The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Hey, that’s not so scary! I think I’m tough enough to cope with question 1 at least! I was born in Brisbane, raised in Redland Bay on Moreton Bay where my parents had an avocado farm and went to high school as a boarder in Ipswich. All very Queensland.
Actually these still aren’t scary. Bring out your big guns! I’m tough I can take it. Well, I think so! When I was twelve, I was desperate to learn ballet but there wasn’t a school handy so my dreams of being a ballerina came to nothing. When I was eighteen, I’d pretty much settled on becoming a published writer one day. Same for thirty. I always loved books – I’m a compulsive reader. If all else fails, I’ll read the back of the milk carton. Which is full of surprisingly interesting facts!
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Ooh, now, these are getting scarier! I had a strongly held belief that I’d see pretty much the whole world but I’ve realised only just recently that there are places I’m never going to make. Especially as when I travel, I seem to keep going back to my favourites!
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?
Oh, too many to mention. I’ll pick three books just because they’re easiest. Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles affected me enormously – the brilliance of the writing, the vivid historical recreations, the complexity of the characters. But I think most of all, the fact that she took such enormous risks. She wasn’t a wimp when it came to the big moments – people died, did bad things or had horrible experiences. Nobody was safe and there were consequences to every action. She never took the easy path and she lured me to be more daring in my own work.
Reading Georgette Heyer as a teenager and again as an adult developed my interest in the Regency and sharpened my ear for upper-class English voices.
My first Laura Kinsale absolutely blew me away – again, like the Dunnetts , she showed me how to be daring and dangerous within the bounds of an emotionally satisfying romance with a sigh-worthy happy ending. And she puts her heroes through even worse torture than I put mine through!
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Oh, I love the ‘innumerable artistic avenues’ line. I wish! Actually I love stories and I love romance and I’m a bit of a control freak so that counted out something like film or playwriting. So I guess novel writing was just the thing for me.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
My Reckless Surrender is the story of a dangerous seduction in Regency London. In return for the fulfilment of her every ambition, Diana Carrick makes a devil’s bargain to seduce the Earl of Ashcroft. But as she and the notorious rake forge a deep emotional connection through a sultry summer, Diana becomes increasingly enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. I describe the book as a ‘ticking bomb’ story. The reader knows much more than either of the protagonists and just waits for the chickens to come home to roost. As they inevitably do once Diana’s plot starts to unravel.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope people close an Anna Campbell with a big sigh of emotional satisfaction.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
A couple of people who immediately spring to mind are American historical romance authors Loretta Chase, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Madeline Hunter. In classic fiction, I admire Tolstoy for the sweep of his stories and the depth of his understanding of human character. I admire Charlotte Bronte for breaking through so many Victorian strictures to write the passionate romance Jane Eyre.
I’d love to keep writing the stories I want to tell and to share those stories with enthusiastic readers all over the world. No other plans for world conquest at the moment!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Stick to your guns and write a complete manuscript. Personal experience indicates you’ll hear a siren voice whispering to you about 100 pages in, insisting that what you’re writing is terrible and you should try this new wonderful idea. That siren voice is actually your fear speaking. Don’t listen to it. Personal experience also indicates that 100 pages into that wonderful new idea, the siren voice will start whispering exactly the same poison. You’ll learn things from plugging through to the end of a manuscript that nothing else will teach you.
And once you’ve finished the manuscript, put it under the bed and write something else. Once you have, go back to the first manuscript and only then start editing. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes you can see once you’ve got a bit of distance. Not only that, you’ll have learnt skills writing the next book that you can use to improve the first book. Good luck!
Anna, 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.