Colleen McCullough, author of The Prodigal Son, Life Without the Boring Bits, The Thorn Birds, and many more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |March 15, 2012

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Colleen McCullough

author of The Prodigal Son, Life Without the Boring Bits, The Thorn Birds, The Masters of Rome and many more

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 Wellington, NSW, on June 1st of 1937, which makes me 75 next birthday. I was raised in rural NSW and then Sydney, and received my secondary and tertiary education in Sydney.

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

I always wanted to be a medical doctor.

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

At eighteen I was an ardent socialist. Now I think socialism is as malign as it is destructive of the individual.

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?

I can’t remember any standing out above the flood. I was omnivorous and totally eclectic in my choice of books, which, in a time of acute paper shortage, were seized upon eagerly as something to read in a desert. Classical music was a revelation to me, but again, no particular composer stands out in memory.

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

I can write in any literary form- that ability is simply the result of professionalism. That I write novels is my choice of a literary form; writing novels is satisfying and enjoyable to me. The writer has the necessary length to develop character while not neglecting environment or plot. The art lies in keeping all the threads from tangling and resisting the lure of tangential themes.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel… The Prodigal Son

At the moment, as is fitting for a septuagenarian novelist, I am concentrating on whodunits – the old-fashioned murder mystery. The fourth in my series featuring Captain Carmine Delmonico of the Holloman Police Department is called The Prodigal Son, and will be my next published work. Because DNA and laboratory tests have taken the mystery out of murder, the Delmonico novels are set in the late 1960s, when cops had to detect rather than rely on machines.

(BBGuru: Publisher’s Blurb – Holloman, Connecticut, 1969. A very rare and lethal toxin, extracted from the blowfish, is stolen from a laboratory at Chubb University. It kills within minutes and leaves no trace behind — unless a doctor knows what to look for — and worried biochemist Dr. Millie Hunter reports the theft at once to her father, Medical Examiner Dr. Patrick O′Donnell.

Patrick′s cousin Captain Carmine Delmonico is therefore quick off the mark when the bodies start to mount up. A sudden death at a dinner party followed by another at a gala black-tie event seem at first to be linked only by the poison and Dr. Jim Hunter, a scientist on the brink of greatness and husband to Millie. A black man married to a white woman, Dr. Jim has faced scandal and prejudice for most of his life, so what would cause him to risk it all now? Is he being framed for murder — and if so, by whom?

Carmine and his team of detectives must navigate the competitive world of academic publishing, fraught with politics and prestige. The stakes are high: an amazing art collection, a large inheritance, old and upstanding local families, a gold-digging wife, jealous relatives and a young couple′s future. )

Click here to order The Prodigal Son from Booktopia,
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7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Like any writer, I hope my readers take a feeling of pleasure away from my book. Books can expand the intellect, but most books are aimed at entertaining. That means closing the book with regret when it’s finished, and occasionally thinking of it afterward.

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

Oh, so many! Shakespeare, the Restoration novelists, David Storey, Toni Morrison, Faulkner, Hemingway, de Maupassant, Zola, Goethe, Sir Arthur Sherrington, Marquez, Llosa, Allende, Cervantes, Homer – the list is far too long to nominate, and I am a pan-reader.

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

My goal is to give pleasure to my readers. After that, to obtain as many readers as I can, of both sexes. In other words, I try not to write boring books.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Advice for aspiring writers? That’s difficult, as all writers are individuals who write differing books. First and foremost, avoid giving your manuscripts to emotionally connected people to read. Anyone emotionally connected has an axe of their own to grind, and cannot be relied on to give honest opinions. Give manuscripts to detached outsiders to read. Don’t go thinking you’ve written the world’s best book, but don’t think you’ve written the worst one either. Don’t give up trying to find a publisher. Some huge bestsellers were refused by literally dozens of houses before finding a niche. Look at Harry Potter. And remember that there is always an element of luck about writing.

Colleen, thank you for playing.

Click here to order The Prodigal Son from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

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