Author Josh Kemp's recently released fiction is inspired by unsettling feelings about the history of the South West.

Unsettling: Busselton author Joshua Kemp brings up uncomfortable feelings in his recently released novel, Banjawarn. Pictures: Supplied.
Unsettling: Busselton author Joshua Kemp brings up uncomfortable feelings in his recently released novel, Banjawarn. Pictures: Supplied.

There is something about dark and uncomfortable feelings that we aim to avoid in our day to day lives, but are drawn to on the pages of books and film screens.

That is what local author Josh Kemp creates in his stories, which are inspired by his own discomfort around the dark history hidden in the beautiful Busselton landscape.

"It was a different town when I was a kid," Josh said.

"We would jump on our BMX's and trundle down to the bush blocks down Bayside and run around like feral kids."

Back then, Josh discovered an early love of horror stories, with authors like Stephen King on his reading list from as young as 10 years old, despite protests from his mum.

"It was really full on stuff," he said.

"For a long time I was trying to write horror, but I don't think I was very good at it. I found I wanted to write more about characters and landscapes."

Surrounded by incredible WA landscapes as he grew up, Josh would often go hiking, and says he found himself wanting to write about his experiences in the bush

"Horror didn't feel like the right outlet for that," he said.

Instead, Josh discovered the genre of Australian Gothic. While for many people, the word 'gothic' conjures images of dark clothes, piercings and old castles, Josh says there is a little more to the genre.

"It's stories that deal with the dark side of the Australian experience," he said. "From the colonial times to now. They're often stories about isolation, madness and murder. All that great stuff."

Josh Kemp signed books and spoke about his recent release, Banjawarn, at the Perth Writers Festival. Picture: Supplied.

Josh Kemp signed books and spoke about his recent release, Banjawarn, at the Perth Writers Festival. Picture: Supplied.

Josh says its undeniable that people are drawn to to dark and twisted stories.

"At one point, Game of Thrones was the most popular TV show in the world, and it was ultra-violent and ultra-dark."

Apart from a natural fascination with dark and uncomfortable ideas, Josh says the popularity of Australian Gothic also comes as more people begin to explore the nation's history.

"You see a lot of people are starting to engage more with the colonial side of our history, and are becoming uncomfortable with Australia Day being on the 26th," he said.

"They're trying to look at it from an indigenous perspective and understand our history is very different from an Aboriginal perspective.

"There's a hunger for these themes."

Josh's latest fiction, Banjawarn, has now hit book stores and was spoken about at the Perth Writers Festival on the weekend.

The story follows a true crime writer with a secret drug problem, who finds an abandoned ten year old girl. Completely ill-equipped, he decides to drive the girl to her father himself.

"It quickly turns into the road trip from hell."

The novel was the winner of the 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript.