On March 1, 2010 I posted the first of the Ten Terrifying Questions interviews. Since that date I have posted over 200 interviews with authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Favel Parret and Rebecca James. On the way I’ve interviewed Pulitzer Prize winners, Booker Prize winners, Miles Franklin Award winners, scoundrels, saints, loonies and one winner of Olympic Gold. But it all started on March 1, 2010 with Australian novelist, Kylie Ladd who inspired the questions and who still, to this day, remains my favourite.
I have long thought the advice offered to aspiring writers in answer to question ten deserved a vehicle of its own. Well, here it is. Every Friday evening I shall post the advice of three very different writers…
Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
‘Read. Read. Read. Read books that challenge and stimulate you. Don’t waste your life on time-filling entertainments. Love the language and use it to the full, stretching it if you are able. Find out everything you can about words, their origin and use. Think about them. ‘Feel’ them. Feel the rhythms they create. Experiment to create different emphases by changing word order or choice of vocabulary. Get the best dictionary you can afford and a Roget’s Thesaurus (and if you’ve already got a thesaurus arranged as a dictionary, throw it away, it’s rubbish). Like anything, if you want to be good at it you have to practise. And remember that what you read will shape what you write. Choose well and aim high.’
“Believe in yourself. Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously, that way you can become pompous. Try to enjoy it and not worry. It’s a lovely world to be in. You’re welcome to come and join it.”
“Don’t take advice from anyone.”
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.