author of The Bark Cutters and A Changing Land,
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 Sydney and raised on our ‘outback’ family property which is located 700 km northwest of Sydney near the QLD border. My early education was via The Correspondence School in Sydney. We received our weekly school lessons through the mail and Mum taught us around the dining room table. Later I went to a local primary school for two years (to get used to socialising with other children), followed by six years at boarding school in Sydney. A Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters in Creative Writing & Literature eventually followed. After a corporate marketing life I embarked on a ‘tree-change’ in the late 1990s.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At twelve I was determined to be an archaeologist. I was and remain fascinated by the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Greece.
At eighteen I wanted to be a storyteller. We have a strong oral storytelling tradition in our family and the competition between family members remains fierce.
With nine years in the corporate world of which a number were spent in Singapore by thirty I was seeking adventure. A few years later I changed careers, went ‘bush’ and began trekking in remote spots abroad when my new work life permitted.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have 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?
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway taught me the beauty of sparseness in prose. The artist Kandinsky increased my awareness of visualisation in the creative process and music, particularly light opera and old movie and musical soundtracks always inspire.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I’ve always loved reading and writing. I have an eclectic list of publishing credits spanning 18 years and a novel was a natural extension for me. I also believed in my story and felt I had the necessary background to do it justice. Plus, I can’t paint or draw, although I played a mean ‘all-singing/all-dancing’ Swedish Maid Marion in a local fundraiser a few years ago!
6. Please tell us about your novel The Bark Cutters…
The Bark Cutters is an Australian family saga that centres around a family property. Past and present interweave in a story that traces the Gordon’s from the arrival of Scottish immigrant Hamish Gordon in the 1850s to the life of his great granddaughter, Sarah.
In the mid-19th century, Hamish Gordon leaves Scotland for Australia. First arriving in the Victorian goldfields, through stock theft and cunning he eventually amasses a magnificent property, Wangallon. Obsessed with carving out a rural legacy over the ensuing years he loses many of those nearest to him. More than a century later, his descendant Sarah Gordon longs to claim the land as her own, but when her brother, the heir to Wangallon, dies tragically, her wily grandfather passes management to Anthony Carrington, once Wangallon’s jackaroo.
Devastated, Sarah escapes to Sydney, throwing herself into a blossoming photography career and a new romance. Ultimately, though, she will have to choose: the bright lights of the city or Wangallon which has been in the family for over 120 years, with its floods, its droughts, the ghosts of generations past, and Anthony who is becoming as much a part of Wangallon and its future as she is.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
As a fourth generation grazier I would hope readers would have a greater understanding of the emotional attachment generational graziers feel towards their properties.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I have always admired David Malouf. I’ve been a fan of his thoughtful and beautiful prose for over two decades.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I hope to keep producing quality commercial fiction that does justice to the subject matter and to the booksellers and readers who support me in my writing endeavours.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Redraft, redraft, redraft. After that it is all about persistence, timing and luck.
Nicole, thank you for playing.
Buy a copy of The Bark Cutters – here
Follow Nicole on Twitter –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.