Ian Rankin: ‘Bringing Rebus back isn’t desperate’

Rebus author Ian Rankin talks to TV Times magazine about a new documentary that follows him on the trail of his latest novel…

Have you ever watched Ken Stott or John Hannah in adaptations of your novel, Rebus?

“I’ve got them all on DVD, but I’ve never put them on because I didn’t want the voices of the actors getting in my head. I didn’t want to change the novels to fit in with the television series.”

In 2007, the 17th and, apparently, final Rebus novel, Exit Music, saw the Edinburgh detective retiring from the force. But last December you decided to pen a new Rebus book and the BBC asked if they could film you during the process of writing it…

“Nobody has ever filmed someone writing a book and the challenge was how do you make that interesting because it’s something that happens inside your head. They decided the best way was to give me a camera and let me record a video diary.”

Why did you decide to bring Rebus back?

“I’d invented a new cop, Malcolm Fox, and the books were successful, so bringing Rebus back isn’t an act of desperation. It was just that the kind of story I wanted to tell suited Rebus.”

What’s the writing process like for you?

“A lot of writers would say that there’s a slump in the middle when your energy levels are running a bit low and you begin to panic that you don’t really know what you’re doing. When I start writing a book I don’t know the ending. I don’t know why the murderer did it, so the first draft can be a bit panicky until about two thirds of the way through when I usually get an inkling of where the story is going to end up.”

Do you think new digital devices like the Kindle have changed the role of the novelist?

“It may change publishing, but our role is just to write novels and to hope there’s a readership who wants to read them.”

Do you have one?

“I do own a Kindle, but I don’t use it very much. I’m still a sucker for a bookshelf and I like looking at the bookshelves of others to get a hint of their personality.”

You’re about to begin a whirlwind promotional tour of bookshops…

“Being an author has always been this weird Jekyll and Hyde existence. Writers become writers because they’re fairly shy, introspective people and then once their book’s published they have to go out into the world.”

Do you think that the pressure on writers has increased with the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter?

“Probably. In some ways, the new technologies make it easier for writers to get themselves noticed, but I don’t do very much of that.”

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