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  • Writer's pictureMaya Linnell

Ashley Kalagian Blunt on nostalgia, crime and exotic plants

If you're looking for your next compulsive thriller, Ashley Kalagian Blunt has quite the surprise package in store for you. Her new novel, Dark Mode, started at a break-neck pace and held me captive for a white-knuckled 24-hours. Delving into the dark web, the story examines the ways our online presence can be so easily accessed and distorted, with an equally interesting subplot on unique and exotic plants. I couldn’t stop myself turning the pages (even when it was scary and at times bloody!) and loved the link to dahlias throughout the book. In fact, I've since named my almost-black dahlia seedlings Dark Mode Dahlias in honour of the book! Released this month by Ultimo Press, Dark Mode is perfect for fans of true crime podcasts.



Five fast minutes with Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Essential writing snacks?

Dark chocolate – the darker the better. I’m also very into roasted fava beans.


Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?

I used to run, bike, bushwalk, and do weight training, yoga and Pilates. Since 2017, I’ve lived with chronic illness and have had to rebuild my capacity to walk. Now I’m back to doing short swims and even slow, short runs. I’d really love to be able to get back to bushwalking one day. All that up and down and negotiating uneven trails is still too much for me.


What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?

Any variation of red lentil soup. I cook up a big pot every week, along with a vat of brown rice or quinoa, and eat this almost daily. Lately I’ve been dropping a couple of chipotle peppers in, nostalgia from my year living in Mexico.


Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?

Internationally renowned forensic psychologist. (I’m really into understanding why crime happens. Like, really into it.)


Favourite way to spend a Friday night?

Hanging out with other writers over good food. In fact, my writers’ group originally met on Fridays, but no matter what evening of the week we meet, we always agree it’s the best night of the month.


Have you done anything special with any of your advances?

I have a very fancy sequined top that I’m planning to wear for the Dark Mode launch.


Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of inspiration?

Always when I am somewhere without a pen. Always.


Favourite perfume or scent?

Frangipani! I grew up on the Canadian prairie and we had no such magically exotic scent (though spring lilac is nothing to complain about). I love frangipani so much, they make a guest appearance in Dark Mode, along with many other plants and flowers.


Do you have a writing ‘uniform’?

When I’m cold (which is most of the year it seems!) I wear my hand-crocheted fingerless writing mittens and a brightly coloured blanket folded over my legs, and of course my Uggs. Uggs became trendy in Canada when I was in high school, but we didn’t understand them. They seemed like winter boots, so people wore them outside in minus 30 degrees Celsius (now you understand why I live in Australia), and they would get snow-covered and subsequently soaked. They seemed ridiculous and those of us who didn’t get go in for fashion trends laughed at them. Then I moved to Australia and realised oh, Uggs are slippers! Because Australian homes are freezing in winter!


Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2023?

Two of my fellow writers’ group members have debut novels coming out – the romcom Bound to Happen, by Jonathon Shannon, and the literary millennial powerhouse novel Mistakes and Other Lovers by Amy Lovat. (And in 2022 the book I was most excited for was Denizen by James McKenzie Watson, formerly of my writers’ group and now my podcast co-host).


Share a quirky habit/talent or something readers might be surprised to discover about you.

I used to do stand-up comedy and l loved it. Even when no one laughed.


Where can people find you online?

I have a flashy new website! ashleykalagianblunt.com

Plus Instagram, Twitter and occasionally, Facebook



Find Ashley online


On Instagram: @akalagianblunt


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, which was a finalist in the 2018 Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award. Her writing appears in the Sydney Morning Herald, Overland, Griffith Review, Sydney Review of Books, Australian Book Review, Kill Your Darlings and more. Ashley co-hosts James and Ashley Stay at Home, a podcast about writing, creativity and health, and teaches creative writing. Originally from Canada, she has lived and worked in South Korea, Peru and Mexico.



Dark Mode

Is it paranoia – or is someone watching? For years, Reagan Carsen has kept her life offline. No socials. No internet presence. No photos. Safe. Until the day she stumbles on a shocking murder in a Sydney laneway. The victim looks just like her. Coincidence? As more murders shake the city and she’s increasingly drawn out from hiding, Reagan is forced to confront her greatest fear. She’s been found. A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, 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.



WIN - WIN - WIN


Head to my WIN page for your chance to win a copy of Dark Mode thanks to Ultimo Press. Simply enter the contest HERE by 5pm Monday March 5. Aussie addresses and newsletter subscribers only, please.



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