ONE of the world's leading novelists, Kazuo Ishiguro, has told a Scottish audience of his early days as a grouse beater on the Balmoral estate.

Ishiguro was at a special Edinburgh International Book Festival event in the Scottish capital last night to talk about his latest novel, and first for a decade, The Buried Giant.

But he began by speaking about some of his earliest experiences in Scotland, working on the grouse shoots.

Ishiguro, writer of acclaimed novels such as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, and nominated for the Booker Prize four times, said he work on grouse shoots in his 'year out' as a young man.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki in 1954 but moved to England when he was a young boy.

"It was all a bit scary to be honest," he said at the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

"The grouse shooting season goes on for four weeks every year, and all these aristocrats and their guests, they hang around gun butts with their shotguns - and after lunch it can be quite alarming.

"The grouse beaters, we had to fan out, maybe 60 yards apart, and just walk across the moors and converge on the butts, and this could take anything up to half an hour.

"The aristocrats would fire away with their guns and it was lucky if you did not get shot yourself."

The author said he became involved in grouse beating through a "friend of a friend" and most of his fellow beaters were from St Andrews and Aberdeen Universities.

"It's a fantastic way, to see the moors," he said.

"Mostly when people see the moors they walk the paths, but if you are a grouse beater you have to stick to this very rigid formation, if there is a bush in front of you you have to go through it, or some psychopathic ghillie will shout at you."

He added: "I won't do it again."

He spoke at length on The Buried Giant, which follows a couple as they take a troubled journey through a Britain of the distant past, albeit one peopled also with mythic creatures such as ogres and dragons.

He said he had "naively" thought writing such a fantastical tale would not prove controversial but there has been much coverage of the unusual contents of the plot.

Ishiguro said: "I feel rather offended on behalf of my ogres...I do not want any kind of imagination police looking over my shoulder."

Nick Barley, the director of the EIBF, said that because of an increase in private donors, and money from the Postcode Lottery, such events - outside the festival's traditional time and location in Charlotte Square in August - would be taking place in the future.

He also said that the expansion of the festival beyond its traditional time and place could involve events further afield in Scotland, beyond its Edinburgh home.

Ishiguro's appearance came as readers across the globe celebrated World Book Day, with many schoolchildren dressing up as their favourite fictional characters.

JK Rowling, meanwhile, delighted fans by announcing she is writing a new novel under the pen name Robert Galbraith.