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 Vancouver, Canada, after my travel-loving parents headed there for an adventurous honeymoon and stayed for six years. Once my older siblings reached school age Mum and Dad hauled us all back to suburban Brisbane.
When we weren’t trekking south to Currumbin Beach for the weekends and school holidays, we lived in the house where my father was born, under the looming shadow of the Gabba Cricket Ground.
I had an eclectic education. I attended a small Catholic primary school where many of my classmates didn’t speak English as their first language. It gave me an early appreciation of the wonderful ethnic diversity emerging in Australia with the influx of immigrants from Europe in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
I completed my secondary education at Somerville House, a lovely genteel girl’s school run by the Uniting Church. I was fortunate to have fantastic English and History teachers who encouraged my imagination and inspired me.
2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?
At 12, I was destined to take the surfing world by storm.
At 18, as an environmental scientist in the making, I was going to single-handedly save the Gold Coast beaches from erosion, save the Great Barrier Reef from the Crown of Thorn starfish, and invent cheap solar panels so everyone could have energy from the sun.
At 30, I wanted to write full time, but with bills to pay I continued working as an airline pilot and dared to dream.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?
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 love writing to the sound track of The Mission – the haunting opening bars sink me straight into my imagination.
At age 15 Hungry as the Sea, by Wilbur Smith, was a revelation. It was the first story I’d read with a feisty heroine capable of anything and I loved it.
The painting Valley Ghost Gums by Albert Namatjira showed me how a great love of landscape could be shared with others.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I wish I had innumerable artistic avenues, but my paintings weren’t good enough to even make it to the fridge door!
Storying-telling started with my Dad who was a marine engineer working on oil tankers. He wrote stories when he was away from home and posted them back to Mum who in turn read them to us.
For many years I didn’t realise this was unusual. Didn’t everyone make stuff up? It seemed inevitable that one day I’d write novels.
Lies, half-truths and deceit. Burning Lies is a story of lost identity and the healing power of love.
Kaitlyn Scott is hiding from her past. She’s changed her name, and that of her son, to escape the taint of being married to an arsonist. She’s rebuilt her life far away from danger, but when fire breaks out on the Atherton Tableland her lies start to unravel.
Ryan O’Donnell’s been working as an undercover cop for so long he’s lost sight of who he really is. He doesn’t like the man he’s become, but he’s too damaged find a way to turn his life around.
The two of them will come face to face with a vicious criminal who’ll stop at nothing to keep his real identity secret. To stop him Kait and Ryan will have to navigate their way through the maze of deceit and accept that lies may be justifiable when you’re fighting to save those you love.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope I’ve transported my readers out of their ordinary world to a place they may never have visited. I hope the amazing Northern Australian landscape resonates – I love it so much I feel the need to share! But at the heart of my writing is the hope that I entertain readers and leave them with a sense of optimism, a feeling that anything is possible.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Markus Zusak – because The Book Thief is so beautifully written.
Nora Roberts – because she’s a disciplined writer who crosses genres and consistently delivers a good read.
Geraldine Brooks – for the wonderful characters she crafts.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Goal setting is something deeply ingrained in me. I’m managing to write a book a year as well as fly full time and I aim to keep doing that for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, I’d love to still be connecting with readers in 30 years’ time. Everything else will be a bonus!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write, write, write and never abandon your dream. My favourite saying when I’m delivering writing workshops is my take on an old one.
‘Rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men. Be wise, be guided, be true to your voice.’
Helene, thank you for playing.
Thanks for inviting me 🙂
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.