The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
author of What Makes Us Tick?
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 Sydney, classic nuclear family (two parents, two kids), grew up in the bushland of Castlecrag. Attended local public schools and Sydney Grammar School.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12, I had abandoned my childhood dream of becoming a bus driver, and had not a clue what I might do. At 18, I’d already been in the workforce for two years, and was heading uncertainly for a research career – with writing lurking as an ultimate aim. At 30, I was determined to start my own research business, which I did at 33.
Strong and simple religious faith.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
As a young adult, reading the novels of Graham Greene, C P Snow and Iris Murdoch cemented my love of fiction and encouraged my desire to write it. The visit to Australia of the US psychotherapist Carl Rogers inspired me and transformed my approach to research and to communication. The experience of divorce forced me to examine my values, my way of life and my performance as a human being.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
The format may change, and keep changing, but the human appetite for stories (especially stories about ourselves and our place in the world) is insatiable. For the time being, books remain most people’s favourite way of reading stories.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
WHAT MAKES US TICK? The 10 Desires That Drive Us is a book I’ve long dreamed of writing – a distillation of my research findings into a bolder, big-picture approach to the study of human behaviour. It’s an attempt to explain why we do the things we do. (BBGuru: Here’s the publisher’s description…
The book that explains us to ourselves – from one of Australia’s most admired authors.
Why do we talk as if we’re rational, but act as if we’re not? Why do some people always want to take control? What is the true role of religion? Why do we seek change, yet resist it? Why do we want more of the things that have failed to satisfy us? Why are we so passionate about sport? Why do we fall out of love?
As Australia’s leading social researcher, Hugh Mackay has spent a lifetime of listening to people talk about their dreams, their fears, their hopes, their disappointments and their passions. In a series of bestselling books, he has documented the impact of the changes that have been radically reshaping our society.
Now, he reflects on some of the things that don’t change and identifies ten desires that drive us all. Insightful and engaging, WHAT MAKES US TICK? reveals Mackay’s formidable skills as a chronicler and interpreter of our motivations. In his exploration of why we do the things we do, he goes to the heart of some of life’s big questions.)
Help people to better understand themselves and each other, and to be more tolerant and forgiving as a result.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
The list is long, and private. But I most admire people who can both dream and act – practical visionaries – and those who can stay humble.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To keep writing.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write something every day.
Hugh, 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.