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: Mater Mothers, Brisbane. Raised: 47 Fleetway Street, Morningside. (Also Brisbane.) Schooled: Seven Hills State School, Lourdes Hill College.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That Ronald Reagan’s second term would mean certain nuclear obliteration for the entire planet.
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?
For me, it’s all about the books. White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Possession by A.S. Byatt and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen keep me hoping that, if I work very very hard for the rest of my life, I might one day write a paragraph one-tenth as good as the ones in these books.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
How sweet. I like you already. Sadly I have only one artistic avenue open to me as I am tone-deaf, utterly style deficient, can’t take a non-blurry photo and have difficulty drawing a stick man.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Fall Girl was inspired by the romantic comedy films of the 40s, 50s and 60s. I love them. Films like Bringing Up Baby, Charade, To Catch a Thief. I always wished that Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn had made more movies. Those films were witty and sexy, but always classy and intelligent. So I decided to attempt to write a novelistic equivalent.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I love the idea of making people smile. There aren’t enough smiles in the world. This means the writing has to be as good as I can make it, because ugly sentences make me frown. There are bigger issues there if you want to think about them but that’s entirely optional.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
This changes every time I read something new that blows my mind. At the moment I’m inspired by Peter Carey: each novel takes the reader to an entirely different place in an entirely different voice. That takes a kind of mad courage, as well as hard work and talent.
Ha! Just finishing a novel is ambitious enough for me.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
I often tell aspiring writers to keep two novels on their desk as they work: one for inspiration and one for confidence. The inspiration novel should be something they love, something so staggeringly good that they think: ‘I will never manage to write anything that compares to the beauty of this novel, but I will try.’ The other should be something they hate, something so staggeringly bad that they think: ‘if this piece of rubbish has managed to be published, then so will my manuscript.’ (BBGuru: Love it!)
Toni, thank you for playing.
‘The secret to having people give you money is to act as though you don’t want it.’
Meet Ella Canfield, highly qualified evolutionary biologist. Attractive, if a little serious-looking in those heavy glasses—but then she’s about to put her career on the line. Dr Canfield is seeking funding for a highly unorthodox research project. She wants to prove that an extinct animal still roams in one of Australia’s most popular national parks.
Meet Daniel Metcalf, good-looking, expensively dishevelled millionaire. Quite witty but far too rich to be taken seriously. He heads the Metcalf Trust, which donates money to offbeat scientific research projects. He has a personal interest in animals that don’t exist.
Problem number one: There is no such person as Dr Ella Canfield.
Problem number two: Della Gilmore, professional con artist, has never met anyone like Daniel Metcalf before.
Someone is going to take a fall.
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.