Six Sharp Questions
1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?
13 Storey Treehouse is about a writer called Andy and an illustrator called Terry living in a 13 storey treehouse with a bowling alley, a tank full of man-eating sharks, a see-through swimming pool, lemonade fountain and a marshmallow machine that follows them around and automatically fires marshmallows into their mouths whenever their hungry. In this incredibly distracting environment they are trying desperately to meet the deadline for their new book. We just wanted to tell a wild rollicking funny fully illustrated narrative about the creative process. It mirrors our own process pretty closely!
2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?
As always, trips to remote indigenous communities around Australia—as part of my work as ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation—have been a highlight. Warburton WA and Wyndham both highlights. And we are now publishing a book of the stories that kids from these communities have produced in the various writing workshops I’ve conducted with them on these trips. It’s called ‘The Naked Boy and the Crocodile’ and all proceeds from the book go back to the ILF to assist in the provision of books and literacy resources to these isolated communities.
“A man’s got to know his limitations” – Dirty Harry.
(I take this in a positive way … It’s important to know both your strengths and your weaknesses and to live accordingly.)
4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.
You should really be asking my wife, Jill who is also one of my editors. But I think if you did she would tell you that I’m fairly easy to live with and to edit … I welcome suggestions – they always make the work stronger. I can get a bit busy and revved up at times when deadlines are close but Jill is always a calming presence. (BBGuru: You don’t mind if I give her a call to confirm the truth of this statement, do you?)
5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).
I love entertaining children with outlandish stories – I’ve done this ever since I was a child. So for me, I always imagine what it would be like to read whatever I’m writing to a child or a group of children. Of course, in the first instance, I write what I consider to be funny but I find I often need to tweak and correct it after testing it out on kids. But in the end this collaboration with the audience leads to a stronger, more robust story so it’s all part of the process for me.
6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?
Me? The author of The Day My Bum Went Psycho and The Bad Book put in charge of ‘civilising students’? I’m flattered by your faith in me but I utterly reject the premiss of your scenario. I have a reputation to uphold!
Andy, 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.