Kim Kelly – Portrait of an Author

Yes, we are being creative with our author Q&A!

Kim, with pose and composition such important factors, what kind of ‘look’ would you want for your portrait.

A. On a chaise lounge (Kate Winslet/Titanic style)?

B. Fully clothed in a rocker (Whistler’s Mother style)?

c. A close up of your face (Girl with the Pearl Earring style/Mona Lisa)?

D. In all your formal finery befitting your ‘authorly’ status (Regal style)?

E. Other?

Jenn, a combination of A, D & E here, please. I write mostly lying down on my mad-yellow couch and I usually frock up for the day (today it’s a 60s reproduction A-line mini in blue daisy print) even though no-one but the cats and chooks see me, so if you’re going to paint me in my preferred habitat and costume, paint me like this – plus laptop on lap vying for space with one or two cats, and a cup of tea and a buttered weetbix on the side table.

If you were being painted RIGHT NOW, tell us what you are wearing. (Be honest!)

A: As above. Honestly. Don’t be fooled by the black skivvy in my author pic. To my shame, at present count I have ninety-two everyday frocks. Most of them are recycled and they all get recycled and reinvented eventually, but yes, I have a frock problem. If I really did have to choose a frock to wear for a portrait painting, I’d have a series of small breakdowns before deciding how history should remember me in print – fabric print, that is.

Given a choice, what precious item would you want included in a portrait of you?

A: Only one? I’d have to include a sideboard photo of my muse de bloke, Deano, and one of my boys as well. They are my everyday inspiration. And the cats. And the chooks. And my tea cup collection (seriously, almost as bad as the frocks). I’d want my books in there as well – the books I’ve worked on as editor, too, and all those that have opened doors in my mind.

With acquired savant syndrome featuring in my next novel, I’m curious . . . If you were to wake up from a coma one day to find yourself totally obsessed and a genius (in something other than writing, of course) what would you want it to be? (music, painting, languages, maths, touching your toes while typing, etc)

A: I’m so boring, I’m hopelessly devoted to the patch of dirt I already plough. I want to keep becoming a better writer. I’m already obsessed and I don’t believe in genius – just work, curiosity and generosity of spirit. I would like the ability to download books directly into my brain, though. I am a slow and careful reader – always worried I’m going to miss something important.

If you happened to wake up one day and be a genius with a paintbrush, whose portrait would you want to paint and why?

A: I am an accomplished painter already! Not. I paint on my mental health days – those days when I have to get up off the couch and get messy with my imagination – and my paintings are always bright splashes, cartoonish, mostly of flowers, sometimes abstract, and never much good. But if I was any good, I’d love to be able to paint my characters so that readers could see what I see when I’m with them. Responsible literary citizen that I am, though, I’d be sure to mark those pic files as potential spoilers – peek at your own risk.

Picasso once asked the question: “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” In my next novel, the artists says to 58 y.o Ava, “A mature person has depth of character and it’s their layers, built from life’s lessons that interest me the most—when wisdom replaces curiosity and experience replaces youthful exuberance.”

What two traits would you hope an artist captures in a portrait of you?

A: Love and curiosity. I can’t function without the giving and receiving of the first and I’m hard wired for the second. I don’t ever want to stop wondering and asking questions – especially of myself (most common one being, what the freak are you doing?).

Because every fireplace deserves a portrait, in whose house would you hang a Portrait of You as a surprise and what would they say?

I’d want my portrait hung over the hearth of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to remind him that immigrants and refugees have made Australia not only the colourful and beautiful place it is but they also made me. And when he is eventually ousted, I want my portrait to go to the National Library of Australia together with all other author portraits in the Jenn J McLeod collection to show this country what a wealth of storytelling heart we have, right here, right now, particularly among women writers.

Keeping in mind that lucky recipient of your portrait, how would see yourself framed?

  1. Minimalist or no frame at all – just the canvas (take me as I am)
  2. Modernist – chrome, nothing too fancy
  3. Sophisticated – warm, wood, old world
  4. Flamboyant – go all the way and gilt edged!

A: No borders – of course!

Finally, if someone was to add a plaque/title your portrait, how would it read?

A: The Authorlady

Acrylic on old fence-palings; 2000cm x 3000cm (that’s right, Mr Dutton, it’s HUGE).

On the surface all is romantic whimsy and yet the work is rich with literary allusion and classical symbolism. Most strikingly, the use yellow, predominantly on the couch, is suggestive of madness, while cats and chooks, well, we all know what they say about a woman in middle age. The masculine details apparent in the painting, in the form of portraits within the portrait, make no clever commentary whatsoever on the nature of portraiture itself but rather point to the author’s philosophy that one can smash the patriarchy and love all her blokes to bits at the same time. The underlying narrative of the image explores a powerful nexus of love and curiosity, and seeks to interrogate the national soul, at the same time drawing attention to its concretely central but ironically ethereal meta-theme, most simply described in the broad-brush statement: the lady rocks a frock.

Thank you for playing along on Author Portraits. Now, lovely readers, some serious stuff about Kim Kelly who really is one of a kind. A beautiful person who writes beautiful stories, which are half price until the end of December. Stock up on your holiday reading! Find all the fab deals at all the major retailers here worldwide: Buy one, buy all four!

About Kim…

Kim Kelly is the author of six novels, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory. (I LOVED Wild Chicory and The Jewel Sea so much – Jenn J) 

Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of Australia’s past and tell the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. The Sydney Morning Herald has described her style as ‘colourful, evocative and energetic’. The Daily Telegraph has noted her ‘impressive research’. And, to her enduring shock, the Melbourne Age has said: ‘Why can’t more people write like this?’

A widely respected book editor and literary consultant by trade, stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. Love between lovers, friends, strangers; love of country; love of story. 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, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.



Before you go, I have some more author portraits to celebrate the release of my 5th novel (April – here in Australia/NZ and overseas) so you might want to subscribe to my blog (right) or check out my Book Room.

3 thoughts on “Kim Kelly – Portrait of an Author

  1. Alison Swann

    A unique concept of looking into the life of one of Australia’s most interesting authors. Her research is impeccable.

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