What Lies at the Heart


Rachel Bailey takes up the challenge to respond to the famous 1814 woodblock-print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) that depicts a sexual encounter between two octopuses and a female diver, popularly known in English as the “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”. The image is as shockingly repulsive as it is arousing, with its reprehensible seduction and union across species boundaries and the stimulation of our imagination of the potentials of the multi-sensational caressing of an octopus’s touch. Bailey moves past its erotic allure by weaving a story that links the historical artwork with revenge porn, entwining the oppression of women and animals under patriarchy. Thereby, she challenges the world as it seems, and asks us to imagine a quite different one, a different truth, a different possible encounter with the octopuses that moves beyond coordinates of male human fantasies and expectations of appropriation and domination.


Despite spending most of her life trying to scam more time to read, Rachel has written books that have hit bestseller lists, are published in over 26 countries, and have been translated into 16 Languages. She is primarily published in contemporary romance and romantic comedy, but is interested in the broad scope of genre fiction. She has completed degrees in both psychology and social work, and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Tasmania. Her research sits at the intersection of popular romance studies and literary animal studies, with a particular focus on dog characters in romance novels. Rachel is a past president of the Romance Writers of Australia, and lives with her own personal hero and six rescue dogs on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.