The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Gone, Hunger and Lies,
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 was born in Los Angeles. My dad was a soldier so I grew up in various different places: Louisiana, Florida, France, Virginia, Maryland, Iowa. I attended a different school every year but one.
I think when I was 12 I wanted to be an interpreter at the UN — I was fluent in French — or an engineer. Which wasn’t a great plan because I have absolutely no talent for math.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
This is going to sound so corny, but when I was a young man I didn’t believe love was real. I didn’t believe it was possible for a human being to care more about the life of another person than about his own. And I believed this right up until I met Katherine who would become my wife. One day I believed it and the next day I realised I was an idiot. (I apologize for causing your readers to hurl up their breakfasts.)
1) In literature: Lord of the Rings, of course. Everyone who writes fantasy or speculative fiction was formed in part by LOTR. 2) A set of movies: the works of the Marx Brothers. They formed or at least confirmed my sense of humour. 3) The band, The Ramones, who kept hope alive for rock and roll when it was sinking under the weight of hair bands and mawkish balladeers and disco. I listen to a lot of Ramones, and other punk or punk/ska bands, like Rancid, Green Day, the Offspring, while writing.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Money. Oh, wait, that’s not a very good answer, is it? I guess I write because I have some natural talent for it. Maybe if I had a great visual sense I’d be a painter or a photographer. Or maybe if I were not completely uncoordinated and utterly rhythm-impaired I’d be a dancer. But I kind of get words, I understand what they do, I know something about story. So I do what I know how to do.
LIES is the 3rd book in the GONE series. There will be six books in all. LIES continues the story of a group of kids trapped in a zone just 20 miles in diameter. Everyone over the age of 15 has disappeared, some of the kids left behind are developing mutant powers, and the result is anarchy and terror and courage and madness.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
My goal is very simple: I want readers to stay up all night reading under the covers after telling their parents they’re asleep. I want readers snapping through the pages, unable to stop, unable to put the book down and all the while muttering, “Oh, my God! Oh, no! Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!” Beyond that I suppose it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if readers thought a bit about the deeper issues that come up in my books. But goal #1 is always to hook readers, then keep them up all night.
Stephen King. Not just for his enormous talent, but for his blue collar work ethic, which is much like my own. He could easily retire. He has nothing left to prove. He’s been insanely successful. But even after being run down by a van, being crippled and nearly killed, he bounced back up and banged out UNDER THE DOME. I’m a working class writer, and I admire guys who work hard at their job and don’t quit.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Well, I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds. Oh, something more ambitious than that? Okay, I’d like to see a lot more of the world. I’ve never been to Australia. I’ve never been to Africa or South America or Asia. It’s a travesty. All I’ve seen of the world is North America and Europe. I’d like to visit every continent including Antarctica. So long as they have room service.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read, write, and don’t give up.
Michael, 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, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.