Crafting feisty females with author Felicity McLean


When researching for her second novel, Felicity McLean learned there are more books and songs about Ned Kelly and his gang than any other Australian historical figure.

Kelly is pervasive in Australian culture, but McLean wondered how representative he is of who we are as a nation in 2022.

Her new novel plays around with just that question, through the distinctive, captivating voice of Ruby Red McCoy.

Felicity McLean’s debut novel, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone, has been published in numerous countries. It was a Barnes & Noble ‘Discover Great New Writers’ pick in the US, and was shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards. Her book, Body Lengths, co-written with Olympian Leisel Jones, was Apple Books ‘Best Biography of 2015’ and won the 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards ‘Reader’s Choice’ for Small Publisher Adult Book of the Year.

As a journalist she’s interviewed authors including Irvine Welsh, James Patterson, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Gillian Mears, Charlotte Wood, Tom Keneally, Nicholas Sparks, Judy Nunn, Wayne Macauley, Chris Flynn, Kirsten Tranter, Jo Nesbo, Kathy Lette, Anne Rice, Michael Robotham and Tara Moss. (In other words, who hasn’t she interviewed?!)

Photo credit A Hollingworth

In this takeover episode of Dani Vee’s long-running Words and Nerds podcast, Felicity and I discuss what drew her to this contemporary retelling of the Ned Kelly story, how she developed the character of Red and her striking voice, and her deep love for the New South Wales Central Coast.

‘Would we sympathise with an angry, feisty female?’ Felicity asked, in developing the book’s concept. ‘Would we judge her more harshly than the larrikin Ned Kelly? And how far could I push it?’

We also discuss Kelly’s Jerilderie letter of 1879, drinking undiluted cordial, the hitchhiking ghost and other Central Coast miscellany.

Catch my interview with Felicity on ep 532 of Words and Nerds, a podcast about all things books and writing. Available on Apple all podcast apps.


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