The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Delicious, The Gypsy Tearoom, The Italian Wedding and Recipe for Life,
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I grew up in Wallasey just across the River Mersey from Liverpool in the north of England. My Dad was a factory worker and the best cook in town. We were the only kids in our school whose breath smelt of garlic.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I pretty much always wanted to be a writer except for a brief period when I was 18 when I decided to be a lawyer because someone told me they earned loads of money. One year studying law at university beat that out of me.
At eighteen I didn’t have a clue about anything. I had no idea that my heart would be broken or my faith in the world shaken. I certainly never suspected the ups and downs that lay ahead of me. And I’m glad of that.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Painting? Italian Renaissance art because it was such an exciting time. It was when perspective was discovered. I particularly like paintings by Masaccio.
Music? The Skippy The Kangaroo theme tune because my mother says hearing me sing it was the first moment she realised I was completely tone deaf.
Book? Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird because no matter how many times I read it I lose myself completely in the story.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Are you kidding? Writing is just about the only thing I can do with any skill at all. Journalism and novel writing are my only career options. Luckily I enjoy them.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
It’s called Recipe For Life and it’s about friendship, food and how it’s never too late to change your life. It’s set between London and southern Italy and it’s about two women: Alice who is just embarking on life and Babetta who is nearing the end.
(BBGuru: Here’s the Publisher’s Blurb –
A recipe for life should be a simple thing: love and happiness, family, friends and a little food. But life is rarely straightforward…Alice wants to make the most of life – after all, she knows how fragile it can be – and knows she never feels more alive than when she’s cooking.
Babetta has spent a lifetime tending the garden of her tiny house on the Italian coast, growing food to feed a family now grown and gone. One summer these two women are brought together in a crumbling Mediterranean villa, with the shared language of food and the soil they grow it from. There, under the heat of the Italian sun, or the shade of the pomegranate tree, secrets will be spoken, fears and hopes shared. But life’s lessons are not learnt easily.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I want them to feel like they’ve been in the story, escaped to Italy, watched Babetta haggling at the market stall, tasted the food, smelled the air, really been there….I hope they forget they’re reading at all and lose themselves in the story because to me that’s the sign of a fantastic book.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I have a huge literary crush on Audrey Niffinegger who wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was lucky enough to interview her and could have talked to her for hours. I also just read and loved Andrea Levy’s The Long Song and am developing a crush on her too. Oh and Rose Tremain because she never writes the same book twice (and lots of authors do). I admire any writer who can produce work that is both brilliantly written and entertaining.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I never think beyond the next book. And once I’ve finished that my goal is to clean my house. Really it is.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Just read and read and read….and then write and write and write. Don’t listen to too much advice. This is your book after all.
Nicky, thank you for playing.
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 booktopia.com.au, 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, was published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.