1. Bedroom Secrets of the Masterchefs has been compared to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Did you have this or any other books in mind when you wrote it?
Yes, I’m a big fan of this book and wrote an introduction to a recent edition of it. I’m obsessed with duality, so along with this Stevenson’s Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde [link to reading guide] and Hogg’s Justified Sinner were the biggest influences.
2. Bedroom Secrets has quite a fantastical plot, though at the same time it contains a lot of realism. How did you achieve this?
Eh…rewriting? I’ve never accepted the dichotomy between the fantastical and realist. If it happens in imaginative space it’s ‘real’ in the context of the novel.
3. Like Danny Skinner, you once worked for Edinburgh council. How did you get into writing?
Basically, I was bored with doing what I was doing. I was always good at telling stories, I just started writing them down for my own amusement, and it mushroomed from there.
4. To what extent do you base your novels on your own experience?
Depends on the novel. Trainspotting was probably the most directly based on my experience, perhaps some elements of Marabou and Glue to an extent. The rest I’m not so directly close to. I think if you’re going to have any legs as a writer, you need to be able to get beyond your own direct experience.
5. You’ve written 3 books of short stories. Which medium is your favourite – the short story or the novel?
I can’t really make the distinction. They’re all just stories to me.
6. Who do you think is the most influential writer at the moment?
JK Rowling. Every bright kid and dumb adult has read her books. That’s influence on at least two generations. In literary fiction you would probably have to say Ian McEwan in the UK, as his books are constantly lauded by the critical bourgeoisie for their consumerist counterparts. In the USA it would be Chuck Palahnuick, on the left-field, or perhaps somebody more mainstream like Don DeLillo, John Updike or Jonathan Franzen.
7. What advice would you give someone hoping to pursue a career in writing?
Finish the story. It’s amazing how many ‘writers’ never get past the first paragraph, page or chapter of a novel. They usually end up reviewing books and telling the rest of us how it should be done. You have to grit your teeth and get your head down and finish it before you become obsessed with rewriting every word.
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Julian Barnes, Rose Tremain, Sebastian Faulks, Karin Slaughter and many more share their personal writing experience with you in our Q&As. Take a look!