10 June 2013
As many fans and admirers pay tribute to the late Scottish author Iain Banks, who sadly passed away recently, we look back on the interview Iain gave to Scottish Memories in the summer of 2010, in which he discussed his Fife childhood, the impact Scotland has on his work, and how his birthplace has changed over the years… ...
What special memories do you have of growing up in Fife?
Despite the fact my earliest reliable memory is having my tonsils extracted when I was three, in Edinburgh, mostly I remember playing in and around North Queensferry itself; being three-quarters an island, with lots of beaches and rocks, the Forth Bridge looming over the lower village, lots of old gun sites and barrack buildings and with whin-covered hills containing a wee loch in the middle, it was a great place to be a child in.
Do you return to the area often and has it changed much over the years?
I remember playing in and around North Queensferry… with lots of beaches and rocks, the Forth Bridge looming over the lower village, lots of old gun sites and barrack buildings and with whin-covered hills containing a wee loch in the middle, it was a great place to be a child in.
I came back here to live twenty years ago, so I see it every day! It’s changed a fair bit; when I left in 1963 the Road Bridge was still being built. The barracks are gone, replaced by expensive houses, and the main gun site is private property too, so there are fewer places for kids to play. Last time I looked, the wee loch had filled up with weeds and rushes, but it’s still a good place to be.
What is your favourite place in Scotland?
Here, or Glenfnnan, in Lochaber, or Barra. I’m not really a city person, though I like Edinburgh and Glasgow. And I still have attachments to Gourock, where we moved when I was nine and Stirling, where I went to university. Also the Ochil hills in general, as I do a lot of hillwalking there.
How have your Scottish roots informed your writing?
By letting me find a way of expressing myself that isn’t overly influenced by the literature of England or the US, though with obvious nods to both. Not having that post-imperial miserablism or suffering the worst effects of the current cult of Greedism helps. There is still in Scotland a relatively communitarian approach to politics and society which - as well as chiming with my own feelings on a personal level - perhaps means my novels stand out from either soppy leftist defeatism or Libertarian marketolatry.
How have Scots reacted to your depiction of Scotland in your writing?
Generally positively. I should probably have mentioned midges more in Crow Road, though.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yup. Since I was seven, at least (I have documentary evidence of this - honest).
Do you prefer writing science fiction or more mainstream novels?
It’s about even. I love writing both, plus I just feel dead lucky to still be getting away with writing in two different genres at all.
Interview first published in the June 2010 issue of Scottish Memories. Share your tributes to Iain Banks on the Scottish Memories facebook page.