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 New Zealand and raised on a kiwifruit orchard. At primary school we studied the kiwifruit industry. Our class went on an excursion to the kiwifruit packing house. At home we started making kiwifruit jam, kiwifruit scones, kiwifruit icecream for kiwifruit milkshakes. We moved to Australia when I was thirteen. I still eat kiwifruit, but it’s taken 20 years.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Twelve: I wanted to be sitting opposite Curtis Osborne. Curtis, if you’re out there, you can borrow my stapler any time.
Eighteen: I wanted to be a scientist. I thought biotechnology was the field for me, since it involved brewing and fermenting.
Thirty: I wanted to be there when CERN turned on their atom-smashing machine in Geneva, Switzerland. And I was. And there wasn’t a black hole. Yet.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Everyone likes to party.
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?
– Any sketch from Toriyama Sekien’s hundred demons catalogues: he showed me how fact and fiction can be blurred into something quirky and beautiful and real
– All those cheeky tanuki statues propped out the front of Japanese restaurants. I wanted to know: What are they for? What do they mean? Why the super-sized bits? And so I found out.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I had always wanted to write a book. The want ate at me, every day, until I was so utterly disgusted by my own procrastination that I had to give it a try. I started. And I forced myself to finish. That first manuscript has never been published, but I love it all the same. It started me on my way.
Monster Matsuri is a wild adventure story featuring strange and wonderful monsters from Japanese legend. It’s the kind of book I love to read: fast, funny and full of action. It’s the third book in the Takeshita Demons series (pronounced ta-kesh-ta and meaning ‘under the bamboo’)
The first book, Takeshita Demons, won the 2009 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award for multicultural writing and was distributed to more than 30,000 children as part of the UK BookTrust’s Booked Up program. Book two, The Filth Licker, continues the adventure, introducing the mythical akaname (pronounced a-ka-na-meh), a frog-like demon who lives in dirty bathrooms.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope kids who read the Takeshita Demons books come away excited and enthused and wanting to read again.
And I hope they begin to understand: anyone can be a hero.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I most admire those writers who are beginning their journey: when you’re right at the start of becoming a writer, there’s nothing harder than slogging away at your work-in-progress, wondering if every word you write is rubbish. This feeling never really goes away, but at least if you have a book or two published, you know that someone, somewhere, likes what you write. When you’re just starting out, you have only courage and determination. But you keep writing. That’s admirable.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To stay happy. Love my family. Write when I can. Mop the floor at least once a month.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read and write for pleasure. If you dig it, read and write some more. If the hours disappear and you wonder where they’ve gone, then you’re doing something you love, so keep doing it.
Cristy, thank you for playing.
You’re very welcome!
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.