Iain Banks Q&A

Iain Banks burst onto the UK book scene with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Since then, this Fife-based writer has gained enormous and popular critical acclaim with further works of fiction and science fiction. Last year, he ventured into non-fiction for the first time with the publication of Raw Spirit - a labour of love about the whiskey business across his native Scotland.

What do you think when you actually see someone reading one of your early books, such as the Wasp Factory?
About 90 per cent pleased and 10 per cent embarrassed. No idea why... actually nine per cent embarrassed and one per cent worried that they'll recognize me and angrily take the opportunity to demand a refund.

You love whiskey and Scotland - was Raw Spirit your most enjoyable book to write?
Yup - absolutely the most fun doing the 'research' plus the additional delight of not having to come up with a plot. Whoopee!

Do you plan to write any more non-fiction books following the success of Raw Spirit?
No. I used up my meagre stock of spiffing anecdotes in Raw Spirit and it'll take a good 30 or 40 or so years to generate sufficient replacement stock, by which time I confidently expect to be retired, forgotten and confined to a wheelchair from which I shall sporadically mutter random incoherent obscenities and lash out at strangers with a heavy stick.

You have strong views about the Iraqi War - are you ever tempted to write about politics?
I'm tempted, and I give in to the temptation regularly, which is why there's so much political stuff in the books. (No, there is, honest.)

What other Scottish authors/writers (dead and living) do you admire?
Alasdair Gray.

Have you ever been tempted to abandon Fife for New York, LA or another city with bright lights?
My wife and I have thought quite seriously about spending at least a year in Paris, but - apart from the fact I want to stay close to my elderly parents - most of my friends live in Scotland, I love the place and the land itself, plus I love driving, and Scotland is a fabulous place for driving. And I'm not really a big fan of big cities anyway (Edinburgh, with half a million people, is about as big a city as I'd choose to live in, and would always be my first choice if I had to live in a city permanently).

Many authors walk down the street without being recognized - is this the case for you?
Usually, yes. I get recognized a few times a year.

Crow Road was adopted for TV - which of your books would make the best movie?
Consider Phlebas, as long as they left all the big action sequences in. Hell, they could even change the ending; I wouldn't mind.

Are you going to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?
Probably not - I read them until they got bloated and then stopped. I might catch the film.

Which fiction novel are you most proud of and which sci-fi novel are you most proud of?
The Bridge (with Song of Stone second), and Use of Weapons (which would come second or third over-all, depending on how positive I was feeling about Song of Stone that day).