Show cover of James and Ashley Stay at Home

James and Ashley Stay at Home

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? Hosted by James McKenzie Watson, winner of the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize, and Ashley Kalagian Blunt, author of 'Dark Mode.'

Tracks

97 | Needing to know – Ashley discusses narrative drive
Throughout their careers, James and Ashley have each picked up some excellent writing tricks, plus developed a few of their own. Now, they’re each sharing a few of their most effective writing techniques (starting with episode 94 - James’ shortcut to compelling characters).   In this episode, Ashley gives a mini-masterclass on narrative drive and shares some revelations inspired by a book she refuses to name. She breaks down the four components of narrative drive in writing and explores the importance of each.   Plus, she shares the official title of her forthcoming thriller!    Books and authors discussed in this episode Gears of War: Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss; Candice Fox; JP Pomare;  In the Woods by Tana French; Red River Road by Anna Downes;  The Secret History by Donna Tartt; The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga;  Rattled by Ellis Gunn (from ep 56);  Toni Jordan;   How to Be Australian by Ashley Kalagian Blunt; The Cop Who Fell From the Sky by Craig Semple;  Demon Copperhead by Barbara;  Annette Higgs (from ep 86); Indira Naidoo (from ep 82) Upcoming events  James is appearing at the Bathurst Writers Festival as part of the  Rural Crime Fiction: A Cross Examination panel, Saturday 25 May 1pm Ashley is teaching a Memoir Masterclass as part of the Words on the Waves Festival on Saturday 1 June, 2-4pm Ashley is appearing at the Words on the Waves Writers Festival as part of the Back from the Abyss panel on Sunday 2 June, 1.30-2.30pm Ashley is teaching Pathways to Publication for Writing NSW on Saturday 15 June, 10am-4pm Ashley is in conversation with Lisa Kenway to launch her debut thriller on Thursday 1 August, 6.30pm Learn more about Ashley's bestselling psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.    Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.   Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
29:12 5/16/24
96 | Living to tell the tale with Tracy Sorensen, author of 'The Vitals'
'The doctors were telling me, "We’re going to take your greater omentum out" … I had no idea what these terms meant.'  In episode 96, author Tracy Sorensen joins us to discuss her remarkable novel/cancer memoir, The Vitals, narrated by her internal organs. After her original cancer diagnosis, a desire to better understand her body led Tracy to crochet her peritoneal organs. This in turn helped her to develop each organ's personality as they became point-of-view characters in the novel. She delves into her creative process, including the three-word sticky note that guided her writing. Part of her goal was a deliberate departure from conventional 'battle' narratives surrounding cancer, opting instead for a more nuanced approach that challenges societal expectations. She also shares her approach to crafting narrative drive. Tracy Sorensen is a writer and scholar. She grew up in Carnarvon on the north coast of Western Australia and now lives in Bathurst, New South Wales, with her partner, Steve. Her first novel, The Lucky Galah, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2019. The Vitals, her second novel, is based on her experience with advanced primary peritoneal cancer, a form of ovarian cancer.  Books and authors discussed in this episode Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk   Enid Blyton The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico I’ll Leave You with This by Kylie Ladd Number Go Up by Zeke Faux The Trial by Franz Kafka Loosely Based on a Made-Up Story by James Blunt Get your copy of The Vitals from Booktopia or your local bookshop. Upcoming events Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024 Ashley is teaching Pathways to Publication for Writing NSW on Saturday 15 June, 10am-4pm Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
41:24 4/23/24
95 | 'I'm Tom Cruise in Bulgaria' with Liz Nugent, author of 'Strange Sally Diamond'
‘I had thought I was going to be like Harper Lee. I was going to write one book, it was going to be a massive global success, and then I would go into hiding.’  Hear from award-winning Irish author Liz Nugent, whose novel Strange Sally Diamond may have turned Ashley into a total fangirl.  Liz discusses her journey from a childhood accident leading to dystonia, to finding success and self-confidence through writing, and to her recent brain surgery. Liz also dives into her latest novel, sharing insights into the creation of its unique protagonist and her writing process.  Plus, Liz makes a call on the greatest crime novel of the past ten years! Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in film, theatre and television. Her five novels – Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait, Skin Deep, Our Little Cruelties and Strange Sally Diamond – have each been number one bestsellers. She has won four Irish Book Awards, as well as the James Joyce Medal for Literature. She lives in Dublin. Books and authors discussed in this episode The Lost Man by Jane Harper; Val McDermid; Ian Rankin; Graham Norton; Dervla McTiernan; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Lisa Jewell;  The Prophet Song by Paul Lynch; In the Woods by Tana French; The Hunter by Tana French; The Search by Tana French; Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica; Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Get your copy of Strange Sally Diamond from Booktopia or your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Crafting Narrative Drive as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival on Friday 5 April, 10am-4pm  See Ashley in conversation with Mirandi Riwoe at Newcastle Writers Festival, Saturday 6 April Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024  Ashley is teaching Pathways to Publication for Writing NSW on Saturday 15 June, 10am-4pm Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
43:37 4/2/24
94 | Cloning, shame and principles – James shares tips on writing character
Throughout their writing careers, James and Ashley have each picked up some excellent writing tricks, plus developed a few of their own. In the coming months, they’ll each share a few of their most effective writing techniques, starting with James’ shortcut to compelling characters.  British science-fiction author Karen Traviss writes remarkably nuanced characters. She also writes remarkably quickly, once tapping out 37,000 words in two days. In this episode, James delves into one of Traviss's novels to understand what makes her characters so compelling. He then shares the four questions he now always asks himself about his characters before writing.  Plus, we talk about the latest novel from one of our very first guests.   You can find a summary of James’ tips here.  You can find Karen Traviss’ wildly entertaining and informative FAQ page here.  Books and authors discussed in this episode Gears of War: Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss; The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen; The Walking Dead (series) by Robert Kirkman;  Red River Road by Anna Downes;  The Consultant by Im Seong Sun, translated by An Seon Jae Upcoming events Ashley is teaching Crafting Narrative Drive as part of the Newcastle Writers Festival on Friday 5 April, 10am-4pm  See Ashley in conversation with Mirandi Riwoe at Newcastle Writers Festival, Saturday 6 April Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024  Ashley is teaching Pathways to Publication for Writing NSW on Saturday 15 June, 10am-4pm Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
31:55 3/12/24
93 | Tricking yourself into writing with Adele Dumont, author of 'The Pulling'
’I kept this condition very, very secret from everybody.’ Adele Dumont's remarkable new memoir, The Pulling, details her life with trichotillomania — a mental health condition that, at times, has consumed her life. In this episode, she discusses the unique writing process that enabled her to put long-held secrets first on the page and then into the public sphere. She also describes the impact of revealing her illness through her memoir, especially to family and friends who knew nothing about her condition. We discuss the shame linked to trichotillomania and whether sharing her story has shifted this feeling. Adele Dumont is an Australian writer and critic. Her work has appeared in Griffith Review, Meanjin, Southerly, ABR, and Sydney Review of Books. Adele’s first book, No Man Is an Island, is an account of her experiences teaching English to asylum seekers in detention. Adele lives in Sydney, where she works as an English language teacher and examiner.  'Get your copy of The Pulling from Booktopia or your local bookshop.' Books and authors discussed in this episode: Lee Kofman (from episode 76); Helen Garner; Adele’s Guardian article; Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid; The Wolves of Eternity by Karl Ove Knausgård; Unfinished Business by Shankari Chandran (from episode 48) Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 As part of Seniors Week, Ashley is teaching memoir writing at Glen Street & Warringah Mall Library, on 15 and 19 March Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024  Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
37:02 2/20/24
92 | How to save a life with Kylie Ladd, author of 'I'll Leave You With This'
'The whole concept of transplantation still blows me away. There is something a bit magical about it. But as with most things people do, it can also find ways to blow up in people’s faces.'  Author and neuropsychologist Kylie Ladd joins us to speak about her latest book, 'I'll Leave You with This.' She shares her research into the incredible science of human organ and tissue donation, and the family tragedy that inspired her beautiful novel.  Plus, you'll never guess what James is reading!  Kylie Ladd is a novelist, psychologist and freelance writer. Her novels have been published in Australia and overseas, and her short works appear widely across Australia. She holds a PhD in neuropsychology. Get your copy of 'I'll Leave You with This' from Booktopia or your local bookshop. You can register to become an organ donor online.  Books and authors discussed in this episode: The Vitals by Tracy Sorensen;  The Wolves of Eternity by Karl Ove Knausgård; Red River Road by Anna Downes (from episode 5); A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold;  Andrew Solomon;  Dani Vee, host of the Words and Nerds Podcast Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024  Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
38:43 1/30/24
91 | Bonus ep! Learn how to run a writers group with Ashley Kalagian Blunt
If you listen to James and Ashley Stay at Home, you know that both Ashley and James credit much of their skill development to their writers group. And they're not the only ones! You can hear rom com author Jonathon Shannon talk about what he learned from the group, as well as literary fiction author Amy Lovat. Like Ashley and James, they joined as aspiring writers, and their manuscripts have gone on to be published.      Ashley's such a big fan of writers groups, she's put together a new on-demand workshop on the topic – and this short bonus ep tells you all about it.    This one-hour course covers everything from how to find a group near you, or start or your own, how to give and receive feedback, and how to know when your group isn't working and what to do about it.     Find Ashley's course, Get the Most from Writing Groups and Get Published at Bold Authors.   Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024 Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
05:03 1/16/24
90 | 'I was going to ask this privately, but...' - James and Ashley at the Boorowa Literary Festival
The tables are turned! Recorded live at the Inaugural Boorowa Literary Festival, festival director, book lover, and all-round excellent human Jeremy Clarke interviews James and Ashley.    Learn more about the Absolutely Superb Bibliothèque and Occasional Wine Bar and its upcoming literary events here!   Hear the James and Ashley Stay at Home origin story! Discover the connection between wine bars and readers. Plus, get an answer to the classic question, 'You’ve just had a farm visit – how was it?'     Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.    Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.   Upcoming events Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024    Books and authors discussed in this episode The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell Mistakes and Other Lovers by Amy Lovat (from ep 83) Bound to Happen by Jonathon Shannon (from ep 84) Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
35:44 1/9/24
89 | The Bed on a Plinth Awards: The best books we read in 2023
It's books wrap-up season! James and Ashley are getting on the bandwagon and discussing their favourite reads from 2023 in the first annual 'Bed on a Plinth Awards.' Books and authors discussed in this episode (warning: spoilers!): Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagian Blunt Crushing by Genevieve Novak The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane Desire by Jessie Cole Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders The Wych Elm by Tana French When One of Us Hurts by Monica Vuu Fire with Fire by Candice Fox Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier  The Push by Ashley Audrain  The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward  Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024 Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
22:26 12/19/23
88 | Books galore: the best book recommendations of 2023
Our most popular episode of the year is back! James has gathered the best 'What Are You Reading?' segments from 2023 into a comprehensive summary of book recommendations from our guests.   We discuss a huge variety of books, including thriller, mystery, memoir, rom com, literature, essays, poetry, nonfiction, plays and audiobooks. We also delve into reading habits. Do you read several books at a time, or restrict yourself to one? Do you finish most books you pick up, or allow yourself to quit? And so much more.  This episode features Hilton Koppe, Sanchana Venkatesh, Lee Kofman, Anna Spargo-Ryan, Karina May, Hannah Bent, Holden Sheppard, Hayley Scrivenor, Danielle Binks, Julie Janson, Mark Brandi, Indira Naidoo, Amy Lovat, Jonathon Shannon, Ali Thomas, Jacinta Dietrich, and Annette Higgs.  Books and authors discussed in this episode: Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief by Victoria Chang; The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill;  Lost Connections by Johann Hari; Homesickness by Janine Mikosza; The Fire and the Rose by Robyn Cadwallader; Turning Points in Medieval History by Dorsey Armstrong; Crying in H Mary by Michelle Zauner; Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata; Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason; Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner; Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom; The Wych Elm by Tana French; In the Woods by Tana French; The Others by Mark Brandi; Stolen Focus by Johann Hari; Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka; Crushing by Genevieve Novak; No Hard Feelings by Genevieve Novak; The Shot by Naima Brown; The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka; The Road by Cormac McCarthy; The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy; Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; Ghost Music by An Yu; Eta Draconis by Brendan Ritchie; We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson; The Long Knives by Irvine Welsh; We Could Be Something by Will Kostakis; Windhall by Ava Barry; The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane; Limberlost by Robbie Arnott; Benevolence by Julie Janson; Compassion by Julie Janson; Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami; The People of the River by Grace Karskens; Nardi Simpson (from ep 18); Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky; Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright; The Trial by Franz Kafka; Mistakes and Other Lovers by Amy Lovat; Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier; Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier; A Country of Eternal Light by Paul Dalgarno; Brilliant Lies by David Williamson; Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller; Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler; A Swim in the Pond in the Road by George Saunders; Lee Kofman (from ep 76); Kate Mildenhall (from ep 13); Sarah Sentilles (from ep 50); From Bhutan to Blacktown by Om Dhungel; Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver; Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe Stolen Focus by Johann Hari; Yellowface by Rebecca Kuang;      Dress Rehearsals by Madison Godfrey; Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey; Lucy Clarke; Echolalia by Briohny Doyle; Bunny by SE Tolsen; On a Bright Hillside in Paradise by Annette Higgs; When One of Us Hurts by Monica Vuu; Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld; A Mile Down by David Vann; A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh; The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; The Reader by Bernard Schlink; The Tilt by Chris Hammer; The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes; The Joy Thief by Penny Moodie; We Didn't Think It Through by Gary Lonesborough; Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo; Obsession by Nicole Madigan  Learn more about Ashley's psychological thriller Dark Mode and get your copy here or from your local bookshop.  Learn more about James' award-winning novel Denizen and get your copy here or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March 2024 Ashley is teaching Writing Crime Fiction, a six-week online course with Faber starting 15 May 2024  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
82:19 12/12/23
87 | How to climb a ladder covered in butter with Laurie Steed, author of 'Love, Dad'
‘I wanted to find compassion for me and for any writer out there who’s doing the best they can but it’s not working out the way they planned.’   Author Laurie Steed shares how crippling anxiety affected both his literary career and his experience of fatherhood. Before he could address the anxiety, he first had to unlearn the lessons around masculinity that prevented him from expressing vulnerability. Working with a creativity coach, Laurie has developed new ways of thinking about his writing, his career, and himself.  Plus, James and Ashley discuss their own ongoing health challenges and how their approaches to discussing health have changed (or not) over time.  Laurie Steed is the author of You Belong Here, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards, and Greater City Shadows, which was shortlisted for the 2022 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. His debut memoir is Love, Dad: Confessions of an Anxious Father.  Get your copy of Love, Dad from Booktopia or your local bookshop. Upcoming events  James is in conversation with Benjamin Stevenson about his newest novel, Everyone on this Train Is a Suspect – Wednesday 6 December, 6.30pm at Warringah Mall, $5 Ashley is teaching Online Feedback: Manuscript Development for Writing NSW starting 4 March, 2024 Books and authors discussed in this episode: You Belong Here by Laurie Steed Greater City Shadows by Laurie Steed (forthcoming) ZZ Packer Jack Kornfield The Disorganisation of Celia Stone by Emma Young Trapdoor by JP Pomare  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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
40:43 11/28/23
86 | Starting late with Penguin Literary Prize winner Annette Higgs
‘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  Ashley is in Goulburn on Saturday 11 November running her Joy of Creative Writing workshop (1-3pm) and in conversation about Dark Mode (3.30-4.30pm) at Goulburn Mulwaree Library – RSVP for free Ashley is Brisbane in conversation with podcast guest Fiona Robertson on Saturday 25 Nov at 10am, Ashgrove Library –RSVP for free  Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm James is in conversation with Benjamin Stevenson to celebrate the release of his new book 'Everyone On This Train is a Suspect' on Wednesday 6 Dec at 6:30pm at Warringah Mall Library - bookings required, $5 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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
35:49 11/7/23
85 | 'These men do exist:' the Dark Mode spoilers episode
Ashley reveals the inspiration behind the twists and turns in her bestselling psychological thriller, Dark Mode.  Together with return guest Jacinta Dietrich and self-described enthusiastic reader Ali Thomas, Ashley and James delve into every scintillating Dark Mode detail they normally can’t discuss, including the novel's real-life inspirations.   Jacinta Dietrich is the author of This Is Us Now, and co-hosts Differently Brained, a podcast focussed on neurodivergent celebration and mental health awareness. Ali Thomas is a former high school English teacher and featured as part of the inaugural Boorowa Literary Festival.  Upcoming events: Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival is happening October 26 to 29, and Ashley will be part of two days of panel sessions happening that weekend in the Huon Valley, Tasmania Online: Creative Nonfiction – Ashley is teaching her six-week online Writing NSW course starting 30 October Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: The Reader by Bernard Schlink  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon  Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz  The Tilt by Chris Hammer A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman  Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates The Guest List by Lucky Foley  Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes The Joy Thief by Penny Moodie We Didn't Think It Through by Gary Lonesborough This Is Us Now by Jacinta Dietrich  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.  Get in touch ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
60:47 10/17/23
84 | How hard can a book be? with Jonathon Shannon, author of 'Bound to Happen'
'I was still in that really optimistic, sort of naive, wonderful space as an early writer, where you think everything you write is just publishable.' Debut author Jonathon Shannon shares his journey from aspiring writer to published author – including the decision to join James and Ashley's writers' group.  We discuss how he took his debut romcom from a four-word pitch to a publishing contract, the rejection of his first manuscript, and his transition to writing romantic comedy alongside his wife, author Elodie Cheesman.  Plus, do you have a book you're saving to read before you die?  Jonathon Shannon is a Sydney-based writer and creative director. His work has been recognised at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, and is housed in the permanent archives of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Bound to Happen is his debut novel.  Get your copy of Bound to Happen or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  James is in conversation with Hayley Scrivenor as part of the National Young Writers Festival, 28 Sept to 1 Oct Ashley is appearing in-person at the Mount Beauty Writers Festival, happening Saturday 7 October.  Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival is happening October 26 to 29, and Ashley will be part of two days of panel sessions happening that weekend in the Huon Valley, Tasmania Online: Creative Nonfiction – Ashley is teaching her six-week online Writing NSW course starting 30 October Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: 'I’m the Wrong Ghost for This Haunting' by Ren Arcamone Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld A Mile Down by David Vann  A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Love, In Theory by Elodie Cheesman 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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
47:13 9/26/23
83 | How to stop pushing yourself with Amy Lovat, author of 'Mistakes and Other Lovers'
‘I conflate so many experiences throughout my life with the level of pain I was in at the time.’ Amy Lovat, debut author of Mistakes and Other Lovers and founder of Secret Book Stuff, gets real with us about the challenges of maintaining a creative practice with endometriosis. She also discusses writing about the dark side of modern evangelical Christianity, setting her novel in her hometown of Newcastle, and that time she was rushed to emergency in agonising pain and – well, you’ll just have to listen. Plus, James and Ashley receive personalised reading recommendations from this master bibliophile! Amy Lovat is a writer, editor and the founder of Secret Book Stuff. She has a PhD in English and Writing from the University of Newcastle and lives with her partner Laura, two dogs, a bird and thousands of books in Gadigal Country, Sydney. Get your copy of Mistakes and Other Lovers or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is appearing at Bloody Scotland on 15 September! Catch her in person in Stirling, UK, or online!  James is in conversation with Hayley Scrivenor as part of the National Young Writers Festival, 28 Sept to 1 Oct Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival is happening October 26 to 29, and Ashley will be part of two days of panel sessions happening that weekend in the Huon Valley, Tasmania Online: Creative Nonfiction – Ashley is teaching her six-week online Writing NSW course starting 30 October Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari;  Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman; Just a Girl by Kirsten Krauth; Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney; Normal People by Sally Rooney; A Lonely Girl Is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu; Friends and Dark Shapes by Kavita Bedford (from ep 24); Adult Fantasy by Briohny Doyle (read Ashley's review); Yellowface by Rebecca Kuang;      Dress Rehearsals by Madison Godfrey; Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey; Lucy Clarke; Echolalia by Briohny Doyle; Bunny by SE Tolsen; On a Bright Hillside in Paradise by Annette Higgs; The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane; When One of Us Hurts by Monica Vuu; Plus hear Amy talk about Secret Book Stuff in ep 34!  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.  Check out Writing NSW's online course program, and Podcasting 101.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
53:39 9/5/23
82 | Healing from grief and loss through nature with Indira Naidoo, author of 'The Space Between the Stars'
After Indira Naidoo lost her sister to suicide during the pandemic lockdowns, she unexpectedly found herself turning to nature to help her heal. Speaking with Ashley, Indira shares the journey through grief that led to her memoir 'The Space Between the Stars,' including her relationship with an especially consoling Moreton Bay fig. She describes the challenge of writing the book when she struggled even to speak her sister’s name, and delves into our innate need to connect with the natural world.    Indira Naidoo is one of Australia’s most popular broadcasters and authors. During her multi-decade award-winning journalistic career, she has hosted and reported for some of the country's most distinguished news and current affair programs, including the ABC TV’s Late Edition and SBS TV World News, and she is currently the host of ABC TV’s Compass and ABC Radio Sydney’s Evenings Program. She is an ambassador for Sydney’s homeless crisis centre the Wayside Chapel. Get your copy of The Space Between the Stars online or from your local bookshop. The South Coast Writers Festival is happening 18 to 20 August at Wollongong Town Hall. Hear from James, Ashley, Hayley Scrivenor, Shankari Chandran, and more! Authors include Alan Baxter, Alexis Wright, Caroline Baum, Emma Viskic, Helena Fox, Indira Naidoo, Kate Holden, Kate Scott, Loraine Peck, Meredith Jaffe, Mykaela Saunders, Pamela Cook, Sara Ayoub, Sarah Saleh, Tim Ayliffe, Tim Flannery and Will Kostakis. Indira is appearing on the panel 'Ritual, Nature and Grace,' alongside poet Tamryn Bennett, to discuss nature mysticism and medicine, rituals, and how writers express the things that strain beyond words. They’ll be speaking with festival director Sarah Nicholson. Upcoming events  South Coast Writers Festival, 18-20 August, Wollongong Town Hall – see Ashley and James in person!  Online: Building Suspense in Writing – Ashley is teaching this online workshop through Writers Victoria, Sunday 27 August, 10am-4pm Bound to Happen launch – Join Ashley in conversation at Better Read than Dead in Newtown for the launch of Jonathon Shannon's debut romcom, Saturday 2 September, 6.30-8pm  Online: Creative Nonfiction – Ashley is teaching her six-week online Writing NSW course starting 30 October Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver; Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe  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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
29:25 8/15/23
81 | 'A good-hearted kid in a difficult environment,' with Mark Brandi author of 'Southern Aurora'
Mark Brandi is the author of four novels, including his latest, Southern Aurora. He joins us to discuss how a short story he began in 2015 became his newest novel, his choice to set the story in rural Australia in the 1980s, and how he writes so convincingly from a child's point of view. We also talk about sustaining yourself creatively over multiple books.  Plus, who's going to die first – Ashley or James? Is one of us dead already? Listen to find out!  Mark Brandi's bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. Mark's second novel, The Rip, was published to critical acclaim in 2019, and his third novel, The Others, was shortlisted for the Best Fiction prize in the 2022 Ned Kelly Awards. His fourth novel is Southern Aurora. He graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked in the justice system before changing direction and deciding to write. Get your copy of Southern Aurora online or from your local bookshop. Upcoming events  Ashley is conversation with Hayley Scrivenor about Dark Mode at Penrith Library, Monday 7 August, 6.30 pm Ashley and James in conversation about Dark Mode at Mona Vale Library, Tuesday 8 August, 7pm Ashley is in conversation with Petronella McGovern about Dark Mode at Concord Library, Thursday 10 August, 6.00pm South Coast Writers Festival, 18-20 August, Wollongong Town Hall – see Ashley and James in person!  Building Suspense in Writing – Ashley is teaching this online workshop through Writers Victoria, Sunday 27 August, 10am-4pm Crafting Narrative Drive – an in-person workshop with Ashley at Avid Reader in Brisbane, Sunday 26 November, 10am-1pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: Sofie Laguna; Tony Birch; Brilliant Lies by David Williamson;  Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller;  Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler;  A Swim in the Pond in the Road by George Saunders;  Lee Kofman (from ep 76); Kate Mildenhall (from ep 13);  Sarah Sentilles (from ep 50);  From Bhutan to Blacktown by Om Dhungel 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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
48:19 7/25/23
80 | Who can I kill? with Julie Janson, author of 'Madukka the River Serpent'
It wasn’t until a year into working on her novel 'Madukka the River Serpent' that Julie Janson decided to make it a crime novel. At once a story of corporate greed, environmental destruction and government inaction, 'Madukka the River Serpent' also celebrates older women who hold their families together in the face of extreme challenges. In this episode, Julie discusses the writing of her first crime novel, how she juxtaposes humour with serious political issues, and why she recommends getting involved with some outrageous men.  The South Coast Writers Festival is happening 18 to 20 August at Wollongong Town Hall. Hear from James, Ashley, Hayley Scrivenor, Shankari Chandran, and more!  Authors include Alan Baxter, Alexis Wright, Caroline Baum, Emma Viskic, Helena Fox, Indira Naidoo, Kate Holden, Kate Scott, Loraine Peck, Meredith Jaffe, Mykaela Saunders, Pamela Cook, Sara Ayoub, Sarah Saleh, Tim Ayliffe, Tim Flannery and Will Kostakis. Julie Janson is a NSW Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal nation and a critically acclaimed novelist, playwright, and poet. 'Madukka the River Serpent' is Julie's first Indigenous crime novel. Her earlier work, 'Benevolence', is an Indigenous historical novel. 'Madukka the River Serpent' has been longlisted for the 2023 Miles Franklin Award.  Upcoming events: Boorowa Literary Festival is happening July 14 and 15 – see Ashley and James in person! Mark Brandi in conversation with Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Thursday, 20 July, 6.30-7.30 pm Ashley is conversation with Hayley Scrivenor about Dark MOde at Penrith Library, Monday 7 August, 6.30 pm Ashley and James in conversation about Dark Mode at Mona Vale Library, Tuesday 8 August, 7pm South Coast Writers Festival, 18-20 August, Wollongong Town Hall – see Ashley and James in person!  Building Suspense in Writing – Ashley is teaching this online workshop through Writers Victoria, Sunday 27 August, 10am-4pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: Benevolence by Julie Janson; Compassion by Julie Janson;  Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami;  The People of the River by Grace Karskens;  Nardi Simpson (from ep 18); Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte;  Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky;  Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright;  The Trial by Franz Kafka;  Mistakes and Other Lovers by Amy Lovat;  Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier;  Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier;  A Country of Eternal Light by Paul Dalgarno 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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
36:06 7/4/23
79 | 'It changed my life' – the Ray Koppe Young Writers Fellowship
How can winning an artistic residency impact your creative career? Hear from four Australian authors about their experiences entering and winning the ASA/Varuna Ray Koppe Young Writers Fellowship, and how their careers have developed since.  Hannah Bent is the author of When Things Are Alive They Hum. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Film from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London. She undertook further study in both directing and screenwriting at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. She won the Ray Koppe Young Writers Award in 2013. Holden Sheppard is a multi award-winning author from Geraldton, Western Australia. His debut young adult novel, Invisible Boys, won multiple accolades including the 2018 TAG Hungerford Award and the 2019 Western Australian Premier's Book Award. His writing often focuses on themes of masculinity, sexuality and mental health.  Hayley Scrivenor is the author of the number one Australian bestseller, Dirt Town, published as Dirt Creek in North America. An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Hayley has a PhD in Creative Writing and is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. To hear more from Hayley, listen to ep 68. Danielle Binks is a writer, reviewer, agent and book blogger. She edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing inspired by the #LoveOzYA movement. The Year the Maps Changed, Danielle's debut middle-grade novel, was a CBCA Notable Book for Younger Readers 2021. The Monster of Her Age is Danielle's debut YA novel. We also speak with Hilton Koppe, author of the memoir One Curious Doctor. To hear more from Hilton, listen to episode 70. The ASA/Varuna Ray Koppe Young Writers Fellowship for 2024 is open for applications from 15 June 2023. Each year, thanks to the generosity of the Koppe family, the Australian Society of Authors awards a two-week residential fellowship to an aspiring or emerging writer under the age of 35. The fellowship includes a two-week Varuna residency, a one-hour consultation, a year’s membership to the ASA, and travel subsidy for writers outside of NSW. For more information and to apply, visit the ASA website.  Upcoming events: See James at Yarrum Storyfest – 1-2 July, Yarrum Regional Theatre, Yarrum, VIC ($25-$40, book here)  Boorowa Literary Festival will take place on July 14 and 15 this year – see Ashley and James in person! Mark Brandi in conversation with Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Thursday, 20 July, 6.30-7.30 pm Save the date – Ashley and James in conversation on Dark Mode at Mona Vale Library, Tuesday 8 August, 7pm Books and authors discussed in this episode: Ghost Music by An Yu; Eta Draconis by Brendan Ritchie; Jacinta Dietrich (from ep 45); We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson; The Long Knives by Irvine Welsh; Jackie Bailey (from ep 66); Candice Fox; Tracey Lien; Garry Disher; Lee Kofman (from ep 76); We Could Be Something by Will Kostakis; Windhall by Ava Barry;  Fiona McFarlane; Limberlost by Robbie Arnott 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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
52:39 6/12/23
78 | Surviving brain surgery with Karina May, author of 'Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast'
The idea for Karina May's novel came to her while she was in the ICU, recovering from brain surgery. In this open-hearted interview, Karina shares the experience of living with a brain tumour for two decades before undergoing multiple surgeries to have it removed, and the resulting anxiety and creative inspiration she experienced.  Despite now being the author of the popular romcom 'Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast,' Karina admits there was a time in her life when she didn't believe she was creative. We discuss the connection between her writing and health experiences, and what she's learned from both.    Karina May is a Sydney-based former magazine journalist turned digital marketer, avid reader and writer of lively love stories that span the globe. 'Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast' is her debut novel in print.  Get your copy of Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast from Booktopia or your local bookshop.  Note: Nothing in this podcast is intended as medical advice. If you have concerns about your mental health, speak to your GP. Books and authors discussed in this episode: Crushing by Genevieve Novak No Hard Feelings by Genevieve Novak The Shot by Naima Brown  The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka The Road by Cormac McCarthy The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy  Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Upcoming events with Ashley: Enter the Dark Web – in conversation at Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, Tuesday 30 May, 12.30-1.30 pm, free Words on the Waves Festival Shaping Australia panel – Sunday 4 June, 11.30 am-12.30 pm, day or weekend pass  The Joy of Creative Writing – Ashley's online writing workshop, Tuesday 6 June, 7.45-9pm, $14 Upcoming events with James: Sydney Writers Festival presents James McKenzie Watson – Wednesday 24 May, 6.30-7.30 pm, Penrith City Library ($5 – book here) Sydney Writers Festival Life in the Landscape – Thursday 25 May, 11 am to 12 pm, Carriageworks ($15-$25 – book here)  Yarrum Storyfest – 1-2 July, Yarrum Regional Theatre, Yarrum, VIC ($25-$40 book here)  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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
43:18 5/23/23
77 | Finding order in chaos with Anna Spargo-Ryan, author of 'A Kind of Magic'
‘There’s a reason that this has happened. Science could predict this outcome for me, even though I feel like I’m in constant chaos.’ Anna Spargo-Ryan is the author of the memoir A Kind of Magic. In this illuminating interview, she describes the gap between what science understands and what she’s experienced over a lifetime of mental illness. Anna speaks about the profound impact one ‘silly’ suggestion from her therapist had, as well as the deficiency of language about mental illness and resulting misunderstandings. She also reads to us about the years when she faced an inability to exist on the weekends.    Anna Spargo-Ryan is the author of two novels, The Gulf and The Paper House, and an acclaimed nonfiction writer and teacher. She was the inaugural winner of the Horne Prize and is the current nonfiction editor at Island Magazine. Books and authors discussed in this episode: ‘A psychologist handed my partner an article to help with my anxiety. I’d written it’ by Anna Spargo-Ryan, Sydney Morning Herald Paul de Man, literary theorist;  Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner;  Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom;  The Wych Elm by Tana French;  In the Woods by Tana French;  The Others by Mark Brandi; Stolen Focus by Johann Hari;  Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka Note: Nothing in this podcast is intended as medical advice. If you have concerns about your mental health, speak to your GP. Upcoming events with Ashley: Taking the Next Step: Australian Society of Authors online workshop – Wednesday 3 May, 1-2 pm, ($30-60)   Brisbane Writers Festival Thrills and Chills – Saturday 13 May, 4-5 pm, Stale Library Queensland ($25) Author Talk, Sutherlandshire Libraries – Monday 15 May, 6.30-7.30 pm, free, RSVP required The Listening Station – Tuesday 16 May, 6.45-8 pm, Art Bau Gallery, Brookvale ($30) Enter the Dark Web – in conversation at Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, Tuesday 30 May, 12.30-1.30 pm, free Words on the Waves Festival Shaping Australia panel – Sunday 4 June, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm, day or weekend pass  Upcoming events with James: Sydney Writers Festival presents James McKenzie Watson – Wednesday 24 May, 6.30-7.30 pm, Penrith City Library ($5 – book here) Sydney Writers Festival Life in the Landscape – Thursday 25 May, 11 am to 12 pm, Carriageworks ($15-$25 – book here)  Yarrum Storyfest – 1-2 July, Yarrum Regional Theatre, Yarrum, VIC ($25-$40 book here)  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.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
45:59 5/2/23
76 | Emotional honesty in writing and life with Lee Kofman, author of 'The Writer Laid Bare'
Author Lee Kofman returns to discuss her hugely popular writing memoir and guide, The Writer Laid Bare – James's favourite book of 2022! Lee dives into the concept of emotional honesty and 'nonesty' in writing and life, and why it's essential to her practice.  We also discuss the importance of reading as writers and her recommendation to 'read up'. Lee explores how writers can ensure they're not writing with political blinkers, how to craft complex and realistic characters, and what part of The Writer Laid Bare has resonated most with readers.  This episode offers inspiration and advice for anyone wanting to lead a more richly creative life.  Dr Lee Kofman is a Russian-born Israeli-Australian author of six books and editor of two anthologies, writing teacher and mentor based in Melbourne. Her books in English include the writing guide The Writer Laid Bare, and two memoirs: Imperfect, and The Dangerous Bride. She has also edited two anthologies of personal essays, Rebellious Daughters and Split. Get your copy of The Writer Laid Bare from Booktopia or your local bookshop.  Books and authors discussed in this episode: Karl Ove Knausgård;  Jane Austin;  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce;  A Swim in the Pond in the Rain by George Saunders;  Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose;  Thomas Manne;  The Fire and the Rose by Robyn Cadwallader;  Turning Points in Medieval History by Dorsey Armstrong;  Crying in H Mary by Michelle Zauner;  Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata;  Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason;  Taken by Dinuka McKenzie Upcoming events with Ashley: The Joy of Creative Writing: Laneway Learning online workshop – Tuesday, 2 May, 7.45-9pm ($9-14) Taking the Next Step: Australian Society of Authors online workshop – Wednesday 3 May, 1-2pm, ($30-60)   Brisbane Writers Festival Thrills and Chills – Saturday 13 May, 4pm, Stale Library Queensland ($25) The Listening Station – Tuesday 16 May, 6.45-8pm, Art Bau Gallery, Brookvale ($30) Enter the Dark Web – in conversation at Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, Tuesday 30 May, 12.30-1.30 pm, free Upcoming events with James: Yarrum Storyfest – 1-2 July, Yarrum Regional Theatre, Yarrum, VIC ($25-$40 book here)  Sydney Writers Festival presents James McKenzie Watson – Wednesday 24 May, 6.30-7.30 pm, Penrith City Library ($5 – book here) Sydney Writers Festival Life in the Landscape – Thursday 25 May, 11 am to 12 pm, Carriageworks ($15-$25 – book here)  Ashley's psychological thriller 'Dark Mode' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here. James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
50:06 4/11/23
75 | How to manage creative anxiety with psychologist Sanchana Venkatesh
Does anxiety go hand-in-hand with creative ambition Psychologist Sanchana Venkatesh joins Ashley and James to discuss the positives of creativity for mental wellbeing and the common problem of creative anxiety.  An emerging writer herself, she's familiar with the types of anxiety common to creatives. She delves into why we often can't just sit down and have fun with our creativity, provides advice on managing our creativity, and offers reading recommendations for further support.  This episode is full of practical tips for managing creative anxiety (and anxiety in general), for creatives of all types, including those writing about or exploring trauma in their work.  Sanchana Venkatesh is a psychologist and writer of short stories and essays. She has been practising as a psychologist in schools, public mental health, and non-profit settings since 2008, and is currently the sole practitioner and founder of flourish inside out psychology services. Her areas of special interest include anxiety, depression, chronic illnesses, life transitions, tics and Tourette’s. Sanchana enjoys working with creatives, single people, gifted individuals, and migrants and people of colour. She was shortlisted for the 2021 Peter Carey Short Story Award, and her writing appears in the 2017 Newcastle Short Story Award Anthology and the 2020 Better Read than Dead Writing Anthology. You can find Sanchana's services at Flourish Inside Out, and find the dropping anchor exercise here. Books and authors discussed in this episode: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Mastering Creative Anxiety by Eric Maisel Happy Never After by Jill Stark A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris Emotional Agility by Susan Davis Lost Connections by Johann Hari Homesickness by Janine Mikosza The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien **Nothing in this podcast is intended as medical advice. If you have concerns about your mental health, speak to your GP.**  Ashley's events:  Secret Book Club online with Secret Book Stuff – Tuesday 28 March, 7.30-8.30pm ($11 or free for members) Global Girls Online – Wednesday 29 March, 8pm, join on Facebook Live Readers – Books & Conversations – Thursday 30 March, 8pm, Petersham Bowling Club ($10)  Newcastle Writers Festival – Short & Sweet panel, Sunday 2 April, 1.30 pm (free!)  The Listening Station – Tuesday 16 May, 6.45-8pm, Art Bau Gallery, Brookvale ($30) James' events: Newcastle Writers Festival – I'd Like You to Meet: Lee Kofman chats to James McKenzie Watson, Saturday 1 April, 2-3pm (free!) New Blood: Crime Writers to Watch – Sunday 2 April 1:30pm at Newcastle Writers Festival ($20 – book here) Yarrum Storyfest – 1-2 July, Yarrum Regional Theatre, Yarrum, VIC ($25-$40 book here)  Sydney Writers Festival presents James McKenzie Watson – Wednesday 24 May, 6.30-7.30 pm, Penrith City Library ($5 – book here) Sydney Writers Festival Life in the Landscape – Thursday 25 May, 11 am to 12 pm, Carriageworks ($15-$25 – book here)  Ashley's psychological thriller 'Dark Mode' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here. James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
40:30 3/21/23
74 | Launching 'Dark Mode' with author Ashley Kalagian Blunt – mini-ep #4
A garden shop owner goes out for her morning run and discovers the body of a woman who looks just like her. As more murders shake the city, she fears her past is catching up with her.  A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Ashley's debut novel 'Dark Mode' delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time. Ashley discusses how and why she wrote the novel, what authors inspired her, and the major mistake she made when sharing the manuscript with James. Plus, she reads an excerpt to get you in a 'Dark Mode' mood.  This is the last of four weekly mini-episodes in celebration of the March 1st Australian release day! You can pre-order Dark Mode in Australia and in the UK, from these links or your favourite bookshop.  Join Ashley and Anna Downes at the Sydney launch of Dark Mode! (James will be there too!) Friday 3 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown – free, bookings essential. Join Ashley and JP Pomare at the Melbourne launch of Dark Mode! Thursday 9 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St – free, bookings essential. Books and authors discussed in this episode Tana French; Candice Fox; JP Pomare; John Sandford; The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
12:47 2/28/23
73 | Getting an agent and a publishing deal – 'Dark Mode' mini-ep #3
Keen for insights into how to get an agent and a book publisher? This is the ep for you!  This is one of four weekly mini-episodes in celebration of the March 1st Australian release day! A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Ashley's debut novel Dark Mode delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time. You can pre-order Dark Mode in Australia and in the UK, from these links or your favourite bookshop.  Join Ashley and Anna Downes at the Sydney launch of Dark Mode! (James will be there too!) Friday 3 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown – free, bookings essential. Join Ashley and JP Pomare at the Melbourne launch of Dark Mode! Thursday 9 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St – free, bookings essential. James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
10:40 2/21/23
72 | Insights into the novel writing process – 'Dark Mode' mini-ep #2
Ashley wrote 40,000 words into the first draft of Dark Mode before scrapping most of it and restarting. Then she ploughed through to the end of a clunky draft in order to create a scene-by-scene outline of the plot mechanics. The outline became the blueprint for the next major revision – the one that landed her an agent. In this ep, Ashley also talks about how she draws on her writers' group (or as James calls it, emotional focus group) throughout her writing process in order to craft her scenes and story.   Plus, she shares why she's glad she waited until she'd been writing for 20 years to try a crime manuscript. This is one of four weekly mini-episodes in celebration of the March 1st Australian release day! A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Ashley's debut novel Dark Mode delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time. You can pre-order Dark Mode in Australia and in the UK, from these links or your favourite bookshop.  Join Ashley and Anna Downes at the Sydney launch of Dark Mode! (James will be there too!) Friday 3 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown – free, bookings essential. Join Ashley and JP Pomare at the Melbourne launch of Dark Mode! Thursday 9 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St – free, bookings essential. James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
13:55 2/14/23
71 | Where the ideas came from – 'Dark Mode' mini-ep #1
A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Ashley's debut novel Dark Mode delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time. But it didn't start there! Ashley began the manuscript while recovering from a major rejection, and envisioned it as Black Mirror inspired spec fic. Hear how the manuscript developed into the thriller it became, and the inspiration Ashley discovered while coping with chronic illness.   This is one of four weekly mini-episodes in celebration of the March 1st Australian release day! A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Ashley's debut novel Dark Mode delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time. You can pre-order Dark Mode in Australia and in the UK, from these links or your favourite bookshop.  Join Ashley and Anna Downes at the Sydney launch of Dark Mode! (James will be there too!) Friday 3 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown – free, bookings essential. Join Ashley and JP Pomare at the Melbourne launch of Dark Mode! Thursday 9 March, 6.30-7.30pm, Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St – free, bookings essential. James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
14:06 2/7/23
70 | The secret of work/life balance with Dr Hilton Koppe, author of 'One Curious Doctor'
What happens when your job results in PTSD, forcing you into unexpected retirement? You write a memoir, of course! At least, that's what Dr Hilton Koppe did when he suddenly had to leave his practice as a rural GP.  Hilton speaks to James and Ashley about his PTSD diagnosis, the secret of work/life, how he turned to creative writing as a form of therapeutic intervention, and seeking permission to share his patients' stories in his memoir.  Hilton Koppe is a writer, workshop facilitator, podcaster and doctor living on Bundjalung land on the east coast of Australia. He co-hosts the podcast Dementia In Practice, and is the author of One Curious Doctor: A Memoir of Medicine, Migration and Mortality.  Visit Hilton's website to learn more and get your copy of One Curious Doctor.  Books and authors discussed in this episode: The House of God by Samuel Shem; Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales; Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief by Victoria Chang; The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill  You can pre-order Dark Mode in Australia and in the UK, from these links or your favourite bookshop. James' novel Denizen is out now! Learn more about it and get your copy here.  Upcoming events: Make 2023 the Year You Write Your Book with Ashley: Monday 30 January, 7:45-9pm AEDT, online via Zoom Launch of Taken with Dinuka McKenzie in conversation with Ashley: Sunday 5 February, 4pm, Better Read Than Dead, Newtown; free, RSVP Dark Mode launch – Melbourne: Ashley in conversation with author JP Pomare, Thursday 9 March, 6.30 to 7.30 pm, Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon St. Free, bookings essential Get in touch! ashleykalagianblunt.com jamesmckenziewatson.com Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt + @JamesMcWatson Instagram: @akalagianblunt + @jamesmcwatson
44:02 1/24/23
69 | All the reading: the best book recommendations of 2022
This special episode gathers the best 'What Are You Reading?' segments from 2022 into a comprehensive summary of book recommendations from Australian and international authors. These well-informed highlights will give you plenty of last-minute gift solutions and ideas for how to spend your Christmas gift cards! Plus, James and Ashley each declare their book of the year for 2022.  Books discussed in this episode: From episode 48, with Shankari Chandran: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell; Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson (from ep 18); Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie; They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall; Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian translated by Mabel Lee From episode 49, with Jacinta Dietrich: Certain Prey by John Sandford; Mortal Prey by John Sandford From episode 50, with Sarah Sentilles: Bewilderment by Richard Powers; A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet The Rabbits by Sophie Overett; This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson From episode 51, with Dinuka McKenzie: Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding; How to End a Story: Diaries 1995-1998 by Helen Garner; Theft by Finding by David Sedaris; A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris From episode 55, with Katherine Collette: Found, Wanting by Natasha Sholl; Love Stories by Trent Dalton; After Story by Larissa Behrendt From episode 56, with Ellis Gunn: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard; The Luminous Solution by Charlotte Wood; How to Be Australian by Ashley Kalagian Blunt; Outline by Rachel Cusk; The Break by Katherena Vermette From episode 57, with Yumna Kassab: Blindness by Jose Saramago; 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; Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au From episode 56, with Rae Cairns: Autumn by Ali Smith; The Children's Bible by Lydia Millet; Negative Space by BR Yeager; Goat Mountain by David Vann; Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie From episode 63, with Bronwyn Birdsall Indelible City by Louisa Lim; The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman; A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan From episode 65, with Al Campbell The Signal Line by Brendan Colley; Denizen by James McKenzie Watson; The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman (who we spoke to back in ep 4); Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones From episode 67, with Darryl Jones: The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman (featured in ep 3); One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez; Auē by Becky Manawatu James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and buy your copy here.  Make 2023 the Year You Write Your Book! Monday 30 January 2023, 7:45-9pm AEDT. Online via Zoom. Tix $9-14. Launch of Taken with Dinuka McKenzie in conversation with Ashley Sunday 5 February, 4pm. Better Read Than Dead, Newtown (in person). Free, RSVP required. Get in touch! Ashley's website: ashleykalagianblunt.com Ashley's Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt Ashley's Instagram: @akalagianblunt James' website: jamesmckenziewatson.com James' Twitter: @JamesMcWatson James' Instagram: @jamesmcwatson
81:16 12/16/22
68 | Digging into shame with Hayley Scrivenor, author of 'Dirt Town'
'When I sat down to write, it felt like I had killed someone.' Hayley Scrivenor opens up about managing creative anxiety, what it means to write through our feelings, and the experience of having her novel 'Dirt Town' debut as a number one Australian bestseller. Plus James turns the interview into a therapy session. Hayley Scrivenor is the author of 'Dirt Town', published as 'Dirt Creek' in North America. An earlier version was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Hayley has a PhD in Creative Writing and is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Books and authors discussed in this episode: George Saunders;  Sulari Gentill;  Anna Downes (from ep 5); Garry Disher; Dinuka McKenzie; Jane Harper; Kirli Saunders; Madukka the River Serpent by Julie Janson; The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgård; Song of the Sun God by Shankari Chandran (from ep 48); My Name Is Revenge by Ashley Kalagian Blunt; Rattled by Ellis Gunn (from ep 56); Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones (from ep 67) Taken by Dinuka McKenzie (from ep 51) Get your copy of 'Dirt Town' from your local bookshop, Booktopia or wherever good books are sold.  James' novel 'Denizen' is out now! Learn more about it and buy your copy here.  Get in touch! Ashley's website: ashleykalagianblunt.com Ashley's Twitter: @AKalagianBlunt Ashley's Instagram: @akalagianblunt James' website: jamesmckenziewatson.com James' Twitter: @JamesMcWatson James' Instagram: @jamesmcwatson
59:59 12/9/22

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