By Ben Burns
Ever since the summer of 2017, and the release of his Saboteur Award winning book of short stories”Hings”, Glasgow writer Chris McQueer has been heralded by many as one of Scotland’s best up and coming writing talents. Since then, Chris has penned a novella about Kim Jong Un and a Barlinnie prison guard in a bare knuckle brawl, “Leathered”. Another book of short stories “HWFG” is set to be released on the 8th of November, and he has also worked with the BBC on short videos. In this interview, I sat down with Chris to discuss his books, his feud with French footballer Loїc Remy, and the ongoing patter war between the English and Scottish.
Chris McQueer is without a doubt one of the rising stars of his field, but it’s clear he hasn’t let it affect his character. Every bit the typical young guy from Glasgow, he strode over to me, stretched out his hand, and said “Awrite mate, how ye doin?”
Back in the summer of 2017, Chris went from your average guy to a published author, after his book of short stories “Hings” released to rave reviews. Among these reviews, one in particular stands out, a quote from Ewan Denny of comedy duo Link and Lorne: “Limmy meets Irvine Welsh”. While such praise is greatly appreciated, Chris also feels it’s a blessing and a curse.
“When he said that I was buzzing, mate, you know what I mean, because I love Limmy and Irvine Welsh, so I was chuffed with that, but now im kinda thinking that that’s going to follow me around for the rest of my career, so I’m always going to be compared to they two, and I’d like to break away from it cos I think I am a bit different from them. And as well, it’s like a weight on my shoulders, now I need to live up to Limmy and Irvine Welsh!”
Though, in fairness to Ewan Denny, it is easy to see where the comparison comes from. After all, he does also describe “Hings” as “Hilariously surreal snapshots of working class Scotland” and “Surreal” is probably the most accurate word you could use describe “Hings”.
I mean, how else would you describe a story about everyone in the world’s knees suddenly bending the other way? On this, Chris laughs, and tries to explain the thought process for such a story.
“Imagine your knees bent backwards, so how would that affect the world? You wouldn’t be able to sit in a motor, you couldn’t even sit in a chair right, the whole world would need to change to fit these backwards knees. It’s just mad stuff like that, I like to think “what if?” and see if I can build a story around it.”
Surreal though many (if not all) of his stories may be, there is no doubt that they have been immensely popular, and the incredible popularity of both “Hings” and his novella “Leathered” is particularly surprising given how new to the scene he is. So, what has made his work so popular?
“I think one of the things is that I’ve tapped into a market of people who don’t normally read. I love that feeling, that I’ve got somebody to go out and buy a book when they wouldn’t normally, that’s class I think.
“My writing voice is quite raw, and I think a lot of other writers, they go through creative writing courses that have kind of battered the voice out of them, you know what I mean?”
It’s true that Chris’s writing voice is very natural, as his stories are written almost completely in a Glaswegian dialect. However, in England, this practice is seen as low brow, something that greatly annoys many Scottish people, including Chris McQueer.
“It does my head in, it really annoys me. I think they might have a kind of superiority complex when it comes to language, and to hear somebody speaking a kind of spin off of their language is foreign to them, it’s totally alien.”
When I ask if the English are possibly just jealous of the adoration we Scots receive for our accent, particularly from Americans, Chris vehemently agrees.
“Aye, absolutely, because you never hear anybody talking about English twitter! Just goes to show where the patter is!”
On the subject of twitter, we begin to talk about an incident involving Chris and former French international footballer Loїc Remy, or as Chris insists on calling him “Washed up has-been Loїc Remy”, which resulted in the deactivation of Chris’s twitter account.
Chris had been on holiday with his girlfriend when Remy attempted to slide into her DMs, causing Chris to make some “threats” on twitter. He insists that it’s in the past now, however, when asked if he had anything he would like to tell Remy, Chris had this to say:
“I’d say ‘No hard feelings big man, but if it happens again I’ll batter you, so don’t let it happen again.’”
Though Chris might be able to find some common ground with the French footballer, through the medium of bad reviews.
While the reaction to “Hings” was largely extremely positive, there were some bad reviews which, initially, Chris found it difficult to deal with.
“I was starting on the new book I thought I would go have a look at the reviews, see what people liked about it and make that even better, but then I fell down a rabbit hole, I found one bad review, then another, and another and just thought ‘Oh my God, man, this is terrible’”
And while this was the most challenging aspect of his early career, Chris has found a way to turn it into a positive thing.
“It’s definitely brought me out my shell, I used to be a pure shut-in, like a hermit, I was just quite shy and that you know, but doing all this public speaking at book readings and stuff, has really gave me a lot of confidence, so that’s brilliant
“So now, I love the criticism, because I can get better from it”
So, with 2 books already on his CV, with one more set for release in just a few days, and at only 26 years of age, what does the future hold for Chris McQueer?
“TV maybe? I’ve been battering down the door of the BBC to try and get Hings adapted for the telly, and they are not having it, but eventually they’ll give in.
“Or who knows? Maybe I’ll do a Scottish version of 50 Shades!”
It’s not the worst idea, after all, people bought 50 Shades.