the Terra Australis Incognita
Book One
This is the book that you need to take to that desert island. Why? Because it is a story to get lost in. I wanted to write something that truly transported the reader, so that when you reached the end, the beginning would seem remote in both time and space. So when the reader reached the end, he or she would think: Wow! Have we really come so far? Thinking back to its own inception, gives me that same sensation: when was this book first conceived?   The original idea came from my friend and fellow author, Wayne Macauley, who suggested I look at the historical character Pedro Fernández de Quirós. After all, I was an Australian living in Spain: so a book about the Spanish attempts to discover Australia seemed like a logical task. Although, actually, Macauley was suggesting a film script. His brother-in-law was a producer. But writing for film has never been my stronger point. That was in 1988, I think, and I started reading Quirós’ logs and letters. I quickly abandoned the idea of a screenplay and looked for a much deeper, psychological investigation of the explorer, that only the novel-form can manage. Quirós was a great visionary, obsessed and maddened by the elusive idea of a new Jerusalem, where humanity could begin again in an authentic way and be spiritually renewed. I saw him like a Don Quixote character: tormented by the most absurd idea - although the beauty of that idea was that it actually did exist. Quirós windmills were real giants. And the great attraction for me became the speculative one of: what would have happened if a great visionary had really colonised the Great South Land? Investigating the voyages of Quirós, however, opened other doors for me, and Purgatory is about Quirós’ predecessors. The question of the Terra Australis Incognita, the Great South Land that remained undiscovered by the Spanish, is a trilogy. There are three voyages there. Purgatory is about the first attempt, instigated by the alchemist, Pedro Sarmiento. The reasons behind the voyage are not simply ones of exploration and discovery, not even political-economic reasons. Sarmiento was searching for an alchemical discovery - the secret of eternal life. Eternal life, therefore, became the great new motor for the novel’s inspiration. But Sarmiento was also a sensualist and an adventurer. He became even more attracted to me than Quirós himself. Thinking about the esoteric claims made in the historical documents that I was reading, made me wonder what would happen if I took those claims seriously. Sarmiento was a necromancer and a magician. He was accused of having a magic ring that could make him invisible, and he used his magic to manipulate and seduce people. He was thorn in the side of the authorities, but they could not completely get rid of him. He was tried and punished by the Inquisition for using black magic, and his crimes thwarted any hopes of captaining the expedition he petitioned for. Nevertheless, he was allowed to go on the voyage, as the Chief Navigator. By then I was totally commited to the story. It took over ten years to write. Another ten years, before I gave up on agents and publishers and decided to publish it myself. Now, the story will be making another new appearance, in print form.