Ep 68 Digging into shame with Hayley Scrivenor, author of Dirt Town

Author Hayley Scrivenor, headshot and cover of Dirt Town, on James and Ashley Stay at Home podcast

‘What’s lucky about Dirt Town is that I had every problem it’s possible to have while writing a novel.’

In 2022, Hayley’s debut novel came out in Australia, the US and the UK, and became a number one Australian bestseller. Now, she’s working on her second book and joined us to reflect on how this year – and the choice to pursue a writing career – have shaped her.

Authors Ashley Kalagian Blunt and Hayley Scrivenor
Ashley Kalagian Blunt and Hayley Scrivenor

Hayley 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 An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.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.

‘I’ve never found so much meaning in anything in my whole life,’ Hayley says of writing – but at the same time, she’s had to learn to manage significant creative anxiety.

‘When I sat down to write, it felt like I had killed someone.’

In episode 68 of James and Ashley Stay at Home, we ask what end of 2022 Hayley would like to tell end of 2021 Hayley, and how her novel ended up in the crime section of bookshops when she didn’t set out to write a crime book.

authors-james-mckenzie-watson-and-hayley-scrivenor, smiling
James McKenzie Watson and Hayley Scrivenor

We also discuss her mother’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer, and how Hayley coped with that while also working on a major round of edits for her publisher.

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)

Listen to this episode of James and Ashley Stay at Home here, or on Apple podcasts, SpotifyStitcher, or your favourite podcast app, and find out about past episodes here.


Dark Mode, my debut psychological thriller, is out March 2023. You can pre-order now.

Dark Mode cover with voodoo lilies, crime thriller by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

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