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 Gadigal country – the city of Sydney, and spent my childhood in Matraville, where I played street cricket and tennis, and had weekends at the Matraville Skyline drive-in where Mum worked. I went to St Andrew’s primary school with the ‘Pizza Hut Church’ and swam down La Perouse in summer. I went to high school at St Clare’s College in Waverley for secondary and spent summers down Bronte and south Maroubra.
When I was twelve I just wanted to be popular because I felt like a square peg. At eighteen I wanted to be an investigative journalist because I liked the thought of working in the media. At thirty I wanted to be the best writer in any genre possible. I’d already published poetry and satire and was writing my doctoral thesis on literature and publishing.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At 18 I believed it was possible to have a relationship with someone who had different political beliefs than I. Now I know the reality!
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 can’t say these have influenced my writing, but they do inspire me as writer.
One: Mervyn Bishop’s iconic land rights photograph of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam Pouring Soil Into The Hand Of Traditional Guringji Land Owner Vincent Linginari, 1975 (see here)
Two: Gustav Klimt’s: The Kiss – this painting reminds me of romance, true love and of my parents who taught me that love knows no boundaries.
Three: A portrait my friend Frane Lessac did of me for the Archibald’s. We didn’t win but it was something we worked on together and that process was inspiring.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I can’t sing, dance, play an instrument or draw, so that left writing. I love the power and role of storytelling in our society, and I love to talk. I just put the words on paper. Novels are a great way of teaching and challenging audiences by hooking them through entertainment.
Paris Dreaming is the story of Libby Cutmore originally from Moree. Libby is on a man-fast: no more romance, no more cheating men, no more heartbreak. After all, she has her three best girlfriends and two cats to keep her company at night and her high-powered job at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra to occupy her day – isn’t that enough?
But when fate gives Libby the chance to work in Paris at the Musée du Quai Branly, she’s thrown out of her comfort zone and into a city full of culture, fashion and love. Surrounded by thousands of gorgeous men, cute baristas and smooth-tongued lotharios, romance has suddenly become a lot more tempting.
And as if life wasn’t hard enough, there’s a chauvinist colleague at the Musée who seems determined to destroy Libby’s exhibition in every way he can. Then there’s Libby’s new friend Sorina, a young Roma gypsy, desperate to escape deportation. Libby must save her job and save her friend, but can she save herself from a broken heart?
I hope my readers of Paris Dreaming get an insight into some of our most inspirational Indigenous artists at the moment: Zane Saunders, Emily McDaniel, Tony Albert, Merrill Bray, Andrea Fisher, and of course, my favourite curators: Hetti Perkins and Brenda L Croft. Oh, I also hope they find some connection to my characters and a love of Paris!
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I’m a huge fan of Australian authors Alex Miller, Linda Jaivin, Gail Jones, Alexis Wright and Rosie Scott who manage to write stories with important social messages while weaving in the complexities of personal relationships as well as humour.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I want to be Australia’s Oprah!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Read widely across genres, write daily, and don’t expect a critical response (or honesty) from your friends and family in relation to your drafts. Use professionals to do your assessments and structural edits.
Anita, thank you for playing.
You can follow Anita on Twitter – here (I do)
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. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.