Irvine Welsh - photo by Ashley Bird
Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, one of the defining British books (that quickly became one of the defining British films) in recent decades. Since his literary debut in 1993, he's been nothing short of prolific, penning a host of engaging characters and brutal storylines across eight novels and countless other shorts and screenplays.
In 2012 alone, he is promoting his new book Skagboys – a prequel to what now makes up the Trainspotting trilogy – and two films, Ecstacy (an adaptation of his 1996 novel, which Welsh admittedly has had little involvement in) and Filth, which was produced by Welsh and stars the delectable James McAvoy as a corrupt cop.
Welsh came to Notts for a Q&A, organised by Waterstones, which took place at the Broadway Cinema on 19 April. We went down and were thoroughly enthralled by what he had to say, so much so that we bagged a quick interview with him after to find out more…
Trainspotting was written over nineteen years ago now; how long have you known that you wanted to write Skagboys as a prequel?
The material was always there. It was probably a way of me trying to keep in touch after moving to America that made me want to settle down with it.
You spend most of your time in America at present; how does it compare to Scotland?
Obviously America is nowhere near as cool, sassy, sexy and fun as Scotland, but that's not America's fault, nowhere is. I'm perhaps biased but I have to say that Scotland is pretty much superior in all aspects.
How do you think the Scotland of the 1980’s compares to the Scotland of today?
I have a soft spot for the eighties, but that was the time that my generation messed things up for the generation to come. The only thing we can be proud of is delivering the parliament, which is the tool to let current and future generations control their own destiny.
Irvine Welsh on stage at the Broadway Cinema - photo by Ashley Bird
You tend to keep your sentences pretty blunt and often severe - is this a conscious decision to reflect the Scottish vernacular?
Strange you see it that way - I sometimes get accused of being too flowery and rambling! I think the Scottish vernacular, or tongue - I don't know what to call it - can be quite harsh. But it can be beautiful too.
Do you think your books ever portray an unnecessarily harsh view of Scotland?
No. I love Scotland, but I hate the misty-eyed shortbread tin view of it. I consider myself the antidote to that crap.
Do you have any writing rituals or habits?
I stretch out every hour, like a boxer going into a ring.
What do you think the mass appeal of Trainspotting is?
It's the characters without a doubt. People all over the world identify with them.
Who is your favourite character of the Trainspotting group?
Begbie. He's misunderstood.
Obviously the Trainspotting trilogy revolves around drugs; do you work with any drugs charities to help support victims of drug abuse?
Not at present, although I have done in the past.
Of your own novels, which is your personal favourite?
Marabou Stork Nightmares, Filth and Glue all tie for No.1.
How do you feel about your books being turned into films? Do you see them as extensions of your books, or stand-alone works?
I love it. I see them as complimentary, but also as stand-alone works.
Do you always read a book before you watch its film adaptation?
No. I watched The Man With The Golden Arm movie before I wrote the intro to the Algern novel.
Why do your books hold such a nihilistic view of society?
Because they are mostly from the point of view of young people and outsiders. The only voices I'm interested in are outsiders’ voices. Any young person who hasn't embraced the liberation of nihilism was born old; anyone who stays there is an idiot.
Irvine Welsh was at Broadway on Thursday 19 April discussing his new book Skagboys, in a talk organised by Waterstones.
Irvine Welsh official website
Waterstones Nottingham events website