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 Southport on the Gold Coast of Australia in 1981 (to Kiwi parents), and moved to New Zealand when I was two years old. I spent my primary school years in Tutukaka, Northland, and attended high school in Queenstown, which is near the bottom of the South Island. After attending Otago University in Dunedin, I moved to Brisbane in 2008.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was 12 I had my heart set on being a rugby league commentator; when I was 18 I went off to journalism school, but quickly became disillusioned with that; and when I turned 30 I was desperate to become a published author, which happened a few months later.
When I was 18 I believed Limp Bizkit was the best band on the planet. Fortunately and unsurprisingly, I eventually came to my senses.
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?
-Watching my first State of Origin series in 1991 – the great Wally Lewis’ last series – confirmed my rugby league obsession at nine years old.
-Two seminal books in particular, The ABC of Rugby League by Malcolm Andrews and True Blue by Ian Heads, sparked my fascination with the game’s history at the age of 13. From then, I began scribbling away about rugby league and knew I eventually wanted to be a rugby league author.
-My good mate Tums passed away (in 2007) about six months after I started writing and began to seriously work towards getting a book together. From that point, having a book published and being able to dedicate it to him was a major motivation. Being able to do that was the single most satisfying aspect of my first book being published.
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 think there will always be a place for books – blogs and online mediums are great for fast news and opinions, but the permanence of books sets them apart. There will always be plenty of people that believe in the romanticism of holding a book and having a book on their shelves.
A Short History of Rugby League in Australia is a passionate and comprehensive 752-page account of every aspect of the code’s history in Australia, detailing every important player, match and event since 1908, while also focussing on the lesser-known aspects of rugby league’s rich narrative.
(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb – An authoritative and entertaining account of the history of Rugby League in Australia–charting the League’s evolution from Union, epic grand final encounters and players and coaches who changed the game forever.
With more than 750 information-packed pages and 24 pages of full-colour photos, chapters include The Glory–an account of the most memorable final round scrambles, the heartache of departing with a runner-up medal and magic moments from past grand finals; The Clubs’ in-depth analyses of today’s teams, in addition to a section on extinct clubs, mergers, rivalries and local derbies, and club colours; and Rugby League Around the World.)
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
Helping create a renewed interest in sports history.
Rugby league legend Darren Lockyer’s supreme match-winning ability, his longevity and phenomenal list of achievements have made him an all time hero of mine. But the qualities of his that I most admire are his humility, his poise under pressure and his ability to bounce back from setbacks and criticism.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To continue to write books and eventually be among the most prolific rugby league authors in Australia and to be considered a genuine authority on the game.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Make sure you are passionate about what you are doing, be patient and seek advice from as many sources as possible. And as arduous as it is, your work can never be proofed too many times!
Will, 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, was published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.