Guest Blog: Kerry McGinnis

Kerry McGinnis writes like poetry – you’ll understand that after reading this post. The way she recalls places, feelings and is able to write about them with such authority, is why her writing stands out among Australian authors.

Kerry has led an extraordinary life  – although if you said so, I bet she would shrug her shoulders and say it was pretty normal and she wouldn’t have it any other way! Born in Adelaide and, at the age of twelve, took up a life of droving with her father and three siblings. The family travelled extensively across the Northern Territory and Queensland before settling on a station in the Gulf Country. Kerry has worked as a shepherd, droving hand, gardener, stock-camp and station cook, eventually running a property at Bowthorn, near Mount Isa. She is the author of two volumes of memoir and now lives in Bundaberg.

Kerry:

Hi People,

I’ve just returned from a trip to W.A. where is was much colder than sunny Queensland but very interesting. I flew over (Bundy/Bris/Perth) then joined my brother Patrick and drove back across the southern half of the sate to Adelaide (even colder!) before flying home. The jonquils and daffodils were out in the Adelaide hills and wildflowers were spread from one side of W.A. to the other. I love seeing new country. I create my books by starting with a character but I need the immediate back-up of their setting, whether it be the rugged beauty of the Gulf, the flat treeless plains of the mid-west QLD or the stark ochre ranges and red sands of the centre to five the story depth and a sense of place. Getting my readers to feel and see the uniqueness of that particular bit of land is as important to me as having them empathise with my protagonist.

So every look new country is a delight. We’d do it after the first storm of the season up on the station. ‘Where are you going?’ was the cry as the Toyota backed out of the shed.

‘Just looking.’

‘Me too, then.’

“And me!’

It’s something bushies understand. We’d marvel at the simple things – how high the creeks had run, how fresh the country looked with new washed foliage and roads swept clean of tracks. The sky bluer, the road surface firmer, the ratty old grass and dead leaves broomed away by the change of the season. Such excursions made indelible impressions that I can recall at need, foe everything experience or seen is grist to the writers mill.

I may never write about my recent trip but if I ever do I will remember how the fierce winds shaped the scrub, how the sun glinted on the leathery saltbush and the fleshy leaves (like teensy stubby fingers) of the bluebush. I shall be able to recall the sense of endless space and the hum of hidden life that becomes apparent if you lie down amid the squat growth of the Nullabor.

The tiny town of Penong had a hall – a unlovely utilitarian thing with a date on the façade and a noticeboard for tourists. It was built in 1901 and had seen a multitude of uses but back at its opening a dance had been held. A very successful one for the board recorded that ‘they danced until daylight.’ There were no bitumen roads back then. The people would have come on horseback, and in traps and buggies – hours and hours of travel over dusty, bumpy tracks. They had to return the same distance but with tired horses and the morrow’s work ahead – and yet they danced until daylight! Standing rapt before the hall I could see their shadowy figures departing – going back to the loneliness and silence with memories to last them twenty years. Maybe I shall choose one of them one day and make him or her real because I have seen the country they would have travelled across to be a part of that wonderful night.

Writers are always asked how they find their ideas.

Well this is the way I get mine. But just go with whatever method works for you.

And good luck!

Kerry McGinnis

Comments 23

  1. Nice, appealing and intriguing. Now I have more books to read, which is just as well, my tbr pile is down to one. 🙂 Recently I find my reading is quite varied, giving me such insight to many wonderful authors.

  2. Kerry”, I have just finish your book,Pieces of Blue, it was i thought when reading at all hours , of the night ,,,”,yes” just like poetry ,and fell in love with it and i think, with you”just as most other readers would ,i should think’, and ‘ could relate to it, being razed at Norseman w.a , surrounded by bush lakes and the ode brumby .at the end of the book ,i felt i would have loved to given you all a big hug ”maybe ,” not the boys ” but you all deserve one,… P/S got the book from a R.S.P.C.A. op shop 2 weeks ago hear in Albany ,W.A. gods country”, and looking forward to another one soon . …Richard .

  3. I have loved your books since buying Pieces of Blue when it first came out and have them all. I watch with interest to see when the next one is announced (PLEASE!!) Your vivid discriptions gave me a picture of the outback and when we moved to Queensland I understood the bird sounds you described, the beauty of the red flat and dusty land and the terrifying scream of the curlew. Books that can be read again and again. Thank you

  4. Dear Kerry I have just finished “Heart Country” and loved it as it brought back so many happy memories of the country we both knew. I am the “Brian Walker” you mentioned (thanks for the nice things you said !) I am pleased to think that the ba ttered, borrowed books in the back of the Landroveer contributed in some small degree to your ability to paint such pictures and to be so successful. We made contact with Patrick and Judith at “kingfisher Camp” about twelve years ago when a nephew and I were wandering around the Gulf but I think you were not at “Bowthorn”when we went through there. I am now retired in Brisbane (not with the same wife !) and would like to make contact again if you desire it. Wishing you continued success. Regards. Wally

  5. I have just finishedreading Heart C ountry. I grew up in Sydney but always dreamed and read about the country and bush and your books bought it to life. I have had horses in my life for the last 30 years (since my daughter was 11) and the differences you described in the characteristics and how they helped you to live the life you lived show us how special they are. I originally read the Waddi Tree and Absolution Creek and when I asked at he Library for Heart Country I did not realise it was an autobiography and your own amazing life and it made more special seeing it through your eyes. I have yet to read Pieces of Blue but am looking forward to it.
    Many Thanks
    Meryl Wood

  6. Kerry and Fleur
    Meryl Wood here again and It was Wildhorse Creek I read as well as Absolution Creek (Nicole Alexander) and have read Rachael Treasure, Tony Parsons and as many Australian authors and their outback stories I can find including yours Fleur. I sometimes forget who writes which book but they all have the essence of the Australian bush, hardships and joy which is why Heart Country is such a fascinating read because Kerry actually lived the life and survived without all the mod cons we take for granted and the satisfaction and appreciation of having a permanent home with electricity and hot showers and her own garden.
    Many thanks again
    Meryl Wood

  7. I just listened to The Waddi Tree. Will any of your other books be put onto audio books? are you writing a sequel to the Waddi Tree? I am left so sad that the story just stops there when Jim has finally made it.

    Sam

  8. Dear Fleur and Kerry,
    All I can say is keep on writing as I for one want to keep reading! Thanks to you both for the enjoyable escape into a good book. A great stress relief. Best Wishes Diane Williams

  9. My name is Veronica Paterson better known as Bonnie. Kerry please don’t start prodding your memory, as you have never met me. I have the advantage as I have read 2 of your books, Pieces of Blue and Heart Country.
    Maybe the name Paterson may trigger a small piece of memory; mentioned only very briefly in the first paragraph of your book Pieces of Blue. Mrs Paterson your kindly neighbor from Derby Street Gladstone, Queensland, was my mother-in-law, for some 43 years. I married her youngest son Malcolm in 1961. Mabel passed away in 2000. Her 3 sons have now also passed away.
    As I am the only remaining part of her family, I just wanted you to know that she never forgot your Mother and Father and you children and the deep sorrow that you were all feeling that terrible day. She often spoke of the tragedy and wondered where and how you all ended up. If you are interested, I would be pleased to tell you more of the story and of that remarkably kind lady Mrs Mabel Paterson

  10. I would really like to get in touch with Kerry…..I will certainly attend the book launch on Wednesday evening at Bundaberg Library. This is so surreal…..It is over 50 years since I lost track of Kerry, but have never forgotten her. I lived in Cloncurry and Mt. Isa – working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I married in 1965 and unfortunately lost touch when I moved away from the West. I met Kerry a few times during those years and corresponded with her. I have never forgotten her gift for writing…and she wrote prolifically as she travelled the North West with her dad Paddy and her brothers. I am so very much looking forward to meeting up with her! Can’t believe I have lived in Bundaberg since 1996 and have just now found she also lives here. I too have a deep love of Poetry and the North West, where I grew up and my parents were born. Unbelievable…..

  11. Kerry, You write so beautifully. I worked in a mustering camp out of Alice towards the QLD border in 1984. Your descriptions and story are so spot on…..I was reliving my days there whilst reading your words. I then worked on a station North of Tennant Creek…Helen Springs. I could envisage your life as a single woman in a droving or stock camp. I love your books….you are a spot on writer. The town folk must see your lifestyle as something amazing…The isolated women needed your voice. You do it so well. Always in awe of you and your sister- all inspiring.

  12. Kerry thankyou so much for your wonderful “Pieces of Blue” that I have just read. It should be made into a mini-series I think. What fantastic writing! You capture life, as few can.

  13. As an ardent fan, ever since discovering Pieces of Blue I am now, once again ‘back out bush’, this time with Kelly, her kids and old man Quinn. Loving every line !
    But , how about this ? I couldn’t believe my eyes !! Young Robert Roberts aka ‘Twice’
    Although christened David, 77 years ago, my old man nicknamed me ‘Twicer’, because, he claimed, I always need to be told twice to get on with a job !! What a coincidence !
    Had to tell you! ( have bought a lottery ticked. Fingers x’ed !)
    I have more photographs of cattle pads, water troughs, cattle in mobs or strung out, Mulga in all seasons, hillsides of spinifex and even a couple of brumbies standing hip locked in the shade ! than you could shake a stick at!!
    Guess who’s hooked !!
    Thank you Kerry. Very much !!

  14. Kerry, I arrived at Bowthorne Station late in the day May 2003.I was riding my Yamaha XT600.Due to the fact I could not camp you gave me board for the night .After a beatiful roast dinner and freshly baked bread you insisted I write a poem in your guest poetry book.I’m thinking it was poem 100. I’m interested as to where those poems are since you moved to Bundaberg. I kept a copy of the poem in my in my diary and over printed on a photo of Meryl and I the same day I arrived at Bowthorne and Meryl turned back.Also the lunch you packed that stay was fantastic.Thankyou and trust you are well.
    Regards Wayne

  15. Kerry i have just finished all your books they are just fantastic reads they are books you just cant put down have to keep reading , when is the next book coming out if you have there’s one your working on

  16. Hi Kerry
    I am a year 11 student in a rural country town on the darling downs. At the moment I am doing an English assignment on “identities” we were to choose a biography or autobiography book on influential, inspiring or interesting individuals . Many students chose to do a famous being wether it be a notorious killer or a woman who’d been kidnaped or a girl that was overcoming cancer. I chose to do you and your book “heart country”. as I was reading I became aware of all the things I never noticed about the country I grew up on. I would love to know more about your story. why you love the country so much and I guess how you overcome all the obstacles that it threw at you.

    Cheers Lauren

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