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 the working class suburb of Footscray in Mebourne Victoria, Australia. My father was a self-educated wharfie (longshoreman) and a darling. My mother was extremely intelligent and well read. We were poor but had books. There are four children: I have two younger sisters and a younger brother and we were very happy. Except for one sister who had a shoe fetish and we could not afford the shoes she wanted. I went to a good primary school where the headmistress told my mother ‘the child’s general knowledge is phenomenal’.
Then I went to a very rough and scrappy high school where I spent my time translating plays and putting them on and reading everything I could get my hands on and failing at sport and mathematics. Oh, and falling in love a lot. I studied very hard to get into Law at Melbourne Uni because I wanted to defend the lost and strayed. And I did. I wrote my first novel sitting in an apricot tree all one school holidays when I was sixteen. No one will ever see it. I kept writing novels for fun. Then I got published and I wrote novels for money. And because I love writing novels.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve I wanted to be a poet. When I was eighteen I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was thirty I wanted to be a novelist. I realised that I would never be a poet, I have the wrong kind of mind. I wanted to be a lawyer to look after the dispossessed. And I wanted to be a published novelist because I wanted to see my name on the front of a book.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That the world is just and people just need to be aware of an abuse to fix it.
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?
Paperback Writer by The Beatles: a heartfelt plea. It took me four years to find a publisher and I sang it a lot.
Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night which combines research and facts and quotes and a puzzle and a great love story. I merely strive to emulate the Master.
Heironymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights. You can stare at it for hours, always something new to see, while plotting. Every writer should have a print of this.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I am a natural novelist. Short stories give me cramps and I am not original enough to be a poet, though I greatly admire poets.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
Cooking the Books is a Corinna Chapman mystery. She runs a bakery in the city of Melbourne. It contains fraud, crime, social realism, hope, bullying and accountancy. And a TV soap being filmed. And a lot of cooking. I couldn’t have liked it more.
(BBGuru: Publisher’s synopsis –
When Corinna Chapman, talented baker and reluctant investigator, accepts an offer to do the baking for the film set of a new soap called ‘Kiss the Bride’, twists and turns ensue, with complications involving nursery rhymes and a tiger called Tabitha!
Corinna Chapman, talented baker and reluctant investigator, is trying very hard to do nothing at all on her holidays. Her gorgeous Daniel is only intermittently at her side (he’s roaming the streets tracking down a multi-thousand dollar corporate theft). Jason, her baking offsider, has gone off to learn how to surf. And Kylie and Goss are fulfilling their lives’ ambition auditioning for a soapie. It should be a time of quiet reflection for Corinna but quiet reflection doesn’t seem to suit her – she’s bored.
Scenting a whiff of danger, Corinna accepts an offer from a caterer friend to do the baking for the film set of a new soap called ‘Kiss the Bride’. The soapie in which Kylie and Goss have parts. Twists and turns and complications that could only happen to Corinna ensue involving, bizarrely, nursery rhymes and a tiger called Tabitha.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
A easier mind. I aim to amuse and comfort.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To finish the book I am currently writing. That’ll do for the present.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Never give up. The story wants to be told. Someone will want it.
Kerry, 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.