In his review, John Purcell credited Inga Simpson’s Mr Wigg with giving him ‘that warm feeling which comes from having read something that has strengthened or even reawakened a sense of what is right and good about the world’. John spoke with the author about her life and work.
Inga: I guess I wanted to capture—for all readers—the pleasures of a simpler life, one connected to the natural world. Ideas about ‘slow food’ and self sufficiency are not really new but were a way of life, a necessity even, for my grandparents’ generation. Looking back, it seems like such a rich life to me—one many of us now hanker for. I don’t always recognise the gothic rural Australia featured in contemporary fiction as the same place where I grew up. I wanted Mr Wigg to have an alternate, more celebratory, voice.
John: I get the feeling Mr Wigg is about people and places dear to you. To be blunt, are you Fiona? (And if you are not, how the hell did you describe things so authentically?)
Inga: Fiona is the name I was almost given but she is not me—[she is] the child my parents didn’t have, perhaps. I grew up on a property and drew on that experience, whilst also taking plenty of poetic licence. I guess Fiona does stand in for my affection and nostalgia for my paternal grandfather (and his peaches), who I didn’t know that well. Some of the details, like blacksmithing, were practised in my own family—giving me the capacity to describe them.
John: I was reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird, Hesse’s Knulp, Willa Cather’s My Antonia and Olga Master’s A Long Time Dying while reading Mr Wigg. Which books, if any, had a direct influence on the writing of this novel?
Inga: Well, that’s very lofty company you put Mr Wigg with there—thank you! The only direct influence was a delicious short story by Anna Tambour about a man retreating to the country to grow an orchard of medlar apples, called ‘Valley of the Sugars of Salt’, in Monterra’s Deliciosa & Other Tales (Prime), which gave me the courage to give Mr Wigg’s trees a voice. I had Tim Winton’s Blueback (Penguin) in mind, too, hoping to create a similar kind of contemporary fable, but Mr Wigg is a long way from the ocean.
John: What was the last book you read and loved?
Inga: The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee. Luscious sentences, gorgeous adolescent voice and a plot that seems to emerge from the landscape (rural Queensland) itself.
Read John’s review of Mr Wigg here
Buy Mr Wigg here
First Published in Books+Publishing
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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.