Nine Naughty Questions
1. I wonder, is a Romance writer born or made? Please tell us little about your life before publication.
I was actually planning to go to medical school and become a paediatrician. In fact, I wrote my first novel while I was completing my pre-med requirements and applying to med school. I got my first book deal the very same month I was accepted to Yale School of Medicine. I ended up deferring for a couple of years while I wrote, and then I had what I call my “mid-20s crisis.” All of my friends were heading off to graduate school, and I thought I should do the same. So I went to med school, but after two months I realized it wasn’t the right thing for me and withdrew. I’m very glad I gave it a try, though. I think we regret the things we don’t do, not the things we do.
2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of Romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why Romance Readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?
I think our fans are devoted simply because our books leave them feeling good. And happy. And hopeful. Those are feelings we all want to feel again and again. There is something incredibly comforting about picking up a book and knowing that even if you don’t know precisely what is going to happen, you are guaranteed a happy ending.
3. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Just Like Heaven is the first book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet. Most of my readers are familiar with the Smythe-Smith girls, who have made appearances in several of my books. But we don’t really know much about them other than that they are quite possibly the worst musicians in the history of man. I’ve had so many characters attend the annual Smythe-Smith Musicale and moan about the experience—I just had to start writing books about the Smythe-Smiths. I mean, what kind of woman plays music that badly and doesn’t realize it? (Or maybe she does…) Order your copy here from Booktopia
I’ve been married to the same guy for fifteen years… the guy I met on the second day of freshman week at university. That’s romantic to me!
5. Of all of the Romantic moments in your life is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the Romantic elements in your writing? If so can you tell us about that special moment?
Oh, gosh, I can’t think of one. To me, true romance is a lifelong commitment, not a single moment.
6. Sex in Romance writing today ranges from ‘I can’t believe they’re allowed to publish this stuff’ explicit to ‘turn the light back on I can’t see a thing’ mild. How important do you think sex is in a Romance novel?
I think it depends entirely on the story. I have novels that are “hotter” than others, and this has always happened because the stories and the characters called for it. It was never a conscious decision on my part to sex it up.
My attitude is generally that if the scene doesn’t do something to further the plot or develop the characters, it probably doesn’t belong in the book. I never want sex scenes in my books to feel “pasted in,” as if you could skip them and the book would read pretty much the same.
7. Romance writers are often Romance readers – please tell us your five favourite (read and re-read) Romance Novels or five novels that influenced your work most?
This is a hard one, but I’ll go with Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas; Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught; Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips; As You Desire by Connie Brockway; and When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James.
I realize that most of these are older books, and I certainly don’t want to give the impression that there aren’t amazing books being published today—but these are the ones that have had the most influence on me.
It’s an escape from reality. There’s something fun about entering a whole new world. That said, I’ll be sticking with my historical romances. I always joke that readers will know that I’ve been pressured to enter the paranormal market if they see all of my characters at a ball, and then one of them says, “Look! There goes the werewolf!”
9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?
Join Romance Writers of America! Even if you live in Australia, it’s a wonderful, wonderful organization. I’ve heard wonderful things about Romance Writers of Australia, too. In fact, most of the Aussie writers I know are members of both groups. Writing organizations like these are just amazing. The level of support they provide to aspiring writers is truly phenomenal.
Julia, thank you for playing.
Have you lead a life of romance? What was the most romantic moment you’ve ever experienced?
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.