Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Author Interview: Iain Rowan

Tell us about your novel One Of Us

Anna is one of the invisible people, living in the margins of society. Not that long ago she was a medical student in her own country, from a wealthy background, but when the police killed her brother and imprisoned her father, she went on the run and ended up in the UK, working in a shitty burger bar and dodging the Borders Agency. Desperate not to be sent back home, she tries to acquire forged papers, but can't afford it.

Then she's given an offer: if she will put her medical skills to use, strings will be pulled to get her genuine papers, with right to stay in the UK. She thinks it's a short cut to a better life, but it leads her into a world of people trafficking, prostitution, murder and the biggest decision of her life: how much is she prepared to give up, to be one of us?

It started life a short story, but I couldn't leave it alone and it turned into a novel. That novel then got shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger.

What inspired you to write it?

Like most of my stories, I don't know. It's rare for there to be an obvious catalyst, rather they just emerge from somewhere. Usually with a voice, or a place. Very rarely do they start with plot. The seed for that falls out of the characters who turn up, and only then can I start wrestling it into some kind of recognisable shape. In One Of Us, it started with Anna, with her voice. I only had a vague notion of character, but I had her voice, and I stated writing it, and then I got a better idea of character, and then I thought about the conflict such a character might face, and everything else flowed from that.

You are known for short fiction. What made you write a novel?

Low boredom threshold. I like to try different things, different genres, different lengths. I like the challenge of it. Same reason at some point I am going to try a radio script, and a screenplay. I love short stories, and I don't ever think of them as being a novel-lite. They're a form in their own right, of equal merit, and if someone spends their life writing them, they are as much of a writer as someone who turns out 200,000 word novels. But once I'd written the short story of One Of Us I couldn't leave Anna's voice alone, there was still more that it had to say. So, a novel.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?


What are your weaknesses. Where do you feel you could improve as a writer?


The answers to thse two questions might not be unconnected to my answer to the 'what inspired you' question. I really admire people who do clockwork, intricate plots where every piece cleverly turns the wheels towards the climax. It probably also reflects my taste in reading, because I'd rather read a book with a flawed plot but memorable characters than one with a killer plot through which some cardboard cut-outs move. The aim, of course, is to put both together.

What is your opinion on e-book pricing?

Hell, I know one thing for sure about ebook pricing, and that's that I don't know anything, and I suspect that nobody else does either. In the space of a few minutes you can read a completely convincing argument as to the virtues of pricing at 99c, and an equally convincing argument as to why you should price higher, as people read price as a proxy for quality. And you can see people who have made a real success of taking whichever route they took.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Favourite author is an English writer called Rupert Thomson, because his prose is just so...luminous. Favourite book though isn't one of his, it's The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love that book so much.

Are you currently working on any other writing projects?

A few. I have a little side project called 52 Songs, 52 Stories, which was really born out of a desire to do something fun but which encourages a bit more discipline. So I committed to picking a song every week in 2012, and writing a short story in some way inspired by it.

As well as crime fiction, I write weird fiction, horror, whatever. I'm involved in a fun collaborative project with three great writers, where we're publishing a series together every month under the title Penny Dreadnought Each issue has a theme, and a short story from each of the four writers involved.

I'm also kicking around ideas for the next novel.

If you were to write a soundtrack to accompany your novel what 5 songs do you feel you couldn't leave out?

Oh, now this is fun.

This was a city novel, so it needs music that matches, in my head at least. Massive Attack for sure, probably 'Inertia Creeps', something dark and paranoid and full of threat. 'Time The Revelator' by Gillian Welch, as that's what Sean is playing when Anna stays round at his place.  Raindrops by the Tindersticks when it all starts to fall apart. Boards of Canada's '1969', for when Anna's drifting around the city streets, looking for Sean. 'Roads' by Portishead, for when she is alone and without hope.

Where can my readers find out more about you?

Crimestoppers and Hello magazine. Or maybe my blog:

Thanks for letting me ramble on.

One of Us -


  1. Hiya guys. Great job the both of you. One Of Us is on my list. Primarily because I've read Ian's short stuff and can't wait to see him in the longer arena. Also it sounds like, with just a few place name changes and a conversion from Border Agencies to Border Patrol or I.C.E., this could be a Southern California novel. Means it touches nerve ends world wide I guess. Looking forward to reading O.O.U. soonest.

  2. Thanks Daz, and thanks AJ.

    If the novel sounds interesting, you can preview the first chapter here.

  3. Smashing stuff. Splendid writer.