Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
No Sex in the City is about intimate friendships, the search for ‘The One’, career fulfilment, sexuality as a single woman, family politics, long ‘Mr Right Checklists’, and terrible blind dates. It’s narrated by a character called Esma, who is looking for Mr Right, whether he shows up at work or in her parent’s lounge room through an arranged set-up. But it’s more than just Esma’s story. It’s an ensemble cast, and centres around the lives of Esma and her three best-friends, Lisa, Ruby and Nirvana. As for what the book means to me, it was a chance to use some of the most ridiculous, embarrassing and funny stories from my friends’ dating and arranged marriage experiences- and that meant I was having a lot of fun doing so!
The best moments: Teaching a creative writing workshop in Palestine. Delivering two books before deadline. Seeing my son master how to ride a bike on his first go, and my daughter start school. Being bridesmaid to my sister on her perfect wedding day. Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.
The worst moments: My father-in-law being sick in hospital. Losing a large chunk of writing because I stupidly forgot to save it. Watching the tragedies unfold in Syria and Egypt after the hope of reform.
Here are one two of many of my favourite sayings of prophet Mohammed: “Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first” and “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has no kindness has no faith.”
And because I’m reading Oscar Wilde at the moment, I can’t resist this one (especially when reflecting on the ‘Arab spring’: “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1
I don’t have a day to day of writing because I’m juggling being a lawyer, activist and mother with my writing career. I write when I can, where I can. But when I am writing and in THE ZONE, yes I am difficult in the sense that I like to think I should be left alone to create (when really that’s impossible when you have little children).
5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).
How can I put this? If I was influenced by the needs of the marketplace I could have written a sexy-oppressed-Muslim-woman-escapes-tyrannical (insert male guardian of choice) exotic story long ago, filled book shelves in airports and been the latest ‘Muslim whistleblower.’ I won’t sell out though. I just want to write the stories that I feel compelled to tell. That’s the impulse that drives me.
6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?
Randa, 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.