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 UK, just outside London, as an ‘Essex Girl’ – British shorthand for the most bogan of bogans. Even worse, Essex Girl has now been replaced to some extent by ‘Basildon Girl’ – the name of the town in which I was born. I lose out every way. I left there at 18 to go to university in the north of the country and arrived in Australia in 1989. Since then, I’ve never looked back!
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
When I was 12, I longed to be a Victorian-age explorer. I devoured books about Burton, Speke, Livingstone and Stanley. When 18, I realised I couldn’t be a Victorian explorer, but I still longed to travel to remote places in the world that still hadn’t seen too many outside visitors. By 30, I’d travelled the length and breadth of Africa and Latin America, around Borneo and through China and then decided I’d love to write about travel.
That everything is black and white. There’s a right way and a wrong way. As you grow older – and hopefully wiser – you realise there are many shades of grey in the world.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
My first trip overseas alone at the age of 15 when I won a Lions scholarship to attend a youth camp in Denmark. It suddenly opened my eyes to the world.
Meeting a young woman on the production line on nightshift in a factory where I was working during university holidays who worked for six months to fund herself travelling around the world for six months. It made me realise anything was possible.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
There will always be room for stories and for the imaginative world, whatever the form they take. There will always be books, although they might one day all be e-books.
Welcome to the Outback combines two passions – travel and Australia. It’s about me, a dyed-in-the-wool city person travelling around the Australian Outback, which constantly challenges my comfort zone – whether by fighting in an Outback boxing tent, going on a cattle drive (when I can’t even ride a horse), and going trekking through mountains, in winter and in the midst of a mouse plague. Hopefully it’s humorous and entertaining, as well as opening up the Outback to all those Australians who’ve never before visited.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
To help make people realise that we’re all pretty much the same, whether we live in the Outback or in one of the wildest, most remote parts of Africa, and that everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect and compassion. A tall order!
Naturally Nelson Mandela, not only a stalwart fighter for his people’s rights but also a man with an enormous capacity for forgiveness towards his old enemies.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’d love to be able to keep travelling, and keep writing, and be able to make a living at that!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Writing is like any activity. The more you do it, the better you become. And never give up. Have faith in your own ability, but listen to criticism carefully. But, most importantly of all, keep writing!
Sue, thank you for playing.
Below from YouTube: Author Sue Williams enters the world’s last Boxing Tent in Queensland, Australia and takes on The Beaver – a professional fighter – as research for her new book Welcome To The Outback (released March 2012, published by Penguin Books).
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.