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 Pingaring in Western Australia, 350km south east from Perth. Back then we had a primary school, I had two other kids in my year, but it closed in 1998. In year eight, I went off to boarding school in Narrogin, which was not far from the speedway track where I started racing at 16. I left school after year eleven…I had no academic ambitions and was better at physical work. I went off to College in Perth for a six months secretarial course. The one job I swore I’d never do as I’d be stuck inside…but now I’m so thankful I did as I learnt to touch type quite fast. This lead to a job atthe Shire of Lake Grace for the next three years.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I think it was an air hostess or nanny…can’t quite remember. At eighteen I’d toyed with the idea of joining either the army or Airforce, and then did neither as it meant giving up the speedway racing and moving away from Pingaring. But mainly I think I just wanted to be like my mum, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. At thirty, I was married, had my kids, and was just starting to dream about having a book published.
That I was never going to be stuck inside doing an office job. So I was really wrong on that one after becoming a secretary and now an author who spends a lot of time at a desk. Never say never!
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?
The first was a book by Danielle Steele. Because at 11 it was all mum had on her bookshelf and Summer’s End was the one I grabbed first. I think it was where my love of romance began.
The second was Rachael Treasure’s Jillaroo. It was given to me by a relative after they’d read my manuscript for The Family Farm. I instantly loved it and knew that there was a market for this genre (well I thought so and that’s what I said to Penguin when I sent off my ms). Jillaroo really helped drive me to get it published.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
At the time, it was just a way to get the story building in my mind out. It was consuming all of my mental space…and it’s limited up there…so typing it out helped. And before I knew it I was writing a book. I can’t believe it happened, I’d never planned for it as I had always put myself down in the ‘english’ department after sucking at school. But I’d always had a creative side which obviously just found its own way out. Now I can’t imagine my life without it.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel… Heart of Gold.
It is about 26yr old CJ Wishart and her journey from her mundane existence onto becoming a shearer and taking her own life by the horns. It’s how she copes with the depression that controls her abusive father and how it all changes with the help of her friends and an endearing old farmer.
(BBGuru: Publisher’s synopsis –
CJ Wishart is a hardworking country girl with a heart of gold but a life that can be tough. Her job as a wool classer is back-breaking, her family life is a disaster and, after a string of dating debacles, she’s put men in the too-hard basket.
When strong, handsome Lindsay arrives on the scene as their new shearer, CJ can’t help but take notice. They have an undeniable spark, but can she handle the complications and potential heartbreak of falling in love?
With help from her friend and an endearing old farmer, CJ learns that when you stay true to yourself and open your heart, anything is possible.
Set in the colourful world of the shearing sheds, this is a lively and uniquely Australian story of love overcoming adversity.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they feel like they’ve connected with the characters, that they’ve been on an emotional ride with them and that they come away with a smile. I hope all readers finish my books feeling happy. I want my books to be like putting on a favourite rom/com movie where there is no risk of it ending badly and you know you are going to get an ending you’ll like.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
My publisher Ali Watts. I admire her long career and all the fabulous writers she’s worked with and still works with. I’m so thankful of the time she spends with me to help make my work worth reading and I admire the way she can read my work and find exactly where the holes are. Maybe one day I’ll be able to spot them myself before having them pointed out!
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
World domination? Okay, so not likely. I really just aim for the next contract of each book. I take baby steps. And if a book gets sold overseas, then I get to do a happy dance. But most of my goals are just hoping my kids survive climbing trees without breaking bones or getting them to their sports on time.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write about what you love, write about what you know, write about your experiences and write because you enjoy it. Oh, and sometimes you’ve just gotta leave the house looking like a mess and sit in front of that blank page and write…anything, just as long as there are words on the page. Then you can go back and edit. Good luck.
Fiona, thank you for playing.
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About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.