Even though Christopher Brookmyre was really busy, he managed to find time to give me a ring the other day and let me interview him. He was so easy to talk to and such a nice man, it seems quite bizarre that he can write such dark things. Later in the day (this is Friday evening now), I went to his event, which he shared with Mark Billingham (see the next blog post for Mark’s interview!). This joint event was so, so funny – a sort of ‘anti-book event’ event. I knew it was going to be different when I heard the rock music and someone blasting the lyrics “I fucked your mum…” If you’ve been to an EIBF event before, you’ll know that this is NOT the typical safe “hotel music” that heralds the writers into their event.
When Chris and Mark began they warned the JAM-PACKED audience (including me!) to leave if we were upset by filth and smut. And, yes, there was a lot of filth and smut and swearing and funny stories. There was a loose theme to do with the life of the writer. It included listing the bizarre hecklers they’d met, reading correspondence from angry readers, sharing the nutter file and the chicken story with us, and ending on “big soapy tits!” This has to have been the most fun and downright naughty event I’ve been to this book festival. Hem! Don’t miss a chance to see these guys, unless of course you don’t like swearing ;o)
Back to the interview. Christopher’s first thirteen books are seriously funny crime novels. But more recently he’s taken a little change in direction and started writing serious crime. The first of his crime noir novels is called Where The Bodies Are Buried. His latest book is When The Devil Drives. Here is Chris talking about Where The Bodies are Buried.
To the interview:
Q: The American writer Cynthia Ozick said, “If we had to say what writing is, we would describe it essentially as an act of courage.” Do you think it takes courage to write and if so, how much courage did it take you to start writing?
No, writing wasn’t an act of courage for me. It was something I wanted to do from the age of seven or so. Writing things down was a compulsion. There is some courage required, however, once the writing is out there, coping with the reaction of the public and the critics to your writing is not something I’d anticipated having to deal with. If people get a bit sniffy about your books it can be hard. They forget that you’ve put a big part of yourself into your book. But, no, it didn’t take an act of courage to start writing, it was something I was compelled to do.
I used to be a sub editor and when I went to parties and social events with my wife and people asked what I did, I wanted to say I was a writer but I didn’t because I wasn’t published then. I said I was a sub editor, because it’s what I have always done and always will, because I am a writer.
I’d want to go as far into the future as possible because the further into the future we go, the more we’ll know about life and the universe. I’m jealous of the people who will live in the future but I’m equally grateful to our antecedents, and the part they played in shaping the future, which is my present.
Q: Did you like school?
Yes and no. If you like, the two characters in my book A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil represent my two attitudes to school. One is embittered by the social politics in school, the other is entertained by all that’s going on and sees every day as potential humour. Each if these characters reflects my attitude, which could have been either on any given day.
Q: Do you have a favourite fictional character?
Ford Prefect from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Ford Prefect is hedonistic and has a ruthless streak in him and if you’re going to be anyone else, it should be someone who is the opposite of who you are.
(Photo via Flickr with thanks to “Scott Beale / Laughing Squid” laughingsquid.com)
Q: How do you keep sane as a writer?
You spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts and ideas as a writer so you need to be content with your own company. You can’t be anyone who constantly needs to be in someone else’s company. So, yes, content to be alone. You also need to have an understanding spouse. Not just for the times when you’re immersed in the world of your book but for the times when you’ve finished a writing project and are trying to reconnect with the world, because it can take a while to readjust.
Q: Any regrets?
I don’t dwell on regrets. I’m not that kind of person. So, no, I don’t have any regrets.
Q: What are you most proud of?
My books probably. Every time I write a book I have an idea of how I want it to be. When I end up writing a version that is close to what I want to write, then I am happy, proud – but that doesn’t always happen. Actually, Quite Ugly One Morning has been in print for sixteen years, which in this day and age is pretty remarkable. If someone had told me that people would still be buying it in sixteen years time, I’d not have believed it. So, yes, I am proud of that.