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 rural Victoria, in a town called Traralgon. It’s around two hours east of Melbourne. I was raised and schooled in the area. My primary school was a small country school in the middle of nowhere. I have such fun memories of climbing the towering row of cypress trees out the front of it. It was quite a shock when I started secondary school, which was a large private school around an hour away from home by bus.
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 hairdresser. My mum was one, and I loved cutting hair. Every doll that I owned got at least one haircut from me when I was a child. Some dolls were unfortunate enough to lose most of their hair! When I was eighteen, I wanted to be an accountant. My parents wanted me to go to university and I was good at commerce at school, so accounting seemed like a suitable profession for me. When I was thirty, to be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be an accountant anymore! It was too rigid and structured for me. I’m a creative person at heart.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
At eighteen, I found life rather overwhelming. There’s a saying, “It’s not what happens, it’s how you deal with it.” I believed the opposite of that. To me, life was all about what happens and I was very daunted by what the future may hold. It wasn’t until I faced my first major crisis, the ending of my marriage, that this belief changed. It was a terrible event, but I realised that I could deal with it just as terribly or use it as a catalyst for change and the reinvention of my life. Now, I know that devastating things can happen but amazing things can come out of them. I feel that I have the power to shape my life, rather than have it shape me!
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
My career path was firstly influenced by a teacher who told my parents I’d be a great accountant. That pretty much cemented it. During the course of my career, I did a lot of research and report writing. In fact, I found that writing was the only aspect of my job that I really liked. A move to “plain English” in my office and my appointment as the leader of that for my group enhanced my writing skills. However, it was only post-crisis when I was travelling through India that I realised I wanted to be a writer. I found an incredible amount of inspiration there. I’d also read a vast variety of personal transformation books, in which people had boldly shared their journeys, and was motivated to share mine. Thus, the idea for my book was born.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
Avid readers of books will know that there’s nothing like the feel and smell of a new book, and the anticipation of the story contained within. That aside, a book is able to convey a lot more than other mediums such as TV, blogs, and newspapers. These mediums are useful for providing snapshots, but books takes you on a journey. Plus, sometimes there’s nothing better than getting away from “intrusions” such as the TV and computer, and relaxing with a good book. Personally, I have a blog but people who have also read my book say that the book explains things that the blog omits, has more feeling and emotion, and it just “flows better”.
6. Please tell us about your latest book… Henna for the Broken-Hearted
My book is a personal account of how I went from being a divorced accountant in Australia to a travel writer living in India and remarried to an Indian guy. It’s a tale of self discovery and transformation, as well as one of revelation about Indian culture and society at all levels. I’ve been living in India for almost six years now. In that time, I’ve had a wide variety of experiences ranging from doing community work in Kolkata to managing a guesthouse in Kerala, and being an extra in a Bollywood movie.
(BBGuru: Publisher’s synopsis –
How far would you go to change your life?
Sharell Cook is 30 years old and living a privileged life in Melbourne’s wealthy suburbs. She has it all: the childhood-sweetheart husband, the high-powered job and plenty of cash to splash.
And it’s not destined to last. In a dramatic turn of events, Sharell’s marriage breaks down and her perfect life falls apart. Sharell opts for a complete change of scene, travelling to India to do volunteer work.
But reinventing herself is not as easy as it sounds, especially in the chaos and confrontation of India. Just as she is beginning to wonder whether she’ll ever find her way, she meets a man. And so begins Sharell’s second coming.
Set in Himalayan hills of Dharamsala, the beaches of Goa and the madness of Mumbai, Sharell’s story is the real story of what falling in love with an Indian, and India itself, really entails. )
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
I’d like to eliminate ignorance. So many problems in this world stem from ignorance and lack of understanding about different cultures. By remaining in our comfort zones we never gain knowledge about the things we fear or what is unknown to us. The bottom line is that we’re really all just people, no matter what colour or race we are.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
This is a difficult question to answer because I don’t really admire any person the most. More so, I admire certain qualities in people, particularly inspiring people who have succeeded against adversity in life. This could be as simple as someone from a poor background who’s struggled and worked hard to support their family. If you’re looking for an example of someone I admire, Nick Vujicic, the Australian motivational speaker who was born without limbs, would be one such person.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’ve been asked whether I’ll write a sequel to my book. I’m thinking that motherhood in Mumbai would be an interesting follow-up, so that means my next goal will be to have a child (that’s ambitious for me because I’m not someone who’s always wanted to become a mother)!
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Start a blog! Having a blog will enable you to establish a platform for yourself and your writing, and importantly it will also help you hone your writing skills and your writing “voice”. Blog readers are an excellent source of feedback and encouragement as well. Many aspiring writers wonder if their writing is good enough and are initially scared of having their writing “out there” (I know I was), so a blog is a very helpful tool to find out how well your writing will be received, what works, and what doesn’t.
Sharell, 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.