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, raised, and schooled in Michigan, in the middle of the U.S. About twelve years ago, I moved out west to Seattle and have been here ever since. Like most who study the humanities, I had a lot of jobs before being able to survive as a writer. I was a teacher when I sold my first novel, and although I loved that job, I eventually found it too difficult to keep up with while writing. I took a chance and made writing my fulltime profession six years ago and have been fortunate enough to keep it that way ever since.
Actually, I wanted to be a writer at all of those ages. I loved stories and words from an early age and always wanted to create my own. That never changed with age, though my understanding of what “being a writer” truly means certainly did as I got older.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I haven’t had any radical philosophical, political, or spiritual changes in that time. The biggest difference is probably that I’m a lot wiser now than I was then—which in itself is a challenge to the beliefs I had at that age. At eighteen, I thought my twenties would be the prime years of life and everything else would pale. Now, I realize just how little I knew back then and am much happier being in my thirties than twenties. I’ll probably have a different story in my forties!
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?
My influences have always been books, and I really don’t know if I can name a top three. When I look back at the authors I loved growing up—L.M. Montgomery, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, and Marion Zimmer Bradley—I notice a common thread. All of them wrote great plots, but it was their characters that really left a lasting impression. That’s certainly become an emphasis in my writing. Believe me, plot is absolutely crucial, but the most wonderful, ingenious storyline in the world will fall apart if readers don’t love the characters. That’s why when I write, I always make sure my characters are real, relatable, and powerful. They’re what keep both me and the readers coming back.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
I’m not sure the avenues really are innumerable for every person. I think there are different artistic paths that we’re each keyed in for. I can’t dance, paint, or sing, but I know words. I’ve connected to them my entire life. Writing and language have triggered huge emotional responses in me, and over time, I’ve learned to create those same responses in others via storytelling. When a medium speaks to you like that, you can’t help but embrace it.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
My latest novel is called Bloodlines and is a spin-off to my young adult series, Vampire Academy. Bloodlines follows a human girl named Sydney who’s part of a kind of “Men in Black” society that keeps the existence of vampires secret from the world. Sydney’s latest assignment takes her to Palm Springs, where she must help a vampire princess blend in among humans in order to stay safe from assassins. As the mission progresses, Sydney finds herself questioning the lines of good and evil that her society has instilled in her since youth.
(BBGuru: publisher’s synopsis –
BLOOD DOESN’T LIE . . .
Sydney’s blood is special. That’s because she’s an alchemist – one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets – and human lives. But the last encounter Sydney had with vampires got her in deep trouble with the other alchemists. And now with her allegiances in question, her future is on the line.
When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir – the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir – is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill’s guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the unlikeliest of places: a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one.
The Moroi court believe Jill and Sydney will be safe at Amberwood Prep, but threats, distractions and forbidden romance lurk both outside – and within – the school grounds. Now that they’re in hiding, the drama is only just beginning.)
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I want my books to entertain readers and transport them away for a little while. Hopefully they’ll walk away happy and wanting more. I’m not trying to change the world or teach moral lessons, but I love it when readers connect emotionally to the characters and the stories. If readers also walk away and find themselves thinking a little more deeply about their own lives or issues they never considered before, then that’s even better.
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, a fantasy-writing duo who had a lot of big series in the 1980s and 90s. I love them because they were able to create such depth and emotion in what others saw as simple sword and sorcery stories. Genre fiction is often looked down upon as being mindless entertainment, but there are tons of genre authors out there who slip powerful things into their pages. It’s possible to be entertained and still find yourself thinking about big issues, like life and love. Weis and Hickman were masters at striking this balance, and I strive to do the same.
When it comes to writing, my goals are pretty simple: I just want to keep doing it. I want to continue making a career out of writing and keep making loyal readers happy. I hope they’ll stick with me in the years to come and love all the new worlds and characters I create. I don’t ever want to get complacent, and I strive to keep getting better and better with each book I write.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write what you love. Too many aspiring writers get caught up stressing over what’s popular, whether people will like the idea, etc. None of that can matter when you’re starting out. You need to focus on what you love and go from there. Passion is what creates good books.
Richelle, thank you for playing.
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.