Edinburgh Exchange: An Interview with Rodge Glass

For the second of these Edinburgh interviews we move from the Fringe to the Book Festival and someone who has worn a few different hats to Charlotte Square over the years. Rodge Glass has appeared previously as novelist, biographer and journalist. His debut novel No Fireworks (2005) was nominated for a number of awards, including the Saltire First Book Award and 2008 saw the publication of his second Hope for Newborns as well as his very personal and insightful biography of one of Scotland’s greatest writers; Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography. He has become as much of a festival fixture as the Spiegeltent.
This year he is back as the editor of The Year of Open Doors, a collection of short stories by an array of writers, many of whom are also appearing at this year’s festival. It was reviewed on these pages recently (see The Year of Open Doors…) and there are three specific events which are ‘Open Doors’ related on the 21st, 22nd and 30th, details of which can be found below. Suffice to say that if you want to see and hear a wide collection of new and established writers the place to find them in the greatest number will be at these readings. If you can only pick one of these to attend I recommend making it the night of the 30th which rounds of the festival and which will feature music to accompany the poetry and prose.
Just in case you think that he is slacking in old age he is also reading his own work alongside Jen Hadfield and Eleanor Thom at 3.30pm of the 30th. I wonder what he fears may happen if he were to fall idle? With more music promised from his band Burnt Island, a third novel on the way and the publication of the graphic novel Dougie’s War on September 26th Glass is obviously terrified of wasting time. Luckily that work ethic meant that he was willing to answer a few questions about Book Festivals past and present for Scots Whay Hae!:

SWH: You’re a bit of a veteran of the Edinburgh Book Festival now, what’s your favourite memory or moment of Festivals past?


RG: Definitely seeing Chuck Palahniuk a couple of years ago. It was a sold out one in the big main venue and he blew up, then threw around sex dolls. Not very reverential, but people loved him. Extremely charismatic, no bullshit, very positive, fun, but not afraid to be serious sometimes.


SWH: Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year?


RG: I really want to see Robert Alan Jamieson, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to. His new novel Da Happie Laand is coming out on Luath Press I think….he’s a really underrated Scottish writer of the 80s and 90s, and this is his first book in 15 years. He’s been working on this for that long. We should treasure talents like Alan Jamieson. He’s responsible for encouraging many young Scottish writers when they most needed it. Kevin MacNeil is a great example of that.


SWH: You’re heavily involved in The Year of Open Doors short story collection. Can you outline and explain the events at the Festival that are linked to the book?


RG: Well, we have three events – one, on the 21st, is a straight ahead book festival event. We have Micaela Maftei, a brilliant new writer, along with Kevin MacNeil and Doug Johnstone, doing short readings and discussing the book with me. Then we have two events as part of the new Unbound stand taking place in the Spiegeltent in the event. We have two Open Doors nights: the first is on August 22nd, with the likes of Kapka Kassabova, Sophie Cooke and Helen Lynch (there’ll be lots of us that night, all doing short turns), and then on the big final night party, Alan Bissett, Ryan Van Winkle with literature, and my band Burnt Island and Adrian Crowley playing music. That’s the launch for our Chemikal Underground audiobook, which I’m really excited about. That should be a real belter. Get yer tickets early folks! (Please excuse the salesman talk…force of habit…)


SWH: Can you say anything about future projects that you are working on, either fiction or otherwise?


RG: The next one is Dougie’s War, a comic coming out on Freight Publishing, they of Gutter Magazine – it’s published on September 16th and we’ll be doing events for that over the autumn and winter, and hopefully further on too. It’s really a book about PTSD – a soldier’s return from Afghanistan to Glasgow. The artwork is by a fantastically talented artist called Dave Turbitt, who we’ve borrowed from a certain rather successful BBC sci fi show….


SWH: How important do you feel that book festivals have become in the promotion of literature?


RG: Very. You’re expected to take your work to the world now, and as Scotland has so many festivals, you have to be part of it to remain relevant, I think. Also, that has an impact on the work itself, as it can become more direct from the influence of having to perform it. I like that development. I think it’s been good for my writing. You can’t just hide away in yer garret and pray for cult staus to come along….you have to engage, with readers and publishers, with people who read and love books.


Rodge Glass and Scots Whay Hae! 13/8/10


Rodge Glass’s books are available from Amazon and all good book shops.


All information on The Year of Open Doors can be found at cargopublishing and it can be purchased here.


You can find all about the music of Burnt Island at chaffinchrecords .

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