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 first novel. After being shortlisted for a major award, she had a new agent and a two-book publishing deal with HarperCollins with a few weeks.
In episode 58, 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.
Rae’s rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis came out of the blue. ‘My body had been my strength, and all of a sudden it was betraying me.’ Later she learned that at least one other person in her family had the condition, but when she first began experiencing the onset of symptoms, they came as a shock.
To return to novel writing and go on to achieve the huge success she’s had with The Good Mother, Rae has had to learn how to manage her symptoms, including the brain fog that still causes her to lose entire days and struggle to recall even the simplest words.
She wrote the first draft of The Good Mother by hand – ‘now, with joint issues, that’s not possible.’
‘I had to get a new relationship with everything in my life,’ she says, including her husband, her children, and her writing.
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
Listen to this episode of James and Ashley Stay at Home here, or on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favourite podcast app, and find out about past episodes here.