Friday 9 September 2011

Dancing With Myself: IAIN ROWAN interviews IAIN ROWAN

Interview started, 11:05am, 3rd September 2011, present one Iain Rowan, and myself, Iain Rowan. Could you please state your full name for the tape.
Iain Rowan.

You claim to be a writer Mr Rowan, is that correct?

Yeah, I guess so.

You guess so? Or you are?

OK, OK, I am.

Do you have any evidence that would support this claim?

Suppose so. I've had thirty short stories published in a variety of places, and I've written a couple of novels. Look, what's this all--

And you consider that this makes you a writer?

Well, I dunno, I'm someone who writes, but --

Someone who writes, you claim? Very interesting. We'll come back to that later on, Mr Rowan. Right now I'd like you to tell us, for the benefit of the tape, what this 'writing' consists of.

Crime fiction, mostly. But also a fair amount of - well, horror never feels the right word. Macabre, chilling, weird, whatever. That.

Can you provide any evidence of this 'writing'. We hear people make all kinds of claims in here.

I pulled together a collection of my crime fiction that had been published in places like Ellery Queen's, Hitchcock's and Hardluck Stories, and I've published it as an ebook called NOWHERE TO GO. There's a special offer on throughout September, it's usually $2.99, but it's down to 99c, also available in the UK.

I don't take kindly to attempts at bribing me, Mr Rowan. Especially when it's recorded on tape. People actually like this 'writing' of yours, do they?

Honest, I'm as surprised as you. But they seem to. One of the stories in NOWHERE TO GO won the Derringer Award for best short story, and another was the basis for a novel that was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger. I got to go to an awards dinner at the Hilton and everything, was very exciting. Apart from James Naughtie's guest of honour speech. That was one of the longest years of my life.

Shortlisted, you say.


That means it didn't win.

Yes. Yes, it does.

I see. Well, I think we better move quickly on. Sources have told us that you 'dislike writing crime fiction with a police protagonist'. Got something against the police, have you?

No, nothing. It just doesn't interest me as much. I'm far more interested in writing about ordinary people who are caught up in things that they can't control, about the edges of society and the people who live there. People with no power, little control over their lives, no resources. I find that much more fertile ground for the kinds of stories that I want to tell than a character who can bring to bear all the power and resources of the state. I much prefer people who have Nowhere To Go. Get it?

Please stop, Mr Rowan, or I will have to arrest you for assaulting a police officer, because my sides will split with laughter. Apparently you also write horror fiction. Bit of a psycho, are you? Like a bit of blood and gore?

What? No! Anyway, I don't like to describe my stuff as horror fiction, because then people do think it's all gore and violence. And there's none of that. It's lower-key, unsettling, chilling. Like with my crime fiction, I've brought my previously published short stories into an ebook collection called ICE AGE. Stories in there were reprinted in the Best New Horror anthology, nominated for the British Fantasy Award and featured in other anthologies nominated for the Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards.

You're mentioning these ebook things quite often. Big fan, are we?

I am. While there are genuine issues about how readers will find their way to the best fiction when, being blunt, the vomiting of the world's slushpiles all over Amazon will mean there is a lot of very poor work out there, I think the democratisation of publishing is a very good thing. I love the idea that there can be a resurgence of fiction that might have previously not seen the light of day because it was commercially unviable, whether that's because it's an awkward length, or because an editor - who actually likes it - simply doesn't think it will sell enough to convince the accountants.

I'm not keen on the evangelical 'ebooks-are-wonderful', 'legacy publishing-is-predatory-dinosaur' polarisation of discussion that is very common at the moment. Trad publishing has found and nurtured and published many amazing writers, and it's stacked full of people who are passionate about books. But it's maybe also true that there's a danger that it encourages certain kinds of fiction, by certain kinds of writers, and I think it's a great development that people can just take another route now, and go off and try and do it for themselves. It's a little bit reminiscent of the diy ethic of indie music back when that phrase actually meant something. As long as you close your eyes and pretend that Amazon isn't a corporate behemoth doing things solely because it coldly calculates that those things are a better way to market dominance.

I do love the idea that short stories that I've had published in magazines that are long off the newsstands can be given a new lease of life, and a new audience, hence the two collections. And I'm really looking forward to more adventures in e-publishing, and I'm playing with some ideas around serial fiction at the moment.

But I'm also still exploring options for print publication, and my novel One of Us (the one which was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger) is out with agents at the moment. At some point though, if that doesn't work out, I'll probably go the ebook route with that, and send my next novel out to agents. I'm an enthusiast for the opportunities that e-publishing brings, but I think there's still a huge amount to be said for print publication, from reaching a wider audience to the simple, egotistic validation of being able to walk into a bookshop and put your books in the most prominent place when the staff aren't looking.

I see. Very revealing. You have one of these internet blogs, don't you Mr Rowan.

I do. It's at .

I'll take your word for it, don't know much about all this double-u double-u double-u dot com dot http dot internet dot facebook dot com business. A reliable source who knows more about these things tells me that you spend a lot of time interviewing co-conspirators in this writing game.

I do, and people have been hugely generous with their time, and come up with some really interesting discussion about their writing careers, the future of publishing, and lots more.

Oh, believe me Mr Rowan, we'll be keeping a very close eye on them all. Now, let me take you back to your previous claim to be a 'writer'. Would you say you write as much as you should do?

Well I think I've done reasonably -

Reasonably? I didn't ask you about reasonably, Mr Rowan, or how you have done. You claim to be a writer, do you write as much as you should do?

I've had over thirty short stories published and -

Answer the question, Mr Rowan.


Answer the question, Mr Rowan.

No, I don't.

Louder, for the tape please.

No, I should be writing more. But to be fair there's reasons, you've got to listen--

Interview terminated at 11:50am. Take him away.


  1. Just picked up Nowhere to Go and Ice Age the other day. Very much enjoyed the first few stories in Ice Age. I, too, am a fan of the chilling, low-key side of the horror genre more than the blood and gore or overtly scary.

  2. Ha - great fun, really enjoyed that. Ta! :D

  3. Cheers folks, and thanks Nigel for having me here.