I had a fantastic evening at the Edinburgh Book Festival last night, the kind of evening that is as much relaxing and enjoyable as it is motivational and thought provoking.
After battling with the rush hour traffic I finally arrived at Charlotte Square, basking in early evening rays of warm sunshine. I met my mate in the book shop and we went for a beer in the Spiegeltent and caught up on all we had been up to since we last saw each other-at the 2008 Book Fest!
Into the RBS Main Tent for the Iain Banks event we trooped, and listened to the Fife author talk about his new book, Transition. Where The Bridge split his two literary personas into Iain Banks and Iain M Banks, and the advent of his fiction work running in parallel with his science fiction, this new book brings the two streams clattering together again.
Banks read a substantial passage from Transition, then talked at length about his atheistic views and how the novel came into being. Nervous, and at times bordering on hyperactive, Banks was his usual funny and slightly controversial self, asking “what sick bastard thought that one up?” when referring to the idea of the original sin.
The event finished at 7.30pm, after which we went into the signing tent to grab another beer. We sat out in the gardens and talked, but my mate had his second event starting at 8pm so had to leave early. I, on the other hand, had until 8.30pm so was able to finish my beer at a more relaxed pace.
My second event was with two of Scotland’s best young authors, Alan Bissett and Ewan Morrison. Morrison read from his new book, Menage and spoke passionately and at length about Generation-X and his experiences in the post-modern art world. A fascinating and intelligent bloke who comes across as a pure artist before a writer, which is what draws me to his writing, and what pushes me into thinking about my own work from an entirely different angle.
But if I’m being honest it was Bissett I had come to see. Bissett is he successful author of two novels, his third being the one he was promoting last night, Death of a Ladies Man. Bissett’s style of public reading is captivating, more acting than reciting, and his abililty to draw his audience into his world is quite remarkable. His humour appeals and the manner in which he talks about writing is awe inspiring. For such a young guy, he puts me to shame.
That said, I was amazed his previous two novels, Boyracers and The Incredible Adam Spark, both took four years each to write. When he said a novel takes a lot out of him I can believe it, but the fact he gets so deep inside his characters heads is, in my opinion, what makes his books so readable. And it’s what I think is missing from mine.
I have so many projects on the go at any one time, how reasonable is it for me to expect to be able to give my all and put every single ounce of my creativity and passion into my work? Like Bissett, when he was writing his novels he also had a day job (albeit a creative writing lecturer and teacher), but he had to contend with the pressure of paying the bills as he was writing.
I learned a great deal from simply watching and listening to Bissett: the power of delivering a good reading, the confidence factor, the gratification from just letting your mind go, how to think of societies impact one your own life and thus, your writing, and of course, that it can all be done while earning a living.
This evening I will be spending some time in the company of Ian Rankin who is launching his new novel, The Complaints, at the book fest. As always, I’m sure he will have some interesting thoughts to divulge.
Before I head off I have some good news for Madness fans—BBC4 will be dedicating a whole night to the nutty boys in the autumn. Given BBC4s legendary theme night quality, we’re in for a treat!