Sarah Winman, author of When God Was a Rabbit, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |March 7, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sarah Winman

author of When God Was a Rabbit,

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 and raised and schooled in Essex – at the time, not the most inspiring suburb of London. But it was home, and I was brought up amongst genuine loving fun people.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Ski instructor, actor, writer. They represented who I felt I was at the time.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I would have gone to mime school and lived in Paris.

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 blimey – I can never do three – innumerable:

Music – Arvo Part. Bill Evans. Billie Holiday

Film: Annie Hall, The Godfather, A Matter of Life and Death.

Books: John Irving, Tim Winton, Toni Morrison.

Art: Madonna of the Rocks, Edward Hopper, Brassai – Paris by Night.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I acted before I wrote. They led on, one from the other.

6. Please tell us about your debut novel When God Was A Rabbit...

It’s a love story between a brother and sister – about secrets forged in childhood and the adult consequences of those secrets. It’s about the strength of family; about best friendship. It’s about loss and being able to start again.

(BBGuru: Read Toni Whitmont’s review here

Publisher’s synopsisWHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is an incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new voice in fiction.

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.)

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

To feel stirred by something – to feel less lonely in the world.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Toni Morrison, Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, John Irving and Tim Winton. – Poetry, truth, heartbreak, craft, honesty, journey, integrity – a few reasons why I admire them.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To write another novel.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself. Believe in the story you want to tell. If you have only an hour to write, write. If you have a day, write. There will be many reasons not to write – identify them, be friends with them and then say goodbye to them.

Sarah, 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, 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.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • deb cathery

    November 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    a truely wonderous book, it was just beautifully written, thank you sarah winman!!!!!! I loved it!!!!!! deb from hampton park australia

  • tja cordwell

    November 25, 2011 at 1:17 am

    i so enjoyed this book. It had an unexpected effect on my emotions and responses. I felt it was multi-layered and had a hidden depth that may or may not have been intentional… in that i felt it not only gave hope that yes we have the power to change things etc…. which we hear every day!! but also a kind of challenge to inevitablility and expectations (especially morbid ones) which i feel sure we all have to varying degrees. This was highlighted especially in the way the coconut which landed on Arthur’s head which was an ‘inevitable’ actually… hmmm did not kill fact it did him a favour. It really made me look between the lines and have a different perspecitive. Thank you Sarah!!
    Kind Regards – Tia

  • Denise Ryback

    December 15, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Sarah, many members of my book club wondered if you intended any symbolism in When God was a Rabbit? We all loved the book and it received the highest overall rating of any book we have rated in our three years of going strong. Thank you for encouraging deep conversation and discussion! Denise.

  • Renee Tanburn

    February 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Perhaps it is essential to the story not to know what happend between Ellie and Mr. Golan when she was 6 – but I would still like to know!.

  • Aria

    March 13, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    I loved the book, but there were too many ” she said, he said”.
    Also,it is grammatically incorrect to say ” it made my brother and I nauseous”.

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