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 England and emigrated to Australia in 1998. I remember the headmistress of my secondary school – a scary old bat who wore a black academic gown and had a hook instead of a hand – telling me that I wasn’t very good at creative writing. Nothing like a nice bit of encouragement! She would be surprised to learn that I studied Literature, and graduated with honours, at the University of London’s Royal Holloway College. She would be shocked that I then went on to be awarded a merit scholarship for academic excellence from The University of Sydney, and would no doubt pass out on the floor if she knew I now have two published thrillers under my belt. The moral of the story? Do what you love, and don’t listen to those who put you down.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, happy. At eighteen, rich. At thirty, fulfilled. As an author I am happy and fulfilled, so two out of three isn’t bad!
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen I believed I could steer my life any way I wanted. I was in control. I now realise that all sorts of wonderful opportunities arise that I had never imagined and by taking those surprising opportunities I have met incredible people and been to amazing places.
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 am going to cheat here and say two authors influenced me most: Enid Blyton and Charles Dickens. Blyton’s books inspired a love of action and adventure stories, and Dickens opened my eyes to the power of engaging characters, as well as literature as social and political commentary.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because novels take you away from your everyday life and worries into a world of fantasy, excitement and adventure. It’s a very personal imaginary world in which you see a character as you choose to see them, not as Hollywood or anyone else decides they should look. Novels allow us to get inside a character’s head, to know what they are thinking and feeling, and they offer the space for a complex and lengthy tale. Thrillers offer the biggest adventure of all: high stakes, brave hero, evil villain, terrible twists and shocking revelations. A roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Thirst is an action-packed, fast-paced thriller set in Antarctica on a remote Australian station. It is the tale of an unlikely hero who must survive against all odds to prevent a global catastrophe, and a father and son, whose ruthless thirst for power and wealth threatens the lives of billions.
I went to Antarctica to research Thirst and interviewed scientists about the premise of the story. I learned about crevasse rescue, Polar survival and even how to sew up a wound, as I wanted Antarctica to come alive through my book. But most important of all, I hope I have created characters who are engaging, not only because of what they do but because they learn something about themselves through the course of the book.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I write stories to entertain but I also hope they will prompt discussion. All creative endeavour seeks to tell us about the human condition – who we are and how we interact with this world. Thrillers and crime fiction tend to touch on big political, social and, increasingly, environmental issues. Thirst raises questions about man’s exploitation of the planet and its resources, climate change, and the fragility of the Antarctic Treaty.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Again, I am going to cheat, and answer with three authors: John Le Carre, because he is a master craftsman, Robert Ludlum, because his work remains, in my opinion, the epitome of the conspiracy thriller, and Lee Child, who is a great story-teller and supportive of other writers.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Keep writing, keep selling. Oh and if a producer would like to turn Thirst into a movie, I wouldn’t say ‘no’!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Do what you love, and don’t listen to those who put you down.
L.A. 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.