On being what we are

++ This blog post originally appeared at Kim Wilkins

I grew up in Redcliffe in the 70s and 80s, when it was pretty rough and socially cover Ember Islanddisadvantaged. In fact, I was pretty rough and socially disadvantaged too. We were welfare class. My dad had an accident at work and was on sickness benefits, which he spent almost wholly on beer. My mum worked hard to support us all. I was bullied at school, never really fit in, and went to work in rubbish jobs in fast food.

Then I finally got my act together, went back to high school, then got out of town.

For a long time, during my university studies and with my new inner-city friends, I was faintly (if not entirely sometimes) embarrassed about having been a Redcliffe chick, one who used to hang out with boys in cars or wag school to sit on the jetty and smoke. I didn’t speak of it. I made myself anew; I tried to stop saying “Me and my friends” went somewhere or did something, or “brought” when I meant “bought”. I got a PhD. I published books and spoke elegantly and eloquently in public places.

Then one day I was coming home in a plane from Sydney, and we flew over Moreton Bay, that body of grey-blue water that I grew up looking at. And it struck me how magnificent the bay is, how it gives me the feeling of being home, of being somewhere that everything is all right. I looked down at the islands, and a story idea came to me. The story became Ember Island, the book I worked on over the summer. Imagine my surprise and delight when they sent me the cover and the jetty on the front is actually Redcliffe jetty. “We managed to get an actual picture of Moreton Bay,” the publisher told me excitedly. But she couldn’t know just how familiar that part of Moreton Bay is to me. Redcliffe jetty, on my book cover. Fifteen years ago I would have been appalled. But now, this just fills me with strange pride.

I am a Redcliffe girl. I did work at every fast food chain you can think of. And then I did something different; and I am not a better or worse person for growing up rough around the edges. I am so proud of this book and the fact that it is set somewhere unexotic, maybe even parochial. I am what I am, and I am proud to own it.

17 thoughts on “On being what we are

  1. Wow! So excited that you have written another in the ‘Freeman’ series. After stumbling across ‘Lighthouse Bay’ at the airport (!yay) (and then sharing with my Bookclub who all love live love it too ) I have just devoured Wildflower Hill and Duets. I was already feeling so connected to your themes – I love history, travel, the arts, mystery and hidden secrets, womens strength and the sense of place here in Austalia that you capture so beautifully.
    And now I read you are a re-invented coastie! No wonder there’s a connection. I am currently piecing my past and present together (a bit like Angela Smith only not quite as dramatically) – including being proud of rough coastie roots.
    Can’t wait to read Ember Island!!!

  2. Have just finished Ember Island – couldn’t put it down. Felt I was right there on the island with Tilly….. Fantastic story and characters. So well written.

  3. Hello Kimberley.I’m reading a book right now the Ember Island.My mother read the first book.My mother loves your books.Like the other books in this wonderful book.I love the characters you created, but there are also’d love inside.For example, Percy and Jasper.I love reading books you wrote.Take care of yourself and never stop writing.

  4. Hello Kimberly. I have loved all your novels and love that you are comfortable embracing the beauty of where you grew up. There is always beauty when you look back at a rough past from an adult perspective. It made you the accomplished writer you are because you understand human nature from a variety of backgrounds. It is always most refreshing to live in the freedom of being yourself. Can’t wait for your next novel.

  5. I just finished _Ember Island_ today, and I loved it. I live in the US, and have been reading Australian authors since my penpal recommended the Phryne Fisher series. Kate Morton, Stedman, Grenville, and of course, Kerry Greenwood, and now you, are my favorites!! I stumbled upon _Wildflower Hill_ on Goodreads, devoured it, went on to _Evergreen Falls_, and then _Ember Island_. I really like how you tell two related stories at once. And I like that they have satisfying endings–not sappy happy endings, but not ending so sad that I feel sad for days on end. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Thank you!!

  6. Ember Island was the first of your books I read two weeks ago whilst on holiday at Coral Bay WA. I have since read two more and have Evergreen Falls waiting on my coffee table. LOVE your books and so look forward to reading more. Thank you for enthralling me with every page 📚😃

  7. Hi Kimberly I have just finished reading the first book by you stars across the ocean I did love it but hoping you can confirm a couple of things that have me confused First What is the connection between Tories mother and the letter tori found and why did her mum mention Emile [was it just a letter sent to her being a professor of history] Such great time frames I don’t get why Tories mum mentioned Emile and at the end back to the present her mum asked I wonder if its the child the one she wrote to] tori suggested she didn’t think so I intend buying more of your books having just found you as an author but I am just confused by some of the these things I can’t work out the answers I do hope you have time to reply because I feel I am missing bits of the story .Why was torts mum so desperate to get the letter as there docent seem to be any connection there with Agnes and her family I just need some closure I am like that with books and I did get confused with this but still loved I really look forward to hearing from you being an avid picky reader I want to buy more of your other books I hope you don’t mind me contacting you kind regards Judy Dyson

    1. Thanks, Judy.

      If you read the book a second time, all the answers are in there! Save to say there is no direct connection between Agnes and Tori, just that Tori’s mum was sent the letter by somebody who found it in the back of an old book (because she’s a history professor).


  8. Hi Kimberley, a habit of mine is to listen to audio books on my way to and from meetings. I’ve just finished “Lighthouse Bay” and absolutely loved every bit of it. Until then, I was a “Kimberley Freeman virgin” (yes, I had a background similar to yours). I grew up in Inala in the 60s and 70s, raised by my widowed aunt and my mother who was, what was known back then as a deserted wife. I, like you, am trying to re-invent myself somewhat without forgetting my roots, but I’ve left this journey to my mid-50s. Just reading your blog has been inspired me. I graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Diploma (a long way from a PhD, I know). Thanks again.

    1. sorry it took so long to respond. I lost my password and am technologically negligent. lovely to hear from you and I’m glad you loved the books. I know the staff who run that course!

  9. Hi Kimberley,

    I have just finished “Duet” at 4:26 am. I will be very tired tomorrow!

    I congratulate you on escaping your roots and educating yourself. We are not responsible for the circumstances of our childhood, but we can choose what we do and who we become afterwards.

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Duet” even though it became quite fantastical towards the end. (Angie drove from somewhere north of Coolum to south west of Cunnamulla overnight! In 1967? Gimme a break!). But it is escapism, isn’t it, a good book or movie? “Duet” provided that escape from boring housework for quite a few hours and I thank you for that.😀

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