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 in Melbourne – a child of the seventies and eighties. I like to say I have a Sherbet heart and a Skyhooks mind. Like a few of of the slightly audacious go getting girls you see in public life – my secondary schooling was MLC in Kew. Cate Blanchett and Nicola Roxon are also MLC girls. I like to say they both were a few years ahead of me.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was 12 I wanted to play centre half forward for the Collingwood Football Club. AFL Footy heroes were the stars of Melbourne life. When I was 18 I just wanted to be one of those girls all the boys wanted to sleep with, so I could turn them down. At Thirty, hmmmm. I was Elle McFeast. So I guess by that stage I was an amalgam of everything I’d always wanted to be for the first part of my life.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That Bob Hawke was a happily married to Hazel.
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?
Studying Law at The University of Melbourne was a life changing experience. It was there that I got involved with the Law Revue, produced by Tom Gleisner now of Working Dog. It was all a bit intimidating to start, but then I saw another chubby girl in a fluffy pink jumper auditioning and thought, “If she can do it, I can do it”. That was of course, Magda. From there I was scouted to join an all girl comedy cabaret act called The Hot Bagels. We sang parodies of popular songs – like a neurotic Andrews Sisters really – about our weight, our love lives – very Bette Midler in tone. The Hot Bagels were my entrée into comedy. The Melbourne scene was incredibly vibrant. It was the genesis of the Doug Anthony Allstars and Wendy Harmer and The Big Gig on ABC TV.
Within the family, being part of a home invasion in 1990 was a huge turning point. Some guys broke down the front door and attacked Mum and Dad in their beds, demanding the keys for the car. Although by that stage I was an articled clerk at a law firm in Melbourne, I hid under the doona and spoke in a little girly voice to mask my age and capabilities, then secretly called the police. We all came through that OK – the police looked at the mess in my room and suggested that the criminals had given it a good going over, to which my parents replied, even amidst their injuries and shock, that my room was always a mess and the robbers hadn’t touched it. However given I worked in the criminal law department of the law firm at that time, it removed any shred of compassion I had for crooks. It helped me make up my mind to leave law for television presenting when the opportunity arose.
To Kill a Mockingbird is cited by so many people as being a seminal book in their lives and I have to say, with pride, that I too am one of that mob. Firstly, Atticus Finch inspired me to stand up for social injustices. But just as equally, Atticus said to Jem, Don’t shoot the Mockingbird. All it does is bring pleasure to peoples lives, it doesn’t do any harm. And that has been a foundation I guess for my style of humour. Aim for the powerful, the perpetrators, not the innocent pleasure givers.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
It’s an honour to have a book for the shelf. It’s a keepsake, a memento, a precious and tangible thing one can show off. Not to mention your very own book being a educated object to throw at anyone annoying.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
The A-Z of Mummy Manners is an Etiquette Guide for Dealing with Other Children’s Mothers, and assorted Maternal Dilemmas. I wrote it as a gift for my girl friends to celebrate those moments in mothering small children that you could yourself spit the dummy, or throw in the towel. It’s a reminder to all of us as Mummys to BEHAVE ourselves and understand that our relationships have changed. Becoming a Mum, you end up making a whole new group of friends, most of which have been chosen for you by your child who is under 5.
So you may not have anything else in common with other Mummy other than the fact you have chosen to breed. You can also have expectations of family and friends that may not be realistic, or which are realistic but just aren’t fulfilled. You can be unaware of the little things – seemingly petty and inconsequential on their own, that can upset a whole days equilibrium when experienced as a sum of many. It’s a book to help you with a laugh through all of these unexpected moments in your new relationships, in the way you relate to the world as a Mum, that no one else can really explain to you.
No one ever tells you about the world of Playdates, and Finding Babysitters and being Co dependant on a cleaner. My book is a friend to navigate you through the Mummy Minefield of emotional mayhem!
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
To cut the crap between people and say unspeakable truths with a laugh so we can all move on.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
I’m a great fan of fabulous TV series writers – Matthew Weinar who wrote Mad Men, Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous.) It’s one thing to to imagine and write a fabulous ‘dramedy’ – comedy drama – it’s another to inspire others to realise that vision. These are my professional inspiration, anyway. Any woman who can combine motherhood and a loving relationship yet still focus on her professional goals with success without actually committing a serious crime also deserves a commendation.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To maintain a sizzling professional life with a balanced home. And not end up in jail. I think that’s LOFTY! ( See Above) Oh, yes. And world peace. That’s what I’m meant to say now that you’ve given me a tiara, a sash and a bunch of beautiful flowers?
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Keep Going. Even when You Don’t Feel Like It. Get something on the page.
Libbi, 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, was published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.