Iain (M.) Banks: (Science) Fiction Novelist

Iain (M.) Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and still lives there. His controversial debut, The Wasp Factory, was published to great acclaim in 1984. Since then, he has written 25 other novels—mainstream fiction as Iain Banks; and science fiction, set in the universe of the Culture, as Iain M. Banks. His latest Culture novel is Surface Detail, available from Orbit in paperback from 26 May.

What is your earliest childhood memory?
Getting my tonsils out when I was three!  I can even remember the colour of the skirt my mum was wearing when she and dad dropped me at the hospital.

What makes you happy?
Well, apart from the obvious stuff like being with my beloved:  the widespread redistribution of wealth (from rich to poor, so I’ve basically been deeply disgruntled for the last thirty years), hill walking, a good book, good comedy, completing something I’ve been working on, wine, curry, a neatly executed overtaking manoeuvre… lots of things.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
Primary Seven.  I was eleven.

What are you reading at the moment?
Nothing, or my own latest novel, however you want to look at it (I don’t read fiction when I’m writing and anyway only have time for New Scientist, Private Eye, the Guardian and New Humanist).

What advice would you give to a first time writer?
It’s all about the three “P”s:  practice practice practice.  Writing is like everything else; the more you do it the better you get.  Perseverance makes  it more likely you’ll succeed, too, as does luck, though I’ve no idea how you develop that.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Still occasionally reading car magazines even though I sold all the fast cars and mostly drive a diesel Yaris.  Actually, the soft top Mini is probably a guilty pleasure too, as we don’t need two cars.  Come to think of it we don’t totally need the Yaris as we live next to a railway station. Durn!

How do you relax?
Relaxed is my normal state.  If I want to un-relax I do something crazy like visit London.

What is your favourite book?
I don’t really have one. (I’m rubbish at being asked to compile lists, too—sorry.)

Which author is underrated or deserves to be better-known?
In a bizarre way, Terry Pratchett. Most of all, as a novelist, Alan Moore.  The man’s a genius.  Check out Voice of the Fire.

What’s the worst job you’ve had?
Grass cutting for Gourock Town Council one summer in the early Seventies. I thought the motorised mower’s exhaust smelled bad until I ran over the first dog poo…

What is the most important thing life has taught you?
Never accept a job cutting grass for Gourock Town Council.

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