Episode 5

Owning your sexuality and overcoming shame with Josh Silver

Josh grew up on a farm in the Lake District before moving to Manchester with his family, where he spent his teenage years loving the city. He moved to London to train at RADA as an actor and has performed in the West End and on Broadway. After deciding to change careers, Josh began training as a mental health nurse and, at the same time, started writing his first book. Josh lives in Manchester with his husband* and their dog Dodger.

*Since we recorded this, Josh and David got married! Congratulations! (Take a look at their handsome pics here)

Our interview begins at  [time]

Before you dive into the interview, be sure to listen to Michelle's brand new audio documentary, The Great Australian Camel Race for ABC RN's The History Listen. Listen here.

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Caitlin recommends: The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor

A magical and captivating older middle-grade novel about two girls growing up in a brilliant Melbourne bookshop in the 1890s.

Michelle recommends: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

This is one friend of the podcast Laura Kay recommended back in early 2021. A gorgeous contemporary novel where you just want to befriend all the characters. I was enchanted by Albert’s story and utterly invested in making sure he found himself again.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • Creating the dystopian setting of HappyHead
  • Josh's career change from actor to mental health nurse and how his experience inspired the novel
  • How Josh's experience of growing up gay is mirrored through the challenges the main character Seb faces in accepting his sexuality
  • The impact that seeing things like Strictly Come Dancing's first male/male pairing had on queer communities (see one of their dances here)
  • The deep and ongoing impact that shame around sexuality has on people
  • Josh's drama school and acting experience (and the hangovers from that, which also influenced the book)
  • How Josh got his publication deal and what's next

Books and other things mentioned:

  • The Portable Door (film)
  • Becoming Ted by Matt Cain
  • Drag Addict (musical)
  • The Hush by Sara Foster – our interview also included a lot of Sara's research into the dystopian genre which is fascinating in the context of our chat with Josh.
  • The Handmaid's Tail by Margaret Atwood
  • The Great British Bake Off
  • The Institute (play written by Josh's husband David Dawson)
  • My Policeman (film)
  • Queer As Folk (TV series)
  • Jules Von Hep's incredible white bridal suit
  • Cats (the movie)
  • Back to the Future (musical)
  • Matilda (musical and movie)
  • The First Time I Thought I Was Dying by Sarah Walker (listen to our interview)
  • Moulin Rouge (movie)
  • Dear Evan Hansen (movie)
  • Dumplin' (movie)
  • It's a Sin (TV series)
  • In Our Blood (TV series)

Follow Josh @smudgecotton

HappyHead is available in the UK and Australia now! Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending us copies to read in preparation for the interview.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

About the Podcast

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Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and going to aerial classes.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.