Rodge Glass became such a fixture of the literary scene during his years in Glasgow as a creative writing student, novelist and award-winning biographer of his literary hero, Alasdair Gray, that I'm still surprised when I hear his Manchester accent.
Not many people become identified with another place as closely as Glass did with Glasgow – indeed, even though he no longer lives here, having recently returned to his native city to take up a lecturing post, I still think of him as a "Glasgow" writer.
It's the illusion of easy assimilation, though, that Glass wants to puncture in his latest work, the short story collection LoveSexTravelMusik, which even before publication has just been long-listed for the prestigious Frank O'Connor Short Story Award. It's subtitled "Stories Of The Easyjet Generation" which, he tells me, is actually "a very fragmented, alienated generation."
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"Yes, it's become more possible to go to different places, but it's more from a desire to escape," he says. "There's been a general rise in that desire to get away. Everybody can do it, but the book is also about why people want to escape so much."
Did he first come to Glasgow to escape? Certainly, he says, and his escape "was partly about family and religion and culture. I went to live on a kibbutz in Israel for five months when I was 18. I reacted against it very much, I felt alienated by it. Nobody told me about Palestine. The politics put me off and I didn't want anything to do with it.
"So, apart from one close friend, I left everyone behind and started again in Glasgow."
Part of his reason for choosing Glasgow as his escape route was because it was the home of Alasdair Gray, and while studying for a creative writing degree, he became Gray's secretary. That post inspired his doctorate and a biography, Alasdair Gray: A Secretary's Biography, a daring diversion away from traditional biographical forms that celebrated subjectivity and the relationship between the biographer and his subject, with all the pleasures and the problems that relationship brings.
It won Glass the Somerset Maugham Award which, as luck would have it, also had the condition that he use the money to travel to another part of the world. He rather presciently chose Tunisia, just before the Arab uprising that saw the ruling government overthrown, and the Tunisian city of Hammamet features in the story The Hips On Planet Latina in his new collection.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the escape the characters in these stories seek is the kind without family ties or the responsibilities of a job. I'm struck, though, by how many of them feature fairly unhappy men in strip bars or on stag weekends, away from their wives or girlfriends. Is this new world of easy travel deeply sexist, regardless of how many women also travel to get away?
"It's absolutely still a man's world," Glass agrees. "Many of the stories are about power dynamics and money, how that affects the different genders. One of the early stories, After Drink You Can Turn Earth Upside Down, is based on an experience I had in a bar in Hong Kong, where I was visiting my dad when he worked there.
"It was full of older guys and they had all the power – they even controlled the music. I could see how vulnerable the women were. It was like an alternate universe, a different one that everyone in it accepted. It made me think about how to approach tensions between men and women and power between them in my stories. I see this as a feminist book, to show what it's like for women."
That sexism, and that escape, is also part of an immaturity, he says, in not appreciating what family has to offer. "It's hard to do that when you're surrounded by images of other places – and it's not just about better weather. You're trying to get away from your family. When you see other worlds, everything seems more exciting than the place you came from, but it's difficult to feel connected to a place if you're there for a short time. You can't really understand it." His characters are not assimilated with ease into other cultures; they often resist or reject them, unable to find a way to connect. Travelling is easy, he seems to be saying, but living is hard.
But how often is this so-called "escape" forced on us? Travel isn't just about holidays, as Glass shows. People move because they have to, because of jobs, because of partners. Again, his own family background has fed into this, with his father working abroad for seven years, his brothers and sisters "scattered" around the country. It's not just about options. "I'm actually interested in fewer options," he says. "I want to see the world, but I want to be more at ease with it."
Given the nature of his profession, he's been privileged to travel to places he might never have seen otherwise, but there's been another kind of travel for him that's becoming increasingly common for writers.
Glass began his literary career with two novels, No Fireworks and Hope For Newborns, with Faber & Faber. His award-winning biography came out with Bloomsbury. His last novel, Bring Me The Head Of Ryan Giggs moved to Birmingham publisher Tindal Street Press, and this short story collection is produced by Freight, a Glasgow independent. Has he enjoyed this moving about?
"Certainly," he replies without hesitation. "With every book I feel like I'm learning more about the industry – and that's important simply because knowledge is power.
"If there was ever a time where writers could switch off to the process of publication, those days are certainly gone. I've been very fortunate to have published two novels with Faber and my Gray biography with Bloomsbury – the Gray book process was especially fun. But I've enjoyed the publication game with smaller publishers more, from the more detailed editorial feedback I've had, to the right to develop a public profile, to the freedom to get involved with design elements."
What's his sense of the publishing industry at the moment: is it a good time for writers or a tough time?
He says:"There are very good opportunities for confident writers who know what they want. I've been very fortunate that the critical reception to my work has always been overwhelmingly positive; also that I can perform my work, which means it lives in rooms as well as on pages. Those things buy you time and opportunity, even if you don't have great sales. In that time, I have got better, and smarter. Leonard Cohen says success is survival, and in these grim old times that's especially the case."
He adds: "The only person who cares about your long-term writing life is you, the writer, so it pays to take control where you can." He's learned a lot from his travels through publishing. The Easyjet generation could learn a lot from him, too.
LoveSexTravelMusik is published by Freight, priced £8.99