By PHILIP CHANDLER
A former Queenstowner’s told the tale of an unsung heroine of the Whakatipu goldfields.
The Nine Lives of Kitty K. is an historical novel about the incredible life of Kitty Kirk (1855-1930), who was known for her daring rides on horseback to deliver supplies to Skippers miners in mid-winter.
Arguably one of the toughest women in Otago history, some hailed her as a heroine while others called her a harlot.
The novel — depicting turbulent times including the 1890s depression — was written by 91-year-old Margaret Mills, who lived in Queenstown between 1951 and 1978 and was married to one-time New Zealand ski racer Johnny Mills, who died in ’97.
Mills, who’s nowadays based on Waiheke Island, originally heard Kitty’s story more than 40 years ago from Queenstowner Winnie Mulholland, whose parents knew her, though some tales turned out to be more fiction than fact.
The author’s indebted to subsequent research from a former archivist at Arrowtown’s Lakes
District Museum, Ann Maguire, and her Queenstown son, Brett Mills.
Mills wrote the book over 14 months and completed 27 drafts before she was satisfied.
She’d wake up early each morning to tap it out on her computer — ‘‘it had already written itself in my head overnight’’.
What she didn’t know about publishing, she says, is ‘‘you can not get a book published without putting some money into it yourself’’.
‘‘So I thought, ‘what the hell, all my life I wanted to publish a novel so this is my chance’.
‘‘The best thing for me is now when forms have to be filled in that ask for your occupation, I no longer have to write ‘retired’, I can write ‘writer’.’’
Mills is travelling down to the Whakatipu for three book-launch events in two weeks’ time.
There’ll be a South Island launch at Lakes District Museum on March 25, at 5.30pm, followed on March 27 by appearances at Remarkables Market, at 9am, and Frankton Library at 11am.
The book will be for sale at each event at the discounted price of $30.