This week I’m chatting to the extremely multi-talented James Oswald – author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series, the Detective Constable Constance Fairchild series and the five part epic fantasy The Ballad of Sir Benfro. When he’s not writing, he runs a 350 acre hill farm in north east Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland cows.
Go on then, James…
When was the last time you were arrested?
What are you suggesting? I’ve never been arrested! You’d have to catch me first. I was pulled over for a broken brake light in Aberystwyth once, then asked to step out of the car and take a breathalyser test the moment I wound down the window. As it happened, I was designated driver for the evening, but my two passengers were several sheets to the wind and smelled like seasoned winos. When they both explained this – at length – to the officers, and the test came up clear, the police took pity on me and waved me off without another word.
What was your first gig?
I was a chorus boy in the school panto, aged ten, I think. It was Jack and the Beanstalk, and I was originally cast as Jack’s girlfriend, Rosemary – all boy boarding school, these things happened. I could never remember my lines though, so I got booted. I was gutted; Rosemary’s costume was so cool, with a long blonde pigtail wig and make up and…
Oh, you meant first gig I saw? That would probably be Simple Minds at the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1984. I had a ticket to see David Bowie a year earlier, but I wasn’t allowed out of school and ended up giving the ticket to my sister.
If you were a kangaroo, what would you keep in your pouch?
If I was a kangaroo, I would probably keep a joey in my pouch. Anything else would be weird.
What is the most annoying thing?
Dog poo bags left on the path or hung on the fence. Really, this makes my blood boil. There’s footpaths all over the farm, and a lot of people walk their dogs here. Most either just leave the poo where it is, which is fine since it’s not a high traffic area and it’ll break down soon enough, or they bag it up and take it away. A few mindless fuckwits bag it then leave the bag in the path, or tie it neatly to the fence. Just what do you think is going to happen to that? Do you expect some dog poo warden to come and clean up after you?
The really annoying thing is that they probably think they’re upstanding and responsible citizens because hey, they’ve bagged their dog poo! But no, they’re not thinking at all. Selfish fuckwits.
What’s your most treasured possession?
I’m not really good at treasuring things. Maybe my copy (OK, copies plural) of 2000AD prog 865 which came out in December 1993 and features my first and only published comic script, the Tharg’s Future Shock It’s A Cold World.
Would you rather have four arms or four legs?
That entirely depends on what I’m cooking and how many mouths there are to feed.
Who was the best Beatle?
My older brother was into the Beatles, so I of course couldn’t stand them and hardly ever listen to them. I wear John Lennon specs, mind you, but then Paul McCartney gave us the Frog Chorus and Ringo is Thomas the Tank Engine. Might have to go with Pete, since he was clearly the Best.
Do you empty your own hoover bag?
What kind of a question is that? Only very occasionally. And in private.
Which dead celebrity do you wish was still alive?
Poor sods, can’t they have some rest now?
What was your favourite toy?
I had a few chemistry sets when I was little, which were great fun. I never learned any chemistry (apart from acid+alkali=salt+water, which stuck for some unfathomable reason), but the little methylated spirits based Bunsen burner was great for setting fire to things, and if you mixed all the bottles of chemicals together you got some weird things happening. I can’t quite believe the stuff we were allowed to have in the 70s. God only knows what I did to my brain with the fumes.