We are delighted to bring you an exclusive interview with crime writer Ian Rankin, one of Fife’s all time most successful creatives. Turns out he is a lovely guy – and surprisingly tall! Many thanks to Ian for taking the time to chat to us…
AS: Avocado Sweet celebrates the creative talent that comes out of Fife – what creative talents do you associate with the area?
IR: Writers primarily. Growing up in Cardenden I knew about Joe Corrie. Later on I met Val McDermid, Iain Banks and John Burnside. But then there are the artists like Jack Vettriano and David Mach, and musicians such as Jackie Leven and Stuart Adamson – Stuart went to the same school as me, albeit a few years ahead.
AS: You grew up in Cardenden – what influence do you think where you come from has on you and your work – or is where you end up more important?
IR: My first published novel, The Flood, was set in a mining town called Carsden. Hmm. And of course my eventual police hero, John Rebus, grew up in Cardenden and went to school there. I’ve taken him back to Fife in several books, though these days I only seem to get back for weddings and funerals and the occasional football game. I wouldn’t be the person I am if I’d grown up anywhere else.
AS: Why did you choose to make your most famous creation Rebus a Fifer?
IR: I made Rebus a Fifer because he was going to be based in Edinburgh and I wanted him to be an outsider. That meant he had to come from somewhere else, and the easiest background for me to give him was Fife.
AS: Rebus, the books and the character, are popular the world over – why do you think he has translated so well to other places and cultures?
IR: I’m not entirely sure why Rebus is so popular outside Scotland. He’s a complex character – driven by demons, restless, dark, dangerous, thrawn – and readers seem to like these characteristics. Edinburgh is a fascinating setting, of course, and crime novels in general give the reader a roller-coaster ride while also addressing serious topics.
AS: You have travelled extensively – is there anywhere you’ve been that you have thought you could make home?
IR: I like Canada. There are places there I could live. But I had my foreign adventures young – four years in London, six years in France. I’ve always been happiest in my native Scotland. We have a holiday place in Cromarty and I love it there.
AS: What were your ambitions when you started writing and what are they now?
IR: When I was young I wrote for the sheer fun of it. All those adventures going on in my head, channelled into stories. I suppose that’s what I still do, though each book seems harder than the one before. I still strive to write the perfect novel – the one that says exactly what I want to say about the world in the best possible way. But I always seem to fall short, and have to try again.
AS: If you could have a talent you don’t already have, what would it be?
IR: I’d love to be a musician – playing guitar in a band or maybe sax in a jazz quartet. I’d also like to be able to paint. I’ve tried all the above and failed.
AS: You are very popular on Twitter – does being active on social media use up creativity or inspire it?
IR: I use twitter almost like a diary. I can scroll back and find out what I was doing a year ago, or six months ago. It’s also a way of connecting with friends, family and fans. But it eats up time. I’d read more books if I stopped browsing twitter.
AS: Who or what makes you laugh?
IR: The comedian Stewart Lee makes me laugh. So does The Thick Of It. And the guys I drink with in the pub. Sometimes I’ll steal a joke for one of my books…
Ian Rankin’s latest book, The Beat Goes On, is out now and available here.