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 and raised in Lancaster, England, and educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School until I was 17, then Manchester University until I was 20. I then moved to London and worked as a freelance TV editor for 13 years or so, during the latter few of which I was also writing edgy yet humorous fantasy fiction…
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to work in roleplaying games, when I was eighteen I didn’t know what I wanted, and by the time I was thirty I was working at becoming an author. I’d written my first book and was looking for a publisher.
That I knew it all.
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?
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because it started my life-long love affair with fantasy. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones because it took fantasy and did something dangerous, adult and unpredictable with it. Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven, because it took a well-worn genre and produced something that was at the same time a brilliant example of the form, a grittier, more realistic revision of the form, and a comment on the form. That’s in a way the approach I aspire to take to epic fantasy.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Well it is a whole lot cheaper than making a film. I already worked as part of a big team as a TV editor, and I wanted to try my hand at something that was wholly my project, that I could do easily and cheaply on my own. And I’d always been a keen reader and felt that I would like to try my hand at it.
My latest novel is called Red Country, and it’s a combination of fantasy and western. No six-shooters, no stetsons, no chaps, but a lot of tough characters with hundreds of miles of dangerous untamed frontier to cross, narrow-eyed standoffs in windswept streets between men trying to escape bloody pasts, and conflicted people trying to fumble their way to doing the right thing in a lawless world.
(Editors note: From the Publisher)
They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.
Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.
Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A burning desire to read the next one.
Within my own bit of it I’ve got a lot of respect for George R.R. Martin. He’s been working hard for a very long time, hasn’t taken the easy way, has got a great deal of well-deserved success relatively late in life but kept his feet very much on the ground. I’ve been at a couple of events with him and seen how much he still enjoys spending time with fans and other writers.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Only to rule the universe.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
From a business standpoint, don’t expect riches to shower upon you, not soon and probably not ever. From a creative standpoint, the best piece of advice I’ve had was from my mother, who said always try to be honest, always try to be truthful. With every piece of dialogue, with every description, with every metaphor, ask yourself is this true? Would this person really say these words, does this thing really look like this, do someone’s eyes really glitter like stars scattered across the sable cloth of the heavens? Avoid the easy cliché, and hopefully you won’t go too far wrong…
Joe, 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.