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, raised and schooled in Melbourne, mostly in and around the foot of the Dandenong Ranges.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Eighteen: a writer AND something to do with art and design. Writer because of the Lord of the Rings, which I read at fourteen, and something to do with art because I love art and design and I knew that writers didn’t make much money.
Thirty? Still a writer, but I was hoping to be a published one so I could afford to spend more time doing it.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I was too shy to ever try, let alone enjoy, public speaking. The thought of it used to repel me, probably thanks to being humiliated during ‘drama’ classes at school, but since being published I’ve gradually done more of it. While I still get nervous before hand, once I get before an audience, if I’m well prepared, I find I relax and have fun.
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?
The original The Little Mermaid. I was aghast that a fairytale could have a tragic ending. But when about twelve or thirteen, when challenged by a librarian to come up with a story on the spot, I made up one about a man who paid a witch to turn him into a merman so he could pursue a mermaid he’d fallen in love with, but when it came to the ending I realised ‘happily ever after’ didn’t cut it as a good ending.
I have quite eclectic tastes in music, and there are too many songs or pieces of music to list that have become soundtracks to stories, or simply motivation to pursue my dreams. The same is true of art and other imagery. I have a pinboard in front of my desk covered in postcards, photos and pages torn from magazines that I find inspiring.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
It seemed a large and worthy challenge. I changed my ambition from making films to writing books after reading The Lord of the Rings. It was the fact that Tolkien had invented such a fleshed out world that inspired me. Also, my father used to write down little notes for a book he wanted to write, and it seemed like a mysterious and worthy thing to do. That said, I didn’t think that I would have to choose between all my artistic, creative interests. When you’re young, you think you have all the time in the world.
Traitor Queen is the third and final book in the Traitor Spy Trilogy, which is a sequel to the Black Magician Trilogy (but you don’t have to read the Black Magician Trilogy first). Everyone’s plans are stymied when the Sachakan king imprisons Sonea’s son after Lorkin refuses to agree to a mind read to find out what he knows of the Traitors. Dannyl’s friendship with the Sachakan adviser, Ashaki Achati is tested, Sonea must add negotiating her son’s release to her plans to meet with the Traitors. And Cery, Gol and Anyi have nobody left to call on to hide them from the Rogue Skellin, except Lilia.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they have been entertained, moved and perhaps left with something to think about, be it some aspect of the world and the issues people face in it, or wondering what might happen to the characters next. And I hope they like my writing enough to meet the other characters and worlds I write about.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I admire anybody with enough motivation and love of writing to finish a novel, because I know how much work is involved. I admire both publishers and people who self publish, for their belief and love for books whether their own or someone else’s. I admire booksellers who stick to selling books despite it being an industry with constant shifting boundaries and new challenges. Of writers I admire most those with the courage to be opinionated and vocal, especially women and writers who experience discrimination and disadvantage.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To never stop trying to improve my writing. To write more short stories. To find the time for more art and perhaps one day do an illustrated book.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Get a lot of feedback. And most of all, enjoy it!
Trudi, 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.