Carl, aged 76, lives in Glasgow. He has written novels, collections of short stories, non-fiction, journalism, plays, radio programmes and television series. However, he is most at home writing fiction. His work includes three prize-winning novels, four pamphlets, four collections of short stories and two works of non-fiction; and he has edited four anthologies, including the best-selling classic collection of Scottish short stories, The Devil and the Giro. He has also written and presented two major television series. Carl is the current president of Scottish PEN International.
My recent book, Someone Always Robs the Poor (3), explores themes of poverty, migration, alienation, accountability and alcoholism. Choosing what I write about is an act of sympathy, an attempt to understand. Politically I identify with the Left because of where I was brought up. I am still angered by injustice and abuse of human rights, but I am not so shocked by it. I am more aware of the realities of life. It is not the ideals that have let us down, but the politicians, and that angers me.
My creativity has changed with growing experience. It’s not a question of it becoming easier, but that I am more familiar with the process, so that, when I hit problems, they no longer baffle me. I now know that this is to be expected and I trust myself to find a solution. I think I am now much more playful. When you sit down and it works and you are in the flow, there is nothing better than that. By the same standard, when it’s tough and when the words don’t fit – that business of starting with a blank page and battle through to a finished piece – that, too, is exciting and satisfying. My motives for writing have become clearer, but they haven’t changed.
Of course, I feel I made all my mistakes in print, but I know I was finding my voice. Some writers seem to arrive with their voice intact, I had to find mine and then I had to learn to trust it, and to trust the way it adapted to different approaches, themes and so on. I suppose that’s what I mean by a learning process and why I feel I am still learning, always will, I hope. There are some things where the voice and tone haven’t changed, but changes depend on the subject. I think it’s become much freer and I depend on it more than I used to.
I am now writing less about Glasgow and more about Scotland and I am writing about things other than an urban environment. But Glasgow is very familiar to me and it’s always nice to return to the familiar.