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 Perth, grew up in Sydney, and was educated at Mount Saint Benedict Catholic Girls’ School in Pennant Hills, and then at Sydney University, Yale and Cambridge.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve, writer, astronomer, movie star, pilot.
At eighteen, writer, psychologist, film director, criminal lawyer.
At thirty, independently wealthy.
That I would never get any wrinkles.
4. What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
– Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own
– Dylan Thomas – Under Milk Wood
– The Breakfast Club
– New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’
– Suzanne Vega’s ‘Gypsy’
– Everything that Chopin wrote in the minor key
That’s more than three, sorry.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
It’s very kind of you, but why do you think I had innumerable artistic avenues open to me? I can’t draw or paint (my six-year-old has trouble hiding his disappointment at my helicopters), I can’t sing a note (my high school piano teacher was fascinated), I can’t act (well, secretly, I hope I just haven’t been discovered yet), I can’t dance (no rhythm or coordination – although, again, secretly I think that with the right teacher …), can’t compose nocturnes, can’t play the ukelele etc, etc. Writing a novel was the only thing left.
A Corner of White is the first in a trilogy set partly in our world and partly in an imaginary Kingdom called Cello. A girl named Madeleine who lives in Cambridge, England starts writing letters to a boy named Elliot who lives in the Farms, Kingdom of Cello, through a crack that has opened up between their worlds in a parking meter. Madeleine has run away from home, accidentally bringing her mother with her: they used to be wealthy but now live in a small attic flat and eat beans. Meanwhile, in Cello, Elliot’s father has disappeared. Nobody knows if he has run away with a high school physics teacher or been taken by a Purple in the Colour attack that killed Elliot’s uncle.
(BBGuru: here is the publisher’s blurb –
She knew this.
That philematology is the science of kissing.
That Samuel Langhorne Clemens is better known as Mark Twain.
That, originally, gold comes from the stars.
Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop.
Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.
They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.
Elliot begins to write to Madeleine, the Girl-in-the-World – a most dangerous thing to do for suspected cracks must be reported and closed.
But Elliot’s father has disappeared and Madeleine’s mother is sick.
Can a stranger from another world help to unravel the mysteries in your own? Can Madeleine and Elliot find the missing pieces of themselves before it is too late?
A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.)
A belief in my characters and their world, and hopefully some fondness for both.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
My sisters, Liane and Nicola Moriarty, because they are two of the greatest living beings. Diana Wynne Jones, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Louis Sachar, Rachel Cohn for their imagination, warmth, humour and cracking intelligence. Lorrie Moore and Lisa Moore for exquisite prose and prising open the reader’s heart. J.K. Rowling for the strength she must have had to finish Harry Potter while the whole world crowded into her study to watch, and for writing exactly what she wanted next, while the whole world hovered at her window, waiting.
Secretly I’d like to write books that have made people as happy as some books have made me, or that rescue people in ways that books have rescued me. My other goals are to learn to play the cello, speak French and Italian, understand quantum mechanics, and make enough money to see the world first class and to see the sea from my window every other day.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write a journal every day but don’t narrate what you did that day—choose one small, unexpected incident, or one character you met during the day and describe it. Drink a lot of water, run up and down stairs, draw colourful pictures, read poetry, dance without caring that you can’t.
Jaclyn, 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.