From the time she was a young child, Kelli Hawkins always wanted to write stories, but it never occurred to her that writing stories could be a serious career.
However, as fate would have it, it has become a career, albeit in a very bittersweet way.
Kelli is now a published author with a four-book deal with HarperCollins Australia.
She grew up and went to school in Wingham. A big reader, Kelli could often be found at Wingham Library, or at home, writing stories.
"I remember writing a story for Dolly magazine when I was really young," she laughs.
After studying communications at university in Bathurst, Kelli worked as a journalist and travelled with her husband Matt, who she met at university. After living and working in the UK and the US, Kelli retrained to become a graphic and web designer.
But she never gave up her love of writing.
"I've been writing probably since my kids were little," Kelli says.
And then, a very personal tragedy changed everything.
Matt was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had two months to live. With chemo, he survived for eight months, but was very sick the entire time.
"I didn't do anything much at all while he was sick, obviously there was too much going on," Kelli said.
Four months after Matt died, Kelli unearthed two books she had written, one a domestic psychological thriller (think Girl on a Train) and the other a children's chapter book. She sought out a literary agent.
"I decided it was time to send them off. I guess one last chance, really, before I had to go and get a job and get back to normal life," she said.
One of the agents submitted the adult book to HarperCollins, who "really liked" it.
"It was kind of weird, because a friend of mine had a friend in the children's department at HarperCollins and she suggested I send the kids' book to the publisher that she knew, and that publisher really liked my kids' book," Kelly remembers.
By a strange coincidence, both Kelli's adult and children's books were taken to the same acquisition meeting at HarperCollins, and the result was the four book deal, brokered by the agent.
The first two books, Other People's Houses, and a children's chapter book titled The School of Talking Pets, were published in 2021. (Her children's books are released under the name Kelli Anne Hawkins.)
Kelli's latest book All She Wants, another domestic psychological thriller, has just been released. The fourth book in the deal, another children's book for middle graders, will be released in September.
The first draft of All She Wants was written in a mere three months after receiving the deal. It is set in Newcastle, and she says the publishers were surprisingly keen to have it set there, in the city Kelli now calls home.
It feels like it is all different to what I expected of my life.- Kelli Hawkins
"There are lots of places that people would know - going out to Nobby's, one of the people lives in Mayfield, one lives in Newcastle. It's nice to write about local things, actually."
When asked what it felt like to be published by a well-known publishing house, Kelli said you don't realise until you start writing just how difficult it is to be published.
"It was quite weird. Especially just having had Matt die as well, and I was still in shock. I still am, really," she says.
"It was kind of bittersweet as well, to know that Matt supported me while I was writing all these books, and he will never know that they've been published or I've now got a new career.
"It feels like it is all different to what I expected of my life."
Kelli supplements her income as an author by writing reports for a private investigator, another job she can do from home, as she prefers to do with her two teenage children.
And you can probably expect to see more than just the four books published by Harper Collins - Kelli is currently writing another adult novel.
Kelli's books can be found at booksellers, online and at MidCoast Libraries, and are also in ebook format.
To learn more about Kelli and her books, visit www.kellihawkins.com.au.
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