WRITER Ian Rankin has revealed that he only finds out who the villain of his novels is once he is “20 or 30 pages near the end” of writing the book.
The author recently admitted to “flying by the seat of his pants” when it comes to planning the plot of his Rebus books.
He added that he was often forced to take on the role of a detective himself when writing and doesn’t know “what the heck is going on” for most of the novel.
Rankin, 60, made the comments during an interview with Steve Wright on BBC Radio Two yesterday [Wed].
The Edinburgh-based author also discussed fellow Scot and Succession star Brian Cox’s recent adaptation of Rebus, which he produced as a short play during lockdown.
Rankin revealed that Cox went to extraordinary lengths to get into the dog-loving detective’s mind, even purchasing cans of pet food – despite not owning a dog himself.
The best selling novelist was discussing his latest Rebus book which is published today [THU], “A song for the Dark Times.”
Speaking to Steve Wright in the Afternoon yesterday (Wed), he said: “I don’t know where it goes from page 20 onwards.
“I knew I wanted to get Rebus out of Edinburgh. Take him out of his comfort zone, take me out of my comfort zone.
“I knew his daughter lived up north. I thought that was a good way of taking him out of the city. Okay her partners disappeared and I thought what’s going on.
“Writing the book, introducing all of these characters and having Rebus talk to them and finding out their back story, that is me being the detective, while I’m writing and getting to know the characters.
“It’s only through writing the book I find out what the heck is going on, so I’m usually 20 or 30 pages from the end before I work out who the villain is and why they did what they did.”
He explained that his process is very common among crime writers.
He said: “A lot of us just fly by the seat of our pants. It’s much more enjoyable.”
Rankin was then asked about the short play Rebus Lockdown Blues, explaining he was approached by the National Theatre of Scotland to write a play during lockdown.
Lots of Rebus fans got in touch with Rankin asking how his detective would be dealing with isolating during lockdown, due to his COPD and Emphysema.
He said: “So the play allowed me to let people get into Rebus’s mind set and Brian Cox agreed to do it, which was thrilling.
“He had a cabin in upstate New York and he just sat there. And god bless him he even dressed it so it looked like an Edinburgh tenement as much as possible.
“He even bought some dog food because Rebus has a dog.
“Brian Cox doesn’t have a dog and he got a map of Edinburgh and stuff and pinned that to the wall. Through the miracle of zoom I watched Brian Cox do Rebus and it was a treat.”