Ian Rankin, prolific Edinburgh-based writer and creator of Inspector Rebus, answers our questions in this exclusive interview.
We ask about his views on the city; as well as his recent work, including Dark Entries – Ian’s first (and last?) graphic novel – and his work on the screenplay for Confessions of a Justified Sinner.
What attracts you to Edinburgh, both as a place to live and as a literary setting?
I like that Edinburgh has all the amenities of a large city while being a manageable size and having lots of green/wild areas within it.
The architecture is also amazing, as is the sense of history – it’s a city that breathes stories.
Is there a downside to being such a well-recognised face in such a small city?
Edinburgh can sometimes seem like a village. I’ll go to the pub and someone will say ‘what were you buying in Slater’s? My wife’s cousin saw you there.‘
But that’s not a huge downside, and Edinburgh denizens do leave you to get on with your daily life, even if you’re Sean Connery!
You’re a fan of music – any tips for local artists you’ve seen or heard that you’d like to make our readers aware of? What do you think of the Edinburgh music scene in general?
Edinburgh has always lacked enough venues of a certain size, and it can sometimes be hard to find certain musical genres (eg: blues) outwith festival time.
But right now the city is buzzing with new rock bands (eg: St Jude’s Infirmary) and it’s good to catch them in intimate, well-run venues such as the Voodoo Rooms or Cabaret Voltaire.
You’re quite active on Twitter – what do you like (and dislike) about using that as a way of communicating?
I only joined Twitter to see what the fuss was about, then found people ‘following’ me, so reckoned I’d better type a few words now and then for them. I like the democratic nature of it, and I’ve made a few new friends.
If you had 24 hours to spend in Edinburgh then had to leave the city forever, how would you spend them?
I’d go to as many of my favourite places as possible: Oxford Bar, Swany’s Bar, Calton Hill, Hermitage, Gallery of Modern Art, Kitchin, Bisque, Backbeat Records, Unknown Pleasures, Avalanche, St Giles, and the canal – for starters!
Now, some questions about your work:With reference to Dark Entries, what were the main differences between writing a graphic novel as opposed to a traditional book? What new disciplines did you have to learn?
A graphic novel is totally different from a novel. In a novel, the author makes the reader do a lot of the work. But when I wrote the script for my artist, I had to explain what people looked like, what they were dressed in, what the background looked like etc etc – for every single drawing.
So it’s more like being a film director, as well as scriptwriter – hard work!
Who else would you like to collaborate with in the future, and why?
I’m putting comics on the backburner. Last few months I have been collaborating with a screenwriting friend on a film script of Hogg’s ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’ – that’s enough collaborating for now….
How will you be approaching the script? How faithful to the original text are you planning on being; will you be modernising the setting for instance?
It’s an almost unfilmable novel, as proof of which – many have tried before us and failed! We are sticking as close to the book as is possible, while keeping the story visual, tense and believable – it is still set in early 18th century Edinburgh…
You have obviously contributed greatly to Edinburgh’s literary reputation and have chosen to focus on the darker side of things. If you were starting out again, is there anything you would do different – could you see yourself being comfortable in a different genre or style?
A recent novel, Doors Open, was lighter in tone than previous books and had some comic touches – maybe I’ll do more of that. I already have a half-formed idea for Doors Open 2. But mostly what I’m doing this year is trying to work less.
Finally, what advice would you have for anyone considering starting a writing career?
I often get asked this. I say things like: you need a thick skin; you need to be able to accept criticism; you need to believe you have something worth saying; you need to be persistent; you need a bit of luck.
All of these apply, and probably a few more besides, but writing is one of the few careers that you can start at any stage of your life, right into retirement years – good luck!
Our thanks go to Ian for answering these questions. Visit the official Ian Rankin website here.