Sally Breen, author of The Casuals, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |August 7, 2011

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Sally Breen

author of The Casuals

Ten Terrifying Questions


  1. 1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I know this sounds disingenuous but I think the Casuals is all about this – Read it, find out, weep. (buy The Casuals here)

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

When I was twelve I wanted to either be a vet or an interior decorator. I thought that it was possible to redesign reality. That you could change the fact pets died and that where you lived looked like shit. When I was eighteen I wanted to be something but it certainly wasn’t a soil erosion tester which is what my on-line environmental degree seemed to be about. I wanted to dance. At thirty I wanted someone to pay me for what I was actually worth.

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

That Kurt Cobain would change the world and not disappoint us and shoot himself in the head, that it was possible to be alternative and not be a wanker; that corporate ideology would not affect us and that we would never covet all the things we despised, that my friends would not die, that we would make a dint on the world that was more effective than heroin chic. That friends and lovers would not come and go.

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?

Family Circle: men who pretended they could operate boats and other flotation or family bearing devices, women who fought for the space to be heard, my father leaving us too soon

World stage: Seeing the Ramones, Nirvana and Morrissey play at Festival Hall in Brisbane in one month or what seemed like one month. Watching Twin Peaks and everything else David Lynch had to offer (except for transcendental meditation) as a working class kid. The Fitzgerald Inquiry when I realised that good people would always go down for the bad systems other people needed.

Reading Life:  Tolstoy Anna Karenina: Epic. Bret Easton Ellis: American Psycho and the back catalogue. The guy has captured the flavour and mood of the last three decades before people really knew what they were all about. Anais Nin – who taught me about sex and purple and Raymond Chandler for the guts.

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?

No, the book will never be obsolete, the mediums you mention are exciting avenues for the books journey or they offer alternative avenues the book cannot venture into but for me the book, whether it exists in its current form in the future, will always have resonance. Books live in us.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

 My latest book is a memoir but it is not necessarily about ‘me’ but about a generation, a time and my story is the vehicle to reveal a piece of that. I feel the 1990s is an under realised decade in terms of its relevance and creative contribution. I feel like the 60s has overshadowed us for too long as the last renegade, revolutionary, creative period and that the 1990s suffered negatively from the effects of globalisation and technological insurgence and much of the wonderful creative fervour was lost. I do feel the period had more to offer than has been recognised culturally and that The Casuals might in some small way recognise that.

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I don’t it expect it change anything. Maybe, ignorance, maybe it might move someone – that’s about the best you can hope for.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Lleyton Hewitt – because everyone knocked him for his fire and his passion and he became one of the best champions this country has ever seen. Watching him on late nights inspired me to fire up on many occasions. Come on!

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

I’m sorry but I don’t answer any questions regarding soccer.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Come to Griffith. We’ll look after you. Read, read, read.

Sally, 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.

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