Kelly Ana Morey has written four novels and three social histories, and a childhood memoir, as well as poems, short stories, criticism and journalism.
Born of Pakeha and Ngati Kuri descent in New Zealand’s Far North in 1968, she had a peripatetic childhood in Papua New Guinea, which she has described as “ridiculously magical and intensely imaginative”. Her teenage years found her located between the maunga and the sea in Taranaki, at boarding school at New Plymouth Girls’ High School.
She spent the next decade and a bit at university. A B.A. in English and a M.A. specialising in contemporary Maori art, were followed by a third, a M.A.Lit and study for a PhD on the use of museum collections in contemporary New Zealand art. Her university studies included the creative writing paper taught by Witi Ihimaera and Albert Wendt. At that point, she decided against writing and becoming an art historian specialising in contemporary art.
During a two-year period of unemployment, Morey returned to the far north and to writing, producing her first novel, Bloom (Penguin Books, 2003), which was published to critical acclaim. In 2004 it won the NZSA Hubert Church Award for Best First Work of Fiction at the Montana Book Awards. The judging panel said it was “a wonderfully accomplished first novel that reads like the work of a veteran writer rather than a first book author”.
Her second novel Grace is Gone (Penguin, 2004) was one of five fiction finalists in the 2005 Kiriyama Prize, an annual award celebrating books from and about the Pacific Rim.
In 2005, she was one of two recipients of the inaugural Janet Frame Literary Trust Awards for Imaginative Fiction, worth $10,000 each. She received the Todd Writer’s Bursary in 2003 and was highly commended in the BNZ Short Story Awards in 2012.
On an Island, With Consequences Dire (Penguin, 2007) is Morey’s fourth novel, a story of three friends and what happens when relationships turn sour. Her fifth novel Quinine, the clash of culture for German colonisers in New Guinea, was published by Huia in 2010.
From 2002, Morey worked as an oral historian at the Royal NZ Navy Museum. Her non-fiction work includes Service from the Sea (Penguin, 2088), a New Zealand naval history told through the collections of the Royal NZ Navy Museum. In 2013, she wrote a centennial history for St Cuthbert’s College. Her memoir How to Read a Book (Awa Press, 2005) is about her upbringing in Papua New Guinea.
Kelly Ana Morey was awarded the 2014 Maori Writer’s Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre to work on her fifth and latest novel, which is about the race horse Phar Lapp. She believes the book, called Daylight Second, is the first New Zealand literary novel about a racehorse. As a horse-lover all her life, she says the subject matter is in her DNA and Phar Lap is a great story.
Photo: NZ Academy of Literature