Interview Series #6: Ron Butlin


With an international reputation as a prize-winning novelist, Ron Butlin is a former Edinburgh Poet-Laureate. I think the first time I met him would be nearly 20 years ago now – I was Editor of Edinburgh Review and Ron had walked across the Meadows from his nearby flat to hand deliver a manuscript.

His work has been translated into over a dozen languages. His most recent novel, Ghost Moon, was nominated for the prestigious international IMPAC Award 2016. In addition to the novel At the Rich Man’s Table, next year will see the publication of FranDan and Steve (novella) and Troll Day! (verse for children). You can find out more about Ron on his website here.

This is the sixth interview in the series here on the blog, asking writers the questions that come up most often with the beginner writers I work with:

[Sophy] When you first started writing creatively, what advice would have helped you?

[Ron] I started as a teenager. Advice: read as much as you can and keep writing. Also, trust your imagination.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, what helped?

Stop worrying (not so easy), but also stop thinking. Thinking is over-rated. In fact, at the early stages of working on a creative piece it can be a real stumbling block. Just write . . . anything. Don’t think. Let it take you wherever. Even if you’re just describing the room you’re in, or the weather or anything. But try to avoid writing your thoughts and feelings at this stage. And don’t criticise yourself too soon. Trying to be creative while at the same time criticising every word you write as you write it, is like trying to drive with the brakes on. You’ll get nowhere. As I say,trust your imagination. Thinking can come later.

If you have another language, you could try translating some poems or stories. This can kick start you as well.

Do you write every day?

Yes. Every morning. If really pressed for time I make time – even if it’s just a few minutes to glance at what I’m working on. Keeps me in touch and keeps my imagination accessible.

Do you have any rituals around your writing practice? Do you prefer to write in a particular place or at a particular time of day?

I still write longhand, even novels. This allows me to sit in armchair with an A4 pad on my knee and to write outdoors (in the garden or wherever), weather permitting.

Have you ever kept a journal?


Are you a planner? Do you outline a book in advance, or do you just start writing and see what happens?

No. I write to explore, to discover. I am as excited to sit down to work every morning as when I started to write all those years ago as a teenager. The same challenge and the same fun!


Win a 3 Month Mini Mentorship!

This is an opportunity to kick-start your writing with one-to-one support from an experienced mentor. For your chance to win, you just need to sign up to receive my monthly Inspiration Letters here.


Seaside Writing Workshop: Unlock Your Creativity

Come and spend a day writing by the sea in pretty North Berwick – more info here.

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