Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Evening with Ian Rankin

Yes, can you believe it? Two events in one week. And not only two events in one week, but two amazing events in one week. Thanks to my Crimespree family I got to attend both in Milwaukee last week.

Friday it was Ian Rankin's turn to stun the Midwest readers with his wit and charm. He started off at the Mystery One bookstore to do a short spiel and sign books.

He went from Mystery One to another Milwaukee bookstore, Boswell's, for a more in depth event. So this was night full of firsts for me: my first time meeting Ian Rankin, my first time visiting Boswell's, my first time meeting Carole Barrowman (who you'll be hearing more about in future posts), and my first time visiting The Safe House restaurant (again, that's for another day). Let's talk about the guest of honor!

First of all, I have to mention that he packed the house in both locations. I felt like the only nut case who hadn't discovered this brilliant man's writing before now. But, thankfully, I've remedied that.

Ian Rankin was, of course, touring for his new book Standing in Another Man's Grave. I reviewed the book for Shelf Awareness, but have a bit of a longer review coming for you soon. There's so much to love about this book, and Ian spoke about quite a bit of the fascinating background of its evolution.

The title of the book comes from a song his friend Jackie Leven sang called "Standing in Another Man's Rain."

But Ian misheard the lyrics for a long time, which we find out right away in the book is the same thing Rebus does. And this mondegreen (did you know there's an actual term for mishearing lyrics?) is present in the prologue of Standing in Another Man's Grave where Rebus is at the funeral of a friend. This whole section was inspired by Ian's friend Jackie Leven dying quickly and unexpectedly of cancer.

When Ian knew he wanted to use Standing in Another Man's Grave as the title, his editor shot it down. Told him it was too long for the spine, for the cover, he needed something else. And Ian says he has to have at least a working title to start writing. So instead of brainstorming a new title, he started doing some research then promptly returned to his editor. He informed his editor that Standing in Another Man's Grave was precisely the same number of characters as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. His editor, who coincidentally turned down The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, let Ian have his title!

Smarter readers than I knew that John Rebus retired several years ago. This came about because a friend and resource of Ian's informed him that Rebus was at the age of forced retirement for Scottish detectives. Of course Ian's publishers didn't want him to retire Rebus, but Ian insisted he wanted to keep Rebus aging in real time and so he needed to retire. Then, of course, came Malcolm Fox who was younger; Ian thought this was great because he'd have a good long run with Malcolm Fox...until he learned that detectives in the Complaints only stay a few years.

So, it was probably a good thing that Ian's friend called him back after a few years to inform him the rules for retirement were changing. They were losing too much experience, plus it was expensive, so detectives were being allowed to stay on the force longer.

Ian wanted to know if retired detectives would be able to come back? "Well, sure." And would they have to be vetted? "Yes, that's the way it would work." And presto, he has the reason to resurrect John Rebus from retirement and Malcolm Fox can logically interact with Rebus. Thus, Standing in Another Man's Grave begins.

Fox had to take on the role of bad guy in this book because it's told from Rebus' perspective, but we can still see a frustration in Fox. He sees Rebus as getting away with everything, and were it he trying to pull the stunts that Rebus does, there'd be no way he'd get away with any of it.  Ian discovered he doesn't really like Malcolm Fox much and they need to spend some time rectifying that in future outings.

Ian was concerned that he wouldn't be able to hear Rebus' voice again after a five-year hiatus. But several sentences in Rebus just started chattering away. I think we can all safely agree, Rebus' voice is alive and well in Ian's words.

For readers like me, who are late to the Rebus party, Ian recommends starting not at the first book of the series, but rather start at Black and Blue. Ian says when he started this series, he was a young man, still a student, and he liked words...he liked words too much and he used too many in an attempt to show his love of those words. So he isn't as fond of the earlier books.

Ian also spoke about his experience writing a graphic novel. He says that writing a novel is much easier in that the writer puts most of the work on the reader. The writer puts a few words to paper and the reader conjures all the sights and sounds and smells. But with a graphic novel, the writer takes on the role of director, costume designer, set designer, producer, etc., because his words have to give the artist the direction he/she needs to create the images that go with the text.

The time flew by as Ian shared stories about his youth, his love of music, how he started writing, his experiences with Jackie Leven, even a story about being duped when he "borrowed" a name for a character.

Whether putting his stories to paper or reciting them orally, Ian Rankin was born to tell them. It is truly a magical experience to sit in the audience and listen. And as a goofy American, I love hearing his Scottish accent! I'm so grateful I had the chance to do so. And I sincerely encourage each of you to snatch the opportunity to see Ian Rankin if it presents itself to you in the future. You won't regret it, and I bet you'll file it in YOUR Book of Awesome, too.

Absolutely one of my all-time favorite author photos now!

Thank you for once again indulging my fan girl moments. Tomorrow I will reward you all with a fantastic Five on Friday. Happy Reading, friends!


Kristopher February 7, 2013 at 8:57 AM  

That's a great pic of you and Ian, Jen. Glad you enjoyed the event.

Lorraine M. Thompson February 7, 2013 at 12:46 PM  

I really like Mr. Rankin's books and am delighted to know that Rebus is back! Thanks for the great post Jen. It was like we were there.

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