The Booktopia Book Guru asks
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 Sydney, raised in Glebe, and I went to Fort St High back when uniforms weren’t compulsory. Looking back on some of my fashion choices, I kinda wish they had been.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Perhaps uninterestingly for any sense of progression, the answer to all of them is ‘a writer’. If we went back to six, I could say ‘the owner of a reptile farm as well as a writer’. As for why, I suppose world-building has always appealed to me – it’s about as close as I can get to being a god or a wizard in real life. I also very much like the flexible hours, and the ability to entertain without actually having to be there.
That getting a hair cut is not important.
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?
1) The Hobbit – my first fantasy book, read to me by my dad when I was small.
2) The Labyrinth – a great movie, stands up easily to all the CGI stuff these days, with such an inspiring and colourful host of characters.
3) Warhammer (the game) – I have never played it, but looking at all the inventive miniatures set up on a table never fails to make me think up characters or stories.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I guess I feel it’s my native talent. I tend to think in long-form stories, and have a hard time writing anything short unless it’s for kids. I have dabbled in plenty of other stuff though. For example, I also work as a stand-up comic, and you can easily find clips of me on youtube if you’re interested. Stand-up is great because the feedback is immediate, and also you get to drink on the job.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel The Legacy of Lord Regret…
In this story the ‘dark lord’, Lord Regret, has been dead for three hundred years, but the damage he caused the world is ongoing, and the fabric of reality is coming undone. Those who slew him (a group of powerful threaders called the Wardens) were changed by the experience, emerging from it corrupted and with strange special powers. The story pretty much started with ideas about these characters – for example the main villain Forger is like a fantasy land serial killer, who literally feeds on pain, growing stronger the more he causes, or the more he takes away. And if taking someone’s pain away sounds like a nice thing to do, imagine the heartless, empty person you leave behind when you rob them of the ability to fear or empathise.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I like to write completed stories with definite endings, as opposed to series that never finish – I find this much more fulfilling and I hope that readers do to. I also hope to give them some weird-arse dreams.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I read Robin Hobb quite religiously. She achieves a great balance between the fantastical and human drama. The Farseer Trilogy is especially a favourite.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
There is a large Federation house in Glebe (the suburb where I grew up) that has a big garden and turrets, which I imagine would be excellent to write in. So my goal is to become successful enough that I can one day knock on the door and say:
Me: How much will it take for you to sell me this house?
Them: I’m afraid the house is not for sale – it’s been in our family for generations, and we love it here.
Me: I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood me – how much will it take for you to sell me this house?
After I move into the place, it goes without saying that I will immediately set up a laser tag/mirror maze in the basement.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write it first without getting bogged down in re-reading too much. It is much easier to go back and edit once a work is completed, than to try and get it exactly right the first time. Also, keep an ear out for what publishers are specifically looking for. My first children’s book was written to the specifications of a series for which I knew a publisher was looking for titles. A good start these days is checking websites, since most publishers have submission guidelines and what they are currently interested in.
Sam, thank you for playing.
The Strange Threads Duology
Legend tells of a time when eight powerful threaders, known as the Wardens, fought each other for control of Aorn. But that was hundreds of years ago now, so why does the earth shake once more? Why does night fall during the day? And what is this scent of earth burning, blowing on the breeze?
Rostigan is a great warrior, reluctantly renowned as Skullrender, champion of the battle at Ilduin Fields. He has since taken to wandering the quieter corners of Aorn, earning his coin through collection of magical herbs. Travelling with him is his minstrel and lover, Tarzi, who hopes he may soon commit more deeds worthy of song and tale, despite his desire to remain apart. Unfortunately for him, she may be right – for when Rostigan and Tarzi travel to the magnificent city of Silverstone, they discover it has been wrenched from the earth.
As they travel onwards seeking answers, they soon learn the rotten truth.
The land, once again, has descended into chaos for the Wardens have somehow returned.
The spellbinding conclusion to STRANGE THREADS …
The world is crumbling.
Having joined the Warden Priestess Yalenna, Rostigan now faces not only those Wardens who remain bent on steeping Aorn in ruin … but also must, somehow, heal the world by closing the Wound in the Great Spell.
Standing in his way is a superhuman, pitiless army commanded by a madman, a sky full of silkjaws, and, worst of all, an old friend, once betrayed, who he must now convince to join him again.
There is only one thing for it – Rostigan must break an ancient oath and use powers he has dared not touch – powers which could tip the balance in favour of the spreading corruption.
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.