author of the Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices,
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 Teheran. I travelled all over with my parents for many years — India, Nepal, France, Switzerland, England — sadly never to Australia! I was in and out of school with some home schooling, which did allow for a certain specific in depth focus on topics like Britain and British history which fuelled my adult interest in the Victorian era there.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I think when I was twelve I wanted to be a windsurfing instructor in Tahiti because it seemed relaxing. After that, it was just writer, writer, writer. I always wanted to be a writer from about 13 on; specifically a writer of fantasy fiction.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
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?
Paradise Lost by John Milton, made me fascinated with the story of the war in Heaven and Lucifer’s fall. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics made me understand that you could utiilize many mythological sources at once and overlap them, rather than relying on only one. And it would be hard to overestimate the influence of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces when constructing a heroic narrative.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I didn’t realize there were innumerable artistic avenues open to me! I can’t dance, I’m tone deaf, I can’t draw — I think you should probably stick with what you’re good at. I do love movies, but movies are a product of a team of creators and I work best by myself.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel… Infernal Devices Book 1: The Clockwork Angel
I would call it a companion series to the Mortal Instruments, my previous series about the magical, demon-fighting Shadowhunters.
You don’t need to have read the Mortal Instruments to read The Infernal Devices, and you don’t need to read The Infernal Devices to read The Mortal Instruments. The two stories stand on their own, but they take place in the same world of demons, fallen angels, Nephilim, and Downworlders.
Infernal Devices Book 1: The Clockwork Angel is a magical historical romance that is set in Victorian London about a girl named Tessa who discovers she has mysterious powers, and has to take refuge with the Shadowhunters while she works out who is pursuing her and to what evil ends. In the book, you’ll meet the ancestors of Jace, Clary, and the Lightwoods. Also there are a few crossover characters, like Magnus Bane, and as usual there’s lots of romance, demon-fighting, and battles between good and evil.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
First of all I hope they have fun. I think books that are fun to read, that grab you and immerse you in an imaginary world, provide an invaluable escape from the stresses of real life. And secondly I think there are themes about courage and honour, love and sacrifice in the books that I hope people put down the novels thinking about.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Oh, there is no one person! There are so many! I admire Tamora Pierce, for instance, for being among the first to write strong female heroines in teen fiction, and throughout her career she has never wavered from that commitment.
To be able to support myself as a writer for the rest of my life. It’s more ambitious than it sounds!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read. Read something every day. Try to read 60-70 books a year.* Read out of your comfort zone. Don’t just read in the genres you like; experiment with other genres, other types of books. I get letters all the time from people who say they don’t like to read, but they want to learn how to write. Well, you have to learn to love the first to do the second.
Cassandra, thank you for playing.
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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.