Graeme is one of Scotland’s brightest literary talents. Born and brought up in Kilmarnock, he spent some years working as an English teacher in Prague, Bordeaux, Porto and London, before returning to Glasgow and working for eight years for various independent television companies. He has degrees in English Literature and International Security Studies from Glasgow and St Andrews universities respectively.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing when I was a teenager. Certainly at that time I didn’t think in terms of ‘being a writer’. My aim was always to publish a novel, rather than to ‘be a writer’, although you could probably say that the latter follows from the former. It’s only very recently that I’ve answered the question, ‘What do you do?’ with the words, ‘I’m a writer.’
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to treat it like a job. I go to a library in Glasgow, armed with a flask of coffee and a packet of extra strong mints, and if I’m on a first draft try to write 1000 words or so. If I hit my target, I leave feeling that all is right with the world; if I don’t, I leave in a fug of self-loathing. When I’m editing, I’ll probably have a couple of scenes in mind I want to work on, but when you’re redrafting it’s far harder to quantify what you’ve done, and thus to know whether you should feel satisfied with your day’s work.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The good thing about writing novels is that you only have to have one idea every two years or so. An idea can come from anywhere – someone you observe in the pub, a line in a book, a newspaper story. But having an idea is by far the easiest part of writing a novel. The rest is a slog. As for the background information, because of its historical setting, His Bloody Project required fairly extensive research. As well as the obvious sources (books, the internet), I visited museums, used the brilliant National Archive of Scotland in Edinburgh and now and again corresponded with experts. A lot of that research filtered into the finished book, but I think you’ve got to be careful not just to use pieces of information just to display the depth of your research. At the end of the day, you’re writing a novel not a work of history.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Cycling, cooking, reading, watching footie, going to the pub.
How did it feel to firstly be longlisted and now shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize for His Bloody Project ?
Before the longlisting I was quite happy with how things were going. His Bloody Project was going to be published in Germany and the US, and we had already sold a screen option. Nevertheless, on the day of the announcement, the book leapt from around 300,000 on Amazon UK to no.7. Since then we’ve had offers of publication from all over the world and I’ve been invited to festivals from Estonia to Adelaide – so quite a transformation in fortunes. The most important thing that has happened, however, is that the Man Booker recognition has put His Bloody Project in the hands of far more readers than I could possibly have dreamt of.
Graeme’s books are published by Saraband Who are a creative independent publisher striving to offer readers something a little bit different. For updates follow them on Twitter here and also Graeme here
The Man Booker Winner will be announced on the 25th October.