The Booktopia Book Guru Asks
Trust and Listen
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 grew up in Melbourne, a city which just gets better and better (though I’m more of a part-timer these days). Attended very ordinary suburban schools, then University High which was Academically Serious. I slinked off at the end of Year 10 and never went back; academia has never appealed to me, I’m afraid.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I wanted not to be a child any more; I hated having so little control over my life. At eighteen I wanted to be exactly what I was, a feckless hippie. At thirty I wanted lots of doing: work, and kids, and building property.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That electric orange juice squeezers were symptomatic of how sick western society had become. Now, our illness is so vast that such gadgets seem merely trivial.
The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov) taught me that great writing could make even the most implausible things seem both real and very moving. Elmore Leonard’s novels showed me how you can advance character and plot through dialogue alone. And the TV series Six Feet Under totally sold me on telling stories through multiple points of view.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Sorry, BBGuru, but this is a really odd question. Why on earth do you assume writers have other artistic avenues open to them? I certainly don’t! That’s why my both my novels so far feature painters and dressmakers –because I can’t draw a stick figure or put up a hem. May I respectfully suggest that you replace this question with one which might yield more revealing answers? (Oh … Maybe my answer reveals more than I realised …) (BBGuru: I just wonder what draws people to the novel when there are other options: some modern and sometimes lucrative – TV, and Film; some ancient and underfunded – Drama and Poetry; some messy and inarticulate – painting canvasses with body parts… oh, and cooking, too, that’s kinda arty!)
With pleasure! Trust is … um … well, it’s another story about modern tortured families, which is the subject matter most fascinating to me. About loyalty and betrayal, and how we give important parts of our selves away in the name of love, and duty, and goodness. Also, how hard and necessary it is to change. There’s a few dirty bits, too, but my Mormon readers can skip them. Extract…
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A sense of having been on an interesting journey with people they may not have always liked, but are very glad they got to know.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Terry Pratchett, for his humour and inventiveness, and his championing of orangutans, and for having faced the diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s with such admirable forthrightness and courage.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Hmm … I’d love for one of my novels to be made into a TV series as good as Six Feet Under.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Try not to take any of the many rejections and unkind comments you’ll get too personally. And remember, there’s always gardening. (BBGuru: “All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”)
Kate, thank you for playing.
Thanks for inviting me to play, BBGuru!
KATE will be at the 2010 SYDNEY WRITERS’ FESTIVAL – see when and where – click here.
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.