Dustfall. I’m with you, it’s an odd word. It is, however, the title of my first novel, and somewhere within it is the semblance of sense.

Dustfall is a book 6 years in the making. Its release date is February 2018, and it’s being published by UWA Publishing, a cracker of an independent press who produce quality books of both non-fiction and literary fiction flavour.

When I was an intern (let us not lower the tone of this post by mentioning the year), I was flung out to Port Hedland Hospital for a term (my second only as doctor, the first being ten weeks in psychiatry), during which I was occasionally rostered on to staff the Emergency Department, alone, overnight. As you will easily imagine, this was a rather formative period for me. Frankly terrifying doesn’t begin to encapsulate it. Several times during this stint, searching for solace, I travelled round the surrounding countryside – that parched, red, horizonless outback of ours. On one of these occasions, I ended up in Wittenoom, a crumbling, soon to be ghost town. Amongst the shadows and the ruins, I came across the abandoned Wittenoom Hospital, and wandered through its shell, its broken corridors, its clanging, destroyed rooms. It was like the Mary Celeste – looking as though it had been abandoned in a hurry, with no one set to come back. Gauze rolled through the corridors, waterlogged piles of journals sat off to one side, and an old anaesthetic machine, a strangely shiny relic, gleamed in the corner. This image has stayed with me for decades, and I always knew there was a story to be had there.

Of course, Dustfall is a work of fiction, but it explores the crashing consequences of a doctor’s single mistake, as well as shining a light on a heinous chapter in Western Australia’s mining history.

More than this, I won’t say for the moment. Over the next six months, leading up to release date, there will be lots of news and numerous updates, most of which will find their way here.

It’s been a journey of wonder, writing the manuscript. A personal campaign of learning, of failure and rejection, and the rediscovery of the immense power and sublime beauty of the written word.

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About the author

Dr Michelle Johnston is a consultant Emergency Physician who works at an inner city hospital. Mostly her days consist of trauma and mess. Also, she writes.

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