Ian Rankin is a Scottish crime writer who was born in 1960 in the Kingdom of Fife, and is best known for his Inspector Rebus novels. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 where he spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards his PhD in Scottish literature.
His first novel remains unpublished and is kept in a bottom drawer, his second novel was published however in 1986 and his first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses was published the following year in 1987. Alot has changed since the publishing of his first Rebus book, and the series is now translated into 22 different languages and his books are bestsellers on several continents. In addition to the Rebus and Malcolm Fox novels which are undoubtedly his most famous books he has also written standalone novels which include Doors Open (which was televised in 2012), A graphic novel called Dark Entries and a play called Dark Road (which premiered at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in September 2013). Ten of his Rebus novels were adapted for a television series on ITV, starring John Hannah as Rebus in series 1 and 2 and Ken Stott in that role in series 3–5.
He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award for his book ‘Resurrection Men’. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and Germany’s Deutscher Krimipreis.
To date he has published 25 novels, two short story collections, one original graphic novel and one novella, and a non-fiction book. He has also written a Quick Reads title.
So that’s my Introduction and here’s the Interview:
Tell me a little about what you enjoy reading, and are there any authors that you like to read?
Scottish fiction, crime fiction, books about contemporary music and cinema. Comics/graphic novels. I will always read a new Thomas Pynchon or George Pelecanos, and I regularly reread Muriel Spark, Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
What attracted you to writing in the first place?
Every kid has an active fantasy life and my writing started out as an extension of that. All these adventures, characters and stories in my head – I just started writing them down. Writing is great – I get to have these huge exciting adventures, I get to control the world, I can play God.
Did you have any idea that your books would be as big as they are?
I was slow to taste success. My first novel The Flood – the publisher printed 200 hardbacks and 600 paperbacks. My first Rebus novel sold only a few hundred more than that. I’d published over a dozen books before I made it onto the bestseller lists. For most of that time, the idea of success was just a vague dream.
Can you think of a few tips of the top of your head for writing the perfect antagonist/protagonist?
Readers like their heroes flawed. We like them troubled and complex. It’s also good if they are the underdog, and one way to achieve this is to put them up against a cleverer, more dangerous adversary. So we get Holmes and Moriarty, Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lector, and maybe Rebus and his nemesis Cafferty.
So after a few years in the creative industry, do you have any tips for newcomers?
You need persistence, because you’ll face rejection along the way. You need to write a lot. You need to accept constructive criticism but also have selfbelief. And there’s an element of luck too, though the harder you work, the luckier you should get.
Do you have any rules for writing that you think have served you well?
When I’m doing a novel, I try to write at least a little every single day. That way I don’t lose motivation or start to forget what’s going on. It’s good training to keep a diary or journal. Every writer has a different routine that works for them but may not work for anyone else.
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