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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

Jun 21, 2022

After a broken finger brought on a debilitating illness, author Rae Cairns lost two years as her doctors searched for the right treatment. A bad reaction to drugs caused her hair to fall out. When her health had stabilised enough for her to return to writing, she lost her literary agent. Undeterred, Rae self-published her novel. After being shortlisted for a major award, she had a new agent and a two-book publishing deal with HarperCollins within a few weeks.

Rae talks to James and Ashley about living with chronic invisible illness, coping with brain fog, and cultivating the resilience to share a story that, in her words, she just had to tell.   

Rae Cairns’s debut novel, 'The Good Mother,' was shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Awards for Best Debut Crime Fiction, and was published by HarperCollins in 2022. Her second novel will be out in 2023. Rae lives in Sydney.

You can buy a copy of 'The Good Mother' from your local bookshopBooktopia or wherever else good books are sold. Shout out to Australia's hardworking independent booksellers!

Books and authors discussed in this episode:

  • The Missing Among Us by Erin Stewart (ep 54);
  • Daughters of Eve by Nina D Campbell;
  • Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie;
  • Autumn by Ali Smith;
  • The Children's Bible by Lydia Millet;
  • Negative Space by BR Yeager;
  • My Name Is Revenge by Ashley Kalagian Blunt;
  • Goat Mountain by David Vann;
  • It by Stephen King

Denizen is coming out July 19! Find out more and pre-order here. Details about launch events in Sydney, Melbourne, Dubbo and online now available

Ashley is performing live and in-person at Generation Women, a storytelling night in Sydney. Wednesday 29 June, 6:30-8:30pm, The Beresford 354 Bourke St, Surry Hills. Get tickets here!

Ashley's next online writing workshop, The Joy of Creative Writing, is on Monday 25 July, 7:45-9 pm AEST online via Zoom. Book in here!

Get in touch!