Name Adam S. Leslie
Where are you from
I grew up in Lincolnshire, England but now live in that hub of excitement known as Buckinghamshire.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Blinsby by Adam S. Leslie and Peter Tunstall is now available from Amazon! 😀
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
My school friend Peter unintentionally got me into writing. Back in the mid-80s, when we were 11 or 12, he used to write Tolkien-inspired adventure stories in these bright green exercise books he’d found. He lent me them to read one day, and the third one was only half-finished – so I just had to join in. I’ve been addicted ever since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tough one. Perhaps at during my GCSEs, when I sort of zoned out from all other work – I knew what I wanted to do, so I stopped trying at the other subjects. But there was never really a moment when I said to myself “I am a writer” – and even now that I have an agent for my film and television writing (the marvellous Christina Pickworth), I’m quite modest about admitting it. When I’m earning a living from it, then maybe I’ll change my mind!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first solo novel, without Peter, was Kaleidoscope – published last year by Crooked Cat. It started life as a feature film screenplay (the second one I ever wrote), but I quickly realised that the ideas in it needed a bigger scope.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Peter and I have a very similar style. We love to make the reading process as entertaining as possible – not just the story or the characters, but the actual words on the page. So we choose every single word with real care, and people have said that the book never gets boring or feels like it’s treading water, which is really gratifying.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Blinsby is the name of the village in which the novel is set. Peter came up with the word: he’s really good at inventing convincing-sounding village names.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Well, that would be telling! We like to take our readers on a journey, and that’s the most important thing for us, that they feel like they’ve enjoyed the reading experience. But Blinsby itself is about childhood and nostalgia, and if there is a message, it’s perhaps that we should never lose that childlike sense of wonder.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
None of it and all of it! It’s quite a surreal book, we use comedy and dream-reality a lot, and yet people who read it seem to get strong reminders of their own childhoods. It’s childhood through the lens of imagination: the experiences are real and the people are real, but it’s told in a way which evokes that childhood magic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Very much so! The whole thing is broadly inspired by mine and Peter’s shared experiences as 10-year-olds in rural Lincolnshire as we tried to marry up the two contrasting aspects of our lives: the boundless freedom of the countryside and the stifling rules and regulations of school life. There’s a thriller plot in there about a boy who disappears, though, which didn’t happen to us!
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
I love the weird world of Californian sci-fi author Philip K Dick. Catch-22 was a huge influence too… there are very definite elements of Catch-22 in Blinsby, which is a weird thing to say about a book set in a rural English primary school!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading a biography of The Kinks, which seems to mostly involve Ray and Dave Davies brawling. Ray has just got into a physical fight with Dave Hill from Slade after trying to determine whether the latter was wearing a wig.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I can’t wait for my pal Laura Huntley’s debut novel to come out! Her short stories are amazing, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the novel.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m in the middle of writing the pilot episode for a six-part TV drama. I can’t say any more than that!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
There are lots, but I should give an appreciative shout out to Evelyn Mars – not only did she paint the beautiful covers to both my books, Kaleidoscope and Blinsby, but she was one of the very first people to read the completed Blinsby, and her enthusiastic response buoyed my spirits when I was having a moment of doubt. High five, Evelyn!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I hope so. Perhaps not as a novelist, but I’m certainly aiming to make my living writing for film and television.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Only a couple of typos we’ve noticed since publication, but other than that we’re exceedingly happy with it, which is a bit sickening.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Okie-doke. Here’s a passage from Blinsby:
It had stopped raining, though you’d never have guessed for the spray kicked up by the frenzied rabble. On all sides, bodies buffeted Frank Jackdaw. They spilled over the threshold, boots squealing on linoleum, ankles skewed at impossible angles, blundering on regardless – frantic not to be done out of an instant of their precious freedom.
Frank had lost sight of the others in the chaos of the cloakroom. Then, as he tried to concentrate on his buttons, his brain had got waylaid by a strange tune. It wasn’t like the tunes that normally popped into his head, variations on whatever had been on the school bus radio. This was… it wasn’t… it was strange. He was rather pleased with it, in fact. And a bit of him pictured how Jack’s eyes would shine with wonder when he suggested it for the album they were going to make – except there was something wrong with that. He couldn’t quite nail down what, and he kept getting interrupted before he could figure out the source of his unease, or hum the weird, aching melody all through to himself. It was slipping fast, like the last shreds of a dream. Soon it would be gone forever. And now he’d got caught up in the general melee, he couldn’t remember so much as a note of it.
He pulled up his hood, took a big sniff of the greasy wool liner to fortify him against the coming chill, and gave himself up to the stream.
As Frank was swept out of the main entrance, he risked a glance through the clusters of raindrops, back in at their own empty classroom. It seemed somehow more real from the outside, as if it was he, Frank, who’d receded into the grainy monochrome distance while the room itself stayed irrefutably present in its cosy ember-yellow. It was exactly as they’d left it: the blackboard still smeared with the remnants of Mr Lupus-Warrow’s fury of only minutes before, wooden chairs tucked away beneath desks, a pile of discarded work in each place, all but one… But just as he looked, the lights went off, and everything snapped to grey.
And then he remembered. Jack was dead.
It all seemed so normal, too. The merry gaggle of Class 3 anoraks, the stately march of Class 4 shot through with a fine filigree of infants. They were oblivious to what had happened, as unknowing as the dustbins huddled in the corner like corrugated robots stewing in their rusty juices, or the overworked gutters coughing icy water, or the glistening path curling off past the staff room window. Frank could just make out the gnarled silhouette of Mrs Boletus standing by the coffee machine and apparently holding forth on a topic of great amusement, pointing repeatedly over her shoulder, bellowing with silent laughter and miming the occasional spank, while an earnest Mrs Ramhotep listened politely. It was as if nothing had happened at all.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m going to have to say Philip K Dick – I love how he could so effortlessly shift reality. His writing style was so simple, and yet also extremely evocative. No one could do mind-bending like Phil. As a teenager, I used to guzzle Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov novels, but once I got into Phil’s work, there was no looking back.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding ways of persuading people to read it! Writing it was the easy part.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Blinsby has been a labour of love for the last 20 years – we started writing in June 1994 and it was finally published in May 2014 – and so the whole process of writing the book was pretty much a lesson in how to write a book. A very gradual one. I should point out that there’s almost no actual material from the first ten years of writing the book remaining in the book, we replaced and replaced and replaced as we grew as writers. I’d say the majority of material was written during the last five or six years.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Not really. If I had advice to give, I’d be more successful myself!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please leave me feedback on Amazon! Seriously, though, I’m always really interested to know what people think.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. The first word I read was ‘bubbles’ though.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m a hard fellow to make cry. I find early Marx Brothers films unreasonably funny. I laugh at lots of things, actually (a lot of them are TV panel shows), but I thought saying Marx Brothers films would make me seem cool and interesting. Animal Crackers is one of my all-time favourite films though. Watching Groucho randomly becoming irate for no reason is a joy.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Paul McCartney. I met him briefly in 2006, and he was lovely, but I would do anything for the chance to spend the afternoon with him. Stephen Spielberg too.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Nothing, I intend to live forever.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Not at present, but I would love to get back into music. I’m also a musician and songwriter, and there are few things I find more satisfying than creating a new recording by building up all the layers. I don’t have the space or time at present, though.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I adore cinema. Anything made with passion, anything that has something new to say – I devour films, really. My favourite film is still 2001: A Space Odyssey, though that’s not necessarily representative of the rest of my taste!
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: Pretty much everything. I love trying new things. I love spice. Korean food – I adore kimchi. Anything that doesn’t have raisins in, I’ll eat.
Colours: I have a particular soft spot for lime green.
Music: Melodic guitar pop-rock. I grew up obsessed by The Beatles; and pretty much anything with a catchy tune grabs my ears, but especially stuff from the 60s and 70s. Special mention to the peerless They Might Be Giants.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d have been a Formula 1 driver. Except I can’t drive, and have anxiety issues. Other than that, I’d have been a shoe-in.
(Or some kind of musician.)
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Not at present, but Blinsby and Kaleidoscope are both available to buy (and read the first few pages for free) through Amazon. Do it, you won’t be disappointed!