Robert Rankin is often regarded as one of the kookiest authors in the land, and with good reason. Many of his books plots take nonsensical twists and turns that, ultimately, feel absolutely right in the wacky universe that hes created. Made famous for the Brentford Trilogy, a series currently spanning nine books, classed as Far Fetched Fiction by the man himself, hes written and published over thirty novels, to critical acclaim. I bumped into him recently at the London Film & Comic Con and conveniently had a Dictaphone on me (though, do you really believe I just happened to have one on me?). I just had to fire some questions at him, and Rankin gave some remarkable advice that people hoping to break into the publishing industry, and the future of the industry that is slowly becoming electronic, as well as some talking about himself, his work, and whats in store for him in the future. Me: Whats your next book?
Robert Rankin: My next book comes out in September, its called The Mechanical Messiah And Other Marvels Of The Modern Age. Its the sequel to The Japanese Devil Fish Girl And Other Unnatural Attractions and its the one before The Educated Ape And Other Wonders Of The World. Theyre really memorable titles, arent they? Im really glad I wrote such long titles even my publisher gets the names of the titles wrong, every time they write a letter to me. Good idea theyre gonna sell big, right?Me: Will Neville the Part-Time Barman be returning in a future book?
RR: **laughs** Neville retired all the people in the Brentford books are based on real people and Neville retired some years ago to Windsor to run a little pub; I never saw him again. And most of the people from Brentford, they sort of uh, got old and died. Its all a bit creepy now I go there and somebody comes up to me and says Hey, remember me? and I realise I cant even picture what they used to look like. Its awful. But I mean, this year is the thirtieth anniversary of The Anti-Pope, its a long time ago, yknow. So no, I dont think hell come back. I apologiseMe: Thats alright. What made you want to write kooky sort of material?
RR: Gives me a humoured look.Me: Oh come on, youve got to admit, it is pretty kooky!
RR: Oh alright, when I first started writing I didnt set out to do it, its only been over the last few years. A few years ago, Terry Pratchett said to me: You shouldnt put your own feelings in your books, you should treat the books as being entities all of themselves. Your trouble is you put yourself and your feelings into it. And thats really it you can tell which ones Im having the mental breakdowns in quite easily. And some of them are really quite scary, yknow Fandom of the Operator was the scariest one, its only halfway through when you find out the guys a serial killer, and people wrote to me and said they thought it was auto-biographical, and actually Id really done these things. Its awful.Me: So you killed people on a whim, reanimated your dead girlfriend and battled a dead author for the future of mankind?!
RR: Oooh, youve read the books! **laughs** Well, I came from the 1960s, I wanted to live out of my head and do something creative. I started life as an illustrator, I couldnt make a living being an illustrator, I was then given the opportunity to write so yeah, Ive been very lucky to still be in print after thirty years. And, yknow, you live in a state of perpetual fear of not getting another contract, but I cant sell out now, can I? I mean, Ive got to get on with writing what I write. Id love to have written Harry Potter, Id love to own an island, but its not gonna happen so if I had written, in the end, a cannon of work and they say Rankins work isnt quite like anybody elses, is it?, then Ive succeeded in achieving what I set out to do. I didnt want to be like other writers, I wanted to do something different. I think I have done that Im proud of what Ive done. But I never made any money out of it. **laughs**Me: Do you have any tips for fledgling writers that are hoping to break into the world of writing?
RR: If you love it like crazy, and love every moment of writing, then do it. If, when you sit down, every word is torn from your soul, do something else, because if its gonna be that much of a struggle to write your first book, then youll never write your second one or your third one. Imagine trying to write your tenth one! Or even your thirty-third one, yknow if its the most important thing and you love it, you love sitting there and doing it, then you should do it. But youre going to have to fight for it, because quite honestly, nowadays, its very, very difficult to get published. I dont think Id get published now. It would just be too difficult. I spoke to my publisher quite recently, and she said to me: We dont really, in a way, need to take on any new authors. Weve got authors. Theyre gonna be bringing out books each year. And its the truth. Publishing companies are closing down and the whole publishing world is changing with e-books I wouldnt want to start now, I think itd be very, very hard.Me: Whats your opinion on e-books, then?
RR: Theyre going to bring the publishing world to its knees. Itll go down the toilet. And the publishers all think theyre going to be smart and get around it, but come on, man! Young guys on computers are smarter than the people working on e-books. Theyll find a way round it. If every one of my books gets uploaded to the internet because some swine has stuck it up there, they wouldnt think Oh, thats his living, they just think Hey, Im beating the system. Alright, fine, sticking it to the man and whatever, I gotta say that half of me loves it, but the other half says I dont know why youre doing this, youre taking bread out of my mouth. Its tricky, isnt it? So yeah, Im not a fan of e-books. Plus, I dont want to read a book on a computer. I want to read a book that looks like a book and smells like a book, yknow? Books are lovely, theyre made for the right size for your hands. Everything about the dimensions of a paperback is good. Its pure. God invented the paperback.Me: Clearly you havent read Lord of the Rings.
RR: **laughs** Does it give you hand-ache?Me: Maybe and finally, have you got any tips for continuing writers who have been in the business for ten, fifteen years and are facing the woes of online publishing? Can continuing authors survive in this changing industry?
RR: I guess, well youve got to be in touch with the zeitgeist, havent you? I mean, I went to my sons first gig, he was a DJ, and this manager bloke wanted to put him together with a proper band, and I went to see them do their first gig on Wednesday, and I thought this is kind of a natural development, you take drum and bass and put female vocals on it, and you put a live drum on it. Thats Now Music, yknow? It may not be to my tastes but its Now Music. And I guess, the books that are trying to sell, theyve got to be Now, havent they? And theyve obviously got to appeal to people Now. I dont know how many of my books are Now I dunno, I dunno, I dunno. And on that bombshell!Rankins next book, The Mechanical Messiah And Other Marvels Of The Modern Age, hits the shelves this September. Photograph by Richard Neal http://richardheneal.blogspot.com