The Interview: Bookbag Talks To W Scott Beaven

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To W Scott Beaven

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Summary: Ani enjoyed W Scott Beaven's coming of age crime story about the temptations and troubles facing young people. She had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.
Date: 21 May 2014
Interviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson

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Ani enjoyed W Scott Beaven's coming of age crime story about the temptations and troubles facing young people. She had quite a few questions for the author when he popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?

W Scott Beaven: An Architect. Could be male or female but educated, intelligent and willing to engage with something a little different.

  • BB: Kiri, your heroine in Riccarton Junction is half-Japanese. Her mixed parentage allows an examination of racism but is there any reason you chose Japanese in particular?

WSB: Didn’t want black or Indian, or Mexican, would raise too many cultural issues that I did not want to include in the narrative. Mixed-race Japanese girls blend easily in London, less so in the Borders, so she would never have expected prejudice because she would not have much previous experience of it. Unlike say a mixed-race Pakistani girl, who would have already met a great deal of racial prejudice in London. This shock and disorientation is important because she never finds true friendship. Only Sacha, from back home in London is a genuine friend.

Ainslie is not her friend, as you will discover in the next book.

  • BB: Your writing has an authenticity about it; what sort of research did you do, especially for the shock-filled Young Offenders' Institute storyline?

WSB: Well, of course any professional writer would say he ‘made it all up’ but of course I didn’t. My wife is a JP, a Magistrate, formerly a Senior Social Worker and Marriage Guidance Counsellor and she also worked in a womens refuge for several years, so as a family, we are very interested in social issues.

  • BB: One of the interesting changes in the family's life after they've moved from London is the almost feudal relationship between Kiri's father and his employer, the local laird. Did you come across this older world form of relationship a lot?

WSB: Sorry, no. I made it all up.

  • BB: Which Riccarton characters did you enjoy writing the most and why?

WSB: Ainslie, Ainslie, Ainslie. Fabulous character. And Midori, which is the character I had to research the most. Lines like, ‘It only takes one cloud to blot out the sun’ come out of research, not my writerly gifts.

  • BB: The novel has a rich background of railway running right through it (no pun intended), not just the station in the title. Are you a train enthusiast?

WSB: Not exactly; I am more of a Victorian enthusiast if you know what I mean. They were as strong, bold and committed to progress as say the Americans were in the early sixties with the space programme. Their constructions are very obvious in the Scottish Borders and North Pennines; disused railway stations and viaducts, cuttings and sidings that have never really been dismantled. Just left to neglect and the sheep.

  • BB: Growing up on the notorious Easterhouse Estate in Glasgow, what sort of childhood did you have?

WSB: Don’t want to say too much about that. It’s too Pythonesque [You had a house! Luxury! We lived in a hole in the ground! E&c].

  • BB: You left school with two 'O' levels, neither of which were English (again telling you something you already know!). Do you have any advice for potential novelist, particularly those whose sense of their ability has been deflated by their experiences?

WSB: Well, I think the opposite is true. If you have lived a life, you have experiences you can draw upon. The thing is, to live and gain experience, not of course with the intention of keeping a diary or thinking, ‘that might be useful if I write a book in twenty years time’, but to challenge yourself, use your talents and hone your skills [some of which you never knew you had], find resources you never knew you had and apply them. Pretty much the whole of Riccarton Junction is completely made up; never known a Kiri; never known a Chris; never known a Midori; never attended a country school; never driven a Forwarder; never set foot in a Young Offenders Institution. Never ridden a horse. But I have done lots of other things, met lots of different people from every kind of background, dealt with them, worked with them loved them hated some of them, got ripped off by some of them should never have trusted some of them, been helped immensely by others. They all become characters in the book for their qualities, not their personalities.

I actually find it difficult to comprehend how someone with a degree in English from a good university whose life experience is school then college, maybe a bit of travelling can say anything meaningful in a novel. Okay her father was cruel and abused both her and her mother and okay maybe there is a book in there but it is going to be thin gruel.

Advice for authors? Same advice I was given: read and absorb Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein. Keep it handy. I found it indispensible.

  • BB: Which authors inspire you?

WSB: Inspire? Anyone that can keep on going after their fortieth rejection slip. Having said which, you don’t get rejection slips these days, you get ignored. Anyone who sweats blood and tears for two years to produce their best work, has it published and then the publisher more or less ignores it.

  • BB: What's next for W Scott Beaven?

WSB: I am completely one hundred percent committed to raising awareness of both my books; trying to get reviews; trying to get interest. I spend at least half of every day on this task. I do not have any time for writing new work.

  • BB: Thanks for chatting to us, Scott.

You can read more about W Scott Beaven here.

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