author of The Wedding Season
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 Singapore but grew up between Sri Lanka and Singapore before I immigrated to Australia in 1989. So that makes me a Singaporean-Sri Lankan-Australian. I studied at a very strict Catholic Convent in Singapore so when I landed at an outer suburban co-ed state school in Melbourne, I was in culture shock for pretty much my entire high-school career.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, I desperately wanted to marry George Michael. T’was the height of Wham! and I spent the entire year scribbling Su Michael all over my school books. A girlfriend and I even hatched a plan to move to London and stalk his apartment.
I had matured somewhat by the time I was eighteen and I worked hard towards getting into medical school. However I missed entry into the course by a single point. I was pretty lost (in a beer barrel!) after that for a few years.
By thirty I wanted peace of mind. I wanted to be one of those people who went through life with an even keel. I’d worked in corporations in IT for about eight years by then and I was getting quite sick of the politics and the back biting.
I believed adults always behaved in an adult-like manner. But after working in the corporate sector, I am more convinced now that grown-up behaviour only happens in kindergarten where the teachers have some chance of enforcing it.
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?
Book would be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The combined book equivalent of a warm bath, foot rub and a hot chocolate on a cold wet day. I love the characterisations in the book and the witty repartee.
In terms of art, I am a big fan of the work of Gustav Klimt. I bought a print of “The Kiss” when I was at University and it has travelled everywhere with me. In that single painting, Klimt captures all there is for me about passionate love.
With regards to a piece of music I would say I listen to some artists a great deal while I write. Tracey Chapman, Norah Jones, Duran Duran and of course, Wham!
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because it has a beginning and an end. I draw and paint quite a bit and I struggle to leave paintings that I am working on alone. I never finish them because I can see things I can change. But not with what I write. The dialogue and the scenes have a beginning and an end.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Wedding Season is very much a book about growing up and falling in love. And finding out that love comes in many different disguises and that we all have a shot at redemption. And on a lighter note, it is about dancing, flirting and having fun with boys.
So why do her family and friends insist on trying to convince her that the only way to the perfect life is meeting the perfect man?
When Shani’s horoscope miraculously reveals that now is the best time of her life for marriage, Shani’s mother decides to take control. Turning a deaf ear to Shani’s protests, she arranges a parade of potential grooms, in the hope that her shamefully unmarried daughter will salvage the family honour by finding — finally! —Mr Right.
But true life, like true love, can get very complicated. Amidst a riot of hilarious dates with would-be husbands, Shani has to cope with a minor Machiavelli at work, a house that is literally falling down around her ears, and a neurotic mother with serious cultural baggage. Worst of all, her best friend, who seems to have it all, is sliding into depression, and Shani seems powerless to help.
Through a flurry of curry, cricket, sarees, and sumptuous ceremonies, Shani comes to learn that love comes in many disguises — and degrees of satisfaction — and that life is a one-shot game, even if you do believe in reincarnation.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I’d love for people to laugh and I’d love for people to walk away feeling that warm glow inside like they’ve had a really great conversation with a good friend or found $1,000 dress discounted to $99.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I am a great Harry Potter fan and I admire J.K Rowling. Not just for the fact that I think that Harry is possibly the cutest adolescent hero ever to be written into fiction but because Jo had the courage and tenacity to reinvent herself. She decided to change her life and she did.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To be the Jane Austen of my generation – well you did say ambitious! I want to write books that will stand the test of time and become valued friends. The books that a person turns to to cheer themselves up or to open their hearts.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Finish your manuscript! It is all good and well talking about writing, but sit down and finish it! Now! Go back to your laptop or your note book. Do it. Now. Why are you wasting your time on the internet?
Catch Su at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival – details here
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.