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James and Ashley are staying at home. Partly because there’s a pandemic, partly because they’re writers, and partly because of their health. Through discussions and interviews, they explore the big questions: how do books get written? How do people live with chronic illness? And just what ARE you reading?

Ashley Kalagian Blunt is author of two books, How to Be Australian, a memoir, and My Name Is Revenge, a thriller novella and collected essays. My Name is Revenge was a finalist in the 2018 Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Woollahra Digital Literary Awards. Her writing appears in Griffith Review, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Big Issue, Westerly, Kill Your Darlings and more. She lives and works in Sydney, NSW. Find her on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website.

James McKenzie Watson won the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize for his novel Denizen, which also received a 2021 Varuna Residential Fellowship and 2021 KSP Fellowship, and was highly commended for the 2020 Writing NSW Varuna Fellowships. His short fiction has been recognised in competitions including the International InkTears Flash Fiction Contest and the Grieve Writing Competition, and featured in publications such as Baby Teeth Journal and Brave Voices Magazine. He works as a nurse in regional NSW. Find him on Twitter and Instagram or visit his website.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt and James McKenzie Watson

May 24, 2022

In her exploration of life in rural Australia, author Yumna Kassab draws on horror, crime and gothic inspiration to craft a thematically linked experiment in form and style. She speaks to us about her own experiences of rural life and how her science background has influenced her experimental approach to writing. Plus, James pitches her writing on the Pilliga as Australia's answer to The Blair Witch Project

Yumna Kassab is a writer from Western Sydney. She studied medical science and neuroscience at university. Her first book, The House of Youssef, was listed for prizes including the Victorian Premier's Literary Award, Queensland Literary Award, NSW Premier's Literary Award and The Stella Prize. You can buy a copy of 'Australiana' from your local bookshopBooktopia or wherever else books are sold. 

Books and authors discussed in this episode:

  • Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au;
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard;
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago;
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez;
  • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann;
  • The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez
  • Divorce Is in the Air by Gonzalo Torne;
  • Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler;
  • Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke

Find out more about Denizen here and check back for event details leading up to its release on July 19 2022!

Join Ashley for Put Them on the Edge of Their Seat, a workshop on crafting narrative tension. Saturday 11 June, 1-4pm in person at KSP Writers’ Centre, Perth. 

Get in touch!