks Kevin! I hope it’s a good read!

  3. Congrats, Nicole. I have ordered my copy and look forward to the read.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    I’ll join the queue also Nicole. Even if the subject matter wasn’t as interesting as it is, the fact that you write like an angel would justify the purchase. Congratulations on a signal achievement.

  5. Nicole Kelly says

    Thank you, Smokie and Peter for your kind words. I hope that it’s one of those easy to pick up books for you!

  6. Hi Nicole, i wrote my BA Honours thesis on the Kelly Outbreak many moons ago.

    http://library.vu.edu.au/record=b4272827

    I’m curious if the much alluded to ‘Republic of the North-East’ comes to life in your work. Apparently there was a hand written, by Joe Byrne, ‘declaration’ that was obtained during the siege. Stories exist of it turning up in the museum in London in the early 1960’s. Barry Jones heard of it being there but couldn’t find it.

    What shape would this republic have taken? How would it have looked?

    Curious,

    Glen!

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Looking forward to it Nicole!

  8. Congratulations Nicole!

    What a mighty achievement.
    I look forward to reading your stories. And now your first book.

    Fiction based on historical figures I find to be a very interesting idea.
    Good on you.

  9. I’ve enjoyed following the path of this imaginative story. And I look forward to reading the final version – and seeing the book launched well and truly.

  10. Outstanding Nicole. Just as I admire anyone who can run a marathon I also admire anyone who can write a book. Fabulous effort requiring resilience and skill and probably good humour. I’ll certainly get myself a copy.

    I’m an avid Kelly consumer. His story is just so Irish – rich, sad, tragic, lively, funny, brave, terrible, Catholic. They suffered hardship at home and came to Australia only to confront the same tyrants. He intrigues me enormously. I’ve read the Jones book (amongst others) a few times as well.

    One side of my family (the Daltons) came out of Wangaratta and eventually Baddaginnie. There are stories in the family about connections with the Kellys, albeit brief and irregular ones. And John Monash wrote of his conversation with Ned Kelly on a train station in Jerilderie. How fantastic is that!

    Congratulations once again. Love the footy connection too.

  11. I’m a fan of alternate historical fiction stories, this ticks plenty of boxes for an entertaining read, Nicole.

    Well done on a big achievement in trying times!

    P.S. I think plenty of Almanackers share your love of Trove too…

  12. Nicole Kelly says

    Such fabulous comments – I’m so pleased to see that I’m not the only Kelly tragic out here! I love hearing the connections that people have to the Kelly legend. Thanks for your kind words!

    Glen – What a fabulous thing to do your thesis on the Kelly Outbreak! There is so much in the story of the Kelly’s that you could study it for your whole life I think. In fact, the Republic does get a mention in Lament! I love that the gang were striving to be bigger than just crims…they were young and passionate and idealistic.

    Dips – How great to have a (even small) family connection to the Kellys. Those stories that get passed through the generations are so special. I love the thought of running into these larger-than-life figures in a random, non-threatening place (like the train station!).

  13. G’day Nicole, the PayPal order/transaction was put in place yesterday;11/9.

    Yes, the ‘Republic of the North East’. There was something more to the outbreak than pure criminality. However it’s doubtful if we’ll ever really know as those tongues are long stilled.

    Looking forward to a good read of Lament.

    Stay Safe.

    Glen!

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