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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 is the author of Denizen, which won the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize and was shortlisted in 2023 Ned Kelly Awards for Best Debut. His writing has appeared in The GuardianMeanjinKill Your Darlings and the Newtown Review of Books. He has appeared at events including the Sydney Writers Festival, Newcastle Writers Festival and BAD Crime Sydney. He works as a nurse. Find him on Twitter and Instagram or visit his website.

Nov 7, 2023

‘When I was a lawyer, I knew what was good enough, because if you did the job properly, you were paid, and if you didn’t do the job properly, you were sued. It was very clear-cut. With writing, you never know. There’s a lot of subjectivity.’

James speaks with Penguin Literary Prize winning author Annette Higgs about her debut novel, On a Bright Hillside in Paradise. They discuss the process of researching family ancestry to craft historical fiction, as well as the challenge of taking up writing later in life. Plus, Annette shares the story of how she learned she won the Penguin Literary Prize during a trip to Norfolk Island. 

Annette Higgs is a writer living in Sydney, Australia. She has lived, worked and studied in Sydney, London and Italy, and holds a Doctor of Arts from the University of Sydney. A Pushcart nominee, her short work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies in Australia, the USA, the UK and India. 

You can read Annette's March 2023 essay for the Bangalore Review, entitled 'Starting Late: Reflections on Becoming a Writer' here

Get your copy of On a Bright Hillside in Paradise from Booktopia or your local bookshop.

Upcoming events 

Books and authors discussed in this episode:

  • Limberlost by Robbie Arnott
  • The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane
  • Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • Obsession by Nicole Madigan 

Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy.

James' novel Denizen is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy.