My Evening with One of My Favourite Authors: Iain Banks

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Recently, in the atmospheric surroundings of The Keys in Hudersfield; I was attending my second Key Words event and feeling a bit starstruck. Organised by Michelle Hodgson, who has her own company with copywriting, events and journalism services, this was an evening of epic proportions for me…. A chance to meet, in real life, one of my very favourite authors.

An event of this nature can throw you into a little chaos, especially when you realise that you have only read a small proportion of his collection. In the case of Iain Banks, you could be a fan of Iain M Banks instead – his Science Fiction alter ego. It became clear however fairly quickly that he considered the ‘mainstream’ his alter ego and the S.F his staple diet.

Astonishing value at just £22.50 for an evening meal including conversation with the author, I had already experienced the slightly stern but definitely entertaining Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame, who talked us through her movement from teacher to author with great relish.

What Mr Banks gave us during this evening was true entertainment and a feeling that we were his friends. Fresh from the success of being listed as one of the books for World Book Night and promoting his new ‘mainstream’ novel Stonemouth, Iain was happy to sign books and pose for photos before we all settled down to a delicious evening meal provided by The Keys.

The format of the evening allows for Michelle to introduce and ‘warm up’ the author; then inviting questions from the floor… none of which were pre-selected or censored. We learned that Banks writes from his own experience, so Scottish, male and white protagonists prevail…. Citing Canal Dreams, his 1989 book and one which I enjoyed very much, as “the runt of the litter”. In fact another of my favourites The Business, also featured a female protagonist but Banks claims that we live in a nurturing society, which lends itself to understanding the viewpoints of each gender.

One great question from the floor asked Banks which ‘mainstream’ book he would like to be seen made into a movie and who would direct it. I would like to make the point here that I don’t consider his novels to be mainstream in any way shape or form – his debut novel, The Wasp Factory was in fact one of the most bizarre and original things I have read. Banks however professes he would love to live in his Science Fiction novels and feels more at home writing them as well as believing that they cover the most important genre of the effects of technology on humans. Anyway, back to the question, which ‘mainstream’ book he would like to be seen made into a movie and who would direct it. There was a little umming and ahhing, but The Bridge was the selected book and his chosen directors; The Coen Brothers. The Bridge is now on my list to read and I do like a bit of the Coens!

from iain-banks.net

When asked the predictable eBook question, he said he would miss the smell of books (something I agree with) and that in his mind, no medium destroys another, so the nervousness of publishers was a little unfounded. He was also pleased with World Book Night’s book giveaways and its commitment to enthusing readers.

I found Iain Banks engaging and he demonstrated a visible passion for life and literature. He put me in mind of a less sweary Billy Connolly, not just because he is Scottish and handsomely grey, but he is energetic, speedy, irreverent and likeable. My only regret is not asking a question, but I was more or less happy to simply absorb the greatness and listen to the yarns; leaving with a thirst for upping my catalogue of his books, and branching out into the SF.

For more from Key Words  – click here

To eat at The Keys – with a host of other events – click here

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