Irvine Welsh on Skagboys, Trainspotting, and . . . Miami | Bleader

Irvine Welsh on Skagboys, Trainspotting, and . . . Miami


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Irvine Welsh
  • Jeffrey Delannoy
  • Irvine Welsh
Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, who lives part-time in Chicago, has a new novel out. Skagboys (Norton) is a prequel to his best-selling 1993 debut, Trainspotting. Here's an edited transcript of a recent phone chat.

JL: About Skagboys: Why revisit these characters 20 years later? Were they just kind of stuck in your head? They had more to say?

IW: Yeah, I mean there was a lot of mileage in them. It's a sort of first love kind of thing. They're the first characters I wrote, really, and I kind of identify strongly with them, personally. I wanted to do something with it for a long time, but I just kept putting it off and going to other things and thinking about, you know, the 100,000 words at the beginning of it, which I thought was just a kind of a way of finding my way into the characters and all that. And I thought that it'd be interesting, and it never seemed the right time to do it, and then I thought, 'Well, if I don't do it now, I never will." And I just got this idea of doing the prequel, but making it about what happened to them in Trainspotting. You can't make a kind of "what happened," you have to kind of make it into a kind of "why did it happen?" You know, what happened to them, to make them into heroin addicts, what happened in their community, what happened in the families, what happened within them, you know, in the relationships that they had. So the question is about trying to find the answers, from the individuals looking outward in concentric zones to the families and the communities and the kind of society they were living in and the sort of changes they were experiencing.

Trainspotting is being mounted as a play here.

Trainspotting's coming out as a play in October at Theater Wit, yeah. But a very different version of it. It's an American version, relocated to Kansas, to east Kansas and Missouri, so it's quite an interesting kind of experiment in a lot of ways, to see how the characters and the material transfers to an American setting. I had to do quite a bit of rewriting on it, and in some ways it's almost unrecognizable from the original Harry Gibson play now. It's like a kind of an adaptation of an adaptation, basically. It's an interesting kind of rewrite. It'll be interesting to see how it goes down.

It's different from the film script, right?

It's probably a bit more like the film than the original play was. But it also has the elements of Porno, the sequel, and it's got a whole different kind of ending. It's hopefully made into quite a contemporary piece, you know, and it hopefully will transfer to that landscape quite well. But, yeah, you never know—you just see how it goes down.

It's a more contemporary setting.

Yeah, it's right in America in the present day. That area, Kansas, is one of the few places in America where people are doing heroin, rather than crystal meth. 'Cause everywhere else it's meth, so it's kind of got that topicality, 'cause there is that kind of subculture down there.

It says in the book flap bio: "A native of Edinburgh, he lives in Chicago and Miami." OK, I dig Edinburgh, I dig Chicago. What's up with Miami?

I bought a place in Miami years ago. I used to DJ. I used to go to the winter music conference all the time, and now I have every February and March in Miami, just 'cause it gets really kind of dreary in Britain. So I bought an apartment there and um—it's just a great place to go to in the winter, basically. You can get out, you can wear shorts and flip-flops and all that, enjoy the sun. And I can write down there. It's just a completely different setting from Chicago. My wife's from Chicago. She hates it. She thinks it's really vacuous.

She hates Miami?

Yeah, she thinks it's just really vacuous and kind of frivolous and empty and hollow, all that. I kind of like that for a bit. I just like to, you know, it's perhaps something where you go outside, the sun's bright, it's sort of nice and warm. There are not too many distractions in a way, as there is in Chicago. We live in the art deco district, in South Beach, which is a very nice-looking area, easy on the eye and all that.

I was gonna say, there have to be some distractions on the beach.

Yeah, there's distractions on the beach, but there's not a big social kind of scene that you kind of go out in. I mean, there is but I'm not really part of it. I've got a kind of a hard core of friends, but I also go down there to get fit. I stop drinking and I go there, I train at this gym down there, this boxing club. I get the weight off and start to get myself fit, and I'll do a couple runs down there, come back feeling great. It's easier for me to do that when it's warm weather. I find it hard to do any physical exertion when it's colder, or even there if it's kind of hot and swampy. It's just so easy to do that kind of thing down there.

Is it easier to write down there?

It is easier to write, yeah. You can get a bit distracted, 'cause you want to go out all the time. I have a different sort of regime there than I do here. I tend to lie in a bit down there, and I'll get up and spend a bit of time on the beach in the afternoon and just kind of hang around. In the evening when it gets cooler, I'll do some writing. I'll write quite late into the night. When I'm here I've got more regular hours; I'm more of a nine-to-five guy here.

Do you think you'll ever set a book in Chicago?

Yeah, I'm doing a novel just now. It's partly set in Miami, partly set in Minnesota, but it's partly set in Chicago. One of the characters, she's an artist and she studies at the Art Institute in Chicago and she opens a gallery in Chicago, and it's a kind of—the city comes into it quite a bit. It's set in the West Loop and all that, the redeveloped kind of gallery scene down there.

Do you have a working title yet?

I keep changing my mind. It's either gonna be called "Transference" or "The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins."

That's kind of reminiscent of The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs.

I like it 'cause it's a similar sounding title.

Skagboys has a great cover.


Have you seen the video with the skeletons? The video is going great. You can have fun.

I hope you can spend some enjoyable time on the beach next time you're in Miami.

Oh yeah, I'll certainly try. I get down there towards the end of next week, so I'll do that.

Thanks so much, Irvine.

OK, Jerome. Cheers, mate. Bye.

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