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Interview: Robert Rankin


Author Robert Rankin has written numerous comic/fanatsy/SF/crime - how the heck do you categorize him? A very talented writer, loves Brentford and is a rock 'n' roller at heart... (Reda 'Hollow Chocolate Bunnies...' or any of the Brentford trilogy books)

How did you first start to come up with ideas for your novels? And why has Brentford had such a pivotal role in many of your books?

My ambition was always to make a living "out of my head", I wanted to do something creative, I spent nine years living in Brentford and there met all the folk who people my books. There is something really magical about Brentford and I think I was lucky enough to tap into it.

Any book you would wish you could revamp at all? (Stephen King is famous for this a la 'The Stand')

THE MOST AMAZING MAN WHO EVER LIVED has a rather duff ending, I had to rewrite much of the book, but the last couple of chapters were never really finished properly. Although I do like the very last chapter, it made me cry when I wrote it.

What are you currently up to (e.g. projects)?

I am currently between books, having just finished KNEES UP MOTHER EARTH a book about Brentford winning the FA Cup, due out next August. So there's a lot of staring into space going on prior to getting the old bonce around the next book, at present.

Is the Internet helping spread the word on your books? You have a very loyal fanbase and website. Whose idea was this and do you have much say in the content?

The internet has been a real boon, a couple of years ago I was invited to New Zealand to do World Book Day Events, the events weren't advertised over there, but people turned up because they had been advertised on the Sproutlore website in Ireland. Pretty damn good, eh?

The brains behind Sproutlore is James Bacon, ably assisted by several other Irish stalwarts, Sproutlore just celebrated its tenth anniversary, I am very grateful for all they do. I don't really have much to do with the website as I can't work a computer (I'm just typing this, my lovely lady Sally will be sending it) so I don't follow all the stuff that goes on the website, but there are some very lively discussions.

Heard any good music lately?

Yes, an amazing band down here in Brighton, THE TRICK. If you see them advertised, see them.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Anything else you still want to achieve?

Well, I did win an award in 2003, SFX Readers' award for best novel of the year. I was pretty chuffed about that. But mostly I am just happy to still get published and I thank all my readers for continuing to buy my books. Thank you very much.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

Musical wise it has to be Sly Stone, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Phil Lynott and Muddy Waters. Personally it has to be Laurie Wisefield, once of Wishbone Ash (now in the musical `We Will Rock You' house band) who has been a great friend and inspiration to me. Then there is the Masterer Extrordinaire Andy Pearce, who has remastered Lou Reed and Elvis Presley amongst others. He shows you how albums should be remastered and produced.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Turning up at a bookshop in Canterbury some years ago to do a signing and only selling three books, two of which were purchased by members of staff out of pity. I never went there again.

Any good rock 'n' roll tales to tell?

Well now, it was the summer of sixty-nine and I was at Ealing School of Art. It was a hot summer's day and I was walking through the refectory clad in a long military coat, as was the way of things back then. And my coat swept a hot cup of coffee off a table and into the silk-trousered lap of a young-fellow-me-lad who was sitting there minding his own business. There was a very loud scream and that was the first time I met Freddie Mercury. True story.

You've recently changed publisher after many years with Transworld. Why the move and do you think changing once in awhile helps keep an author fresh and opened up to new readers?

I had been with Transworld for ten years, they were being taken over by a German firm and everybody seemed to be either leaving or getting the sack and for years I'd wanted Jo Fletcher at Gollancz to be my editor, having known her for many years and things sort of fell together and I'm very glad that they did, because I'm selling a lot more books now than I did at Transworld.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career??

My dad. I am a pale shadow of that man, he could spin a tall tale with more style and credibility than anyone else I've ever met.

Would you like to see any of your books filmed and if so which one(s) and who would you ideally cast in the leading roles?

Yes, all of them and I'd like the money in used fivers, please. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp as Pooley and Omally, obviously and Jack Nicholson as The Antipope.

I hope this all makes some kind of sense and may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy new year.

Interview © 2004 Jason Ritchie

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