Approaches to writing - Paul Beattie

7 April 2012 / Leave a Comment

Paul Beattie
Filthy Luca
A boy, a Nazi and a dead body in the dining room.

What inspired the idea behind your story?
I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers and coming-of-age stories and thought it would be fun to combine the two. I had a vague notion that it would be interesting to write a book that was both dark and disturbing but also gently nostalgic and imbued with moments of melancholic comedy. I came up with a number of scenarios but nothing really fired my imagination. Then, one afternoon, I heard my neighbour’s sons playing in their garden. The eldest boy is called Luca. It was at this point that the novel finally began to take shape.

How long did the first draft take to write and how would you describe this process?
I wrote the first draft of Filthy Luca four or five years ago while I was studying for a master’s degree in creative writing at Bath Spa University. I had a rough draft of another novel which I was working on for my degree but, enthused by the terrifically supportive creative atmosphere at Bath, I also wanted to write something completely new. Filthy Luca was the book I ended up writing.

Where do you write and how often and how long do you spend writing?
I can write anywhere that’s quiet. Fuelled by coffee and toast, I usually write first thing in the morning and tend to write for between three and four hours, after which my brain has pretty much turned to mush. If I’m writing a new novel, I like to write every day until I’ve completed an initial draft. If I’m rewriting or editing, it’s much more of a piecemeal process and I tend to fit it in whenever I’ve got a spare hour or two.

How do you go about rewriting and editing your book? And how has it changed from the initial draft?
I’m pretty sure I’ve spent ten times longer rewriting Filthy Luca than I ever did writing it in the first place. For me, it’s a question of slowly chipping away at the work until, eventually, you end up with something you’re completely happy with. I don’t think I’ve reached that point with Filthy Luca yet. It’s still a work in progress. The only major, plot change Filthy Luca has undergone is that, initially at least, there wasn’t a secondary narrative set in Italy. I believe it was over a year before I decided to introduce the Italian chapters. I’m glad I did. They contain some of my favourite scenes in the book.

When is a book finished?
When it hits the printing press or the author drops down dead. Hopefully not both.

To view his book on Authonomy visit


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