What interviews most intrigued listeners this year? What episodes soared to the top of the charts? Find out here with our top 11 episodes of James and Ashley Stay at Home, a podcast about writing, creativity and health.
#11 – Ep 48 Using connection to build community with author Shankari Chandran
How do we build community and a sense of self after loss, especially the kind of loss that echoes for generations? James and Ashley speak with Australian Sri Lankan author Shankari Chandran about her new novel, Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, and how her efforts to find connection in the writing community echo her Tamil family’s work to build community after being dispossessed from their homeland in the Sri Lankan civil war.
Shankari discusses writing from a place of anger and love, the changing Australian publishing landscape, and how literature creates an archive of the dispossessed.
#10 – Ep 51 The joy of the win with Dinuka McKenzie, author of The Torrent
When Dinuka McKenzie first sat down to write a novel, she had no dreams of publication or experience in the craft of fiction. She was the working mother of two young kids, feeling like everyone wanted something from her all the time, and in search of something that was purely for herself.
Now she’s the award-winning author of The Torrent, a police procedural set in small-town Australia. We talk to Dinuka about why she chose a pregnant detective as her main character, how her own experience as a working mum influenced her story, and how she managed to find time to write with everything else going on in her life!
#9 – Ep 63 Rest, recovery and writing with Bronwyn Birdsall, author of Time and Tide in Sarajevo
Author Bronwyn Birdsall joins us to discuss the writing of her first novel, Time and Tide in Sarajevo, and her life after chronic fatigue syndrome. We discuss living with a mindset of rest and recovery, moving overseas and reinventing yourself, and the question at the heart of the book – how do we find hope in a world that feels beyond repair?
#8 – Ep 38 How to survive an earthquake with Michelle Tom, author of Ten Thousand Aftershocks
James and Ashley interview Michelle Tom about her stunning memoir Ten Thousand Aftershocks. They discuss the book’s captivating and highly original structure, the strange parallels between childhood trauma and earthquakes, and the transformative power of owning your narrative.
#7 – Ep 52 Channelling your obsessions with with Lech Blaine, author of Car Crash
Lech Blaine is the author of the memoir Car Crash and the Quarterly Essay ‘Top Blokes’. Here, he speaks to James and Ashley about the challenge of writing and releasing these two publications back to back during the pandemic, and the burnout that followed. He also discusses the epiphanies that writing a memoir can bring and the emotional toll of sharing so much vulnerability with readers.
#6 – Ep 57 Experiments in form with Yumna Kassab, author of Australiana
In her exploration of life in rural Australia, author Yumna Kassab draws on horror, crime and gothic inspiration to craft a thematically linked experiment in form and style.
She speaks to us about her own experiences of rural life and how her science background has influenced her experimental approach to writing. Plus, James pitches her writing on the Pilliga as Australia’s answer to The Blair Witch Project.
#5 – Ep 56 How to survive a stalker with Ellis Gunn, author of Rattled
‘If he wants to follow me, I can’t stop him.’ After a random encounter with poet and author Ellis Gunn at an auction, a stranger decides to stalk her.
Years later, she sits down to write about the experience – and realises it’s connected to a lifetime of gendered abuse, including surviving both sexual assault and domestic violence.
In this wide-ranging and compelling interview, Ellis discusses what she learned through the experience of writing her debut memoir, Rattled, including the psychological impacts of stalking, the reactions of her family and friends, and the concepts of agency deletion and radical empathy.
#4 – Ep 50 How to remake the world with Sarah Sentilles, author of Stranger Care
It’s our 50th episode! Author Sarah Sentilles joins us to talk about her new memoir, Stanger Care. She discusses coping with unexpected loss, who counts as family, and how at heart, all of us are baby monkeys. She also shares how each of us can use our creativity to remake the world around us.
Stranger Care is a memoir of Sarah and her husband’s experience with the foster system in Idaho and the ten months they parented an infant named Coco, only to return her to her loving but vulnerable mother.
#3 – Ep 55 A very overcomeable fear with Katherine Collette, author of The Competition
If you’ve ever dreaded public speaking, this episode is for you! Author and podcaster Katherine Collette speaks about her charming new novel The Competition, which satirises the world of competitive speaking clubs.
We explore why public speaking is so intimidating for most people. We also discuss Katherine’s personal experience with public speaking clubs, and how they can build both confidence and empathy. As she says, ‘You sign up to learn to speak. But the real power is in having to listen.’ Finally, we answer the question – is some discomfort in life necessary?
#2 – Ep 60 Behind the scenes of Denizen, the debut novel from James McKenzie Watson
The Penguin Literary Prize winning novel from James McKenzie Watson is finally out in the world! Ashley asks James about the experience of taking Denizen from idea to published novel.
He shares insights into how to seriously improve your writing craft and how to understand your work as a reflection of your life. James also answers the big question – what does his mum think of Denizen?
#1 – Ep 16 Living in different universes with Ada Palmer, author and historian
Ada Palmer, historian, composer and author of the Terra Ignota sci-fi/fantasy book series, discusses her astonishing body of work and how she’s managed to achieve it while managing a number of invisible illnesses.
We also explore the impact of COVID-19 on research, the relationship between identity and disability and why the renaissance wasn’t actually a great time to be alive.
Dark Mode, my debut psychological thriller, is out March 2023. You can pre-order now.