Forget hoarding toilet paper or learning how to make the perfect loaf of sourdough, Millthorpe author Kim Kelly just doubled down on what she knew best during lockdown.
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Ms Kelly made the most of 2020 by pumping out her latest book, The Rat Catcher, and it's certainly paid off with the novel being longlisted for the ARA Historical Novel Prize.
The pandemic served as inspiration for the plot which follows a young Irishman working as a rat catcher in Sydney during an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1900.
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"I couldn't even get flour at the supermarket in Blayney to bake cake so what else was I going to do?" she laughed.
"I'm quite obsessive once I get an idea so I drilled down and wrote that one pretty quickly.
"It all started for me during the pandemic when everyone was losing their minds and toilet paper was disappearing from the shelves and people were in a high state of panic and I thought, how did we cope in pandemics past?
"For my very first novel I had done some research on the Spanish Flu and I knew I didn't want to go back there. But then I remembered my grandmother telling me that her big brothers had caught rats in Sydney in the early 1900s.
Despite its less than desirable name, The Rat Catcher is actually a love story where the protagonist, O'Reilly, falls in love with a girl, a rat and Sydney's first very public library.
Ms Kelly said she had begun writing novellas back in 2007 as a hobby and so was pleasantly surprised when her name popped up on the Historical Novel Society Australasia's longlist.
"I've been involved with the Historical Novel Society community for ages but I never thought any of my books would be big enough or my name would be big enough," she said.
"When you're a little artist, you're happy doing what you do but you never think you're going to get recognised. It's a bit mad."
Even if the novel wins she won't be heading to the bright lights of the city anytime soon, crediting her Central West surroundings as 'special'.
"As Darryl Kerrigan said in the Castle, I love the serenity," she said.
"I particularly love Blayney Shire because of the community. I know it's a cliché, but it's so close-knit you believe people really care about you. It's a special place.
"I'm not moving!"
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