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 the west of Canada, high in the Rocky Mountains, in Golden, British Columbia. My father was an Anglican priest, but returned to graduate school to become first a psychologist, and then a lawyer, so we moved all over Canada following him from university to university. I went to thirteen schools, finishing at a girls’ school, the Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Canada’s largest city; I went on to studying acting at university.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Deeply in love with the instant, intimate magic of theatre, I wanted to be an actress at twelve, an actor (fine distinction, indicating professional rigor) at eighteen—and by the time I was thirty I’d recovered from that madness and wanted to be a writer, for the more sustained spell of fiction.
Not so much a belief as the unexamined assumption that Shakespeare and Chekhov wrote better than anyone writing here and now possibly could. It’s a malady many young people suffer from, I think, although these days an eighteen-year-old might substitute Murakami and David Foster Wallace.
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?
These are such good questions! Both music and art have had a profound effect on my thinking and writing, but if I can only list three influences, it’s all books for me: Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, and an obscure little novel called Miss Mole, by E.H. Young. All books that revel in language and the meticulous, delicate examination of small desperate lives and volcanic longings.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I love the long, secret, latent connection between one writer and one reader that gradually develops during the writing and then, after a pause, the reading of a novel. There is no other art form that contains time so well, and holds it suspended until the reader reads the book.
The Little Shadows follows the Avery girls, Aurora, Clover and Bella, as they leap lame-footed into vaudeville life and grow in staggered, syncopated steps from babes in the woods into true artists.
(BBGuru: here’s the publisher’s blurb –
The eagerly anticipated new novel from the Commonwealth Prize winning author of the bestselling Good to a Fault follows three sisters into the backstage world of Polite Vaudeville before and during the First World War.
The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest sister, joyous, headstrong sprite Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, are forced to make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Marina Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls slowly and steadily evolve into true artists even as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters – some of them charming charlatans, some of them unpredictable eccentrics, and some of them just ordinary-seeming humans with magical gifts.
Using her gorgeous prose and extraordinary insight, Endicott lures us onto the brightly lit stage and then into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville – in all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow – echoes the art of life itself.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A glimpse of vaudeville, and true love for those vaudeville girls.
More than any eminent writers whose work I love and respect, in real life I admire the women writers I know who struggle to cope with their various vocations and duties: fiction, poetry, children, paidwork, housework—who carry on producing wonderful work without the luxury of silence, solitude or sustained periods for thought. Or even a room of their own.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Well, to do better than Shakespeare and Chekhov, I guess! No—to do the best work I can, that’s all, against the impossible ambition of perfection. Fail again, fail better.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read everything, read all the time, think hard, think again, write like a mad thing, repeat.
Marina, thank you for playing.
You’re very welcome!
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.