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Who? The 51-year-old is a Scottish novelist famed for bestselling detective novels based on fictional character John Rebus. Ian lives in Edinburgh with wife Miranda and sons Jack (19) and Kit (17). Ian will be talking at the Aspects Literary Festival in Bangor tomorrow Comic fanatic: Ian Rankin admits he has never outgrown his boyhood love of comics

When did you first register an interest in writing?

I wrote my first novel when I was 16. It was only the length of a school jotter because that's what I was writing on. I would steal them from school and fill them when I got home but there were only about 30 or 40 pages in them. I would write anything I wanted. I filled the pages with comics, cartoons and even song lyrics.

When I was in high school, I won a national poetry competition for under-18s. From poetry I moved on to short stories and I began to write properly when I was at university in Edinburgh. I managed to get some of my stories read on BBC Radio 4. It was at this stage that I realised that people were willing to read my work.

Was your first book a Rebus novel?

My first book is still in my desk drawer. It's a comedy set in a hotel. I sent it to a publisher when I was younger and they didn't really like it. My second attempt was published by Edinburgh University and was called The Flood. It's pretty rare to see the book for sale now and I think they go for quite a lot of money.

You have a connection with Belfast, don't you?

After university I was flung out into the cold, hard world. I met my wife Miranda, who's actually from Belfast, and we got married. A lot of her family are Belfast-based and so I've spent quite a lot of time in Belfast. I really enjoy it.

Did you always want to be a crime writer?

I wanted to write a book that would show the dark side of Edinburgh. In 1987, with Noughts and Crosses, I wanted to write a book that would expose that.

Do you draw inspiration for the character of John Rebus from the police force in Edinburgh?

My whole experience of writing about the police comes from detective shows. I don't really know any policemen either. Sometimes I get policemen coming up to me and saying they know someone who's exactly like John Rebus, but that's just coincidence. I don't base my characters on any particular people in real life.

What I have done is include real people in the books for charity. People pay a lot of money to be characters in the books and the money is donated to a good cause. People love having an alter-ego like that. I had one businesswoman come to me who wanted to be a brothel owner in one book but I didn't have a brothel in the plot so I had to downgrade her to a lap-dancer.

You must have been chuffed when TV bosses wanted to turn the book into a show?

From my first book there had always been TV interest. Leslie Grantham - EastEnders' Dirty Den - was the first person who was lined up to play Rebus but that fell through. Then John Hannah, who owns the production company that was to make Rebus, actually ended up playing Rebus himself. I haven't watched any of the television shows. I didn't watch it because I didn't want it to affect my writing. I didn't want characters on TV to affect characters in the book.

Tell us about your hobby?

The first things I ever read were comics. I'm a real comic enthusiast. I actually think that comics are great as a learning tool. There's a real problem with literacy in the UK, predominantly with teenage boys. If we want to get them reading we should start with comics. Recently, my son was studying Shakespeare and wasn't really enjoying it. I bought him a comic version of Hamlet, which still contained Shakespearean language, and he read it in an hour.

Did you enjoy creating your first graphic novel, Dark Entries?

Dark Entries was really hard work - a lot harder than I thought it would be. I was asked by DC Comics to work on the novel with Italian artist Werther Dell'Edera. It took as long as a full length novel to write but the money wasn't as good.

My wife was joking with me saying that I shouldn't make a habit of writing them but it has been my dream since I was a boy. The artist did a really good job and you can read it in about one hour. I still read a lot of comics.

Are you looking forward to your talk with your old friend Colin Bateman at the Aspects Literary Festival?

I saw Colin Bateman - or just 'Bateman' as he now prefers to be called - at a recent crime writing festival. I think some day I'm going to look in the shop window and he'll have changed his name to Batman!

We get on very well. He actually wrote a one-off script for the Rebus TV show. He's a terrific writer and great at being funny and satirical, so I'm not to sure what he's going to be asking me. I hear Bangor has a lot of good pubs too.

e Ian Rankin moved to London for four years and France for six after graduating from Edinburgh University to develop his career as a writer.

e He says he can't write anywhere but home in Edinburgh, where he has to be surrounded by loud music, crisps and books of reference.

e Ian's wife Miranda is from Belfast. Ian regularly spends time in Northern Ireland.

e The novelist says he's never really read any 'whodunnit' books, even though he's a famous crime fiction writer.

e Rankin's first book was a comedy and he says he never set out to become a crime writer, it's just the section book shops filed his work under.


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