Louise Welsh wrote in the query letter for her first book that, “my favourite novelists are Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark and William Burroughs.” It was enough to make her agent sit up and pay attention then, and to this day it’s this remarkable taste in authors that provides the unique mix that gives the special author that we now have in Louise Welsh.
Reading from her new novel – still a wip – she enthralled the lucky audience that had come to see her with a glimpse of the novel to come.
Her new book looks as though it’s going to be as hard to pigeon the as the others. “Most people feel happy to read genre fiction fiction,” she said. “I’m happy to be read on the top deck of a bus.”
And her new novel, she assures us, “will force us to examine where our own prejudices lie.” It’s powerful stuff from one of Scotland’s highest impact writers. “I’m a storyteller and nothing else really. I like strong characters, strong narration and a great plot.”
So how does Welsh create such memorable and well-rounded characters in her novels? “I always look backwards to see where a story has come from. A book will be in my head for up to two years so I have a clear view of them all, what they wear, talk like, etc.”
As for what genre she’s writing in, it’s the least planned element of her writing. “When I sit down to write, I don’t worry about genre. I think about plot and characters.”
Welsh took time to look back on the positive effect her previous career as a second hand book dealer may have had on her work, and it appears to have given her an amount of perspective: “Our lives are similar to those of books; we’re here and then we’re not.”
When asked about her thoughts on McIlvanney’s recent comments about being unable to find an English publisher, Welsh said: “It’s not my perception there is any Scottish prejudice from English publishers. I think Scottish literature is on the up and I hope in the near future we will hear more from Polish or Asian writers in Scotland. There’s a lot to look forward to.”