Meeting Jessie Hickman, Downton Abbey’s era badass and multiple living expert

Brussels life is rich of hidden gems. It feels as if nothing’s happening but truth is, a lot of cool stuff happens. You just have to find what and where. Last Tuesday I was invited by a friend to a fancy hotel downtown where Australian author Courtney Collins was introducing her debut novel, The Burial (published in the U.S. as “The Untold” and in France as “Sous la Terre” ).

The Burial tells the captivating story of Jessie Hickman, Australia’s last bushranger. Born at the beginning of last century, Jessie had already lived as circus rider, cattle rustler and convict by the age of 26. Her unusual, adventurous, fearless and sometime desperate life – told in the book through the voice of her prematurely born  (fictional) baby daughter -is unique for her time and made her a legend down under.

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I was lucky enough to join Courtney Collins and her agent with my friends for dinner later that night. We walked through the beautiful Galérie de la Reine and had dinner in an impersonal little bistrot, paying little attention to the food and getting carried away by conversation. Courtney is a beautiful woman, calm and composed. I was impressed by her courage in taking risks: she worked on her debut novel for seven years while keeping her day job in social entrepreneurship. It was only around the end of that writing period that she quit her job to dedicate herself full time to the novel.  Her instinct was right, since the book found its way to a publisher in a short time and it is now translated in several languages.

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Courtney Collins with her novel

She lives in the countryside not far from Victoria, surrounded by artists and friends (when she described the place I thought “Paradise!”) and goes back to the city occasionally, whenever she needs back some urban vibe.

To know more about the book and the author, go here.

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