I'm extremely pleased to welcome Aussie Author Kim Kelly to the blog today to speak about the history in her latest novel, Jewel Sea which will be available for purchase in all fine bookstores tomorrow, 17 September.
Kim is the author of four novels (Black Diamonds, This Red Earth, The Blue Mile and Paper Daisies) and one novella (Wild Chicory) about Australia, its heritage and its people that are loved by readers all over the world.
Her stories shine a bright light on forgotten corners of our past and the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times. A striking characteristic of Kim’s writing is her ability to lead readers gently and lyrically into difficult terrain, exploring themes of bigotry, class conflict, disadvantage and violence in our shared history, which still plague the world today.
Kim is an editor and literary consultant by trade so 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 come home regularly to graze.
Kim, thank you so much for providing this post and a big thank you to The Author People for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour.
Before we continue to Kim's post though, I'd like to give a shout-out to two other blogs - the one before me and the one after me - on this tour.
Please do stop by at With Love for Books where Suze Lavender interviewed Kim on the 15th September as well as wrote a lovely review and, Writer's Bloc who will be interviewing Kim as well as giving away 2 copies of Jewel Sea and providing an excerpt from the novel.
For a full list of blog tour participants, please visit Kim's website here.
Enjoy and happy hopping!
One rainy day nearly two years ago, I was trawling around Goodreads looking for something to take me away when I stumbled across a book called Koombana Days, by historian Annie Boyd. I’m not sure what it was about the book – perhaps the sepia glimpse of long-ago shipboard workers on the cover, or some spell in the sound of the name Koombana as it ran through my mind – but I was immediately drawn to it.
When I read the book blurb and learned that the Koombana was a luxury steamship lost in a cyclone off the coast of Western Australia in 1912 – never to be found – a whole load of bells and whistles went off in my head. This was Australia’s most significant civilian maritime disaster, Australia’s own scaled-down Titanic tragedy, and I’d never heard of it? How could that be? I’m such an Australian history nerd, but this one was a complete mystery to me – and therefore absolutely tantalising. I barely knew a thing about Western Australia, either, especially not during the Edwardian period, but I knew I would write a story about this ship. I was clicking ‘buy now’ on Booktopia a few seconds later.
Before the book arrived, though, I found Annie Boyd’s extensive research collection online and dived into it straightaway. Within a few hours, I discovered the fabulous legend that had grown around the disaster: that a cursed pearl had been aboard the ship and some believed it had been responsible for her disappearance.
Now, why on earth would a pearl, cursed or otherwise, want to sink a ship full of innocent passengers? I asked myself, and right there, with that wonder, my reimagining of the history and the mystery of this story began to take shape – a very pearl-shaped shape!
I’d only had the vaguest inkling of how important the pearling industry had been to Western Australia, but had no idea of just how vast the wealth of the pearl barons had been. Together with the beef industry and the mining of gold and precious gems, the people of the Nor’-West, as it was called, were some of the wealthiest people on earth. So wealthy that the SS Koombana had been built especially for them, to ferry them from their summer retreats in Perth and back up along the coast when the pearling season began each autumn.
It was in the March of 1912, with the air heavy and humid as summer lingered well into autumn, that this sumptuous ship full of first class folk was struck by that vicious cyclone. In fact, the ship was so stacked with money, it didn’t even offer a steerage ticket. Second class was as low as you could go, and that was pretty luxurious, too.
Contrasted with all this opulence, were the pearl divers, wharf labourers and the Indigenous people who’d been dispossessed of their lands – some of whom were waging war on the frontiers of the Kimberley and Pilbara. Such a bundle of contrasts everywhere I looked: this amazing ship would dock into harbour towns comprised of little more than tin sheds. How on earth was I going to reconstruct a ship that had vanished and a coastline full of towns that had long since had their original buildings blown away?
The challenge was awesome. Jewel Sea was an odyssey of research for me – a story that has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d go. A tale of greed and vengeance, love and redemption. I hope you enjoy the journey.
About the Book
The whole of the harbour was touched with gold – the tops of the quiet waves, warehouse roofs, the bulging folds of sails at rest, the tips of seagull wings – giving him one sweeping glimpse of beauty just as he was leaving, a vision of things as they ought always to be just as they were not…
March, 1912. A sultry Indian summer hangs over the west coast of Australia and aboard the luxury steamship SS Koombana, three tales entwine.
Irene Everley longs to leave her first-class fishbowl existence, secretly penning a gossip column as her life spirals out of control into soulless liaisons and alcohol, the long shadow of a tragedy clouding her view.
James Sinclair, an investor on his way to Broome is not the man he says he is but can he be trusted?
Abraham Davis, a wealthy dealer whose scandalous divorce is being dragged through the press, prepares to take the gamble of his life: to purchase an infamous, stolen pearl along the journey north.
Perfectly round, perfectly pink, this pearl comes with a curse and with a warning – destroying all who keep it from returning to the sea.
In the tradition of Steinbeck’s The Pearl, and the fabulous tales of Ion Idriess, comes a new twist on a fable of old. Based on the real-life tragedy of the SS Koombana, lost in a cyclone, never to be found, Jewel Sea is a gripping story of fatal desire, a tangled web of theft and greed, and of kindred spirits searching for courage, for a chance of love and redemption – and for a chance to truly live.