Art doesn’t imitate life

There is one final aspect of this short five minute interview with Iain M Banks that struck a chord with me. He is asked about writing dark material in the first person and whether or not that is difficult for people to understand – like an actor being asked “Are you a baddie in real life?”

When I first told people about my novel, Beneath the Surface, they looked at me a little strangely. They didn’t really get the fact that I had written (or that I even wanted to write) a story that featured death, conspiracy, mutations, aliens, suffering, etc. When they read the blurb of the book it was even worse – they looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t believe that I had written it. It was hard to make people understand that I was still in fact the “normal” person they always thought I was, and that I wasn’t using writing as an outlet for my secret murderous tendencies.

For me, at least, stories are just there. They aren’t secretly about me or about what I wish my life could be like. I could be just as likely to write (or read) a book about aliens as I am to write a love story or a thriller. It’s nice to hear someone say they understand that, and have experienced it. If Bank’s book The Wasp Factory was in fact any reflection on the inner workings of his mind, I would say he probably should be locked up before he hurts himself or someone else. But, as he says, the things you write don’t really have a bearing on your own psyche – he’s probably right when he says it is no doubt just a case of an overactive imagination, and that people should just be happy that it stays on the page rather than having any connection to reality.



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