Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Home town Perth, Western Australia. Raised on the banks of the swan river. I had an idyllic childhood fishing, swimming and sailing on the swan. Schooled at Claremont Primary and then Presbyterian Ladies College.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
An actor. My mother was a theatre actor and I never wanted to be otherwise. I was convinced of it at ten, first performed professionally at twelve, left home for Sydney at eighteen and then on to England. I was lucky enough to be well established and successful in the craft at thirty.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I was tunnel visioned about acting and remained so until forty when I married, looked around me, found that life held interests other than acting and took up my other long-nurtured desire to write.
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?
R.M. Ballantyne’s ‘The Coral Island’, which I read when I was nine, made me believe that one day I would be an author. Edith Piaf singing ‘je ne regrette rien’ has been a personal anthem of mine since my twenties.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
My first novel was The Glitter Game set in the world of television and quite autobiographical. I was becoming disillusioned with that particular world and complained to my husband who told me, in no uncertain terms, to stop whinging and write a book about it. That was eleven books and twenty two years ago.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
My latest is titled Tiger Men and it is set in Van Diemen’s Land between 1850 and 1920. They were the golden years for the colony of Tasmania, as it became in 1856 and then statehood, with federation in 1901. Tassie became known as ‘the fruit bowl of Europe’ and many fortunes were won and lost by its entrepreneurs whom I called ’tiger men’. My latest novel is a fictionalised account of the lives and times of three such men, the women who loved them and the children they bore.
(BBGuru: publisher’s synopsis –
From the pen of master storyteller, Judy Nunn, comes another brilliant work of fiction woven into the tapestry of Australian history
‘This town is full of tiger men,’ Dan said. ‘Just look around you. The merchants, the builders, the bankers, the company men, they’re all out for what they can get. This is a tiger town, Mick, a place at the bottom of the world where God turns a blind eye to pillage and plunder.’
Its capital Hobart Town had its contrasts too; the wealthy elite in their sandstone mansions, the exploited poor in the notorious slum known as Wapping, and the criminals and villains who haunted the dockside taverns and brothels of Sullivan’s Cove. Hobart Town was no place for the meek.
TIGER MEN is the story of Silas Stanford, a wealthy Englishman; Mick O’Callaghan an Irishman on the run; and Jefferson Powell, an idealistic American political prisoner. It is also the story of the strong, proud women who loved them, and of the children they bore who rose to power in the cut-throat world of international trade.
TIGER MEN is the sweeping tale of three families who lived through Tasmania’s golden era and witnessed the birth of the Commonwealth of Australia, only to watch its young men consumed by the fires and horror of the First World War.)
The satisfaction of having read a good story, having been carried away by the characters I’ve created, and having maybe picked up a little bit of Aussie history along the way.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I find it impossible to name specific names. From the florid writing of Dickens and Thackeray to the sparse style of Steinbeck and Hemingway, there have been so many great writers I have admired throughout my life, for so many different reasons.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I have achieved most of the goals I set myself early on in life and I believe I did it through plain old hard work, nose to the grindstone and never give up. My future goal is to keep writing, to keep raising the bar and getting better at it, and also to enjoy the rewards of a lifetime of effort.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
The same as I give aspiring actors … “don’t give up your day job.” Seriously… I would encourage any aspiring writer to write, writing is a wonderful thing, but I would not encourage them to assume they will earn a decent living at it. On a practical level, however, “observe, observe, observe!” Memorise, or even record other people’s strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities, for they are the building blocks of the great characters of literature. And if you create only one in your entire career, literature will be the richer for it… oh yes, and good luck! You’ll need it!
Judy, 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.