Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Friday, September 09, 2005

Meeting Ian Rankin

It looked like it had been raining all night as I crept out of bed at 6.30 and peeked outside. The street shone with the reflection of street lamps in gathering puddles and the patter of never ending precipitation. I showered and got ready, leaving myself plenty of time to make sure I had everything and psyche myself up for today's meeting with Ian Rankin.

I wanted to try and get hold of a suitable earphone set that would fit the jack to the dictaphone I bought earlier in the week so I got the half past eight bus into town and made straight for Dixons. It was closed, so while I waited for them to open at 9am I popped into HMV - it's always open.

I had a quick scan of some CD's and on the way back out the store I passed a new section of books by Edinburgh authors. A stack of books by Irvine Welsh and, you guessed it, Ian Rankin. It felt odd as I flicked through a few of his novels in the knowledge I was about to meet the man at his house. I remembered there's a new book of his due out sometime this month, Rebus's Scotland, an overview of the places that have been part of Rankin's novels, but I could only assume it wasn't published yet, as I couldn't see it about.

I went back into Dixons, which was now open, but they never had what I needed. They gave me a place I could get the earphones but as it would turn out, I wasn't going to need them.

I got the bus to Ian's part of town, which was all very new to me. I had printed out a map from the net and brought it with me so I had no problem finding the street. The problem was it was all houses. Big houses. There were no shops or cafes where I could sit for a coffee while I waited the extra half-hour that I had arrived in advance. I ended up killing time with a packet of mints and my mobile phone in a bus shelter.

Eventually the time made it to five minutes to ten so I wandered round, counting down the numbers of the massive houses until I got to his. I walked up the path, approached the door and rang the bell and took off my glasses to give them a clean before I went in. As I was wiping the second lens clear of water the door opened and I put them back on. I had never been quite sure what to expect, but there in front of me, hand extended in welcome, was Ian Rankin.

He showed me through to the kitchen where he opened up his mail and introduced me to his wife, Miranda. The conversation revolved around the article I was writing and the difficulties of cutting down the number of words versus having to pad articles out to the required amount. The topic changed to music after Ian's latest copy if MOJO arrived in the post with a free CD of New English music.

Ian made some coffee and showed me into the living room where we would conduct the interview. He gave me a sneak preview of his latest book, Rebus's Scotland, the one I had looked for this morning. I still felt as if I was living the surreal and it wasn't until the actual interview started that I began to relax.

Since we had been talking about music I change the starting point of the interview with a question relating to the subject matter. I chopped and changed my questions throughout depending on where the conversation was going naturally, but kept to the main points I wanted to get information about. I was happy to let him do most of the talking, but at times the discussion became more of the kind of thing I'm used to in Clark's with my mates.

Ian was very easy to talk to. By the time my cassette clicked off I had got lost in the conversation, and like I had been warned by my friend who set this up, I found him to be very open, honest and pleasant to be around.

The interview lasted just over an hour and although it felt like Ian had moved into "professional interview mode" for the actual questions, I took this as pure professionalism on his part. The rest was, as I should have expected, friendly, interesting and informative.

This interview was more than a chance to get information for the KIC article. Naturally this was the prime motive, but getting this opportunity was something I knew I had to capitalise on from a personal angle. Many of the questions I asked were not only useful for the article, but I was able to take the answers and learn from them. Ian Rankin is an immensely successful author, and to hear him answering questions about writing that I have always wanted to ask, and at such a high level, was extremely stimulating.

Without probably realising - maybe he did, who knows - Ian taught me more about the world of publishing and writing than I have ever learnt in any other single place. He gave me a glimpse into the real world of writing, the business as well as the art, and he showed me the hard work involved as well as the rewards. The two most important things I will take from meeting Ian Rankin are these:

1) Writing is most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, what I want to do with my life. People will have to get used to this because after spending this time with Rankin, I am left with a feeling of support and positive energy, that where I am going is true to me.

2) I need to do more research. Hearing how Rankin goes about his own work, the investigative process and his desire to make the next book better then the one before, showed me that the research I do - on Hunting Jack for example - is nowhere near enough what is required. I thought I got my hands dirty with HJ, but I see now I never even had the gloves off.

Ian offered to get me a taxi because of the rain but I didn't want to take up any more of his time than necessary. I thanked him for his time and he made sure I had his email so I could keep in touch and send him the article when it gets published.

Off I went back into the rain, down his driveway and out into the street. I took a deep breath and let out a massive sigh. I could finally start to take it all in. I rewound the last few seconds back on my recorder and listened; yes, it was definitely him.

I waited only a couple of minutes for a bus back into the town centre; a bus that in actual fact took me right past Clark's Bar. Since the time was almost quarter to twelve I jumped off and the first person I met was Dave. Two and a half minutes later we were in the pub eating lunch and having a pint.

There we stayed for pretty much most of the afternoon talking about Rankin, his books, my books and the horses. I left at about 7pm to get home to baby-sit for Laura. I ordered a pizza and sat down with my recorder and started to write out the transcript of the interview and all
my recollections of the day behind me.

As far as writing days go, this has to be one of the best!
Colin 4:33 pm


Sounds like you had just about a perfect day, Colin.
I have no doubt whatsoever that one day an aspiring writer will be chapping on your door asking you how you did it, while Gail makes a cup of coffee for both of you!
Well done, mate.

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