author of Finding Mr Darcy
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 the great gold mining town – albeit unknown to Jane Austen – of Kalgoorlie in WA. I was brought up in an assortment of mining towns, went to high school in Perth, and university at St Andrews in Scotland; the same university Prince William attended, though he was there many years after I left, alas.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I suspect I wanted to be a three day eventer at 12 (I was a rabid pony book reader, and International Velvet was my favourite movie); the chatelaine of a large country estate at 18 (thanks to, yes, Jane Austen) and a New Yorker writer at 30. As a journalist, it seemed (and still seems) the alpha and omega of all things journalism-related.
I think I thought I could make the universe bend to my will when I was 18. Several life lessons since then have taught me that occasionally, things do happen in life that you can’t control.
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?
My first editor gave me a book called The New Journalism that convinced me of the magic and power and fun of writing for a living.
I won an award at the British Press Awards, that convinced me that perhaps I could write for a living.
After nearly two decades in journalism, writing this book has given me a whole new sense of enjoyment about writing for a living.
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 spend my life reading books. If they are obsolete, I’m afraid, so am I!
It is, alas, a sort of self-help book. It’s based on the premise that everything you need to know about love and relationships you can learn from Jane Austen. And in fact, I think I actually believe this to be true – which is just as well…
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
Good grief. Halt global warming? Prevent cruelty to animals and small children? Stop the destruction of the world’s remaining wilderness? If people could just get a few hours of enjoyment, and perhaps even a small strategy or two to try next time they’re trying to chat up a bloke in a pub from my book, I’d be thrilled..
Good grief again. I really admire Jane Austen. She had in many ways a difficult path in life – little money, few avenues for advancement or achievement, no traditional support structures such as husbands or children – yet she managed to walk it with great grace and style and (most importantly) humour. Plus, you know, become one of the greatest writers in the canon of English Literature, of course.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To get my garden bed to grow something other than weeds, and to organise my drawers with those drawer divider baskets from Ikea.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Amanda, 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.