Alexander McCall Smith in conversation at the Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries (photo Ronnie Galloway)

Fiction writer, children’s author, poet and opera librettist, Alexander McCall Smith was the guest for the BDS-sponsored Crichton Conversation which took place before a packed house at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries.

The No1 Ladies Detective Agency author - a hit TV series from the BBC in conjunction with HBO – was in conversation with Dame Barbara Kelly, President of The Crichton Foundation. “Sandy”, as he is affectionately known, spoke of his routine of writing in the early hours of the morning, putting up to 5000 words down at a rate of 1000 words an hour before going back to bed for more sleep.

“It is always exciting to meet an author, and when it is one as engaging and well-loved as Alexander McCall Smith, it is a real delight,” said Lesley Whyte. “Sandy enthralled the audience with his observations and stories about his books set in Botswana and Scotland. He is a consummate story-teller.”

Questions from the floor centred on characters in his novels, whom readers almost identified as real people. He revealed that fans often ask him to take the plot in certain directions, and sometimes he incorporates these suggestions into his work.

He spoke of the challenges of writing a serialised novel for The Scotsman, the Edinburgh-based national newspaper. Emulating the way in which Dickens wrote his novels, 44 Scotland Street will be serialised over the next three months, and eventually published in 2019 with a title yet to be revealed.

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 Left to right: Dame Barbara Kelly, Lesley Whyte, Alexander McCall Smith and Emma McMillan (photo Ronnie Galloway)

Emma McMillan, Publisher Liaison Officer for BDS, who has worked with pre-publication information at BDS since she joined the company in 1995, attended the event with her mother. Emma said “Alexander McCall Smith is something of a hero for my Mum and me, so being able to meet him was an unexpected treat. We both really enjoyed listening to his stories, and I will be looking out for advance notification of his next book with even more enthusiasm than usual.”

Lesley Whyte gave the vote of thanks, after which the audience lingered as Sandy signed copies of his books.
“What a fun evening was had by everyone,” said Dame Barbara Kelly after the event. “Our sincere thanks to BDS for its generous sponsorship and support on the evening.”

For more information about the Crichton Conversations, see www.crichtonfoundation.org.