Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born, raised and schooled in Melbourne – with one year in Denmark as a Rotary Exchange student. I did a degree in Journalism at RMIT which led to my first job at Channel Nine news.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12 and 18 – I wanted to be a long distance runner. By 30 I’d been a journo for ten years and loved it.
That people in jail were some of the lowest form of humans. Now, after spending a lot of time in jails both in the UK and Bali – for work – I realise that some good people, sometimes make stupid mistakes; and on rare occasions, some people in jail are innocent.
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?
Producing Schapelle Corby’s story for 60 Minutes – [both her first tv interview with Liz Hayes and her verdict and 20-year- sentence] – and subsequently being asked to co-write with Schapelle her autobiography gave me a springboard into writing books. I’ve now written three; ‘Schapelle Corby My Story’ (‘No More Tomorrows’ – international title), Hotel Kerobokan (‘Hotel K’- international title) and Snowing in Bali.
My dad had a strong influence on my career choice: he always told me that everybody is potentially a great story and he loved talking to people from all walks of life, all over the globe. He was fascinated by people, and now so am I.
And I’ve been lucky and privileged in my career so far to meet all kinds of people. I twice flew to Denmark with Tara Brown to do stories on Princess Mary for 60 Minutes, I spent several days with Mohamed Al Fayed not long after his son Dodi and Princess Diana died, I’ve done stories with ex British PM Tony Blair, Sir James Goldsmith, Robbie Williams, Kate Hudson, and dentists and orthodontists on a “braces and extraction” debate, – and now, I’ve just spent the past 18 months talking intimately and in graphic detail to some big cocaine bosses from around the world and living in Bali.
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?
No, books are definitely not obsolete – just ask J.K. Rowling! I’ve always loved to read books, and I enjoy writing them now as it’s an incredible way to tell a story, and so rewarding when readers say the words took them right into the moment and the scene.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
Snowing in Bali is about the hidden world of high-end drug dealing in Bali. Tourists lazing by the pool are mostly oblivious to the prolific drug dealing going on all around them. But Bali is the perfect place for western dealers – many who originally went to the island simply for the idyllic surf lifestyle.
In Bali they can work – dealing kilos of pure cocaine – camouflaged among the throng of tourists, and using the smoke and mirrors of the thousands of luxury hotel rooms. Using the cover of tourists, with trafficking carrying drugs in surfboard bags or sports equipment, looking no different to the thousands of others, makes it an ideal transit spot from South America. It’s also on the doorstep to the No 1 target for all traffickers – Australia – with it’s tight borders, it has the world’s highest price for cocaine – and Asia – specifically Japan. With the party island full of tourists and wealthy expats, there’s also a strong domestic market too.
For the drug bosses, they can deal in luxury hotel, surf and most importantly for them take advantage of the hedonism of holiday-makers who so often lose their inhibitions and are ready to party – especially hot models. In Snowing in Bali, one of the cocaine bosses explicitly details the regular orgies he enjoys in million dollar villas with models on film shoots or hot women he meets in bars and restaurants.
But it’s not an advert for drug trafficking. The downside to this glamorous life is also highlighted in Snowing in Bali with some of the drug bosses getting busted, tortured by the Bali police for information, and sent to jail for years, life or worse, to death row to await a 12 sniper firing squad.
As one of those busted with a kilo of cocaine only a few months ago says; “Bali can be heaven one minute and hell in the next.”
One of the reasons I love working as a journalist is being able to expose the truth – no matter how controversial that may be. The truth opens people’s eyes and this alone can change so many things for the better.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
I don’t have a single hero – there are many people I admire for being committed, passionate and having an influence on the world. For me this includes a wide variety of people from Aung San Suu Kyi, Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton to showbiz people like Johnny Depp, Kylie Minogue, Chris Martin and Kate Moss.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To live everyday to the fullest.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write about what you are passionate about and what excites you.
Kathryn, 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.