Dame Fiona Kidman grew up in Northland and began a library career in Rotorua after leaving school. She is the winner of many awards, grants and fellowships and is now one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary novelist, short-story writers and poet, with much of her fiction focusing on how outsiders navigate their way in conformist societies. Along with her writing, she has worked in media as a journalist, radio producer, and as a radio, film and television scriptwriter. She now works wholly as a writer and occasional teacher of writing.
Her writing explores feminist self-discovery and social validation – this is telling as a women writer born during World War II. Her fiction depicts New Zealand women, both contemporary and historical, as rebellious heroines who resist the social values that threaten to engulf them.
As president of PEN (New Zealand Society of Authors) and the New Zealand Book Council, she used her influence to establish Women's Book Week in conjunction with her involvement in the United Women's Conventions in the 1970s and the 1975 International Women's Year, which profoundly affected her. Kidman was awarded an Officer, Order of the British Empire for services to literature in 1988, and a Dame Companion New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 1998.
She has been involved in the New Zealand Book Council since its inception in 1972, being its first secretary, and president from 1992 to 1995. In her early years with the Council she founded various programmes, most notably, Writers in Schools. In the 1990s, she founded Words on Wheels (in collaboration with Chris Pugsley).
Kidman received the A.W. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards (now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards). And the 2006 Katherine Mansfield Memorial. She was the 2008 Creative New Zealand Michael King Fellow, and the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Centre) President of Honour 2008/2009.
In 2011 she was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction. From 2001 to 2016 she was a founding trustee of the Randell Cottage Writers’ Trust and is now a Trustee Emerita and in 2017 was the Honoured New Zealand Writer by the New Zealand Society of Authors.
In 2019, Kidman won the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize for This Mortal Boy, which recreates the events leading to the real-life hanging of "jukebox killer" Paddy Black at Mt Eden prison in 1955. In May 2019 at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, Kidman won the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize for her novel ‘This Mortal Boy’.