Scott Westerfeld, Gerry Hassan and Lin Anderson on the SBT Podcast

May 5, 2014

LeviathanIn this edition of Book Talk, host Ryan Van Winkle talks to author Scott Westerfeld about steampunk and Zeppelins, discusses the myths of modern Scotland with commentator and academic Gerry Hassan, and looks at how crime and science work together in fiction with Lin Anderson and Dr Kathy Charles.

Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies trilogy, gives an insight into how he researched and created the steampunk World War One setting of Leviathan. Loved by teenagers and military history buffs alike, the book showcases a world that blends accurate military detail with fantastic creations including airships made of whales.

Scott discusses the benefits of writing for a young adult audience. “Adult readers are very fragile and very easy to alarm and scare off, whereas teenagers are incredibly robust readers who can keep going. If you see a teenager who’d really into a book you could drop a brick on their head and they’ll keep reading!”

Gerry Hassan, commentator and academic in Cultural Policy discusses his latest book, Caledonian Dreaming: The Quest for a Different Scotland. Inspired by the work of Fintan O’Toole following the crash in Ireland, the book looks at the myths Hassan argues are inherent in Scottish identity. What are these stories we tell ourselves about modern Scotland and where did they come from?

Finally, Ryan chats to crime writer Lin Anderson, creator of fictional forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod, and forensic psychologist Dr Kathy Charles about how crime and science work together in fiction. Lin and Kathy discuss the use of psychology to develop strong characters, how to effectively depict the biological differences of psychopaths in fiction and the challenge of ensuring potential scenarios in the novel are scientifically plausible while keeping a novel entertaining.

Podcast contents
00:00-00:51 Introduction
00:52-12:08 Scott Westerfeld interview
12:09-22:26 Garry Hassan interview
22:27-32:05 Lin Anderson and Dr Kathy Charles interview

Kirsty Logan, Tim Sinclair and Ken MacLeod on the Scottish Book Trust Podcast

March 21, 2014

In this edition of the Book Talk podcast Ryan Van Winkle interviews Kirsty Logan about her debut collection of short stories, discusses parkour with novelist and poet Tim Sinclair and imagines the Scotland of the future with sci-fi author Ken MacLeod.

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales is the debut short story collection from former New Writers Award recipient Kirsty Logan. Written over the course of five years, the stories are set in locations as diverse as 1920s New Orleans, the Australian Outback and Paris.

Kirsty reads her moving short story The Light Eater and discusses how writing helped her to process difficult emotions.

Australian novelist and poet Tim Sinclair talks about his latest young adult novel, Run. Written in concrete poetry, where words function both linguistically and visually, the book explores the world of parkour, where participants “move through the urban environment in a way that doesn’t allow for boundaries”. When ego gets involved, trouble quickly follows.

Finally, acclaimed sci-fi writer Ken MacLeod discusses his new book about “flying saucers, hidden races and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of passive revolution”. Descent follows the teens and twenties of an ordinary Greenock man whose bad behaviour is blamed on a possible alien encounter.

Moving from science fiction to science fact, Ken also explains his involvement with Hope Beyond Hype, a comic book he wrote in collaboration with OptiStem, an EU-funded stem cell research project. The comic was downloaded over 100,000 in times in the first few days following release; listen now to discover how the book was developed.

Podcast contents
00:00-00:53 Introduction
00:53-09:20 Kirsty Logan interview
09:20-16:30 Tim Sinclair Interview
16:30-30.00 Ken MacLeod interview

Sarah Hall, Pedro Lenz, Olivia Lang and Donal McLaughlin on the Scottish Book Trust Podcast

November 13, 2013

Journeys – both literal and literary – weave through the latest edition of Book Talk, in which I sit down with authors Olivia Lang, Sarah Hall, Pedro Lenz and translator Donal McLaughlin to talk about their latest projects.

Granta Best Young British Novelist Sarah Hall reads a creepy excerpt from her new short story collection, The Beautiful Indifference, and discusses the very human need to fight, and how modern-day living has stripped us of the opportunity to do so. Find out where she got the inspiration for her excerpted story, She Murdered Mortal He, and why she finds it easiest to write short stories on the road.

How does a Swiss German novel wind up being translated to Glaswegian Scots? With a little inspiration from James Kelman and some unique urban landscapes. Ryan discusses Donal McLaughlin‘s translation of Pedro Lenz‘s novel, Naw Much of a Talker, and discovers what’s really important in a good translation (and it’s not necessarily being slavishly faithful to the source!).

Finally, Olivia Lang speaks up about alcoholism as a destructive force in literature, as detailed in her nonfiction book, The Trip to Echo Spring. Detailing the lives of six authors with well-documented relationships with alcohol (Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, John Berryman, F Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, and Raymond Carver), Lang seeks to pull away the pervasive myth that it was cool for writers to drink a lot. In reality, it was a destructive force for them, as it is for anyone else, that may have cost the world some great literature. Hear one of the crazier anecdotes detailed in the book, and why Lang found the sobering subject matter so interesting.

Podcast contents

0:00-0:47 Introduction
0:47-11:20 Sarah Hall Interview
11:20-24:10 Pedro Lenz and Donal McLaughlin interview
24:10-32:37 Olivia Lang Interview

Joe Sacco and RJ Palacio on the Scottish Book Trust Podcast

October 4, 2013

Joe Sacco‘s comic-based journalism broke ground in establishing graphic novels as a serious art form, so we were very excited to get the chance to speak to him at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival. The resulting conversation didn’t disappoint, as he gave us his thoughts on reportage (“truth is always just as interesting as any fabrication could be”) and the challenges of objectivity (“as a journalist you need to keep some distance; as a human being that is almost impossible”), amongst many other fascinating insights. Listen to the interview for much more.

Also on this podcast, the American author RJ Palacio tells us about her breakout young adult novel Wonder, which we featured on our book discussion podcast earlier this year. The book draws the reader into a compassionate portrayal of a boy with a serious facial disfigurement; Palacio tells us how she went about writing it, and how being a serial eavesdropper helps her to be a great writer.

And there’s more, including a preview of October’s Dundee Literary Festival and an interview and reading from Scottish author Zoe Vendetozzi, whose new novel Anywhere’s Better Than Here is in the running for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize 2013.