I was very excited to interview Alexander McCall Smith. He is a literary icon!

McCall Smith is a professor Emeritus, a respected voice in the field of bioethics, is a prolific author with more than 60 titles to his name and has sold over 20 million copies of his books.

He is perhaps best known as being the man behind the smash hit of a mystery series set in Botswana, the “No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”

The Zimbabwe-born Scotsman was really very kind in his interview. When he picked up the phone for our interview, my heart sank because the phone connection was muffled which is just awful for radio. It inevitably leads to postponing an interview because we can’t have compromised audio on the airwaves.

McCall Smith immediately volunteered to try out another phone in the suite and he very kindly ran back and forth putting one down and picking another up in his hotel room until we were able to find a suitable line. He was very gracious throughout the interview.

Would he ever set a book here in Singapore? WELL.. he says stretching the word out very politely… The answer was no, “you really have to know a country to set a book in it.”

What about a science fiction series based on his knowledge of bioethics? Well sadly it’s a no. Science fiction is not his genre.

His advise to would-be writers? “You should write what you want to write, not what you think everyone wants to read. ”

He perked up at the mention of the “Really Terrible Orchestra”, a group of amateur musicians that are said to be the cream of Edinburg’s musically challenged. Yes, he still does play with them.

“You are not really terrible are you?” I ask

(This was before I heard a clip on YouTube . It really did rain after my 20 secs preview of the Really Terrible Orchestra! They are so exquisitely bad, they tip over into being good ..at being bad that is.)

“Oh we are, oh yes we are, do not underestimate how bad we are, we are very bad.”

You can hear the same gentle humour in the man that you hear in his books.

The 11th instalment of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, “The Double Comfort Safari Club” is now available.

(Being tea mad myself I was happy to learn about Alexander McCall Smith’s fascination with the ritual of tea drinking. Read more here http://tiny.cc/u0DBq)