author of The Sixth Key, The Seal and Temple of the Grail
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 Rio de Janeiro Brazil and I came to Australia with my parents when I was nine years old. We lived in Sydney and I attended the local Public School in Randwick. When I was 14 our family travelled around the world and I went to several High Schools, one of them in LA – Eagle Rock High. After watching a program on the Barrier Reef my father became so homesick he decided to return to Australia, this time moving us to Macksville, a small country town on the north coast of NSW with a population of two thousand. On my first day at the small local high school I felt that I had been moved to the moon!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At eighteen I wanted to be a singer songwriter so I formed a band. We toured the East Coast of NSW and had quite a following.
At thirty I wanted to be a writer because I fell in love with words.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I was convinced there was no life after death. I know differently now.
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?
I had an uncle in Spain who had a collection of Spanish masters that toured Europe regularly. On one of our visits to his house in Seville, a painting caught my eye that profoundly affected me. I think it was by the painter Zurbaran – St Francis meditating with a skull. It was mournful, dark and mysterious. I was fascinated and frightened by it, which is interesting considering twenty or so years later I began writing about monks and murders in dark mysterious monasteries!
Wagner’s Parzifal also had a formative effect on me. I remember the first time I heard the introduction I was so edified I was moved to tears. I was writing The Seal at the time and it seemed to me a confirmation that I was on the right path because of its connection to the Grail.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was also very significant. I read it when I was about 15. Afterwards, I decided that I loved Historical Fiction and that one day I would write a book just like it – I’m still waiting for that day!
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
When I was a girl my parents both worked late into the evening and my brother and I we were often home alone. I told my brother stories to keep him from being scared. Later I told my friends stories to make them laugh. Later again I told stories through songs and paintings. Writing seemed the next logical step, but I didn’t know how much I would grow to love it. No other artistic form of expression allows you the time to explore an idea in depth the way a novel does.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Sixth Key is a thriller set in two primary timelines – 2012 and 1938. In the 2012 timeline, a crime novelist goes to the Cemetery Island of San Michele to meet a mysterious fan offering to solve a riddle. But on his arrival the novelist learns that the fan’s motive is to tell him the story of Otto Rahn, a Grail historian and archaeologist, who in 1936 was also invited to a mysterious meeting with a fan – Himmler, head of the SS and Hitler’s henchman.
Himmler wants Rahn to travel to the South of France in search of an ancient Grimoire of Black Magic written by a 14th century pope. Rahn sees this as his chance to escape the Nazi regime, which he abhors, but soon realises he has stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. He is not the only one looking for the Grimoire and the legendary ‘Sixth Key’ that can turn it into the most powerful tool of black magic ever known. What is the true intention of that fan on the Island of San Michele? You will have to read the book to find out!
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
The disquieting feeling that all is not as it seems, and that history is often an account of half-truths.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I admire my mother. She is the most inspiring person I know. She has been so many things in her life and walked so many paths. For the last 20 years she has been writing poems and books and songs that have never been published, just because she loves writing. Now at the age of 72 she has her own Blog, Facebook page and You Tube channel. She continues to amaze me!
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I hope to be writing Best Sellers on my boat when I’m ninety! But only because my readers find my books meaningful; because they are inspired by them to see life, death and the human condition, in all its manifestations, through different eyes.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Begin. Write every day. Writing is like sculpture, it may not look like much at first, just a lump of rock, but if you keep chipping away at the stone, one day you will find the thing of beauty that is hidden inside it.
Adriana, thank you for playing.
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.