The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Darkwater, Births Deaths Marriages and Closed for Winter
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 Hunters Hill during the seventies – it was a time of caftans, women’s liberation, communes and children running wild. We spent a lot of time in the bushland near the rivers (there is one on each side of the suburb), learning to kiss and smoke in the caves above the reserve. There were also many deserted sandstone mansions in the streets near home – in fact, the whole place had a gothic feel to it.
When I was about fourteen, we moved to Adelaide, where I finished school, did a law degree and went through the troubled teens and early twenties. I hot footed it out of there at 28 and started writing novels.
I hadn’t been back to Hunters Hill until a few years ago – and I knew immediately that I wanted to write a book set there. I’d been toying with the idea of a murder mystery for teenagers and this seemed the perfect place.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
A writer, a writer, a writer. I loved reading and I couldn’t think of any greater privilege than earning a living making up stories. I’m also not a collaborator and knew I need a job where I was alone and in charge.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I used to think there were clear absolutes in life – rights and wrongs that could be found if you searched hard enough. I’ve learnt that everything has so many nuances, and that an absolute truth is an absolute fallacy.
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?
This is a question I can never answer – partly because my memory for names and titles is now so shocking and also because I don’t think works of art exert influence in such a direct and simple way. Artists I have loved include Andy Goldsworthy (an environmental sculptor), the Australian gothic artist Louise Hearman, and then I have found a walk through the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam immeasurably moving, and I remember spending a very long time staring at El Greco paintings in Madrid.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Whoever said I had innumerable artistic avenues open to me has never heard me sing, seen me dance or watched me draw. (BBGuru: Silly question? I think Rodney Hall’s answer to this question is justification enough for its continued inclusion – click here to see.)
A teenage schoolgirl is found floating facedown in the river, and the rumours start. Did she kill herself, or was she murdered? Darkwater is a whodunit for young adults that I’d like to think will grip a few older readers as well.
(BBGuru: From the Publisher:
Amanda Clarke is dead.
Her body was found floating face-down by the riverbank, and no one knows what happened. As rumours fly and fear grows, it seems that everyone suspects Lyndon, one of Amanda’s friends. He’s known for his temper, his cruelty and his criminal family – and now the police want to talk to him.
It’s the end of summer, 1973, the heat is enough to melt asphalt and a sleepy riverside suburb is losing some of its innocence. Fifteen-year-old Winter went to the same school and hung out in the same places as Amanda. As she finds herself alone in trying to defend Lyndon, Winter learns that you can never really know someone – and the answers she has been looking for are closer than she has ever wanted to believe.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
For me, a good book makes me think and feel, and when I close it, I am left with traces of the place and people, the world in which I’ve been immersed.
I love so many writers, it’s impossible to name one. Most recently I have been in the thrall of the first two books in a young adult trilogy by Patrick Ness – gripping, dark and thrilling. (BBGuru: Patrick Ness has answered our Ten Terrifying Questions, too! Click here to read his answers)
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I have no goals other than to keep doing what I’m doing. To hope you will make millions, win awards, or garner praise only distracts from what’s important – to try and write the best book that you can at that time.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
I know everyone says it – but just write. And read.
Georgia, 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.