Paul Merrill, author of A Polar Bear Ate My Head: Misadventures in Magazines, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |August 10, 2012

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paul Merrill

author  of A Polar Bear Ate My Head: Misadventures in Magazines

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

In a leafy part of southern England much like Midsomer, but with fewer murders. I joined my local newspaper but no news ever happened so I left.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I did a computer questionnaire at school when I was about 16 that concluded I should become a fireman. My dad wanted me to go into personnel for some reason he never explained. Eventually I chose journalism, dreaming of exposing the next Watergate. But at ZOO Weekly, the exposure was more flesh-based than political.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That students could rise up as one and change the world for the better. As it turns out, students can barely change their socks. These days I’m a little more cynical that a Marxist revolution will catch on. Especially if they try it during Happy Hour at the uni bar.

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?

I’d love to say that my career was meticulously planned after my university don imparted some inspiring words of wisdom, but in reality, I just fell into magazines and I still can’t adequately explain how I ended up editing a lad’s mag in Australia.  Maybe I should have gone for the firefighting option after all.

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?

I’m hoping not. Luckily no one has invented a computer that writes books (if you don’t count James Patterson, that is). Also, new books smell so good. Mine smells almost good enough to eat.

6. Please tell us about your latest book, A Polar Bear Ate My Head

It’s the strange and unlikely story of launching Australia’s biggest selling men’s mag and the disasters and humiliations that followed – mostly involving dwarfs and alcohol (a heady combination). In literary circles it’s already being touted as prime landfill. Given that it only took a spot of phone tapping to close the News of the World, I’m amazed I got away with everything in the book. I’ve banned my mum from reading it as she’ll think (even) less of me. She still thinks I write for the Financial Review.

(BB Guru: From the Publisher:

The hilarious and surreal true story of Australia’s biggest ever men’s magazine launch . . . and the chaos and disasters that followed.

Paul Merrill was an award-winning women’s magazine editor when he was inexplicably chosen to launch Britain’s first weekly publication aimed at the ‘new lad’: ZOO. He quickly gained notoriety after running competitions to find the country’s randiest nanna, ugliest baby and teen mum of the year, and offering prizes of a boob job for your girlfriend, lesbian wedding and even euthanasia. Then he was suddenly deported to Australia to launch ZOO here, and events became even more outlandish.

Find out how Merrill:

-persuaded the prime minister’s stepdaughter to remove her clothes

-hijacked Kyle Sandilands’ wedding

-lost 130,000 pairs of inflatable breasts in the South China Sea

-accidentally gave his home address to a serial killer

-tried to cook a dwarf

-searched for Australia’s hottest horse dentist and sexiest wall.

Containing hundreds of bizarre and unexpected anecdotes, A Polar Bear Ate My Head is the most side-splitting insider’s account of the world of magazines ever published. Whether or not you’ve ever bought a men’s mag or been attacked by the world’s largest white bear, you will love this book.)

Click here to buy A Polar Bear Ate My Head from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

That all short people be made to wear a number, not just jockeys.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Kerri Anne Kennerley.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

That my books might somehow bring nations together and make politicians pause before engaging in pointless conflicts. Also to earn enough to buy a jetski.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Give up now – there are enough books already. But if you absolutely have to write, go for mummy porn.

Paul, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy A Polar Bear Ate My Head from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

1 Comment Share:

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, 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, was published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • Mark White

    August 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Its the funniest book I’ve read in years – well worth a read. I’ve ordered another copy for my dad on Father’s Day. Some of the stories are completely insane!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *