I was this close to being named after a racehorse. I very nearly came into this world as Toni Renee after my mother took a shine to a racehorse of that name. My father intervened, not wanting his daughter to be named after a racehorse, a compromise was reached, and Kellie Renee was born. In a weird twist, despite many attempts, horses and I do not get on. It’s like they know…

Kellie Hailes

Kellie Hailes

I won second prize at the school pet day for my pet worm. My sister got to take our dog to our annual school pet day and I didn’t want to go emptyhanded, so I dug up a worm, popped it in a massive glass jar with loads of dirt. Then I researched how to keep a worm as a pet. On the day I walked around the school field proud as punch with my wee worm, and was able to show the trails in the dirt that proved the worm was still alive. I placed second, losing to a sea slug. The worm was returned to the earth shortly thereafter, but I still have my certificate.

People call me ‘Pollyanna’ and it drives me mad. Mainly because when it’s said to me it’s in such a way that it’s clear the person does not care for my perkiness. I also intensely dislike being called ‘bubbly’. Alas, due to my silver lining nature, and the saying ‘worse things happen at sea’ being drilled into me since I was a child, I don’t let anything get me down for long. So perhaps it’s a deserved term, but it’s still not my favourite.

I’ve watched Star Wars IV over a hundred times. Probably over 200. I remember taping it when it came on the tele and it was instant love. All the action. All the good versus evil. Lightsabers! Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan, Darth Vadar... It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I watched it over and over and over. Even now I still pop it on at least once a year.

I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was ten. It was about 28 pages long and featured Prince William and Prince Harry coming to New Zealand for a visit, only to get stuck in a cave along the Kaikoura coast after a rockslide. They then had to get resourceful and fend for themselves until their mum and dad rescued them. I got a 50cent stamp mark for that piece of writing from my teacher, which was a very big deal.

I tried to join the police. And by ‘try’ I mean I read the requirements, decided the hardest part would be the fitness test and then started going to the gym religiously. After working out for six months and not getting anywhere near the required minimum time for the run I decided to stick with my job as a radio copywriter, and promptly quit the gym.

It took me nearly twenty years to get my full drivers license. I don’t do tests. They freak me out. It took me until I was eighteen to get my learners, followed by my restricted, and that way only because a woman I worked with at the time pushed me to do it. I’d have been happy to sit on my restricted forever, but the law changed here in New Zealand that meant if you didn’t progress to the full license you’d have to go back to the start. That meant more tests. So I pulled on my big girl britches and booked myself in for the full. I shook like a leaf throughout the entire test, and went left instead of right at the very beginning, but I got there in the end. And I nearly hugged the licencing officer when she said I’d passed.

My first job was selling picked onions for commission at markets. I was all of twelve years old, received eighty cents from every sale, and I can still do the sales patter. ‘Good morning sir/madam! Would you like to try a pickled onion? There’s curry, spicy and regular…’

As a child I used to lie in a field of buttercups and sing songs from The Sound of Music to the bees. I believed that by doing so they’d never sting me because it made them happy. They never did sting me, but I suspect it was the singing that drove them away, rather than their enjoyment of my performance.

If I wasn’t writing romance I’d be writing. Writing is in my blood. In my soul. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. From writing stories throughout school, to radio ads during my twenties and early thirties, to crafting articles about the latest happenings in the beauty world for my current job. I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I love – and I can’t imagine not putting words out there in one form of the other. But writing romance? That’s in my heart, and I hope to spin tales of two people falling in love forever.

The Big Little Festival is published by HQ, and is available now as a paperback, £7.99