Interview: Irvine Welsh on Writing

Some people find their calling in life right away, and others have to try many new things before they discover their passions and talents. I was fortunate enough to speak with Irvine Welsh, author of the iconic novel Trainspotting, over a cup of tea, and ask him how he found his own distinct voice as a writer.

It interested me to learn that Welsh dabbled in a variety of jobs before settling comfortably into music. “I would write songs – ballads,” Welsh explained. “But I thought I should take the music out of the ballad and just write a novel.” It even surprised Welsh how naturally writing came to him. “It’s like I’m getting paid to do a hobby,” he admitted quite humbly.


In writing his first novel, Trainspotting, Welsh was able to experiment as a writer until he found his voice – the stylistic voice that drew many readers to his work in the first place. “I tried writing it in plain English first,” said Welsh. “But it didn’t sound at all like the characters.” The heavy Scottish accent and slang that comes through in his writing was born from his background in music; Welsh wanted to write with rhythm. The previous evening, Welsh spoke at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and told the audience, “[Trainspotting] is a story that I hope the readers would want to read out loud to themselves”. This kind of oral storytelling tradition grew into the tempo we now expect when reading a novel by Welsh.

When asked which authors were his own personal favourite with regards to style, Welsh mentioned Dostoevsky and Canadian writers such as Alice Munro and Craig Davidson. “[Munro] writes short stories that are so dense, it’s like reading a novel,” he voiced.

Welsh expresses that he hasn’t been able to stop writing ever since he started. His new novel, A Decent Ride, just hit shelves in May 2015, but he revealed that there is another novel to be released next year, and he is also working on a screenplay as he produces another film, as well.

Welsh was in Toronto to promote A Decent Ride, but also to support the TIFF Books on Film series, where he spoke about Trainspotting and answered audience questions. In the spirit of this event, I asked Welsh which of his other novels he’d like to see on the big screen. Welsh mentioned loving the adaptation of his novel, Filth, but replied quite quickly in saying, “Glue. The characters, like Juice Terry, would be interesting to do like the cast of Trainspotting.”

Irvine Welsh’s novel A Decent Ride, along with his others, are available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Photo taken by Michelle @


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