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?
I was born and raised in the small town of Wexford in South East Ireland in 1965. Boringly enough I was also schooled there and schooled others there as a teacher, with a brief diversion to Dublin to get the qualifications to come home. I still live in Wexford if you hadn’t guessed.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At age twelve I wanted to be a primary teacher like my dad because it seemed fun and I had gotten use to long Summer holidays. At eighteen I wanted to be a writer/illustrator of my own comic books because that seemed the coolest possible job on the planet and by thirty I had realised that I couldn’t actually draw very well and so resolved to be a straight writer which wasn’t quite as cool but was still a way to get into print.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I thought that Brian May was a better guitarist than the Edge, now I realise that the two cannot really be compared.
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?
I was hugely affected by Jim Fitzpatrick’s series of Celtic paintings. They led to a resurgence in the interest in mythology that I’d had as a boy and maintained it until I started to write my own fairy tales in Artemis Fowl.
The music of Kate Bush also had that ethereal quality that kept my interest alive in an area I might have easily deserted. Kate wasn’t so popular among heavy metal teens in Wexford in the early eighties so I kept that interest to myself.
I also loved the Sherlock Holmes tales by Arthur Conan Doyle which sparked an interest in the alternative hero type; a cerebral character. I could never identify with the action hero, but here was someone using his mind.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
My first love was cartoons and for many years I tried to develop sufficient drawing skills to become a comic book artist but I had to admit defeat at about age twenty. Then I determined to become a playwright and did a bit of that for ten years with varying degrees of success, ie not much. Finally, aged 30, I decided to give novels a go and luckily that worked out for me or I would be casting about still for an artistic outlet.
My latest novel, Plugged, is a modern noir story for adults only. It is set in the fictitious town of Cloisters, New Jersey and tells the story of Irish ex-army seargent Daniel McEvoy who is supplementing his army pension with doorman work at a local casino. Dan is haf-way through a series of hair transplant sessions (hence Plugged) when his surgeon is kidnapped and Dan is forced to track him down or else wear a hat for the rest of his life. It is a thriller with blackly comic twists.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I really hope people enjoy this book. I hope they get three of four hours away from their troubles and have a few good laughs. If I can achieve that, I will be most satisfied.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I love Ken Bruen the Galway thriller writer for how he has brought literature and noir together. Not an easy feat. I never miss a book of Ken’s.
I would like to sell enough copies of Plugged to be asked to write another one. I would love to someday write a supernatural love story but I don’t think the publishers are ready for that one yet and I would like to write a book as brilliant as Treasure Island before I hang up my keyboard.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Stop telling people about your idea and lock yourself in a room. Stay in the room until the work is done with only broadband and takeaway food for comfort. Writing is about inspiration but there is also a lot of work involved. Not as much work as digging a hole obviously but we like to make it sound tough.
Eoin, 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.