Monday, 17 October 2011

Ian Rankin

In November he'll start to think about the next book, in January he'll begin writing it, deliver it in June, in July it'll be edited, September he'll start doing pre-publication interviews, it'll come out in October and he'll go on the road again.
entry to Prudhoe Castle
A treadmill, then?

But nice treadmill.

"It's a very pleasurable way to spend your time. It's therapeutic, it's cathartic, it's exciting, it's engaging. In real life writers tend to be quite boring, but in our books we're having exciting adventures all the time. I can't think of anything better than that, and it keeps you well balanced because all the shit inside your head goes on paper. I think we'd be troublesome individuals if we didn't get all that shit out our systems."

There was a time when Rankin's name wasn't at the top of the bestseller list. He didn't achieve breakthrough until the eighth Rebus novel (and his 15th book in all), Black and Blue, won the Macallan Gold Dagger for fiction in 1997. And even then he didn't have a bestseller until two years later, with Dead Souls.

"My publishers were taking a punt on me for a long time," he says. "That probably wouldn't happen now. I was having panic attacks, I was driving through the French countryside where we lived at the time, screaming at the top of my voice just to get it out my system. I was waking up in the night with this adrenalin rush like a heart attack. It was a pretty horrible time."

I think he's right that publishers don't hang on to authors who don't sell, or take a chance on a debut author like they used to. But if they don't, how are the new authors going to come through? And do we have fifteen years to get it right? What do you think?


Dean Crawford said...

It does happen, but I think it's fair to say that it is indeed much rarer now than in previous years. That said, I once heard an author describing how he was told by the publisher who had picked up his debut novel that this "was the hardest time in history to take on a career as a writer." That was around 1985.

My publisher, Simon & Schuster, took a punt on me for three books after a major title auction. I know how lucky I am to be here. However, it also took me fifteen years of effort to finally land an agent and a deal, so maybe I did my hard time before being published.

I think that ultimately it's down to persistence. Luck's involved, timing, talent and so on. But for every author like me who made it through, there's probably dozens more who could write better. The difference is that they quit, and I did not. So keep going, just like Ian Rankin did. As a famous author once said; "The only sure way to not get published is to not write anything."

Jen Black said...

Hi Dean, yes, you're one of the lucky ones. But a well deserved lucky one!
Seems like I've got another nine years to go, so it's lucky that I'm persistant too.