Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born and raised Jerilderie, NSW. Started my school life at Jerilderie Public, then for 2 years rode the bus 70 k’s a day to and from the nearest High School (Finley). For my final school years I left the vast plains and flat horizons for the rolling hills of Berwick, and St Margaret’s.
When I was twelve I was cast in the school play and had a startlingly positive response to the applause. Consequently, I believed I was a brilliant actress, and this was confirmed for me when, aged ten, my father finally purchased a television and I saw my brilliance reflected in the heroines battling their tragedies of triumph and terror against treacherous backdrops in the Midday Movies. Television was denied us at boarding school, but there were books full of drama and light, and another school play.
At eighteen I still wanted to be an actress but I had to become a nurse because my father told me I needed to ‘get a ticket in life.’ Nursing’s basically the same things as acting anyway. Then I encountered real-life treachery and tragedy in the form of my first broken heart, but I found I wasn’t cut out to be a triumphant heroine, and fled overseas. Upon my (eventual) return I enrolled in drama school.
Consequently, at thirty I wanted to be a writer because four years at drama school taught me I didn’t have the voice, face, talent or ambitious ruthlessness required to become an actress, but I maintained a yearning for the triumph, tragedy and terror of story.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I strongly believed I was having a good time if I drank, smoked and sang loudly into empty beer bottles. I no longer believe that.
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?
There was never much art in Jerilderie but there was the struggle between life and death on the family farm, and there was a library. I remember The Bafut Beagles as being an exotic, informative and very engaging read when I was about thirteen.
And I saw great pathos in Cezanne’s landscapes. It looked to me as if he’d put a huge amount of sincere effort into them, yet they still seemed not quite finished.
Rural community activities – agricultural shows, football grand finals and ANZAC day marches – mean that even today, brass marching bands induce in me a swelling heart and tears of joy. But it was the extremes in my early childhood years, the proximity of the (sometimes cruel) life cycle, the desperation of back-lane cricket and the nefariousness of local adulterers that fed my yen for narrative. I passed a lot of time in the limitless, empty outdoors and I had to amuse myself, and all of these things fuelled my play-acting and the dramas I had going on in my imagination at any given time.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Timing and opportunity. The story was there, I had the time, and out it came.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel… There Should be More Dancing
My third novel is about the near triumph of Margery Blandon. She’s lived in Brunswick for 60 years and has a passion for cross-stitch, proverbs and her long-dead sister. Her eldest son is affably brain-damaged, her second son is a criminal and her daughter has weight problems that exacerbate her failing life. Margery’s neighbours are drug dealers and Margery herself might or might not be a murderess. Her life-long enemy – now demented – is the holder of the truth about everything. But Margery does have friends. Unfortunately, Margery doesn’t notice any of these things until it’s almost too late.
(BBGuru: Publisher’s synopsis –
Margery Blandon has led a life of principles. Now she finds herself sitting on the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel, preparing to throw herself to her death.
Margery Blandon was always a principled woman who found guidance from the wisdom of desktop calendars. She lived quietly in Gold Street, Brunswick for sixty years until events drove her to the 43rd floor of the Tropic Hotel. As she waits for the crowds in the atrium far below to disperse, she contemplates what went wrong; her best friend kept an astonishing secret from her and she can’t trust the home help. It¹s possible her firstborn son has betrayed her, that her second son, Morris, might have committed a crime, her only daughter is trying to kill her and her dead sister Cecily helped her to this, her final downfall. Even worse, it seems Margery¹s life-long neighbour and enemy now demented always knew the truth.
There Should be More Dancing is a story of Margery’s reckonings on loyalty, grief and love.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I don’t mind, as long as they take something.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’d like to be able to go on publishing a novel every three to five years until I can’t type any more.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Lots of similes don’t necessarily make to good writing.
Rosalie, 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.