bestselling author of Fall of Giants, The Pillars of the Earth and many more…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. Cardiff and London. Harrow Weald Grammar School, Poole Technical College, and University College London.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I know a lot.
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?
Peterborough Cathedral made me ask why and how the cathedrals were built. Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming showed me how exciting literature could be. The Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm inspired Fall of Giants.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
What innumerable artistic avenues? I could never draw or paint. I could play three chords on the guitar. Writing imaginative fiction was the only thing I was really good at.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Fall of Giants is the first of a trilogy that tells the story of the 20th century through the experiences of five families from different nations.
(Here’s what Toni Whitmont, Booktopia Buzz Editor had to say…
Fall of Giants is a magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in the Century trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families – American, German, Russian, English and Welsh – as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.
Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man’s world in the Welsh mining pits. Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House. Two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription and revolution. Billy’s sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London.
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as the story moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.
As always with Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic. )
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I would like them to say: “That was a great story—and now I understand something I didn’t understand before.”
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Jane Austen, for inventing the shape of the novel.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I would like to be the most popular author in the world.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Be a perfectionist.
Ken, thank you for playing.
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.