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 Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in 1953. My father had a picture framing and artists’ materials shop and so I got to see a lot of pictures and paintings as a youngster. I went to grammar school in Leeds, my home town. Two brothers, one sister, I am the eldest.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12 I thought about going into the family business but I was useless at woodwork or anything particularly practical. At 18 my main ambition was to go to university. I thought it would be a lark to spend three years drinking, reading and having fun at someone else’s expense. Plus there were girls. I wasn’t sure about my career path and I was torn between going into academia or journalism. I chose journalism. At 30 I had written my first book, Andrew, The Playboy Prince, judged the worst book ever written! So the only way was up. I enjoyed the process of writing books, the research, the tracking down of sources and the time to think and write deeply about a subject.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I did a lot of active political work for the Labour Party even though at that time the party was out of fashion with the Socialist Workers and Trots who ruled the roost at college. I considered going into politics – like many youngsters I thought of Members of Parliament as demi-gods. Now if there is a god, he does not roam round the corridors of power.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
So for example my friend John Whitby, chief salesman for Corgi Books, suggested I write my first book, Andrew, The Playboy Prince (see above) after I returned from Mustique in the Caribbean where the prince had gone with the actress Koo Stark. It was a jolly Boys Own adventure and it gave me a taste for writing more books. My first meeting with my current UK publisher Michael O’Mara came when he was publishing picture books on Charles and Diana. We became friends and he published one of my early books, on Diana’s life inside Kensington Palace.
Perhaps the other most significant event was meeting Dr James Colthurst when Princess Diana visited his hospital in London. We got on well and he became an occasional contact and later a friend. He ultimately asked Diana the questions I drafted for my book, Diana, Her True Story.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
A book is the perfect medium for the royal wedding, a combination of commentary and pictures. Nothing apart from a book captures the essence of the royal wedding of the century.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding tells the inside story of this historic royal romance. I have spoken to academics, friends, courtiers, police, neighbours and others to build up a portrait of this unique royal love affair. Not only have I managed to find new sources and material but there are never before seen pictures in the book.
(BBGuru: From the publisher: The story of Prince William and Catherine Midddleton’s romance and wedding. This is THE book for any Royalwatcher or anyone captivated by this real-life fairytale. It will tell the couple’s story from when they met at university eight years ago through to the much anticipated royal wedding and will include 150 photographs with 32 pages of wedding coverage.
A luscious hardback that will be published within weeks of the wedding, individual chapters will examine: their private engagement in exotic Kenya; their life stories; their history as a couple in the public eye; royal weddings in the past; culminating in a lengthy section devoted to the wedding itself and all its fascinating details. This is a superb record of an historic romance.
The nuptials of the English royal family s most popular and glamorous couple are sure to be essential viewing not just for England, but for the entire world and this book will be a gorgeous record of what may well prove to be a turning point in the history of the British royal family.)
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
I think my book on Princess Diana did change the way the world looked at her. I was very proud of the way many people, particularly women, came for help for their eating disorders after Diana had the courage, through the pages of the book, to explain and expand on her own problems.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
My publisher, Mike O’Mara, my friend, businessman Richard Caring and the former head of the Armed Forces Sir Michael Jackson. At a certain stage in life it is no advantage being smart you have to have sound judgement. This trio have that quality; shrewd judgement.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I fancy writing a film script and a fiction book
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
For an aspiring biographer I have one golden rule: stick to the timeline. Keep to the timeline and everything falls into place. The timeline often yields secrets that have been overlooked.
Andrew, 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.