aka Charlie Carter
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 Sydney, but we shifted to Port Macquarie when I was six. I went back to the city for my high school years, and then on to university. But the Charlie Carter side of me comes from somewhere else entirely.
I’ve always been a day dreamer; it’s part of a writer’s ticket. As a kid my mind was always somewhere else, and often still is. I also had plenty of characters jostling about in my head, elbowing for mind-room. And that’s where Charlie Carter came from. I think he’s been in there for many years, waiting for the right time to emerge. That time came when I decided to write the Battle Boy Series. Charlie was just the guy for the job, so I set him free. Two years and sixteen books later he’s still out there writing the sort of stories I only dream about.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I wanted to be heaps of things when I was twelve – inventor, Viking warrior, mountain climber, lion tamer, rocket scientist, cat burglar, jet pilot – the list went on and on. It got shorter as I grew older, but not by much. There have been, however, two main occupations that have stood out from the others through most of my life.
The first is author; I’ve always loved writing. The second is archaeologist – and I think that’s where Charlie Carter comes in. He’s the side of me that loves digging up the past and solving the mysteries of history – a kind of Indiana Jones character. So when it came time to write a series about a kid who visits great battle from the past, the choice of author was a no-brainer.
When I was eighteen, my understanding of world history led me to believe that might was greater than write. I now believe the exact opposite is the case. Ideas are more powerful than entire armies.
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?
That really is an awfully difficult question. To narrow down the influences on your work to three pieces of art is excruciatingly difficult, certainly misleading, and only presents a minute part of the picture. But I would say that The Scream by Munch, the poems of Auden, and certain parts of Shakespeare have left a lasting impression on me.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I don’t paint or draw or play music because I’m hopeless at all those artistic avenues. I write because I’m not too bad at it, and because I simply love it. I can write serious books that deal with deep issues. I can write action and adventure, fantasy and ghost tales, comedy and nonsense, psychological thrillers and stories that deal with real human issues. It’s my job but I never feel like I’m really working. How good is that?
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Charlie Carter has two new Battle Boy books out this July, and I think they might be the best yet. The first is Samurai Secrets. Napoleon goes back to Thirteenth Century Japan and Kublai Khan’s Mongol invasion of that country. Napoleon also discovers a very deep secret about his own father.
The second Battle Boy book is called Black Prince. This time Napoleon visits the Battle of Crecy during the Hundred Years War, and meets one of history’s most intriguing characters – the Black Prince. He also discovers that his family’s links go back much further than he ever realised.
My last novel as John Heffernan was Where There’s Smoke; it was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for Literature. I have another JH book coming out in August called Harry’s War. I’m quite pleased with it, too.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
From the Charlie Carter books, I hope that people go away realising how exciting and fascinating and reachable history can be. After all, our past is what makes us who we are today. So if we really want to understand ourselves, we need to look back.
I hope that the books I write as John Heffernan, the more serious ones that is, grab their readers at an emotional level and don’t let go.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Where do you start? The list is so long and reasons so varied. Impossible. (BBGuru: Tah!)
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
As a writer I set myself the hardest goal of all – to tell a good yarn. There are so many aspects to writing, but I think this is the main one in the end.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Above all else, tell a good story. The rest is icing.
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.