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Through discussions and interviews with writers, artists and health professionals, author friends James McKenzie Watson and Ashley Kalagian Blunt explore the big questions: how do books get written? How do people navigate life with chronic illness? And just what are you reading?

Ashley Kalagian Blunt is the author of Dark Mode, an internationally published psychological thriller. Her earlier books are How to Be Australian, a memoir, and My Name Is Revenge, collected fiction and essays. Her writing appears in the Sydney Morning Herald, Overland, Griffith Review, Sydney Review of Books, and more. Ashley is an enthusiastic teacher of writing and creativity. Originally from Canada, she has lived and worked in South Korea, Peru and Mexico. Find her on Twitter and Instagram or visit her website.

James McKenzie Watson won the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize for his novel Denizen, which was published by Penguin Random House in 2022. Denizen also received a 2021 Varuna Residential Fellowship and a 2021 KSP Residential Fellowship. James' short stories have been recognised in Australian and international competitions. His writing has appeared in The GuardianMeanjinKill Your Darlings and the Newtown Review of Books. He works as a nurse. Find him on Twitter and Instagram or visit his website.

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!