Homecoming, Once in a Lifetime, Lessons in Heartbreak and many more…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in Belfast and brought up and schooled in Dublin, Ireland.
When I was twelve… hum… bit of a blank. Wanted to be a jockey when I was four but I got over it. I did write sad and lonely poetry when I was twelve, and told my sister stories at night, so the storytelling thing was there. But as for a job – eeek. At eighteen, I wanted to be a fabulous crusading journalist – I had just started journalism college and was an idealist, working on all manner of social issue articles. At thirty, I wanted to be a full-time novelist. My first book had been published but I was working full-time as a reporter too. My hands hurt and I had no life away from computers.
I thought I was a bit of a screw-up, in very teenage angsty way. Happily, I no longer think this – most of the time!
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I adored Colette and when I was seventeen, yearned to be able to write elegant sentences with heart behind them.
I loved Picasso’s Guernica, being heavily interested in European wars (the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War), and was so moved by the power of great art to move the human heart.
Madame Butterfly always makes me want to lie down and cry. I think art like this opens up your heart and lets the world in, and to write, you need to let the world in – even when it hurts – so you can translate it and let it out again in your own artistic way.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I wasn’t a good enough painter. I’d drawn all my life but I never felt I was original enough to be a painter. Ironically enough, reading was like breathing to me and a long time elapsed before I realised that I should write.
Homecoming is about the past and how it has to be dealt with, and how our lives in the present may be materially very different from the past, but in many respects, we worry about similar things: love, hope, health, death, pain. It’s about four very different women – an elderly Irish-American psychoanalyst, a young actress who has just had a public affair with a married movie star, a pushing-forty single woman who has given up on men, and a woman with what looks like the perfect life who has a dark past. They all meet up in Golden Square, an idyllic little square in Dublin.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I adore Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet, for his magical words. They pierce your soul in the most glorious way.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To get better all the time. No novel is ever right, you see…..
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself and do the work. Writing is glorious but it’s hard work too.
Cathy, 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.