Mark Dapin, author of Spirit House and King of the Cross, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |August 16, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mark Dapin

author of Spirit House and King of the Cross

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 Leeds, England. I went to state schools in Leeds and Aldershot, Hampshire. Dad was a greetings card salesman, Mum was a nurse. When I was 10, Mum left Dad for our 20-year-old lodger, and my brother and I went with her. Mum and the lodger are still together.

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

I never wanted to be anything much apart from a writer, although when I was 10 I briefly thought about being a bus driver. I still don’t have a driving licence, bus or otherwise.

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

That I wouldn’t live past 30.

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?

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler; Complete Control by the Clash; the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

There are no other artistic avenues open to me. I can’t sing, play an instrument, paint, sculpt, dance or draw.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Spirit House is about a 70 year-old-veteran of the Thailand-Burma Railway who tells his life story to his grandson. In an effort to exorcise the ghosts of dead POWs, he builds a Thai-style spirit house in front of his Fibro home in Bondi.

(BBGuru: Here is the publisher’s synopsis –

David is thirteen and confused. His mum has gone off with her lover and sent David to his grandparents in Bondi to give her new relationship some ‘space’. Sometimes it breaks your heart to understand.

David’s grandfather, Jimmy, a Jewish war veteran and survivor of the Thai-Burma railway, is seventy. Haunted by the ghosts of long-dead comrades, the only person he can confide in is a thirteen-year-old from a different world. Sometimes it breaks your heart to be understood.

Spirit House is a story of Changi and the Thai-Burma railway, of old men living with the horrors of their past, and a bot making sense of the daunting business of growing up.)

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

The desire to buy my next book. And my last one.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Until The Information, Martin Amis used to write some of the best sentences in the English language. Ian McEwan is a fine novelist. The lifetime achievements of Nabokov are unsurpassed.

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

To write books that people love, and books that will stand the test of time.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Do not use clichés (such as “will stand the test of time”).

Mark, 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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