Author Confessions: Graeme Macrae Burnet

Graeme Macrae Burnet received a 2012/2013 New Writers Award and has been going from strength to strength ever since. His first novel, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau, was published by Contraband in 2014 and his latest novel, His Bloody Project, has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Find out which of his own characters he loves best, how he feels about Drug-Lit, and his strangest writing superstition.


What book has had the greatest impact on you?

Crime and Punishment has it all: A glorious rattlebag of characters, a gripping plot, a setting teeming with life and magnificent writing.


Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe.


Crime and Punishment has it all: A glorious rattlebag of characters, gripping plot, setting teeming with life and magnificent writing 

Who would play you in a movie?

Donald Sutherland, circa The Dirty Dozen.


Which of your characters is your favourite?

Asking that is a bit like Sophie’s Choice. When you’re writing something you have to try to inhabit the skin of your protagonist, no matter how flawed or unpleasant he or she might be. Afterwards you might be able stand back from them, but during the writing process you see everything from their perspective. So I feel a very strong connection to Roddy Macrae, my young crofter/narrator in His Bloody Project, but Manfred Baumann, the protagonist of The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau, also has a very special place in my heart, perhaps because he was my first-born, and because he’s basically a twisted, exaggerated version of myself. He’d be a total nightmare to live with though.  


What your strangest writing superstition?

I write in the Mitchell Library and always enter by the back door and leave through the front.


Drugs and alcohol: do they help with writing?

As I generally write in libraries I don’t think knocking back whisky or mainlining heroin would go down too well. Now and again, if I’m struggling, a few glasses of red wine can loosen the inhibitions, but I almost always throw away anything written under the influence. I’m not a big fan of Drug-Lit.


What’s your favourite bookshop?

When I first discovered Voltaire & Rousseau in Otago Lane in Glasgow I felt like I’d stepped through the looking glass. Twenty-five years later, it hasn’t changed: piles upon piles of unalphabetised books, frequent avalanches (I’m sure there are customers buried all over the place), owners who have no desire to sell you a book and shrug wearily at any request for help, random cats underfoot. The very essence of anti-capitalism.

I’m not a big fan of Drug-Lit


Are there any films that are better than the book in your opinion?

Loads. Off the top of my head: The Piano Teacher, Fight Club, Double Indemnity, Vertigo, LA Confidential (although I definitely wouldn’t say that to James Ellroy’s face).


Have you ever had a near-death experience?

Careering down a series of hairpin bends on a mountain in Eastern Turkey in the sidecar of a vintage Soviet motorcycle with faulty brakes, driven by a crazy Georgian with a death wish. It’s a long story.


What’s your guiltiest music pleasure?

Starships by Nikki Minaj has a special place in my heart.

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