'Scotland's finest contemporary writer'
(Alexander McCall Smith)
RONALD FRAME was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1953, and educated there and at Oxford University.
He is the author of thirteen books of fiction (Bodley Head, Hodder & Stoughton, Duckworth). Various titles have been published in the USA (Beaufort, Knopf, Norton, Simon & Schuster, Counterpoint), France (Stock; Grand Livre du Mois 1999), Germany (Schneekluth), Spain (Seix Barral), the Netherlands (Wereldbibliotheek). In Great Britain he was joint-winner of the first Betty Trask Prize for fiction. In 1999 came 'The Lantern Bearers' - 'his best novel yet' (The Scotsman), 'bitingly intelligent … among the very best [of this year's novels]' (The Independent), 'a master of suspense to rank alongside the greats' (The Times). Published in the States in autumn 2001, it was long-listed for the Booker Prize and won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award for 2000; in 2005 it was named one of the '100 Best Scottish Books'.
His first TV play, 'Paris' (BBC-2), won the Samuel Beckett Prize and the Television Industries' Panel's 'Most Promising Writer New To Television' Award; Faber published the screenplay. It was followed by 'Out of Time', a fiction film for Channel 4, set during the London Blitz and shot in Ireland. A dramatised memoir of life in suburban Glasgow, 'Ghost City', was shown on BBC-2. His documentary 'A Modern Man' - on the life and work of art nouveau architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh - has had repeat showings on both PBS and the Arts & Entertainment channel in the USA. . He adapted a quartet of M R James ghost stories, broadcast on BBC-2 over Christmas 2000, starring Christopher Lee. A drama-documentary called 'Darien: Disaster in Paradise' - on Scotland's one ill-fated bid to establish an overseas colony, in Panama - was shown on BBC-2 in July 2003; another, 'Cromwell', was broadcast in November 2003 on BBC-1. He contributed to the script of 'The Two Loves of Anthony Trollope' (BBC-1, 2004).
Ronald Frame 'has become one of our best radio playwrights' (The Express). His first radio play, 'Winter Journey' ('stunning brilliance' - Financial Times), was nominated for a unique three national Sony Awards. He has written fifteen single plays since then. They include: 'Havisham' for BBC Radio 3 ('a terrific play' - Radio Times), an imagined autobiography told by Dickens's Miss Havisham which explains how and why she turned into a reclusive eccentric (developed as a film script with Scottish Screen) - also for Radio 3, 'Maestro', concerning what turns out to be the last frenetic day of life, in Rome's summer heat, of a fictional orchestral conductor - and a 'life' of Giuseppe Verdi (Radio 3) called 'Sunday at Sant' Agata'. Adaptations include 'Don't Look Now' 4 ('expertly adapted' - Observer; 'storming creepshow' - Time Out), 'The Servant', 'The Razor's Edge', 'A Tiger for Malgudi', and - most recently - Simenon's 'The Blue Room' ('grippingly good, wonderfully atmospheric', The Mail on Sunday). His next three plays will be ‘The Shell House’ (Radio 4), Spring 2008, ‘Blue Wonder’ (Radio 3), Autumn 2008, and a further Simenon adaptation ‘Monsieur Monde Vanishes’ (Radio 4, TX-date t.b.a).
Carnbeg first saw the light of day in three series of his popular drama serial for Radio, 'The Hydro' set in a large hotel in the Scottish Highlands town. (1997-9).
Many of his short stories have been read on the BBC radio network.
Actors who have performed or narrated Ronald Frame's work include Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Jane Asher (Sony Best Actress), Janet Suzman, Harriet Walter, Janet McTeer, Tim Pigott-Smith, Sian Phillips, Juliet Stevenson, Joss Ackland, Eleanor Bron, Martin Jarvis, Emma Fielding, Anna Chancellor, Bill Paterson.
He has several screenplays in development, including 'The Lantern Bearers'.
'Permanent Violet', a short novel set in Scotland and on the Cote d'Azur, was published in Great Britain (Polygon/Edinburgh University Press) in May 2002. ('He reads like no other writer in Britain today' - Independent. Adapted as a 10-part 'Book at Bedtime', BBC Radio 4, August 2002. Being developed as a film script, with Scottish Screen involvement.)
Polygon published a book of short stories, titled 'Time in Carnbeg', in May 2004. BBC Radio 4 ran two weeks of 'Carnbeg Stories' from the collection. 'The best thing he's done' (D J Taylor in The Spectator); 'it would be fiction if it weren't so true' (The Scotsman).
Over thirty new Carnbeg stories have been published or are forthcoming in North America; a further five stories set in a twin town called Wongahoolie Creek have appeared in Australia. One features in a Norton US anthology, January 07, and another was nominated for the Pushcart Prizes 06. The Herald newspaper (Scotland) began a weekly series of Carnbeg tales in January 2008. Those will run for six months; they, and past mini-stories, can be found on the Herald website.
In August 2001 he delivered the inaugural Saltire Lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which received wide press coverage. He spoke at the New York Public Library in late October 2001, following appearances at the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The American Library Association named Ronald Frame as winner of the Barbara Gittings Honor Award in Fiction for 2003.
His papers are in the care of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and can be accessed there.
That's the factual stuff attended to.
I'm based in Glasgow, Scotland - but I carry Carnbeg about with me, wherever I happen to be. Sometimes I write at home; I used to enjoy best working in the mornings, but now I use my evenings for that purpose - and tend to switch off my bedside light about 2am (if I'm lucky). I like writing in cafes, so long as other people's conversations - or phone conversations - aren't too intrusive. (For that reason, writing on trains and planes has become very difficult.) I've just discovered I can write in a parked car - and the view changes every time! I'm happy writing to music, because it helps shut out other distractions.
Recently I've been trying to write 'gardening fiction', with a Carnbeg setting. I read somewhere that people tend not to become interested in gardening - those that do become interested, that is - until they hit thirty-five or thereabouts. The garden outside this window - for which I've assumed responsibility, shall I say? - has become a big enthusiasm of mine, as has reading about gardens and studying photographs to get inspiration. (How-to books are a bit of a turn-off. Do this, do that, and all the many don'ts.) My narrator is a gardening journalist, who first appeared in a radio story; her nom de plume is Sandy Loam. More anon, I hope.
I'm also writing a novel about Carnbeg. That's called - for the moment, at any rate - Strange Days. In part it's a pun: the Days is the name of the local newspaper which is something more than a newspaper - an eccentric mix of lifestyle and issue-y stories and social register, owned and edited by an American grande dame of indeterminate age and equally vague background, one Cornelia Hohenlohe. The 'strange' refer to events that took place thirty years ago … But, all being well, you'll see what I mean further down the line.
To keep myself up to the task, I try to swim every day. 40 lengths, which half-a-mile and a little more. And I walk as many places as I can.
Virginia Woolf said something about preferring a very regular life in order to write, doing the same things in the same way every day, in the same order. Some people would claim the exact opposite, feeling restless and needing to keep on the move, not repeating themselves, looking all the time for new stimuli. But, just on instinct, I'm on VW's side in this; I can find my stimuli, from inside myself, but in order to do so I need to be as undisturbed as possible - travel's interesting, yes, and furnishes memory with lots of pictures, but while it lasts it certainly turns life upside-down.
Even if you keep to a set routine, you have your eyes and ears open all the time. 'I Am A Camera', so said the book title; 'I Am A Microphone' too. Or … I'm a kind of sponge: soaking up whatever's around me. That's my job. Authors nowadays are expected to 'perform', to have a persona. But it's actually much more useful to be anonymous, faceless. (Okay, I've put up a photo with this, but that's a flat static image. Maybe you would recognise me from it, but you'd have a better chance of doing so from a moving TV picture - and that starts to destroy your privacy, you aren't able to pass with the crowd which is where you belong.)
That's enough, more than enough, about me. It's time now to spend some time in Carnbeg.