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Alexander McCall Smith

  • Scottish writer
  • Born August 24, 1948

R. Alexander "Sandy" McCall Smith, CBE, FRSE (born 24 August 1948), is a British-Zimbabwean writer and Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. In the late 20th century, McCall Smith became a respected expert on medical law and bioethics and served on British and international committees concerned with these issues. He has since become internationally known as a writer of fiction, with sales of English-language versions exceeding 40 million by 2010 and translations into 46 languages.


But you cannot expect every writer to dwell on human suffering. I think my books do deal with grave issues. People who say they are too positive probably haven't read them.




As a writer, I have readers who will have a range of political views. I don't think they look to me for political guidance.




I'm very interested in tea. I wouldn't mind being involved in some aspect of the tea industry.




Serial novels have an unexpected effect; they hook the writer as well as the reader.




Well, I'd say all of us are a combination of moods and emotions. In my day to day life I don't go around skipping, but at times one can feel sheer exhilarating joy at the world.




You do not have to ladle on the impasto to make a point about human frailty or ambitions.




It seems to me that we're in danger of losing sight of certain basic civic values in society by allowing the growth of a whole generation of people who really have no sense of attachment to society.




Botswana is actually very peaceful. It's democratic. It never was in debt. They've been fortunate, they've had diamonds.




I think people in Botswana are pleased that my books paint a positive picture of their lives and portray the country as being very special. They've made a great success of their country, and the people are fed up with the constant reporting of only the problems and poverty of the continent. They welcome something which puts the positive side.




Wherever I go in the world, people all know about Scotland Street and are always asking me about what's going to happen to the characters next.




I have three older sisters, so we were a reasonably large family and, in general, a happy one.




Edinburgh used to be a haughty city.




The wider your readership, the greater the chances of offending your readers.




New York is a wonderful place to be up, an awful place to be down.




My Botswana books are positive, and I've never really sought to deny that. They are positive. They present a very positive picture of the country. And I think that that is perfectly defensible given that there is so much written about Africa which is entirely negative.




I've also long since realized that the way to really engage children is to give out prizes; it's amazing how it concentrates their minds.




With '44 Scotland Street' I found myself having to work out how a daily novel works, and it is completely different to a conventional novel.




The local community is very important in one's life; the feelings of identification with a place and people.




As a writer I've learned certain lessons. One of them is to be careful about how you put a view, and to bear in mind how easily and readily you'll be misinterpreted.




Who can't like pigs? They're wonderful creatures! I've always liked pigs.




As a writer, you have to realize that people want to like the characters, so you have to be careful to keep them involved.




Every single day, I get letters - very moving, overwhelming letters - testifying how much my books have meant to people in times of crisis in their lives, when they were very ill, say. If I ever doubted that writing could play an important part in people's lives, I don't doubt that now.




Every novel presents a slice of life. A noir policier for example presents one slice, one that perhaps addresses social dysfunction or some sort of pathology, while mine present a slice that is more upbeat and affirmative.




Any author of fiction will tell you that characters don't need to be told what to do.




I am capable of being idle.




I've certainly always had a very high regard for Botswana and so I paint a very good picture of the country and I've never pretended to be painting an entirely realistic picture.




Oh I love gadgets and I pride myself on keeping at the cutting edge of technology.




Fiction is able to encompass books that are bleak and which dwell on the manifold and terrible problems of our times. But I don't think that all books need to have that particular focus.




Many of my books are written from a female perspective. I rather enjoy the take that women have on the world, and certainly I enjoy the conversations that women have.




I've always had a creative urge and I get immense satisfaction from creating something because it feels like I'm making sense of the world and imposing order on it.




Writers obviously have to bear witness to the harsh face of the age.




The Okavango Delta is an astonishing sight: the great Okavango River, rather than flow towards the sea, flows inland, into the sands of the Kalahari.




It's through the small things that we develop our moral imagination, so that we can understand the sufferings of others.




If you lose sight of the smaller accomplishments, you end up with an imbalance in your life.




I would never inflict my bassoon on anybody really other than the long suffering audiences that come to the concerts of The Really Terrible Orchestra; which actually is really terrible.




That my philosophy of life is, as far as possible, one of enjoyment. I'm not nihilistic.



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