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Kelly Gardiner


Kelly Gardiner writes historical fiction for readers of all ages. Her books range from a picture book, to adventure tales for younger readers, to acclaimed young adult novels. Her latest book is 1917, part of Scholastic’s Australia’s Great War series. Her previous novels include Goddess, based on the true-life story of a seventeenth century swashbuckling opera singer. An engaging speaker and educator, she most enjoys those moments of connection between author and audience – that instant camaraderie that brings together readers, writers, and stories. Kelly is also the co-host of Unladylike – a podcast on women and writing.

Where were you born?

I was born in Melbourne, and grew up on the edge of the city in what was then bush and apple orchards. Now, of course, it’s nowhere near the edge of the city, but I remember it as a wilderness of my very own.

What other jobs have you had?

My first job was counting tent poles in a camping store one summer. It didn’t last long. Since then I’ve been a community worker, journalist and editor, and I’ve worked on everything from farming magazines to some of Australia’s biggest websites. Now I teach creative writing at La Trobe University and in the community. I’ve written essays, poetry, feature articles, reviews, short fiction, gardening columns, and academic papers, and I’m working on a memoir.

What themes are recurring in your work?

Somehow, my books always seem to end up being about friendship, and about the families we find and make. I explore how it feels to be an outsider or an exile, often through female characters who push against the limitations of their world, and I love finding moments or ideas in history that parallel our experiences now

What have been the highlights of your career?

Act of Faith and The Sultan’s Eyes were both shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and for someone who can still shed a tear over Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians, that’s a great honour. Being shortlisted for the Gold Inky Award was also amazing – as a teen reader choice award, the Inkys hold a very special place in all authors’ hearts. More recently, 1917: Australia’s Great War was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Awards, and it’s wonderful to have my book acknowledged as a work of history.

Where have your works been published?

Australia, the US, the UK and New Zealand so far. Act of Faith and The Sultan’s Eyes are being translated into Turkish at present and will be available in Turkey soon. The Sultan’s Eyes is set in old Constantinople, and I love the idea of young women reading it in Istanbul.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about history – especially those dusty corners of the past where fascinating stories lurk. But the thing I get most fired up about is the power of reading and learning to change lives and to change the world.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m one of those strange creatures who love research. From finding out the tiny historical details that furnish a character’s room to a PhD thesis, I love it all, and helping other people – especially kids – explore and master the incredible wealth of information we now have at our fingertips.


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