The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Sanctus,
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 an out-of-the-way, seaside town called Cleethorpes in the north east of England. I lived there until I was 9 then began a gradual migration south, ending up at Goldsmiths College in London where I studied English and Drama.
At twelve, I wanted to be an actor because it seemed glamorous and exciting; at eighteen I wanted to be a film director for the same reasons; at thirty I wanted to be married to a beautiful woman and have a couple of fantastic kids. (Only one of these dreams came true).
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back – the definitive popular cultural works of my generation. (I’m counting these as one choice as you can easily watch them back-to-back with enough caffeine and sugar and a wee break in the middle).
The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. The textbook for the modern thriller. Beautifully written, so well put together. I read it when it first came out and re-read it when I was writing my first novel to see how he dealt with the mechanics of things like suspense and action. I’m about a third of the way through book two of the Sanctus trilogy and just read it again to keep myself honest. I think this may become a small ritual.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare. I studied it at school and still find myself referencing it. It’s also the one play I’ve seen performed more than any other and it still manages to deliver a great night out.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I had carved a pretty successful career as a TV executive, but was feeling creatively underwhelmed. I also had a family to support, so I couldn’t just go off on some kind of artistic ramble to make myself feel better. Writing a commercial thriller seemed like a good option. I’ve always loved them and I’d spent nearly twenty years in a very commercial background so understood what was required to hook an audience and put the pieces of a story in the right order. So I took a sabbatical and wrote the first third of Sanctus. It took another year and a half to finish it, writing at weekends and in between freelance TV work.
At its heart is a woman’s search to find out what happened to her brother, set against one of the most fundamental and best-known stories of humankind. It takes the point of view that, as the victors write the history books, the church has given us its own version of Genesis and it’s not necessarily the truth. Order your copy of Sanctus – click here
(BBGuru: The certainties of the modern world are about to be blown apart by a three thousand year-old conspiracy nurtured by blood and lies …
A monk throws himself to his death from the oldest inhabited place on the face of the earth, a mountainous citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin. This is no ordinary suicide but a symbolic act. And thanks to the media, it is witnessed by the entire world.
But few understand it. For charity worker Kathryn Mann and a handful of others in the know, it is what they have been waiting for. The cowled and secretive fanatics that live in the Citadel suspect it could mean the end of everything they have built — and they will kill, torture and break every law to stop that. For Liv Adamsen, New York crime reporter, it begins the next stage of a journey into the heart of her own identity.
And at that journey′s end lies a discovery that will change EVERYTHING …
SANCTUS is an apocalyptic conspiracy thriller like no other — it re-sets the bar for excitement and fascination, and marks the début of a major talent in Simon Toyne.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they take away their litter.
I admire anyone who can arrange words on a page in such a way that I feel compelled to turn it and see what’s on the next one.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I have a slight issue with the word ‘artist’? To me it suggests a kind of creativity born of some sort of intense, divine inspiration. Writing is a craft. You have to work at it. You have to put the hours in. My goal is simply to make sure whatever I’m working on ends up in the best shape possible.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write. Read. Re-write. Repeat.
Simon, 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.