Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
Heartland is the story of Callie Reynolds, a young woman who, since the death of her sister, has spent her life running from those who care for her. When her grandmother dies and leaves her Glenmore, a property Callie has always loved, she’s torn between what her heart aches for and the powerful need to honour her sister’s memory. All she wants is to sell up and move on, but the world keeps conspiring against her. The farm is full of memories and longing. Then there are the animals she’s been saddled with and an injured neighbour she feels responsible for – all surmountable problems. Until a very sexy and determined ex-soldier comes along and complicates matters…
This book means quite a lot to me, not least because of the location, which is based on some very strong memories and good times from adolescence. But there’s also a minor character whose story is taken from an incident from my own life, when I became so terrified of horses it looked as if I was going to lose my beloved Mysty. I can’t imagine what sort of horror child I would have turned into if that had happened. That horse was my world!
To be truthful, I had a terrible crisis of confidence last year for a few months. I knew and loved Heartland’s story but the words felt all wrong. They weren’t. Most were pretty damn good, but as with my golf swing when it goes kaput (yes, I’m one of those people), it was all in my head. This year has so far proved very different. I’m completely besotted with my new story and the words are coming sure and fast. It’s pure joy.
3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.
Sadly, I can’t give you my favourite, the one that makes me grin every time I read it, because it’d be a spoiler, but I can offer this:
“She missed the south’s lazy close of day, where sunsets slow danced into night. At her grandparents’ farm, Glenmore, on Victoria’s far western coast where the land sprawled flat toward the sea, they seemed to last even longer. If she closed her eyes, she could remember Poppy’s shadow on the beach, stretched reed thin over the grey sand, their fishing rods like endless strings as they cast one more line into the sea.”
I adore this image. It reminds me of my childhood and the long summers we spent at our beach shack in the tiny fishing village of Nene Valley, on far southern coast of S.A. They were wonderful times.
4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.
I’m pretty certain I conform! I can be annoying to live with, especially in the early days of a new book when ideas are coming so fast I can’t seem to get them written down quick enough. My poor other half is constantly woken from sleep by me scribbling in the notebook I keep beside the bed. I then zonk it, content that the idea or words are now safe, while he lies there blinky-eyed and unable to get back to sleep. Poor man. Good thing he loves me.
I like to start work around 7am, earlier if I can. A good hour is usually taken up with sorting emails, blog messages, catching up on industry news and so on, then between 8 and 8:30 I start writing. I try not to let it go later than that or I risk losing what I call my morning brain. Writing continues until 1 or 2pm, depending on if and when I reach my word count, when I swap to business-type tasks. By around 3pm I’ve had enough and wander off for some much needed exercise. It can vary, of course, depending on deadlines and release dates, but that’s the routine I try to stick to Monday to Friday.
5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).
There’s no question I’m conscious of the market and my readership when I’m writing – after all I’m trying to create a product that will sell, not languish on the shelves – but I try not to let it affect me too much. I do worry a little about the way genres become saturated with ‘me too’ books, mainly because I remember the chick lit boom and its subsequent collapse. Honestly, though, all I really try to concentrate on is producing a well-written, captivating story with characters that readers care about as passionately as I do.
The Scout Association of Australia’s Fieldbook for Australian Scouting. Could come in handy.
Jilly Cooper’s Riders. That’s for me. Along with 4 cases of wine, a loaded to capacity iPod and noise-cancelling headphones.
Cathryn, 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.