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 and raised in Canberra, a bleak and soulless city. And cold. As soon as I was old enough to realize exactly how horribly cold it was, I vowed to leave to find somewhere warmer (I think I was about five years old when I made this decision). In my mid-twenties lived in Brisbane for a short while, revelling in the warmth and backwards stupidity of the place, then went to Hong Kong for ten years. Hong Kong is noisy, crowded, and horribly polluted, with people who are famous throughout Asia for being pushy and rude. At the end of the ten years I returned to backwards and stupid Brisbane to find that it had grown up slightly but still drove a ute and wore ugg boots, and I’ve been here ever since enjoying the bogan ridiculousness. Every winter I check out real estate further north, where there is no winter at all.
When I was twelve, I wanted to be a writer. I set up a borrowing library out of all the books in my bedroom to stop my siblings from borrowing them and never returning them. When I was eighteen, I wanted to be a journalist, just like Sarah-Jane Smith (In mem Elisabeth Sladen, you were inspirational). When I was thirty, I wanted to be back in Australia please! I’d had thoroughly enough of living in Hong Kong, and had dreams of living in greenery and space with pure, clean air.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I don’t really have strongly held beliefs, and I never have. Being sure about something is a guaranteed way to be totally wrong. Even by the time I was eighteen I think I’d worked this universal truth out – there is no such thing as an absolute, and things always change. Having a fixed set of beliefs makes you inflexible and intolerant.
There aren’t really that many that have had much affect on me. It should be obvious that I’ve been influenced by Roger Zelazny’s Hugo-winning masterwork, Lord of Light which brings the Hindu pantheon to life in a thrilling adventure tale. The only other really influential books are the Harry Potter series – because I read them and said to myself ‘If she can do it, then so can I!’
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Actually, I wanted to do graphic design when I left high school. Visual Arts were my first love, and graphic design was a way of being involved in the arts and still satisfying my parents’ demands for a degree that would ‘give you a money-making career’. I was accepted into a full-time graphic design program at university, but the whole thing fell through when the amount it would cost surfaced. Instead I worked full-time and did an IT degree part-time, because ‘that would definitely make more money than a silly art course.’ It is a decision I still regret to this day, and find it amusing that all these years later, after twenty-five years in the IT biz, I’m now a full-time creative-type artistic person, just in a different branch of the arts. I made it, I suppose.
Heaven to Wudang is the sixth novel in the series, and the end of the second trilogy. I’ve been hinting at some mysteries throughout the series so far, and most of them are completely resolved in this novel. That, however, only opens the door for more conflicts and a deepening of the intrigue, to be carried on in the third (and final) trilogy of the series which I’ve just contracted with Harper Voyager.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they take away a curiosity about the Buddhist and Taoist belief systems. These are fascinating cultural assets that really deserve to be preserved. One of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced as part of writing these books has been the fanmail from young readers in high school who tell me that they’d never read a book for pleasure until my books – the books they read for school were a chore, and put them off reading. I’ve introduced to more than a few young people the concept that reading can be an enjoyable pastime, and reading inspires ideas, broadens perceptions, and widens experience.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I’d like to salute an unsung hero – Rowena Cory Daniells. She’s suffered the worst nightmare a writer can ever undergo, and has bounced back and has a new series published. She teaches writing, encouraging young writers to polish their skills. She’s always out there doing everything she can to further writers who are both starting out and already established, and gives so generously of her time to the promote Australian spec fic community. I would not be a published author today without Rowena’s involvement in the community.
Nope, I have no really ambitious goals. My major goal as an author was to make enough to support my family, and I think I’m there. I’m deeply content.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
There’s already been some excellent advice given on these pages, the two biggest being ‘read’ and ‘write’. I won’t repeat that, I’ll add another one – find a local writing group or government sponsored writing centre and join it. I received my ‘big break’ through the Queensland Writers Centre – the publishers were actively working together with the centre to search for new talent. Don’t attempt to get published in a vacuum – there is a wonderful supportive community out there.
Kylie, thank you for playing.
You are most welcome!
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.