The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Lucy The Lie Detector and the award-winning, The Worry Tree
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 and raised in Sydney where I wrote lots of stories and a good helping of angst-ridden poetry, eg, “standing stark against the sky, a weathered soul stands cracked and dry” – you get the picture. When I wasn’t writing, you could find me playing the piano accordion, sorting my collections (dried cicada shells, baby teeth, erasers) or sitting up a tree recording the number plates of cars parked in our street, a habit I have long since abandoned.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, a barrister as I was good at arguing and wanted to defend people who had been unjustly accused. I even took up signing my name with “QC” at the end. At eighteen, still a barrister. (Law school cured me of that.) At thirty, an author!
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That a belly button is an orifice. You can imagine my surprise when, some years later, I discovered this was not the case.
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?
The whale skeleton that hangs in the foyer of the Australian Museum in Sydney. While not strictly a work of art, it has always filled me with awe and wonder. When I write, I try to capture that childhood feeling of being transported by something large and majestic.
Circe Invidiosa, a painting by JW Waterhouse. It’s of a woman standing on the back of a fish pouring a bowl of aqua liquid into a pond. It wasn’t until some years later that I found out the liquid is actually a magic potion and the woman is not a harmless nymph but a vengeful sorceress. This made me think a lot about how things are not what they first appear, which has, in turn, affected the way I read and write stories.
Zigzag Street by Nick Earls. Back in 1999, I picked up this novel at an airport bookshop while on my way to Europe to spend a year ‘finding myself’. As I read it, I thought, I can do that! I can write a book! By the time I got off the plane, I had the beginnings of a novel in my head.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I’m a descendent of King Henry VIII’s librarian (true story) so books are in my blood. (BBGuru: !!!)
The star of Lucy the Good is back in a new adventure called Lucy the Lie Detector. When Lucy accidentally scratches Dad’s brand-new car, one small mistake turns into an enormous fib involving her best friend Harriet, her worst enemy Jacinta, a telepathic camel and a guinea pig with an escape plan. She has to decide if it’s time to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A few good belly laughs and something to ponder over, whether that’s how to better cope with your worries or how the difference between truth and lies is a lot more complicated than you might first think.
UK children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson, because she deals with the real problems children have yet she writes about them in a way that’s both funny and accessible.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My first novel is called The Worry Tree and I’d love it if children all over the world had worry trees painted on their bedroom walls just as Juliet does in my book.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Every writer goes through the ‘My story is no good and I have no talent’ phase. Never forget: this feeling will pass. Then it will come back again. Then it will pass. Then it will come back again … Just don’t give up!
Marianne, 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.