author of Strictly Confidential:
A Jazzy Lou Novel
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 Sydney; I grew up in the eastern suburbs and went to school at Sceggs, Darlinghurst. My summer holidays were dedicated to work experience – my father (a workaholic and entrepreneur like me) hauled me in to my parents clothing manufacturing company to run errands – and so my work ethic was born! After I left school I studied Fashion Manufacturing and Business at East Sydney TAFE. I had no formal training, only on-the-job experience from my days working with big brands such as Diesel. It was during my time at Diesel that I realised PR was my true calling, and the rest is history! I took a major gamble and set up Sweaty Betty PR at the age of 24; it was seriously hard work and I was on a steep learning curve, but it paid off and today we’re a 20 strong agency with 70+ clients and a reputation as Australia’s leading fashion and lifestyle PR agency.
At the age of 12 I aspired to be a policewoman. I liked the idea of action packed, drama filled days! By the time I reached 18 I was working as a florist which I absolutely loved – just ask my team – I am meticulous about the floral arrangements in the office and at our events. But I realised if I wanted to build a successful and lucrative life for myself I had to launch my own business, and by the age of 30 I had been running Sweaty Betty PR for six amazing years and the company is still growing and evolving.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I think the biggest lesson I learnt after the age of 18 was about running a business. Because I was good at PR I assumed setting up the business would be a piece of cake – but budgets, employment law, property negotiations and invoicing taught me that PR is just the half of it!
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’ve always been drawn to quirky, abstract contemporary art. A few pieces that have really stuck out in my mind are:
I am slightly obsessed with the big-eyed ‘Blythe’ dolls. Their innocence, cute outfits and edgy design makes them the perfect conversation pieces and I have dolls in the office and at home.
The work of Sydney artist Ben Frost, of which I am lucky to have a few originals
I’ve always been a fan of Banksy’s street art – so original and he knows how to make you think with just one stencil.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
What girl doesn’t want see her name on the front of a book cover?! I loved the idea of documenting my crazy schedule and constantly surprising days at Sweaty Betty PR in book form – and I’m no musician or artist so the written word was the perfect choice!
Strictly Confidential is a fast-paced, sensational, no-holds barred insight in to the world of Public Relations and Sydney’s celebrity lifestyle. Told through the eyes of 20-something Publicist Jazzy Lou, the novel charts her rise from hard-working employee to Queen Bee of her own business empire; documenting her romantic liasons, A-list mishaps, and clashes with ‘frenemies’ throughout her journey to the top.
(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb –
Australia’s best-known fashion PR lifts the lid on the glamorous world of A-list celebrity in a light hearted, fun filled, fast paced novel for fans of trashy mags and Perez Hilton – the ideal beach read for summer.
Meet Jasmine Lewis, the smart, young publicist trying to work her way up from the bottom in Sydney’s hottest PR company. She’s done the coffee runs, the dry-cleaning pickups, the 5am starts, the 11pm finishes. But, still, her evil boss Diane Wilderstein is never happy. So when Jasmine finds herself being summoned to Diane’s office early one morning, she knows something’s got to give. Luckily for Jasmine, faith lends a hand and helps her escape from the evil Diane to launch a fabulous new career.
That should be a dream come true, right? Or is it the start of a whole new world of nightmares?
‘Ever wondered what really goes on behind the slick facade of the PR world? Strictly Confidential will knock your Manolos off!’ – Gemma Crisp, Editor of CLEO)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
Firstly, I want people to be entertained. I’ve had girlfriends read the first draft and laugh out loud which is a good sign – there’s lots of comical scenes! But I do believe the book will act as an informal guide to anyone looking to start a career in PR; I document the journey from junior publicist to owner of my business and lift the lid on exactly how HARD you need to work to make it in this industry.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
When I do find the time to sit down with a book (very rare unless it’s monitoring media for our brands!) my reading revolves around the work of VERY talented journalists, locally and internationally –and there are many I admire.
I am also a huge fan of biographies and autobiographies – I have read intently about everyone from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump and US PR stalwart Kelly Cutrone – on my wish list for Christmas is Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson and I am waiting for the new Kardashian Book to land on my desk any day now.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Rather than have one overall goal, I tend to set myself mini goals each year – previously I have focused on opening our fashion showroom, reaching five years in business, winning our first international account, and of course writing my own book. Having just become a Mum, my current goals are to continue to grow Sweaty Betty PR and keep up the momentum that we have sustained over the last seven years, while spending time with my daughter and getting the work life balance right!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Soak up every moment, carry a notebook everywhere with you to note down ideas, and find your own ‘voice’ – it’s great to get inspiration from other authors but you need to create your own independent writing style.
Roxy, 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.