Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adam S. Leslie: A Writer Interview

One of the newest kittens in the cat's cradle that is my esteemed publisher, Crooked Cat Publications,  is my colleague British author Adam S. Leslie. He's generously agreed to sit down to an interview or me this week. The focus, all those little things you want to know about about an author you've just met. And of course, the reason you've met him... his new novel, Kaleidoscope.


So Adam, when did you decide to become a writer?
I’d already been writing fiction since I was about 11 when I collaborated with my school friend Peter (still my semi-regular co-author) on a Tolkien-inspired adventure story he’d started, and I just sort of slotted naturally into writing every day.  I’d take time off school just so I could write – it was somewhere to escape from my soul-destroying all-boys grammar school reality. But I’ve never been one to think too far into the future, and it was only when I was 18, and people began demanding I make some life choices, that it really occurred to me, “I don’t want to do anything else.”

Why do you write?
I almost take it for granted now.  It’s probably deeply unhealthy that I am what I do, that my identity is so totally intertwined with my creativity.  I was chatting to the author Ki Longfellow about this the other day – I was quite envious that she’d recently had the epiphany, “I’m Ki, who also happens to write”.  I haven’t reached that stage yet, my happiness is still wrapped up with my creativity.  When it’s going well, though, it’s the most magical thing, which makes it all worthwhile.

Do you write every day?
Pretty much.  I have to force myself to take a day off, and then I feel bad about it.  I write films as well as novels, so that takes up nearly all my time.  I hate doing nothing.

What is the hardest thing for you about writing?
Most people seem to say the loneliness, but I rather like it.  For me, the toughest part is generating the initial story.  I’ll usually start with the seed of either a mood, an atmosphere or a texture that I want the book to exist within, and build the story up from there.  So, at the start, Kaleidoscope is a bright, plastic, commercialised dystopia full of robots and phobic people on the verge of mental collapse.  That was my starting point.  The hard part was then finding the right plot to bring this to life.  I’m so easily distracted when I’m not physically writing!

What do you find the easiest thing about writing?
When you’ve hit a seam of inspiration and the book writes itself.  There’ve been a few occasions when I’ve written perhaps 50 pages in just two or three days, barely had to think about it, and it’s always among my best work.  I love being able to let go of my self-critical faculties and just let the inspiration play itself out.  One really fantastic idea can set the ball rolling, but that ‘perfect wave’ doesn’t come along very often.

Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
The cover is a painting by talented American artist and writer, Evelyn Mars Siple.  Mars is her real middle
name!  The picture existed separately from the book, but – along with the rainbow-coloured lettering – it perfectly fitted the mood, and I was very grateful that she let me use it.  Now I can’t imagine Kaleidoscope without it.

All this writing sounds like work! How do you relax?
I’ll come back to you when I’ve figured that out!  I’m a bit of a workaholic, I must admit.  I spend all day writing fiction, so I struggle to relax with a good book – although I do enjoy factual writing.  There’s a Harry Nilsson biography out at the moment that I’ve got my eye on.

I’ve also been enjoying archive TV lately, especially shows from my childhood.  Mysterious Cities of Gold still stands up well, and the adaptation of Helen Cresswell’s novel Moondial (which was filmed in Lincolnshire near to where I grew up) is worth three hours of anyone’s time.  Those old production values, the grainy film stock and U-matic video, have developed a magic all their own over the intervening years.  Nothing else quite looks or feels like '70s/'80s British TV.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
There are a ton – from the super-famous to internet bloggers; and in each case because they seem like interesting people rather than because they’re famous.  I’ve met Paul McCartney, but I’d love to sit down for a proper chat; and Steven Spielberg, both have worked at the very top of their field, they have so much passion and can talk so articulately.

I think that’s the thing… I don’t want to talk to people about what they do, but about our shared passions.  I could shoot the breeze for hours with They Might Be Giants or director Edgar Wright.  Ellen Page seems to be interested in talking about her principals and cool bands more than the whole Hollywood thing, which would be refreshing.  I’d love to chat with film reviewer and heroic grump, Mark Kermode.  I’ve just started watching internet blogger Lindsay Ellis’s fun pop culture reviews, and there’s that sense of “here’s an enjoyable person to spend a movie night with”.  Michael Steele from The Bangles, someone else who is articulate and passionate about music as a whole.  But there are so many.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those larger-than-life heroes who are no longer around – it’d be interesting to see if we would’ve got along, or if I’d have been totally intimidated by them: Philip K Dick, Stanley Kubrick, Vivian Stanshall, Delia Derbyshire, Spike Milligan, John Lennon, Steve Marriott.  I’d probably be too scared to speak!

Finally, and always my favorite question: When you come to power what’s the first thing you’ll do?
I'd have celebratory cocktails, get slightly drunk, say some mystifying things to the press, then go to bed for a snooze.  I'm not a man with a plan.

Meet Adam S. Leslie

Adam S. Leslie is a novelist, screenwriter, musician and singer-songwriter. He also once spent a morning as a stuntman on a major Hollywood movie, but his scene was deleted.

Covering a broad range of styles, his native genres include magical realism, conceptual science fiction, puzzle-box thriller, satire, experimental, surrealist comedy and the occasional foray into the spookier end of horror.

His first novel, Kaleidoscope, was published by Crooked Cat in August 2013.

Adam likes cocktails, cakes, old records, racing cars, the Marx Brothers and snails (but not to eat).

Find Adam on the web at

About Kaleidoscope

Peter Tobey lives an idyllic existence of energy drinks, mindless television sitcoms, phobia-induced hypersensitivity – and shopping. Into his world comes Kaleidoscope, a sinister and addictive sitcom which turns bright, happy shoppers into lethargic drones. Peter realises that he and his small group of friends must make the ultimate sacrifice: end Kaleidoscope, flee their beloved shopping centre, and be the first people in generations to step Outside and into the great unknown...

Kaleidoscope is a pulsating, kaleidoscopic blend of magical realism, dystopian fantasy-adventure, satire, trash culture, science fiction, post-modern horror, and the childhood fever in which you and your family have been trapped for the last thirty years.

And here's an Excerpt

The endless passages reminded Magenta of something from her past, something aching and empty from long ago before she was an adult. She’d been prone to fevers as a child, afternoons unfurling one after the other like a sequence of blank grey banners, each merging into the next, grey and identical and dreary. No, dreary was the wrong word. Awful. Awful days overlapping into a single long afternoon that lasted for weeks, body aching with the strain of just being, head feeling as big as the whole bed yet smaller than a golf ball. The knots in her favourite comfort blanket swelling up to swallow her, but far too small for her hands to grip because her hands were far too small to grip them. The picture at the foot of her bed – a parade of teddy bears holding a goose aloft on their shoulders – bobbing about in front of her eyes, right up by her face, close enough to touch; yet simultaneously almost too far away to see.
Close up and…
Far away…

The Chaps.

She hadn’t thought of The Chaps in years. She’d have been about three or four, lying in bed, watching the bars of her younger brother’s cot judder in a dance of sickening double-takes, solid objects flinching as if taken by surprise. She was ill with a high fever, though at the time she hadn’t realised. She’d given it a name, this jerking of inanimate things. The Chaps. How she’d come up with a name so expressive as a three-year-old she didn’t know, but she could still remember, over twenty years ago, thinking to herself, I’ve got The Chaps tonight.
And now here she was in the Outer Zones, back inside the delirium of childhood, surrounded on all sides by The Chaps, Shoutie, Screamers, Vomiter, Sore Bones and the one about eyes being close and far away... each one a symptom of that delirium.
Robbie had mentioned other names from the map. Smallfist was one. Spider, Flux, Void, Hurter, Speckles, Mothertone. Smallfist tallied with childhood fever: fists too small to grip, so small she could barely squeeze them shut. Seeing spiders that weren’t there. The impression that the world was fluctuating around you. The void inside and the void all around. Your whole body hurting. Speckles flashing in front of your eyes. Your mother’s voice calling your name, endlessly calling, but wrong somehow, the wrong tone, too deep or too high or just too damn persistent to be real.
Magenta, dear.
Oh, Magenta.

Leave me alone!!

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