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Sproutlore Interviews

Robert Rankin

 

Interviewed at the Octocon October 9th 1999 in Dublin

This interview was recorded live at the Octocon on Saturday the 9th of October 1999. Robert as always gave a sparkling performance and here it is in transcript form for you to enjoy at your own leisure. What I will say is that the transcript in no way makes up for actually being there, so if you missed out make sure you are at Aliens Stole My Handbag next summer, so that you can enjoy Robert at his best. Live and in full effect.

There are many problems you can have when typing up a interview, not recognising half the voices for a start doesnít help, but Iíve done my best and am pretty sure I got everyone right in the end. There are a few U for Unknowns but if that was you I apologise, but its your fault for not speaking to me so that Iíd recognise your voice. Now Iím off to buy a new Dictaphone as Iíve knackered the rewind button on this one.

The Bit Players:
RRRobert Rankin
MCMichael Carroll
JBJames Bacon
JSJames Shields
DBDave Baker
LJLee Justice
ALAlix Langridge
SLStef Lancaster
PMPádraig Ó Méalóid
PPearce
RJReverend Jim
JHJock Howson
TCTim Carter
UUnknown


MC: Iíd like to welcome everyone to the Octocon. Our guest of honour is Mr. Robert Rankin, or Robert as he is affectionately known.

RR: Well Iíve had enough of this. [laughter]

MC: Hooray, itís me on stage on my own! [laughter]

MC: This is awkward because I know all the answers to the questions Iím going to ask you.

RR: I could make it more awkward?

MC: No thanks. To start with Iím going to ask youÖ

RR: Where do you get your ideas from? [much tittering]

MC: Iíd like to think I was more professional than that. From where do you get your ideas! [more tittering]

RR: How many people in this room have actually heard me speak before? [much raising of hands] So thereís nothing new for any of you.

MC: So what did you do yesterday! [laughter]

MC: [trying again] From where do you get your ideas?

RR: You know where I get my ideas from, Iíve told everyone a thousand times. I get my ideas from my Dad and he speaks to me from beyond the grave, and thatís where I get most of my ideas from. The point is, of doing what I do is that I donít do anything else. I mean if have a job and you go home at night and youíre a plumber or something, you can forget about what youíre doing during the day. If youíre a plumber you forget about most things most of the time, but if your doing what I do all youíre employed to do is write these books. All you are really employed to do is to think about everything thatís going on in the world and come up with some different explanation of your own as to why these things are going on. And thatís what you do. And thatís why I canít understand why everyone else doesnít think like me, it doesnít make any sense to me. I thought the world was full of just people like me. Iím just lucky enough to be able to write my stuff down, And its sort of [starts sobbing] [laughter]

PM: Get Off!

RR: Oh shut up Pádraig. [laughter]

MC: My next question was going to be who inspires you, but thatís the same fucking question isnít it. Ok Iíll have to ask you about Snuff Fiction.

RR: Thatís a good book.

MC: Snuff Fiction is your latest book, which I canít find anywhere. Why canít I find it?

RR: I was very lucky. This is the first time Iíd written a hardback book that has got in the best sellers list, it got to number eleven in the best sellers list for two minutes. [laughing and cheering] Which involved every single copy of the book being sold out and nobody printing any more, and that was the end of that. I was rather thrilled for that one moment I was in the best sellers list and as theyíve decided not to print anymore thatís that, you canít buy one. I think it was Simmo who said to me "Oh, youíve written a real book." [laughter] As this was book twenty I was quite please by that comment. But it actually has a story, it follows a person right from his childhood up to his death up to the turn of the century. It was a pleasure to write a book, which is another sort of autobiography, because all the books are about me, and this one that actually had a plot. And one that celebrates the happy birth of the new millennium which Iím so looking forward to. Which I constantly go on about, I cannot wait for society to collapse, I canít wait for the links in the chain to go, the national grid to go down and the rioting to start. I can look from my window and watch the rioting start, and watch the windows being stoved in and all the rest of it in the darkness.

PM: Wonít it be happening at day time?

RR: No, no, no, no. Pádraig, Pádraig, its at midnight.

PM: Theyíre rioting at midnight?

MC: They should have the millennium during the day, because all the kids in bed and it will be far too late for them.

PM: So why wonít they be rioting during the day then?

RR: Its midnight when the lights go out. All the computer chips crash and all the alarms go off.

PM: People will be pissed then surely.

RR: Exactly! Which is why they riot. Which is why theyíre smashing the shop windows, this is the best bit. Well Iím looking forward to it. [laughter]

MC: Well lets roll back the years now Mr. Rankin.

RR: Thereís no point, theyíve heard everything Iíve had to say in the past.

MC: Donít worry, weíll make something up.

RR: Oh OK.

MC: Out of your books, the twenty or so, do you go back and read any of them?

RR: Yes, every time Iím stuck for an idea I do [laughter] I have occasionally used the same line again.

MC: That would be your running jokes of course?

RR: Yeah. It was my son that said to me "Have you noticed Dad, all your books thereís always a little man who is up against a big organisation, and he beats it in the end and its always you?" and I said "Just as long as nobody else notices." [laughter]

MC: Thereís a lot of writers who get great mileage out of writing the same book all the time. We all know who I mean.

RR: But I donít remember them you see. When I write, it always sounds terribly poncy, but the point is you are in a different state of mind when you write. But I.. [laughter]

P: Drug enduced? [laughter]

RR: Pearce Iím working here, do I bother you when youíre working? Do I knock the sailors cocks out of your mouth? [laughter and applauding]

RR: Well thatís my joke over. [laughter]

MC: Your point you were saying?

RR: The points when I write them, the only way I can write is literally not thinking about it. If you think about it, think about it, think about it you canít work. If you point yourself into this sort of deep state of mind.

U: [mutters something]

RR: What was that? Whoís next? Do I bother you when youíre workingÖ [laughter]

MC: Itís a trance like state.

RR: Whatever it is. Anyway I get the proofs back and I read it and I realise I canít remember writing any of this stuff. I do not know whatís going to happen on the next page, some of the jokes actually make me laugh. Some bits go "Oh shit." [laughter] But I donít remember it, so when I go back and read a book that I havenít read for ten years or so. I donít remember whatís going on. Sometimes I think blimey that bit was quite clever I donít think I could do that again. But theyíre all different, when I wrote the Brentford books, the first books and it was so many years later that I was waiting for another idea that might make a Brentford book and I wrote the Brentford Chainstore Massacre, I said to people "Does it read like those first books," and they said "Nothing like them, the book could be written by somebody else." So as you go by and you write another book youíre another year older the world has changed. Its always different, its never the same again.

MC: That it?

RR: The end!

MC: So do you read other peoples books while you are writing?

RR: Iíve said this a hundred times, Iíve not read a novel since nineteen eighty one. When I put the first book in, they said they liked the book and if we took out all the Flann OíBrien and all the Spike Milligan there might be something left that was my book. So quite a lot went, and what was left was my book, and I realised that to write a book you have to find your own voice in writing, that its not somebody elseís voice. It canít be like somebody else, I mean whatís the point. Iíve said this before, when I went into writing I wanted to create a new genre of fiction that wasnít like anybody elseís. It was going to be called Far Fetched Fiction, I would have my own book shelf in Smiths, with just my books in them and it would be bliss. But it didnít quite work out like that, I ended up in a general fiction section, and then they realised that I didnít write general fiction and I ended up in science fiction, which I feel a bit of a fraud for being there. Because people who write science fiction donít know what I write, andÖ Iíve forgotten what I was going to say, what was I going to say?

MC: I have no idea.

RR: I was afraid to read another persons books because I knew I would lift a paragraph here, an idea here, a character there, I just knew I would. So I knew if I did get published as a writer, donít read other peoples books, donít read other fiction. Youíre left with millions upon millions of other books that arenít fiction, Iíve never stopped buying books, I just donít buy fiction. It always tickles me when someone says "I know where you got that idea. Iíve read that book," I just say "For Christís sake, check the dates on the cover." Because I have been gloriously ripped off.

MC: By who? Not Flann OíBrien? [laughter]

RR: No, there was that book, Elvisy, did anyone read that?

MC: By Jack Womak.

RR: Does that bare any resemblance to a book I once wrote? I did create a world that was enclosed in a triangle back in nineteen eighty one, but I donít think anyone has done another one. Nobody else has done another geometrical figure have they? So weíre safe on that one.

MC: So whatís next? Are you going to keep going along the same style of books or are you going to branch off in another direction? Star Trek novel perhaps?

RR: One that will make me a millionaire over night, hmm. I can only write what I can write, people say youíve written all these books how come none of them are commercial, how come none of them make any money. Thatís because I can only do what I do, if I knew how to write the Stephen King or a Barbara Cartland or something like that, but I donít actually know how to write like that. Like all of those people who try to write Mills and Boon, I donít know how you write them. I suppose you could just read one and say well its simple, its just a formula. But I wouldnít know how to write that formula. And Iím very lucky to be able to do what I want to do, and the publishers never say to me why donít you go off in this direction or that direction, they just let me write my books so at least when I snuff it Iíll have left behind a cannon of work which is my work and the fact that it doesnít fit into any particular style that suits me fine. And people say well he was just some sort of cult figure on the side of twentieth century literature, suits me fine. I donít care [sighs heavily] Iím happy. [laughter]

MC: So youíll stick to your own style of novel, the Rankin-esq novel?

RR: Whatís that? The plotless novel?

MC: The thinking mans HG Wells.

RR: Shouldnít that be the drinking mans HG Wells.

MC: Oh damn. [laughter] So Snuff Fictions out now in hard back.

RR: Comes out in paperback in December.

MC: Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls is next.

RR: Indeed. Bloody good title isnít it.

MC: And whatís after that?

RR: Flying Saucers From Hell is the next one that comes out in July, but I havenít actually started writing it yet. [laughter] It has to be finished by Christmas, that should be a doddle. [laughter]

MC: So you were saying last night that you have a very short turn around time, about six months between finishing the book to it being published.

RR: Well the point is Iím not selling vast numbers of books, if I wasnít writing two books a year I wouldnít eat. You could argue that six months is not enough time to write a great novel. But if youíve read my books youíll see thatís not true.

MC: For some authors itís a year or more. Your publishers must be very trusting.

RR: Yes they are very trusting, they always give me three book contracts. Which is a lot of trust, I know I let them down thatís why theyíve given me two years to write three books because they know I fuck up all the time. Theyíre always late. I canít help it, Iím sorry, I try.

MC: Do we have any questions from the audience?

RR: Except from Pearce. [laughter]

U: When or where do you write?

RR: I used to write exclusively in pubs. [giggles] Its true, Iíve only been able to write full time for about the last seven years and before that I was working in various different jobs, so I could only write at lunchtimes or in the evenings so you only find yourself sitting in the pub. So it was easy to sit in the pub and write books. It was a good place to sit and write, but now. There are certain things you donít realise when you write professionally. One thing is that you are going to be on your own all the time, you have to bare that in mind. If youíre working and writing in the evening youíve got a kind of real life, when youíre writing for a living you are spending days sitting on your own. And that can be a bit strange. I gave up drinking a couple of years ago, so I didnít write in the pub any more. Iíve got rooms in Brighton where I work which is really lovely, Iíve got all my stuff in it and I sit in there an I write. And I find that I can write from early in the morning till about lunchtime then do nothing until about early evening. It works in kind of cycles it does make some kind of sense. But I have no idea what that sense might be.

MC: Do you write everyday? Or do you give yourself a couple of days off a week?

RR: It depends on how near the deadline is. [laughter] I like to write in a great torrent. I really do. You have to be in the right frame of mind. I donít know how you put yourself in the right frame of mind. I mean every time I start a new book, I donít know how to write. I just stare at a blank exercise book and think how do you do this? I donít know how to do this. And suddenly you just do it. What always knocks me out is, I write something or other in the first chapter that doesnít appear make sense, and then later on in the book you realise well of course this happened because that happened and its all as if its all preplanned out in your head but you knew it but its all coming out. And my Doctor says that if I keep on the tablets Iíll be fine. [laughter]

MC: Any other questions?

RJ: Is there any bog roll in your room?

RR: Explain?

RJ: Well the last convention you said you didnít have any.

RR: Jim you should come to my room, I have two rolls in the bathroom with two holders. I did stay in a very grotty place the last time I was here which had no toilet paper at all. Much to the amusement of those bastards there [pointing at a few of the regular mob] There was a lot of clenched cheeks that weekend. Thank you for that one Jim.

RJ: I just thought everyone might be interested.

MC: Next.

JH: You were saying earlier that you are employed to write book, is that how it feels for you, is it just a job.

RR: No. There are things that frighten you though. When you go up to the publishers and you see the mechanics of all this and you see all the guys sitting at there computer screens, You see the publicity department working on covers in a way you think they are just knocking these things out. And you see the whole thing and they plan so many months ahead for this and that. And when it comes right down to it at the end of the day, your book is a product to be put on a shelf and sold in shops for so much profit, so much this and so much that. And you look at it and thatís frightening because what Iím doing and I imagine what other writers I hope are doing, the ones who are treating it as a product. Your treating it as a part of your life. I want to leave behind something that matters to me, something at the end of it I can feel proud of. Every time I finish a book I am proud of that book thatís its as good as it can possibly be at that point in time. I could never ever treat what I do with a kind of could we knock it out and get away with it. For one thing if I did do that all these bastards [much pointing again in the same direction] would tell me "Well that was crap wasnít it." [laughter] And I would say yes. So I have to believe in what Iím doing, and I do believe in what Iím doing. Because of the genre I work in nobody is going to treat me as a kind of literary figure. They wonít take me seriously.

U: When you're dead

RR: You think so? But I mean, I put stuff into my books which actually donít mean something in a way. What I feel or what I believe in or donít believe in, what I feel is crap or what people should get furious about. I want to put it in books. Its stuff that I would get punched for if I said it in pubs, but I can say it in books. And I can have characters express opinions on stuff which matter to mean. So I actually care about what I do, so wouldnít ever write in that position. You have to feel what your doing I think.

JH: What is your relationship with your publisher, do they ever come and slap your wrist?

RR: It can be a bit strange at times, There are moments when she can get very angry. Because it is my fault. I try to tell her, I canít write if there is nothing coming out the end of the pen. When it does run over she gets furious especially when itís the moment when sheís asking me for the next book. Sheís saying can I give her the title and the cover blurb and all the rest of it and Iím thinking the only way out of this is drugs. So I prepare and have a nice smoke and something comes out of the pen. It can get very stressful, but I donít think that influences what you write. Each page has got to be part of the thing, you canít blur it and rush it.

MC: Is it art?

RR: I think its art, I came from art school in the sixties, I believe what Iím doing is art.

RJ: Have you ever thought about doing a non-fiction book?

RR: If there was something I knew about. There are a lot of books that are written on magic which are bollocks. And that does infuriate me, and I do have a grudge to bare about the likes of Andy Collins, these guys who write these books that are pure bollocks. Thereís a danger to these books. I mean when they talk about the world of science fiction being ridiculed and all the rest of it. The books that are written about fortean subjects, about the paranormal and everything else, they bring the entire thing into disrepute. Because there are so many writers there writing crap, ill-researched, ill-conceived. And there is book after book after book, and I look at these book and I think that book shouldnít have been published because itís like when I was a kid and read that sort of thing and believed it. And kids today will read these books about UFO abductions and they will believe it because its in a book. Because I did something back in the eighties that really hit home to me quite recently. I did this hoax about the Brentford Griffin and it was on the television and everything, and we said that a griffin had been sighted in Brentford and we got the newspapers interested and they put it on the front page. "The Queen visited Brentford" got pushed down to the bottom of the page by "Griffin Sighted." [laughter] I was in my element. I had various friends who said they had seen it here or seen it there. I thought this was an absolute wheeze. To create a hoax was a wheeze. Then I met this guy last year at the bus trip. This young guy comes up to me and says "Youíre the Griffin bloke arenít you?" I said yeah. He said "Youíre a cunt. You really fucked up my childhood." Thereís me saying what did I do?. "That was on the television," he said. "And it was in the newspapers and we kids believed it. Because it was on the television and our mothers said donít go near that gas-o-meter or the griffin will get you, and I had nightmares about that." [laughter] And then suddenly it wasnít funny anymore. You can laugh Pearce. Suddenly you realise how much you can effect people. If its on the television people will believe it. And so if you write these paranormal books and theyíre crap, people believe it. And time and time again recently, God bless the Fortean Times, because it exposes hoax after hoax. But they were hoaxes that you believed in when you were a kid. But if I was to write anything, I would like to write some book on magic which told some kind of truth, the problem with that though is that magic is supposed to be secret, you canít give it away otherwise the magic wonít work.

PM: Is there any chance of there being a Television show or film of one of your books?

RR: I think weíve sold the Antipope ten times now, Brentford Triangle nine times. Even the odd ones, I almost sold the Armageddon ones. You sell them again and again and again because they never get made. If television starts of with a thousand books and one placing then it will inevitably be a Catharine Cookson or a re-make of a Bronté. If you think about that Hitch-hikers guide thing. Its been about twenty years now weíve been expecting the movie. Will it ever happen, probably wonít. So the chances of mine getting made are slim. Sometimes they get a long way, but then a director goes crazy and asks for five million and he gets told to piss off and thatís the end of that. I hope that one day some guy whoís just leaves film school says that we can make this on a shoe string and we can make it in black and white, and heíll make a great movie.

PM: Would you fancy playing a bit part? And which part?

RR: One day I would have been juvenile lead, but now Iíll be Professor Slocombe. Now that Peter Cushings dead.

PM: So who are you in the books.

RR: Iím Jim Pooley.

LJ: You say you get your inspiration from reading your other books, would you ever write another Armageddon one?

RR: When I re-read those books I realised that I couldnít follow the plot [laughter] and I thought thatís absurd, if I canít even follow the plot in my own book. When Transworld first took that book and published it, they made it their book of the month, I thought Iím made here. Then afterwards I thought, no, that must have been the most difficult book Iíve ever written. If people go out and buy that and think its typical of Robert Rankinís books theyíre not going to buy another one will they. And thatís exactly what they do donít they. So the readership never went up at all. I donít know what I was doing when I wrote those, but I love them. But I couldnít write like that again. And I donít think there is a fourth part to that, although the characters do turn up in other books. Barry the Sprout is turning up in the new one Iím writing at the moment because itís a Lazlo Woodbine Thriller.

PM: What happens?

RR: Well God gets killed under mysterious circumstances, he leaves the earth to his son, Colin whoís the third son. Thereís Jesus, Jesusí twin sister and thereís Colin. The meek have fucked off because they thought they were going to inherit the Earth. [laughter] Gods wife is fucked off because she thinks that something rotten has happened to him, so they call in the greatest detective on Earth to solve it, and of course the call in Lazlo.

LJ: No helping hand from Elvis?

RR: Only with Barry the Sprout.

PM: Does he get more scenes?

RR: He only needs four scenes. Great detectives only need four scenes. His office, he needs an alley way to have meetings, he needs a bar to talk toot in and he needs a roof top to have a roof top ending. Thatís all any good detective needs.

LJ: Heís allowed a bedroom scene surely?

RR: No, no, no.

TC: Will we see Cornelius and Tuppe again?

RR: I donít know, no, theyíve had an ending that book. Iíd love to re-write the third of that series, the last fifty pages I do have to say are probably the worst writing Iíve ever done in my life. I donít think I could do any more of them though. The book that come out at Christmas, Pooley and Omally are back once more because I love them so dearly. I couldnít not have another Pooley and Omally book. I mean that was my son Robert that I wanted to write books for heíd be the character, but I donít think so, I donít know. I donít sit through the books and think heís a good character, Iíll keep hold of him. So no.

PM: Ah Gowaan, Gowaan.

RR: [in his best Irish] You will, you will.

U: So whatís your obsession with sprouts?

RR: I donít have an obsession with sprouts.

U: But theyíre in all your books.

RR: No, you must be imagining all that. [laughter] Are you one of those people who are under the impressing that you are supposed to eat sprouts? My friend you talk to sprouts. And they talk to you. Donít eat them. [long pause] Obsession with sprouts. {much tut-ing]

PM: Do you ever get bad reviews?

RR: Iíll be honest with you bad reviews are so desperately upsetting. There is nothing like opening up an envelope an thinking hey itís a review of my book and you read "Robert Rankin is a complete arsehole." "Rankin follows his obsession with toilet humour." So thereís a bit of poo in it OK. Iíve done that thing which most authors do, and all the reviews come via the publisher, so you say donít send me the bad ones. So I live in this world where I honestly believe that all the reviews are good ones. When you look at the reviews Iíve had, and you look at the thing that its written in, The Independent, the Times or the Guardian these are cracking reviews I should be so rich. But bad reviews really hurt. The first review I ever got was when I did Armageddon the Musical originally as a stage play and it was on at Watermans Art Centre where I was writer in residence, which was a great job. The play really did stink. But there is one thing you have to know, I canít write plays. Itís a rare man who can write a good film script or a play. The local newspaper came to the first night, there headline was "Blasphemy and Bad Taste makes Armageddon a Disaster." [laughter] The last two nights were packed. It was great. But I think that was the most stinkingist review Iíve ever had in my life. But it was a crap play.

MC: I mean it would probably sell books if you had it written on the cover this is a crap book.

RR: The most daunting thing is that you go into a bookshop and you just look at the thousands upon thousands of books and you think how on Earth is anyone going to come around and say I want to buy a Robert Rankin. The percentage now is that one in a thousand in the British Isle reads one of my books. And you think one in a thousand, I could meet that person on a train. One in a thousand, thatís probably enough to fill up Wembley Stadium. Imagine that. I think weíre up at nearly a million books sold, and you think a million books, that would fill up this room. [it was quite a big room] It knocks me out, every time I go into a shop and see one of my books I go "yeah." You know what its like Michael.

MC: Yeah but I always see mine in the Flying Pig or in a bargain basement. It must be pretty nice to be on the book shelves and have a display and all that.

RR: Its amazing when you have your name on the shelf. Itís a great job this.

JS: Thereís was books shop in Wales last year, and I noticed in the science fiction section that there was a lot of Robert Rankin Book, and you know how Terry Pratchett is always just above your books, I noticed there was no Terry Pratchett here.

RR: I know whatís coming. I was just wondering when I was last in Wales. Putting my books in front of Terry Pratchetts books is one of my pastimes.

JS: I thought Robert had become really, really big and Terry Pratchett had fallen out of the universe or something. Then I noticed over the other side of the shop was the Terry Pratchett section. [laughter]

RR: Is that the one in the arcade in Cardiff? The one where he has his own private book shop sort of.

JS: They had all the Books, the hard backs, the displays the clarecraft models.

RR: I donít know if you are aware of this, the guy you may have met who calls himself Terry Pratchett is not. Thatís Terry Pratchetts stunt double. He does all the signings and that stuff. Pratchett is a small Pakistani woman. [laughter] From Leeds. [more laughter] I think the real Robert Rankin lives in Scotland.

MC: A few friends and I were reminiscing last night about Armageddon the Musical.

RR: Reminiscing? You sad bastard [laughter]

MC: We were saying that Elvis could be played by Rutger Hauer in the movie. Because youíve always said that you wanted Rutger Hauer to play you in the Robert Rankin stories.

RR: He doesnít look quite as good as he used to though.

MC: Who would it be now then?

RR: Tim Roth, heís a right evil bastard.

MC: who would play Pooley or Omally?

RR: The Antipope was done twenty years ago, and in that time the only time weíve sold it we said that Robbie Coltraine should play the Antipope. And then two years later Robbie Coltraine plays the pope.

MC: So who would play Pooley and Omally? [again]

RR: I havenít got a bloody clue.

U: Did I once hear that someone had read something you had written and thought that you were writing about them and came after you with a shot gun?

RR: When I wrote in Brentford I wrote about all my friends and used there real names and everything was fine, everyone was happy about being in a book. So I moved to this charming little village, and Iíd found a pub with no juke box, I sat quietly in the corner with my exercise book and worked. Same as I did in Brighton, same as I did in Brentford. Iíd been there for two weeks when this guy comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and holds up one of my books and says "youíre him arenít you?" "how did you know that?" I said. "Ah, were not stupid round here," he said. "I saw you writing and I saw the word chapter [laughter] so I went down to the off-licence and said that weird geezer whoís moved into the village, whatís his name." And they had one of my cheques, one of my daily cheques. R. Rankin. "So I went to the library," he says, "I found R. Rankin and I found a hard back because they have pictures in the back, and I know its you." So I said "Thatís my writing career fucked in this village." He said "Nah itís all right," and then he introduced me to his circle of friends and I think thereís great potential here. These people are insane. [laughter] So then he introduces me to the smoke, he says " You like a bit of smoke donít you?" and I say yeah. He says "Well Iíll give you something." He gives me these little plants and there a mixture of midnight something and purple haze. "Grow them in the conservatory," he says, "When they get about this high, dry them on the aga, then just roll them up and smoke them." So I grow these in the conservatory, my little son goes off to a party and some father brings him home again. The father says to me "You know what you want to do with those donít you?" "Yeah," I say. "Just take the leaves off and roll them up." He says "No, Take them out to an open bit of land, put some petrol on them and set fire to them." I said "Why?" He said "because Iím the village policeman." [laughter] So. [more laughter] I dried them on the aga, rolled them up. [more laughter] But I met all these people, so I put them in the book. I put in the chicken farmer, Rob Bowen. And if you write the kind of books that I write you put in that he fucks his chickens. And after Iíd written this book, heíd got a copy and he says to me in the corner of the pub "Excuse me, its about what youíve written about me in this book." I said "Rob itís a comedy." He says "Its just I didnít know that anyone knew that I did that." [laughter] So I went over to Simon and I said "Rob Bowen just told me he shags his chickens." So Simon says "Everyone knows Rob Bowen shags his chickens, you didnít buy any of his chickens did you?" [laughter and applauding] Yes I did. And the other character was Rick The Poacher. I wrote about him and about a week later he came round and shot the windows out of my car. I canít prove it was him, but how many other people are there with guns and grudges? So happily I donít live there any more.

MC: Do you ever go back to Brentford

RR: I go back quite a lot because when I go up to the publishers I have to drive through there. I do love the place but I couldnít afford to live there now. I spent eight years there, and if it hadnít had been for living in Brentford and having a job in Brentford and meeting the people in Brentford I probably wouldnít have written, or I wouldnít have written the same stuff.

U: Your books have fairly unusual titles, where do you get them from, and have you ever not used one because a fan has come up with it already?

RR: You make an unintentional mistake, I wrote that book called Garden of Unearthly Delights. And the reason I did that was because Iíd been at Transworld delivering some stuff and I was driving home and I thought Iíve got to come up with a title because they want it by next week. Iíd been given a lot of stuff and amongst it was a book by Heronious Bosch. And there it was Garden of Earthly Delights. And I thought ah, Garden of Unearthly Delights thatís a good title. And it was only when it came out someone said "Josh Kirbyís got a book called that." And I thought nobody told me, I thought someone might mention that there was another book with the same title. Maybe the publishers should have noticed it? But they didnít. There is a problem with that, it does make your book sell as if itís a parody. Raiders of the Lost Car Park, as you know later on there was a film with a similar title. [laughter] Iím sure it was later. I work hard on these titles, and then I meet somebody and they say theyíve read one of my books and I ask them which one and theyíd go "Now what was it called, I canít remember the title. It was about some blokes it a pub." And Iíd say "Well thatís narrowed it down to twenty." [laughter] I thought Armageddon the Musical was a cracking title. [silence] well you donít obviously. I try to work on them, I mean how does Pratchett get away with Guards, Guards?

U: One of Pratchetts fans came up with a title and Pratchett wouldnít use it because the fan came up with it. He came up with Turtle Recall.

RR: And he didnít use it? Strange. I was in Manchester and I was with the guy I dedicated Snuff fiction to. And we were talking about what you could do in fiction that hadnít been done before, and he came up with the idea of the book that kills you. The last page of the book would be impregnated with some kind of poison and you donít know which one because there are thousands of books published, and one in every ten thousand is a killer book. Itís a kind or reverse National Lottery, you die! I thought great its like snuff movies, Snuff Fiction. I thought Snuff Fiction was a great title for a book. So I dedicated the book to him because he came up with the idea. Unfortunately when I went to Manchester I wanted to give him a copy of the book, I couldnít give it to him because he was in prison [laughter] Unfortunate David do I. Titles are one of the most fun bits, because the let me design my own book covers. Now every time I come up with an idea Iím thinking about what I can put on the cover. So I write the book around that. No you donít do that, donít let me give you the impression thatís true.

PM: When you put real people in your books do you get there permission first?

RR: It says at the beginning that they are all fictitious characters. Youíre in one arenít you.

PM: Am I? [Pádraig is in Apocalypso]

RR: You are youíre a serial child killer if I remember rightly. [laughter] oh no youíre about to be. [more laughter] Iíll start on that tomorrow.

LJ: Are you going to publish your portfolio Robert?

RR: My portfolio?

LJ: All your sketches.

RR: Who would publish it? Apart from you. Who would buy it. Look at poor Dave Carson, he publishes these beautiful portfolios, I buy them, nobody else does. If you can get me a deal Lee weíll go for that. Can I go home now?

MC: I donít know yet.

U: Where do you get your shirts from?

RR: Mambo. Havenít you got a Mambo over here? Of course you have. I started wearing Hawaiian shirts in nineteen seventy two and this year Iím back in fashion. [laughter] Iíve waited a long time.

JB: What is the cult meaning of the bandaged left foot Robert? [laughter]

RR: James, you know this, everybody knows this. Everybody in this room knows this. You are the only person in this room who doesnít know the answer to this.

PM: He only wanted to hear you say it.

RR: Exactly and you wonít hear me say it because its in that book. I worked really hard on that book [A Dog Called Demolition] that book has got hidden messages hidden fucking though out. You turn bits upside down, thatís a killer that book.

U: Thereís people who didnít get it so could you repeat the significance?

RR: No

LJ: So what is the cult significance?

RR: Iím not telling you.

AL: Aww please Robert.

RR: Oh Shut up. I was already warned in advance that you were going to bother me with this question.

LJ: Thatís because I told you.

U: What was that thing to do with the Fortean Times and you?

RR: Oh wasnít that glorious. It was about Andy Collins, I was slagging him off earlier. I put this character in my book who was Danbury Collins, Psychic Youth and Masturbater. The piece in the Fortean Times said "We wondered where then name came from until we saw that Andy Collins had written a book called the Knights of Danbury." And I thought fuck, the number of times Iíve offended Andy Collins and heís written to the Fortean Times to complain about me.

LJ: Is he a big lad?

RR: No. But he is a mate of Storm Constantineís and I donít want to offend her, but heís a prat.

SL: If you were going to be anywhere summer next year where would you be?

RR: I think I will be in London at a convention called Aliens Stole My handbag. I think it will be the most exciting science fiction convention held this century.

SL: Donít you mean next century?

RR: I donít live in this century.

LJ: What was that called again Robert?

RR: It was called Aliens Stole My Handbag, and if you want any information about it I suggest you go to the Flying Pig bookshop in Crow Street [laughter] I believe one of the greatest and most interesting bookshops in Dublin. And they will give you all the information you want to know about it.

DB: Where was that again?

RR: The Flying Pig Bookshop in Crow Street.

LJ: What number?

RR: Under the sign of the Flying Pig. Look for that and youíll be OK.

PM: Whatís the phone number?

RR: Hang on is this a plug or something?

PM: That reminds me. You know your office phone number the last digits are 666, is that accidental?

RR: No, that was on purpose. I wanted a 666 telephone number. I phone British Telecom and asked if I could have any number I wanted. She said if weíve got it you can. I said have you got any numbers with 666 in it? She said yeah, hundreds, nobody wants them. I thought well I do. She said the most difficult people in the world are the Chinese, Chinese people want an auspicious phone number, they all work on numerology they want an auspicious phone number for their business. So she said she has to go through number after number to please the Chinese. But if you want a 666 number there are thousands of them. I wanted 6666666 but I couldnít have that one.

RJ: Isnít that a Pizza Express or something? [laughter]

RR: It makes you laugh because when ever there is a big disaster they always have a 666 number as the information help line.

MC: One last question make it a good one, Dave.

DB: I was just wanting to know, what is the significance of the bandaged left foot? [laughter]

RR: Iíve already explained that, I refer you to the answer I gave earlier.

TC: When your writing your books do you transfer them to a word processor?

RR: Yeah. I type them up. If you write in exercise books though you leave behind a manuscript. What do people leave now? A disc? And surely a disc thatís the finished article, it hasnít got all the re-writes and stuff, so is that the valuable manuscript of the future a CD? Its not is it?

TC: Itís a discworld. [laughter]

RR: And weíre proud living in it.

P: Are you proud when your manuscripts get flogged off in the backs of pubs? [laughter]

RR: Thatís the way it should be. No, theyíre all up in the loft, wrapped up in brown string waiting to go off to the British Library.

MC: Well thank you Robert very much.

[much applauding]

RR: Can we go now

[click]

 

Transcribed on a wet day in January by David V.Baker.

 

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