Category Archives: love

I want to give you synaesthesia

Dearest Person Reading This,

I would like to give you synaesthesia. No, don’t worry, it’s not a sexually transmitted flesh-eating fungal infection. You have to go to some really dodgy Ecuadorian bars to get those (or so I’ve heard). Synaesthesia is a neurological blending of the senses. The lead character in my newest novel Killing Adonis is a synaesthete, and my publishers came up with the wickedly clever idea of making this internet tool.

 nabokov     monroe     Wassily-Kandinsky

Vladimir Nabokov, Marilyn Monroe and Wassily Kandinsky all had synaesthesia. 

Basically what it does is match each letter and number on your keyboard with a corresponding sound and colour, mirroring the way in which a synaesthete experiences the world. You can write whatever you want and share it as a synaesthetic sound/colour/text  experience. Feel free to jump straight in and have a play and write whatever you want. You might even just want to tap out a few tunes. You can write some witty/snarky things and share them around the internet (I believe that is the internet’s primary function after all).

colour blur

However, if you’re not very good at being witty and articulate don’t feel bad. Neither is Tony Abbott and he somehow managed to become PM so clearly it’s no biggie. Perhaps you have other talents like frisbee golf skillz or being very good at finding the best avocados in the pile. Whatever the case, I’ve made a bunch of presets for you that you can tailor as necessary. There’s a selection of threats, insults, pickup lines. Just the usual stuff that a normal person uses a couple of dozen times a day. Click on the links to see and share them synaesthetically. Have fun, make up and share some your own and whatever happens definitely do not send this message to ASIO under any circumstances.


My dearest darling honeyknickers, I have always loved you, despite the fact that you smell exactly like old cheese wrapped in sweaty socks.

Dear Mum, thanks for squeezing me out of your vagina. I hope my annual gifting of a $20 gift card serves as adequate compensation.

Dear [person I am attracted to] I dislike not dating you and would substantially prefer to do the opposite. I do not have chlamydia (at least not according to WebMD).


Dear [coworker], if you continue to eat my yoghurt out of the fridge I am going to start flavouring it with industrial strength laxative. And no, I don’t know what industrial strength laxative is but believe me I will find out.

Dear Neighbours, when you have sex it sounds like a pack of rabid wolves playing in a screamo band. PS Do you want to join my screamo band?

 If your personality were an album, it would be Chinese Democracy.

If your face were a film, it would be The Room.



Dear Tony, the rumours are not true. There is not going to be a G20 afterparty in Obama’s room. Definitely don’t go there because there will be nothing going on, if there was we would definitely invite you because everyone thinks you are great despite what the polls, commentators etc. have to say. PS Putin says he will meet you on the oval at 4. Come alone. – DC

Dear Mr Pyne, I’m contacting you here because my work email has been hacked. Can you ask Malcolm how to delete emails from the cloud? Cheers. – B. Spurr


 Future novel idea.

PS I’m just shy of my 1000th twitter follower. If you become number 1000, send me one of these synaesthesia messages using #KillingAdonis and I’ll write you a lil somethin’ somethin’ special in reply.

Killing Adonis cover reveal

Killing Adonis_JM Donellan_3D


Dearest denizens of the interwebs, I am extremely incredibly tremendously and wondrously thrilled to present to you the cover of my forthcoming novel Killing Adonis. I’m hugely impressed with the team at Xou Creative as well as my publisher Pantera Press for coming up with a design that enigmatically alludes to the dark and comedic aspects of the novel in a way that is captivating and unusual. The cover itself will have a faux leather feel, and as a huge book nerd I’m excited that it will have a special little tactile element.

The blurb is as follows:




After receiving a curious invitation, Freya takes a job caring for Elijah, the comatose son of the eccentric Vincetti family. She soon discovers that the Vincetti’s corporate rivals have a nasty habit of being extravagantly executed, their labyrinthine mansion hides a wealth of secrets and Elijah was never the saint they imagine him to be.

 As if that’s not enough, Marilyn Monroe keeps appearing, apparently unaware of the fact that she’s very much deceased. And there’s something very strange about the story that Elijah’s brother Jack is writing…

 Killing Adonis is a tragicomic tale about love, delusion, corporate greed and the hazards of using pineapple cutters while hallucinating. 

The launch party will be held at the Motor Room in West End on September 27 and 100% of everyone everywhere is invited. This will not be your ordinary book launch, we are going to have slam poets, bands, circus performers, fireworks and all manner of wonderful weirdness. Official event page and invites will be available soon. See you there.

ex oh ex oh


100 Books a year 2014 pt 1

A couple of years ago I started setting myself the challenge of reading at least 100 books a year. It might seem like a lot, but to be honest it’s surprisingly easy to do once you get into the swing of it. Here’s some standouts from the first 50. They are presented in no particular order or year of release. I’ve selected poetry, novels, biography, graphic novels and everything in between.


look at me

Egan’s The Goon Squad was one of the best books I read last year, so I’m not really sure why I didn’t start making my way through the rest of her catalogue earlier. I started reading this book during a visit to the Bunya mountains, and moving my butt from the fireside couch and this hypnotic novel became a herculean task. This is a dark, transcendent novel about a small ensemble of intersecting characters who are all trying to radically reinvent themselves. The themes of identity and transformation are dealt with in a bold, captivating style that somehow manages to border on the surreal whilst also providing brilliant social critique on the concept of self in the 21st century. This is a magnificent novel in so many ways. I’m going to make sure to read everything Egan’s ever written.



You know how you felt when you watched the cops on the Wire being complete, unapologetic assholes? Take that feeling, multiply it 97 million, and then transpose it to a true account of happenings in your hometown and you’ll have a vague account of how I felt reading this book. Condon’s analysis of cops who literally got away with murder (and plenty more besides) during a golden era of corruption is both illuminating and horrifying. Required reading for anyone who grew up in Queensland. The sequel – Jacks and Jokers -was released a few months ago.





While this is certainly the least of DFW’s works, this series of essays written in collaboration with Mark Costello is nevertheless an important document. Particularly if – like me – you want to be able to say “look, hip-hop IS important. David Foster Wallace wrote about it so there now SHUT UP!” Amongst the milieu of ear-shatteringly awful modern rappers – as well as a slew of brilliant MCs that radio stations bewilderingly refuse to spin – it’s important to be reminded of the impact of hip-hop as a social movement as well as something for annoying hoons to pump from the speakers of their Skyline. Sidenote: The next time someone says ‘White people who listen to hip-hop are silly! That music was invented and should only be listened to by black people!” you should ask them about the origins of their favourite jazz/soul/rock and roll/blues/r’n’b records.


actorsanonyIt’s almost supernatural how terrible this book is. Don’t get me wrong, Franco – arguably the modern era’s most famous polymath – is clearly something of a genius. The problem is that while the book is very clever it just isn’t very good. You know when you see a band compromised of musicians who all graduated from some highly regarded musical academy and during their set they change time signatures every 14 seconds until they all just start making this weird high-pitched drone and then end by each stepping up to the microphone and reciting their shopping lists? That’s what this book felt like, plus it was filled with ironic, self-aware narcissism that was unsurprisingly every bit as dull as ironic, unaware narcissism.



the king in yellow

Like thousands of other True Detective fans, I was drawn to this book by the HBO series. A very strange, chthonic collection, a few of the stories here are captivatingly terrifying, but there’s a lot of dross as well. The four main stories that centre around a play called the King in Yellow that apparently sends people mad are excellent. Apparently Chambers later started making heaps of cash writing sappy romance stories and just gave up on horror so that he could wrote terrible books that made him millions of dollars. HP Lovecraft, a huge admirer of his early work, called Chambers a big fat sellout. Disgusting. Now excuse me while I delete my latest manuscript and start work on my new book Ron Sexley’s Sexy adventures in Sexington: Paradise Kisses:  Book one of the Romance Hot Times collection: A Sexy Times book (with lots of sex in it).


living to tell the tale

Whenever I teach writing workshops I always point to the first sentence of Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude as one of the greatest collection of words ever put to paper: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. Marquez was an extraordinary talent and it’s no surprise to discover that he lived an equally extraordinary life. Sidenote: having spent a fair amount of time in Colombia I find it incredibly frustrating when people joke about all Colombians being drug dealers. That’s a little like assuming all Americans are corrupt Wall St lawyers. Colombia has a rich and varied culture of which Marquez is only one  wonderful exemplar.



talkingsmack_cover_400This collection of interviews with prominent Australian musicians by prolific local journalist Andrew McMillen addresses a very important issue: the relationship between musicians and drug use. As an insight into the lives and creative processes of some of Australia’s most talented songwriters it is very entertaining. However, the book’s far more important role is to present a broad range of attitudes towards narcotics – from abstinence to addiction – and their effects. McMillen focuses more on raising questions than answering them and more on stories than statistics and this approach makes his work incredibly engaging and thought provoking. I recently interviewed Andrew about the book on Exit Stage Zed, you can listen to that interview here (starts at 28 mins into the recording).


we are anonymous


After reading this book I have one very important thing to tell you: for the love of god don’t send naked pictures to strangers over the internet! Now I’m sure many folks would think that’s a VERY OBVIOUS piece of advice, but as many people – Anthony Weiner I’m looking at you – have shown us, sometimes we need that extra reminder. Olson’s account of one of the most enigmatic and influential social movements of the last 50 years is highly captivating reading, with all the intrigue and slow-burning suspense of a Fincher film. Bonus points for her detailed descriptions of a few neat and surprisingly easy hacking tricks.





Alan Moore is like no other writer on earth. This curious, bloody and incredibly well-researched work is by far the best of the myriad takes on the Jack the Ripper tale. Moore takes that one central mystery and weaves a tale of the birth of the modern era with thick dollops of class critique, violence, history, black magic and perhaps the single greatest page ever presented in a graphic novel. I stared at that one particular page for a solid ten minutes, if you’ve read it you’ll know what I’m talking about. I hear the movie was terrible, but then again it usually is.




Possibly the best example of a brilliant book with a terrible cover. A somewhat autistic hard sci-fi novel, its concepts and philosophies are beguiling and bewildering but it gets bogged down at times by overly technical descriptions. I don’t want to give away the twist toward the end, but I will say that – like Carl Sagan’s Contact – it’s an amazing first contact story that tackles the idea of extraterrestrial life with incredible philosophical flair. Also, once you’ve been introduced to creatures that maintain invisibility by moving in between your eyes’ saccades you may be terrified always and forever.


Layout 1

Worth the ticket price just for the title, in my opinion. I keep coming back to this phrase whenever I’m feeling frustrated with the government –  which is around every 36 minutes. Walker’s poetry is clean and unpretentious, although there’s more than a few mediocre pieces in this collection. The standout ones, however, definitely make it worth your while. This little poem in particular has stuck with me:

My teacher was told by her teacher – who loved her: You cannot shoot guns / you cannot drop bombs / your fists are forbidden to you / as are mean and hurtful words / no matter how carefully chosen. / You have one weapon & one weapon only: Use it. / It is your ability to teach. 




25720 pan turning_cov


Look, I know Winton’s not exactly an underground secret. Everyone knows how great his work is and his multitudinous accolades are all very well deserved. Winton is the master of making the ordinary enthralling, the everyday extraordinary. All of these interweaving stories are excellent, but the titular tale is perfection itself. That story is an entire world within a few dozen pages. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it months ago. It’s like he didn’t just create characters, he birthed living humans. The film is also excellent, and didn’t receive nearly as much attention as it should have, particularly considering its luminary cast.



If you have any book recommendations feel free to throw them my way! Remember, readers are the best lovers science says so!

Poetry is Dead

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Hello universe! Meeksounds and I are doubleplus pleased to announce our new project Poetry is Dead. We made these special supertimes deluxe poetry books with the EP hidden in the back on a USB (which you can just use as a normal flashdrive as well Bee Tea Dubs.) They took freaking ages to make. Here’s a few photos from the construction process. I’ll post a few videos and such soon. You can buy the EP now immediately instantly this instant. 

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Killing Adonis Mixtape

A lot’s happened in the last four years. Australia’s had 3 Prime Ministers, the Catholics have had 2 different popes, scientists confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson and I finally fucking finished my third book. After signing with the wonderful Pantera Press two years ago, the novel has shifted and morphed in strange, wonderful and surprising ways and ended up like the Super Saiyan version of its original embryonic form. I am incredibly, stupendously, tremendously excited to unleash this little collection of letters and thoughts out into the world. I’m confident that it’s unlike anything else that will be released this year. That doesn’t guarantee that will people will like it of course, but people go wild for dinosaur erotica or goji berries for no apparent reason so there’s no point trying to keep up with the zeitgeist if you ask me. For all I know the next book craze will be a YA series written from the perspective of a time-travelling monkey ninja who speaks only in alliterative rhyming couplets (I would read the hell out of that book).


“The camera loves you JD! Actually, no, it doesn’t. But it’s okay I’m a great photographer so these’ll still look good.” -Actual quote from the photographer.

As a strange sort of preview ahead of the book’s release I made a mixtape for you. Yes, just for you. Now I know what you’re thinking, and it’s both repulsive and physically impossible. I also know what you’re thinking about the word ‘mixtape’ being applied to a book. I’m well aware this is typically the territory of wannabe rappers and gangly sixteen-year-olds trying to get laid, but I’ve been both in my time and I believe that when it comes to art, it is very much about what you can get away with.

Each of the 37 tracks here mirrors one of the chapters in the book, serving as a sort of literary soundtrack. Most of these bands were on constant repeat while I was writing Killing Adonis, so it’s also something of a snapshot of the creative process (for those of you who take an interest in such things). In addition, it features a couple of bands from my beloved hometown of Brisbane, where the novel is set. The selection samples everything from orchestral to electronic to hip-hop to post-rock. I hope you find something that takes your fancy, and as a musician myself I strongly encourage you to go out and buy the albums of any of these bands that you enjoy here. Most of them have a bandcamp site where you can get their stuff for super cheap.

Get your eyeballs ready, Killing Adonis is coming in October!

PS I just got confirmation that I’ll be appearing at the National Young Writers’ Festival around the same time the book is released. Feel free to come and heckle me.

Goodbye to Ghosts (for now).

So now the hurly burly’s done. After months of rehearsal, planning, rewriting and performance our little show comes to end. The whole experience has been beautiful and bewildering. I’ll probably write about it at length once I’ve had a chance to collect my thoughts, but for now I wanted to share a few photos and a glowing review. Big thanks to the cast, my housemates for putting up with months of yelling and props strewn all over the place, crowdfunding contributors, the audiences and of course everyone who made Anywhere Theatre Festival happen. It truly is one of the world’s greatest art festivals.

Photo credits: 1. Dave Clarkey 2. Josh Donellan. All others: Bonnie Murcia Baguley


The good thing about buying books as Xmas gifts is that you can write in the front of them and it saves you buying a card. This means that not only do you save on money and paper wastage, but many years from now when you and the person you gave the book to are both very, extremely dead some first year literature student will stumble on the copy of the book you gifted amongst the labyrinthine shelves of a charming secondhand bookstore run by an old man with weird glasses and a funny sneeze.

The student will read the little message you wrote to your loved one and say ‘How cute!’ and think about how both the giver and recipient are both dead and how they lived in a time when Australia didn’t even have a science minister and they treated refugees like war criminals and then they will jump on their hoverboard, blast some technoblues through their soundsphere and disappear into the sunset with a smile on their face.



Stories + cushions = best friends having amazing literary pillow fights forever

Ladies and gentlememes, if you frequent this little corner of the internet on a regular basis then you may have heard that as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival I had a short story, Lenore Meets a Mack Truck, printed on a few cushions scattered around the festival thanks to the good folks at Tiny Owl Workshop. There were a total of five printed, one of these was sold to a charming gentleman who told me he was going to also buy one of Sam George-Allen‘s and make his children fight with them, which sounds hilarious and delightful.

I’m going to keep two of them myself, but I thought it might be fun to give the remaining two homes in strange and unknown places. As a special preXmas offer, anyone who purchases either Zeb and The Great Ruckus or A Beginner’s Guide to Dying in India direct through this website in the next week goes into the draw. One book = one chance. You buy both books, you double your chances. You buy 50 copies, you’ve pretty much got it in the bag (hint).

2013-11-21 15.50.42    2013-11-21 15.50.27One has a shiny blue backing and the other is chocolate brown with tassels. Because everything is better with chocolate and tassels. 

My only caveat is that, because these cushions are super large, you’re either going to need to pick them up from my house in Paddington (QLD) or, if you live within a half hour drive of the Brisbane CBD I’ll deliver one to your doorstep. Remember, there are only 5 of these IN THE WORLD, or to put it in modern terms, there are only five times as many of these story cushions as there are women in Tony Abbott’s cabinet. HURRY HURRY HURRY CLICK CLICK CLICK! 

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Here is a handsome man holding one of the super fun story cushions. Perhaps by winning one of these cushions you will  either become or acquire a handsome man of your own! It certainly wouldn’t be the most ridiculous thing a promotion has ever promised you, I’m sure.

PS This is super secret, but in addition to being a standalone microfiction piece, this story is also the opening page of a novel entitled Lenore’s Last Funeral. I’ve only just started writing the first few chapters, so it’ll probably be released sometime in the next few years. It will most likely be the weirdest thing I’ve ever written. You can think of these cushions as an ultra-exclusive sneak preview.

Look ma! I’ve gone viral!

Remember when Australia had a Minister for Science? Ah, good times, good times. Well, back in those dizzy halcyon days in the distant past (about a month ago) I wrote an angry little letter to Teresa Gambaro. It was just before the election and I was feeling angry and confused about the state of politics in general, but particularly in regards to Gambaro, owing to the fact that she was my local member, an unabashed racist and a chronic snail mail spammer. I emailed it, tweeted it and posted it right here on my little corner of the interwebs. And then this happened:

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Over the next few days my little rant was shared, retweeted and ‘liked’ more than 10 000 times. I’d had a few posts get shared around before, like this complaint letter I wrote to QANTAS and this dating profile,  but never on this scale. Most amusingly, hundreds of people (including one of my literary heroes and chronic heartbreaker Marieke Hardy) retweeted my post directly at Gambaro. I had friends tell me they heard colleagues discussing it at work, overheard people talking about it in bars and, hilariously, it was printed and read out at the start of a local ALP volunteers meeting. The comments section quickly exploded into a rather chaotic clusterfuck of compliments and death threats, which I responded to here (scroll down to the bottom).

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Having thousands of people tell you that you are witty and insightful over the course of a couple of days does very strange things to the ego. Imagine if one day 2 000 strangers came up to you in the street and said “Can I just tell you that you are really attractive?” It would be flattering to the point of being unnerving.

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Vitriolic insults, unsurprisingly, have a profoundly converse affect. Imagine that in addition to those 2 000 compliments per day, you had around a dozen people approach you in the street, spit in your face and snarl “You make me sick and I hope you get hit by a bus and then the bus backs up over you just to be sure and then everyone on the bus gets out and shits all over your ugly, stupid carcass and then after you’re dead someone names a profoundly awful flesh eating disease after you and the disease in question immediately causes everyone you’ve ever loved to vomit blood until they die and they are all buried in a shallow grave that rabid dogs will gather round to ritually piss on!” Sure, you’ve just heard 2 000 compliments and you’re pretty buzzed about that, but damn, those dozen strangers REALLY HATE YOU.


“Uh-oh, looks like someone’s got a case of the Donellans!”

It was something of an emotional rollercoaster, to say the very least. And while it was a rush to have something I’d made become so popular, I certainly don’t think that popularity alone is inherent proof of value or quality. Some of my favourite writers and poets have never cracked the best-seller list, meanwhile Billy Ray Cyrus sold millions of copies of Achy-Breaky Heart (and don’t even get me started on his daughter).

The strangest thing about the whole experience of living the Gen Y dream of going viral was reflecting on the fact that a 400 word rant that took me half an hour to write, edit and post has now been read by far more people than either of my novels. Those two books collectively represent five years of sweat, sleeplessness, agonising over commas and cuts, grinding my teeth over characters and subplots, stressing over cover designs and marketing approaches, dozens of meetings with publishers and editors and one vaguely related trip to the hospital.


I’ve been working on my latest book, Killing Adonis, for 4 goddamn years now. That’s longer than I’ve ever kept a job or stayed in a relationship and longer than it took me to took get either of my degrees. I’ve written parts of it in Brisbane and Lisbon and Pnom Penh and Bogotá and Buenos Aires and New York. I’ve rewritten the ending five times. I’ve changed the title. I’ve added and removed characters and subplots. And at the end of all that, I have a roughly 85 000 word novel that will probably be read by about half as many people as my cantankerous little letter. Of course, the difference is that viral posts tend to buzz around the web like digital bees on blue meth for a couple of days and then die out, whereas books are absorbed more slowly, and are cherished and shared over a protracted period of time. So now I just have to hope and pray at least a few thousand people enjoy this collection of words that I have poured my heart, soul, brain, liver and appendix into, or at least hate it for all the right reasons.

Internet dating




Hello there potential lover. I hope that you are having a nice day.

Recently I broke up with the most amazing girl in the world, thus obliterating my last remaining vestiges of belief in the existence of real and eternal love. As a result, I am now resigning myself to what my generation refers to as ‘settling’ and what previous generations have referred to as ‘You will marry that man or get thee to a nunnery!’


My ideal relationship at this point would be with pretty much anyone who will listen to my long-winded explanations of why Freaks and Geeks is a chronically underrated show and also allow me to touch their boobs on a semi-regular basis. However, I am also open to considering acting as a beard for an attractive lesbian, or the arm candy of a very rich psychopath who is incapable of emotion and affection but requires a partner to attend fancy galas with.


Preferably I would like to date someone who is extremely similar to Fiona Apple or, alternatively, is actually Fiona Apple. This could also include anyone who is some sort of semi-professional Fiona Apple look alike or anyone who is willing to wear a wig and lipsync to her seminal album ‘Tidal’ in full.

Here is a video of Zack Galifinakis lip syncing to one of her songs if you want to start practising. (Note: I would prefer if you did not physically resemble Zack Galifinakis).

Here are some reasons why you should date me:

1 I know how to use grammar correctly. This alone separates me from about 97.5% of the other guys on the internet. (I’m not kidding. Go take a look around if you don’t believe me).

2 I travel a lot, which means that if you grow tired of me you will have access to lengthy periods of respite and will be able to easily conduct the kind of steamy affairs that happen in Harlequin romance novels. I am a writer by trade, but I have never written a romance novel, despite the fact that when my accountant viewed my last tax return he seriously recommended it.

sexy cowboy


I’m confused, is he wearing a hat because he is concerned about sun protection? Because if so why is he not wearing a shirt and applying oil to his rippling torso? Surely a guy that dumb can’t actually be a member of Texas special ops. This whole premise seems implausible! 



3 I am very honest.

4 I am a terrible cook. I realise that this is not a particularly admirable feature but it is listed here for the purposes of demonstrating the above desirable quality. Although I did once have a friend ‘ghost-cook’ a meal for a date that I had over and then pretended that I cooked it myself so that pretty much invalidates the aforementioned.

5 I can speak Spanish. I mean, not enough to comfortably engage in a debate on the virtues of Kierkegaardian philosophy in a post-modern capitalist paradigm. But I can order beers and explain to Ecuadorian drug lords why they really shouldn’t kill me because seriously Carlos I honestly didn’t know that the girl I was dancing with was your fiancé and plus it’s a masquerade so honestly I feel like that gets me a pass for sure, right?

juice fasting idiots_guide_to_fermenting_foods  the-complete-idiots-guide-to-private-investigating

If there are any skills or attributes that you desire in a partner that are not listed here I will consider acquiring them so long as the appropriate ‘Complete Idiot’s Guide’ is available and the skill or attribute in question can be mastered within a few weeks of low level practice, allowing plenty of time for napping and video games.

If you like the sounds of any or all of the above then congratulations! You are the proud owner of 1 x date with JM Donellan at a time and location of your choosing. As long as the location is the weird Chinese restaurant out the back of the Laundromat on Adelaide St and the time is Tuesday afternoons between 5 and 6 on when the manager isn’t there so my friend Zhang can sneak us free food which may or may not have someone’s hair in it.

This is not a photo of me, it is a photo of famous actor and popular internet meme Ryan Gosling. He apparently has magical powers over women and I am hoping that by showing his picture on my profile I will create what advertisers refer to as ‘positive brand association.’