Are the Five Facetious Questions Too Silly to be Asked or Answered?

by |March 10, 2010

I’ve discovered I love interviewing authors.

I’m afraid the sudden success of the

Ten Terrifying Questions

has gone to my head!

Now I’m tempted to risk it all by being a bit silly…

Authors, I have put together a new set of questions. A companion set, if you like.

Who would like to answer the…

Five Facetious Questions?

1. Every writer spends at least one afternoon going from bookshop to bookshop making sure his or her latest book is facing out and neatly arranged. How far have you gone to draw attention to your own books in a shop?

2. So you’re a published author, almost a minor celebrity, and for some reason you’ve been let into a party full of ‘A-listers’ – what do you do?

3. Some write because they feel compelled to, some are Artists and do it for the Muse, some do it for the cash (one buck twenty a book) and some do it because they think it makes them more attractive to the opposite sex – why do you do write? (NB: don’t say -‘cause I can’t sing, tap or paint!)

4. Have you ever come to the end of writing a particularly fine paragraph, paused momentarily, chuffed with your own genius, only to find you’ve been sitting at the computer nude or with your dress half-way over your head or shaving cream on your face or toilet paper sticking out the back of your undies or paused to find that you’re singing We are the Champions at the top of your voice, having exchanged the words ‘we are’ for ‘I am’ and dropping an ‘s’?

No? Well, what’s your most embarrassing writing moment?

5. Rodin placed his thinker on the loo – where and/or when do you seem to get your best ideas?

Any takers?

13 Comments Share:

About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • March 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    1. I fell over a dump bin of my books once. It wasn’t intentional, but it certainly gets you plenty of attention and, it turns out, several pity sales. Some people feel too bad putting the books back in front of you, and feel compelled to buy them.

    2. Eat as many canapes as you can, hang out shyly in the corner and tell big self-aggrandising lies about the night for the rest of your life. That’s how I’ve played every A-list party so far. Who cares what actually happened?

    3. It certainly beats having a job.

    4. I was so distracted once – I’d like to say focused – early on a book tour that I made a smoothie at lunchtime, took the lid off to check it, saw some unblended banana and cranked the blender up again. While still looking into it. Face full of smoothie. But it got worse. I had a break of 2 hrs before the next interview, so I went to the bank and the post office and bought some food, then came back and walked past a mirror. I had some chunks of banana in my hair, sitting in a slick of smoothie. It looked as if a massive seagull had just dumped on my head.

    5. Really? I have some ideas that’d rate as best ideas? Great.

    • March 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      Ha ha ha! ha!
      Thank you for your answers. So funny I snorted.
      Banana in the hair! Ha ha!
      Gross, now I need a tissue to wipe my monitor

  • Jonathon

    March 10, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Hahaha, oh dear, cant stop laughing for the tears….

  • March 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    1: I pop up regularly on security footage at Borders, lurking in the ‘SEX’ section where they have decided to place my book. While it may seem to make sense – it is called, after all – Do You Want Sex With That? – its positioning, sandwiched between the Kama Sutra and self-helpy tomes on how to achieve the perfect orgasm is not a great fit in my eyes and so I regularly re-shuffle.
    I have tried any number of things – subtly picking up a copy of my own book as if to browse over a latte in the adjoining cafe and then casually leaving it there, face-up, on a table – but the knowledge that my money for the Gloria Jean’s coffee was funding some fundamentalist cult was not worth the potential royalty. These days, I usually move in quickly and, figuring that if I can’t fight the ‘SEX’ shelf classifcation within Borders, I might as well make the best of it, I grab the copies of books from the best-seller top shelf of the SEX section (usually Bettina Arndt’s Sex Diaries and that acronym book RUEA?) and move into their prime real estate with copies of mine, spread out side-by-side.
    At least that way, I hope, it might catch the eye of someone on their way to AUSTRALIAN, SOCIOLOGY, or MEMOIR.

    2: As a feature writer for magaiznes and newspapers, I have made it to many an A-list party over the years and always have the same experience. Nobody knows who I am and, if I do get a chance to tell them, they don’t seem to care. This has never particuarly bothered me as it leaves me able to accost the waiters each time they pass by with their 2-bite gourmet hamburgers without being interrupted by unnecessary conversation. I always enjoy the food, it is an excuse to buy a new outfit but I make a point of not drinking alcohol as it tends to make me speak my mind. I blamed the too many champagnes for that ugly Eddie McGuire situation at an A-list birthday a few years ago – another time I was truly grateful for my obscurity. As it happened, he would not have known who I was. Phew. What I get from royalties would have not come close to covering the lawsuit.

    3: I always wanted to write but it has been motherhood and the realisation that being home with my children is better than having them in fulltime childcare while I toil in an office that’s given me the inspiration to make it work as a living. It’s been almost twenty years since I have had to work in an environment where I was made to answer to somebody. I like it that way. As much as I love observing people, I sometimes fall down on the actual interactions (see above) and so the isolation of writing suits me.

    4: I have been known to enjoy the occasional big-headed moment, basking in the glow of my own prose but, as someone who routinely works around the needs of children, these rare moments are short-lived.
    Just the other night I was blogging when my youngest cried out for me from her cot. I had her on my lap, jiggling her up and down for distraction with one knee while typing one-handed and she projectile vomited up an entire bottle of milk into the keyboard of my lovely Mac.
    Once she was cleaned up and back in bed, I spent the night mopping up sick and popping keyboard letters up with a teaspoon to clean underneath them. The smell in my study is still horrible. There is no glamour in writing.

    5: My car. With four children, it can give me many hours of hell – stuck in traffic while someone tantrums and Taylor Swift is on repeat – but when the peace does come in those times when the kids are either at school, at kindy or even peacefully asleep in the back seat, the car is my happy place and I can think. Just for me.

    • March 10, 2010 at 10:49 pm

      Thank you for your answers.
      Most revealing!

      I thought I had seen you before!

      You’re the woman I’m always meeting in the self-help section of bookshops, nodding and winking in the general direction of ‘Do You Want Sex With That?
      No, okay, I don’t, I just want a copy of Awaken the Giant Within, Women Who Love Too Much and the latest Siimon Reynold’s book (note the two ‘i’s)).

      Thank you so much for answering my silly questions.

      We’ve had banana chunks in hair, snot on computer monitors and now, thank goodness, we have projectile vomit on a keyboard… What wonders await us?

      For those who don’t know Claire’s book Do You Want Sex With That?, it is a brilliant investigation of the role and meaning of sex in modern Australian life.

      Read about it here:

      Sitting in a meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous, Claire Halliday insists to herself she’s there for research. But while trying to work out what to say when her turn comes, she begins to wonder whether we aren’t all sex addicts now.

      Like sugar, sex is in everything, from Bratz dolls to internet porn. On your television, on your radio, along the side of the road; in your inbox, your handheld and your frontpage. It sells and – particularly if you’re a parent – it terrifies. It has always excited and disgusted, but now it does both things simultaneously, all the time.

      Combining memoir and reportage, Claire Halliday considers the place of sex throughout Australian life: from lounging about at the beach, to the pervasive sexualisation of advertising and children, to the more minority pursuits of swinging and porn-films, as well as the rise of the abstinence movement. She explores the issues with unsparing candour testing them against her own life and her own feelings rather than abstract ideals. The result is inquiring, challenging and fascinating. Who, after all, doesn’t like sex? Just . . . perhaps . . . not right now.

      Claire Halliday is a freelance writer and author whose feature articles have appeared in a variety of national and international newspapers and magazines, including The Age, Sunday Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Women’s Weekly, Independent on Sunday (UK), Notebook, Marie Claire and GQ, for over a decade. In that time, she has written features on a range of topics, including Geraldine Cox and her Cambodian orphanage, life inside a children’s mental health ward at Melbourne ’s Austin Hospital , the life of an HIV-positive woman, the swingers’ party scene in Melbourne and many other observations on aspects of Australian sexuality.

      Claire has previously published two books, Unsung Heroes and The World At Their Feet – both collections of interviews with important Australians. Her most recent book, Do you want sex with that? is a very personal account of her own attitudes to sex and also explores the place of sex throughout Australian life: from the pervasive sexualisation of advertising and its approach to children, to the more minority pursuits of swinging and porn-films, as well as the rise of the abstinence movement.

      She lives in Melbourne with her partner and four children and is currently working on her new book.

  • March 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Ha! I’m laughing too.

    1) I dated the manager of a bookstore once…it didn’t work out but I did get a lovely display 🙂

    2) I introduce myself as Kreskali, High Priestess of Treeon Temple. Works every time 🙂

    3) I write because I in love with it.

    4) Most embarrassing writing moment would be looking up from the computer to note the time — 5:55 PM. Remember a ‘first date’ due at 6:00 PM. Panic. Eyes go to the open door to see ‘First Date’ walking up the path. Demons! Eyes then go down to see I am indeed in nickers with a tooth brush hanging out of my mouth like a cigarette. Hair dripping. ‘You’re early,’ I said. He said, ‘I don’t mind . . .’

    5) Meditation . . . almost always deep meditation.

    But once I was giving a talk on how not to feel rejected by form rejection slips and mid-sentence I got a flash on how I actually could sink a continent in a matter of hours and still save several main characters without so much as a scratch. I sat down and made notes while the class looked on. Hopefully no one felt too rejected!

    • March 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

      Thank you for your answers, Kim.

      Dating the manager of a bookstore! Suddenly I realise why so many bright people choose to do such an ill-paid job – the perks!

      Eyes then go down to see I am indeed in nickers with a tooth brush hanging out of my mouth like a cigarette. Hair dripping.

      Now that’s what I’m talking about! Complete immersion in the telling of a story with hilarious consequences. I hope you opened the door like that!

      Peruse, or buy, Kim’s wondrous books here.

      Thanks Kim. We now have enough embarrassing stories gathered together to declare the party started!

  • March 11, 2010 at 9:53 am

    1. I recently travelled to Sydney from my home in Melbourne, and while waiting for the flight to board dragged my two children into every Tullamarine bookshop to make sure the latest edition of After The Fall was on the shelves. They thought it was a great game, and joined in the fun of locating copies, then turning them face out, or- even better- smuggling them onto the “Bestseller” shelves. My son then had the idea of placing copies on the floor near the entrance of the shop so that people would notice them as they tripped over them, or at least step on them and then have to buy. Love that boy.

    2. Scan the crowd to see if George Clooney is there, and if so get drunk and flirt outrageously with him (or at least his minders). Failing that, sidle up to Nick Earls, tell him we share an agent, and that he should thus follow me on Twitter.

    3. Because it makes my pyjamas tax-deductible.

    4. While promoting my second (non-fiction) book, Naked, I was asked to appear on a very large, very well known and exceedingly horrifyingly LIVE breakfast TV show, literally watched by millions across the nation. The presenter, who shall remain nameless, was way too important and busy to meet with me before the show, so the producer and her assistant painstakingly devised the questions she would ask me, emailed them to me so I could come up with erudite and articulate responses, then practiced them with me over and over in the green room for an hour before the show (I bet you never realised breakfast TV was so scripted, huh?). I was beside myself with nerves, but at least reassured that I knew what was coming when that camera light went on. Or so I thought- I was led up to the sacrificial couch, the light went on, and the famous TV presenter smiled at me smoothly, completely ignored the autocue with the questions I’d rehearsed, and said “So Kylie- how do we know you didn’t just make your book up?” My best friend watching back home in Melbourne reckons she heard my teeth knock together in shock/outrage/terror; my mother tells me she thinks whole ecosystems evolved in the time it took me to pull myself together and answer the question.
    And then there was the ABC radio interview for Naked, where the presenter announced me as “That slutty strumpet, Kylie Ladd”, while my children listened in the booth next door with their dad. Ah, the glamour of media coverage.

    5. Eavesdropping on others. It’s a perk of the job.

    • March 11, 2010 at 11:25 am

      You are a genius Dr Ladd.
      Thank you for accepting the call, once again.
      All I seem to do is take, take, take (as a wise person pointed out) and thankfully you are there to give, give, give such entertaining answers.

      3. Because it makes my pyjamas tax-deductible.

      Love it!

      Hmmm…. “That slutty strumpet, Kylie Ladd” You know… It sounds like someone is trying to gain themselves a nickname!

      Kylie Ladd’s novel After the Fall is for grown-ups. A beautifully written and delicately dissected account of two couples dealing with infidelity. Think of Kylie Ladd as Australia’s Anita Shreve or Anne Tyler (strangely, I think of her as our Ford Madox Ford because I was reminded of his classic novel The Good Soldier.)

      Her book Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity is just what it says it is, an abomination! No, no it isn’t, it is a collection of personal accounts of infidelity, which Kylie Ladd collated and edited – she becomes Virgil to our Dante, if you like wanky allusions, in our journey through a very private world.

      Thank you so much for playing again Kylie.

      • March 13, 2010 at 9:42 am

        Kylie – you will need to have a logo permanently attached to your pajamas to make them tax deductible. Love from your tax nerd friend 🙂

  • March 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    1. What? Do authors do that? Thanks for the tip! I’ll be out next Friday…or is Wednesday better?
    2. Neatly scratch the word ‘minor’ from my nametag and mingle.
    3. A) To be honest, I like it. B) I get to answer questionnaires. C) It would be really shite to turn up to writer’s group with nothing. D) $1.20! I’m calling my agent immediately.
    4. There have been many embarrassing moments but nothing tops Nick Earls’ banana-enriched coiffure.
    5. First idea, 1st glass. Second best idea immediately following 2nd glass, accompanied by frantic note taking while trying to keep up with brilliant brain. Epiphany is, on recovery, being able to read handwriting of frantic notes.

    • March 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you so much for your answers.
      You’ve made me look silly – giggling like a little girl while concerned commuters look on.
      He he he he ahem!

      Lisa Heidke’s novel What Kate Did Next is out now: Meet Kate Cavendish – housewife and mother of two – as she dips her toes back into the workforce while trying to juggle kids, a work-obsessed husband, lust for her son’s soccer coach, and much, much more … Her husband’s a workaholic, her kids are growing up – now it’s time for Kate to follow some of her own dreams …

      This is the often hilarious but also wry account of the life of mother of two, Kate Cavendish. It seems like only yesterday that Kate was one of the most well-regarded photographers in town. So how, she wonders, did her life come to consist of so much drudgery, not to mention dealing with a recalcitrant, eye-rolling teenage daughter and an often-absentee husband. And why oh why did her young son have to score such a distractingly gorgeous soccer coach? We follow Kate’s journey as she dips her toes back into the workforce and starts to fantasise about getting her life back, including some of the glamour and fun.

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