author of Kiss Me First
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 London, and still live here, half a mile from my first house. Very unadventurous!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Twelve: the sole female member of New Kids on the Block. Eighteen: I didn’t care, as long as I had clear skin. Thirty: a writer.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I thought that the entire world cared about my spots.
So many books have had a great effect on me, it’s hard to choose, but I remember aged 11 being very taken with the character of Maggie in The Mill on the Floss – she seemed so complex and real. I also love how the Adrian Mole books chronicle their time so wittily, and under all the delicious detail have something to say; for similar reasons Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress are my favourite paintings.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Writing is so freeing – you can do it on your own, anywhere in the world and the basic materials cost almost nothing. Saying that, I’d also love to be able to paint. Or sing. Or act.
Kiss Me First tells the story of a socially awkward young woman who is hired to assume a stranger’s online identity, so that the stranger can disappear without her loved ones being any the wiser. It’s a bit of a thriller, but at its heart is a coming of age story about a child of the internet learning to engage with the real world.
(From the Publisher: He didn’t mention her name. He just said that a woman had come to him, desperate to kill herself, but not wanting her family and friends to know. And had the idea to employ someone to pretend to be her online, so that no one would be able to tell she was not still alive.
What if the friend you were writing to, confiding in or falling in love with wasn’t who you thought they were at all? What if the person replying in their name was someone you had never met, and would never even notice if you passed them in the street?
And what if you had no way of knowing until it was too late…?)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope readers will think about how the internet is affecting their identities and their relationships with others. But I don’t have the answers; we’re right in the middle of the experiment at the moment, it’ll take a while before we can clearly see how social media has changed society.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
There are so many writers I admire, I feel genuinely unable to choose just one.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I actually set myself a relatively modest goal: to win a Betty Trask award. They are given out yearly in the UK to several recipients, so I thought I might be in with a chance. But they are only awarded to those under the age of 35, and I didn’t quite finish my book in time to qualify. So now I’ll happily settle for making a living from writing.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Use Freedom, the Internet blocking software.
Lottie, 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.