author of I Came to Say Goodbye and Ghost Child
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 the Sunshine maternity hospital, in Victoria. The original building is no longer there but my mother says it was a large timber house with a wide veranda and the expectant Mums would wander around under the gum trees, their big bellies under smocks, smoking Alpine Lights.
I was raised in the town of Melton, between Melbourne and Ballarat, in a white weatherboard house with a corrugated iron roof. We backed onto the railway tracks, and my bedroom window would shiver in its frame when the old Red Rattler came through.
I am one of three children. We played under sprinklers, and ate chops and vegies for dinner at 5pm. We had no money, but nobody else did either, and nobody cared.
At 12, I wanted to be a journalist (I did work experience at the Melton Mail Express on the High Street when I was 13); at 18, I wanted to be an Age journalist (I got a cadetship on a local paper at 17 and dreamed of one day getting on The Age) and pretty soon after that I was ready to be a Mum.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At 18, I had no sensible ideas about anything. That may still be true. Some old sayings are true, though: Respect your elders. Fortune favours the brave. You catch more flies with honey.
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 wish I could say I was inspired by a work of art, but in truth, it was things I saw in real life that troubled me.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Please believe that I have no other options open to me, artistically. You really do not want to hear me sing.
It is called I Came To Say Goodbye. When people ask me what it’s about, I say it’s a love story, and they look a bit surprised, because it doesn’t look like one.
But it is a love story. It’s about the tender, special, never-ending bond between a father and his daughter. His wife has left him, and he’s doing his best to raise her, but she is an unusual child, and it isn’t going all that well. As she gets older, it gets harder still. But he never stops loving her. (Click here to read Toni Whitmont’s review…)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Your family may drive you mad, but they are all you’ve got. Love them. Take care of them. Let them take care of you, too.
Then, too, there is Cormac McCarthy – especially his young cowboy, John Grady Cole.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’m not sure I have those kinds of goals. I have in mind a plan to write four novels, after which I will have said what I want to say. One is already published; the next is due in October, and I have two more to go, one of which is already partly written. Then I am going to retire from writing novels.
I often hear from people who tell me they’ve written something and they aren’t sure it’s any good. I tell them that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t feel like that. Everyone I’ve ever met who has had something published has been absolutely certain, at some point in the process, that what they have written is awful. I think it must be part of human nature, to doubt. So I say: keep on going.
Thank you for playing.
No, thank you!!
No, (pause for effect) thank you!
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.