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I’d hoped for a knight in chainmail to be standing at her gate, perhaps even a sword stuck in a rock on visiting the home of this most recent and unlikely custodian of the King Arthur legends. And how, in the northern hemisphere where King Arthur is revered like Trekkies love Dr Spock, she has been embraced as an author lending some historical accuracy to a subject more teased and fiddled with than Lancelot’s “coal-black curls”. Like so much of the Arthur legend, the dashing knight is a creation – in this case, a fancy of a wandering French poet, Chraacétien de Troyes, from the 12th century, 700-odd years after Arthur is believed to have lived.
She was simply entranced by the language, longing and sadness in the tale, sparking an enduring fascination with all things Arthurian. When she first started touting her ideas and work around in Australia before looking overseas, she was told by one publishing house she was “too old, too white and too female”.
It took 50 years, but that fascination – which led to two master’s degrees and a Ph D from the University of Queensland, both touching on Arthurian themes, while teaching at a host of Queensland state schools – is paying dividends. Hume, as she is known on the dust covers to hide her gender, agrà la Harry Potter’s J. It was another blow after Hume’s acrimonious and elongated split from Education Queensland following her then-principal’s suggestion she had passed her “use-by-date” (at age 55) and should consider retiring. I just forget that other people don’t understand the world, or think, the way I do, or think as fast as I do.” Hume paints an Ipswich childhood of meagre means made full by learning.
Since her first book in late 2009, a reported 250,000 Britons have bought her somewhat bloody historical fiction, filled with the battles and derring-do of her grey-eyed, towering King Arthur and gifted healer, Merlin. However, spend a few hours with Hume, and you’re left in no doubt that she’s not the retiring type. It seems she was quick at it: “I was walking and talking at nine months and my mum said the first sentence I ever uttered was, ‘What is there to do?
From Hume’s (rectangular) kitchen table where she spends big slabs of her day writing, the view outside takes in a swimming pool area that is framed by bushes. Tall, with a helmet of silver hair dyed golden, a rich, contralto voice and a penchant for bold outfits and accessories, she is a striking woman who admits to needing to leash a “streak of fury that can come out of nowhere”. ’ ” She’d read The Tale of Peter Rabbit on her own at three.
The pain hasn’t stopped her love of high heels, though, with Hume interrupting our interview to show off some of her latest acquisitions, including a pair of stilettos patterned by skulls and roses. Mike’s training as a Search and Rescue Mission Co-ordinator and air traffic controller, and her job as a schoolteacher, meant they moved a lot.