IMAGINE BEING AN OUTLAW IN YOUR 20s

Feature by Arunima Sharma

Kelly v Kelly – Related or Coincidental?

Author of Lament, Nicole Kelly, and Ned Kelly 1880 - the day before his execution.

It is sheer coincidence that Nicole Kelly, author of ‘Lament’, shares the same surname as Ned Kelly. Nicole grew up in Kelly Country in North-East Victoria where the story of Ned Kelly is ubiquitous. She used to drive past Glenrowan’s six-metre high ‘Big Ned Kelly’ statue of Ned in his trademark charcoal armour and heavy mask. Thus, the story of Ned always piqued her interest. Additionally, Nicole’s mother used to work in an aged home where the residents had personal connections to the Kellys and Harts, so the idea and story of Ned Kelly was always there.

‘I was that kid that got given Ned Kelly books for Christmas,’ said Nicole.

Short-listed in the Hawkeye Manuscript Development Prize

Front cover of Lament by Nicole Kelly. A fictional re-write of the Ned Kelly story.
Front cover of Lament. A superb fictional re-telling of the Ned Kelly story by Nicole Kelly.

Nicole has come a long way from her first manuscript at fifteen to her debut novel, ‘Lament’ this year. From writing to editing to publishing, the book has taken years to come to fruition. Writing was slipped in around primary school teaching and being a mother of two. Roughly eighteen months ago, Nicole decided to devote more energy to writing. She entered numerous competitions and freelanced to gain exposure and experience. Since then, she’s had articles published, won the Stringybark Short Story competition and was short-listed in the Hawkeye Manuscript Development Prize. That brings us to Hawkeye Publishing launching ‘Lament’ on the 22nd of October.

At university, Nicole majored in history, and teaches it as well. She is intrigued by the story behind a person and discovering what led to their present.

The Real Ned Kelly

In actual historical events, teacher, Thomas Curnow, warned oncoming constabulary and thwarted the Kelly Gang’s de-railing of a train at Glenrowan, which led to the Kelly Gang being ambushed and killed or captured.

What Makes Lament Superb?

Nicole Kelly explores what would have happened if the de-railing had been successful. Where Lament is superlative is the way the author gets inside Kelly’s head to explore motivations, reasoning and consequences of decisions made.

The Research

Keeping in mind that the book is based on a real person and real incident, Nicole spent countless hours researching the Kelly story during the Glenrowan siege and scouring through old newspapers for accounts of his capture and trial. Interestingly, there are different versions of the story out there. Consequently, Nicole had to research how Ned Kelly spoke and draw her own conclusions, since there is contention as to whether he spoke with an Irish lilt or not. 

One of Nicole’s favourite lesser known facts about Ned is that his half-brother become a police officer in Western Australia.

‘For me, Ned comes across as smart and charismatic, someone that could have gone on to great things if he hadn’t ended up on the wrong side of the law from an early age,’ said Nicole.

The author says that finding the distinct voices of the characters was the most difficult part of her process. Nicole heard Ettie clearly. Ned became easier the longer she sat with him. One of the worries with Ned’s character was being too slang with his speech. Hence, the author read the entire novel out loud multiple times to analyse the verbal nuances.

And what of the movie?

When asked about her feelings about Ned Kelly now, Nicole said that she feels like she knows him. ‘Like he’s ‘my Ned.’ To the point that when she watched the Ned Kelly movie, she had to turn it off because that Ned wasn’t her Ned!

Where to get a copy of Lament

Lament is available in all good bookstores and libraries, or direct from the publisher here. Thank you for supporting Australian authors!

Lament is proudly published by Hawkeye Publishing.

If you want to know more about Ned Kelly, his gang, and the Ned Kelly tourist trail, visit this great website – ironoutlaw.com

Carolyn Martinez

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