Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
This question reminds me of a great book I read recently, and as a matter of fact, I wrote it – A Simpler Time. I was born and raised on a citrus orchard at Peats Ridge, the youngest of seven children, and after going to Peats Ridge Public School, went boarding at Knox Grammar School.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted to be a writer and Prime Minister and play cricket for Australia and win Wimbledon and take over our farm. At eighteen I wanted to be a writer and Prime Minister and play rugby for Australia. At thirty, I wanted to write, all day long, and into the night. And I do . . .
That the fount of all goodness was the Liberal Party, and the root of all evil was the Labor Party.
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?
When I was fourteen, my brother lent me his tape of bob Dylan’s greatest hits, starting me on a lifetime’s passion for his songs and poetry – and I’d like to think some of that spirit has infused me. When I was 24 a friend told me she was going to be published in the herald in a reader’s column, and I decided I wanted to be published before her, so I wrote a story on rugby and my life changed. When I was 31, the TV personality Liz Hayes invited me to afternoon tea to meet a friend of hers, Lisa Wilkinson. Nine months later I married her. (Lisa, I mean.)
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book?
It is nothing less than the greatest story in the history of the world, and I am not tossing that off as a glib phrase. Let there be criticism by all means of the way I have treated the story, but let there be no doubt about the wonder of the story itself. In one tale you have seafaring, mutiny, shipwreck, murder, sex slavery, medieval battles, rescue, redemption and revenge.
It is nothing less than a true, adult’s only version of Lord Of The Flies. One thing that drew me to it is that while it is a hundred times better story than the titanic, it is not one-thousandth as well known. So I decided to tell the story in a different way . . .
Do I sound a little obsessive? I hope so – for I did get obsessed as I was writing it. There never has been, and never will be, a better pure story. And it all happened in Australia, four hundred years ago!
Make people aware that Australian history is as fantastic as it is fascinating. If ever you hear someone say Australian history is boring, the only explanation is that they just haven’t explored it enough yet!
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Get width of experience in your life. To be a writer you need to have something to say that others will care about and if you can have had experiences that your readers have not, it will help. Read as widely as you travel, and try to write with the same spirit.
Peter, 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.