What's your name?
What's the title of your forthcoming book?
Describe the book in under 100 words:
Sparks is a book of 60 short stories, each inspired or 'sparked' by a photograph I've taken over the past 20 years. None of the photographs have been staged; they're all candid and so the stories are largely fake contexts and scenarios I've invented to explain them. They can be treated as convincing lies or even 'alternative facts'. The stories range in subject matter from a melancholy dog who's been stood up on a blind date, to a trainee chiropodist who actually yearns to be a pirate, to an Indian shopping mall owner who's having trouble with his escalator ...
Describe the book in under 10 words:
A unique blend of street photography and short stories. Here's an example:
'Years ago all this used to be trees and greenery. That's how my grandparents lived, foraging for nuts and berries. It's crazy, I wouldn't know a nut now if one came right up and bit me. My days are filled with collecting rent from the humans who live here. We've got about 40 units on this site and I go to each one in turn and get a little something. Mostly it's sweets or left-overs, sometimes cash but being a squirrel cash doesn't really interest me. Occasionally I'll go in through the window and check that they're keeping things clean and tidy. If they don't then we can throw them out but that means getting the rats in and I try to avoid confrontation. I don't want to be doing this forever. In a few years time I'd like to move abroad, somewhere warmer. Maybe I'll even try living in a tree ...'
What is your favourite book and why?
Fiction book is probably Where I'm Coming From by Raymond Carver, it was a total revelation to read short stories that were so economical and yet so rich.
Photography book is probably Sidewalk by Jeff Mermelstein, he just has the ability to find the most extraordinary images again and again.
Who is your favourite author and why?
At the moment it's probably George Saunders because I honestly don't think anyone else has ever been able to combine viable science or speculative fiction so well with humour and pathos. He's like a modern day Kurt Vonnegut but even better. He's got a new book coming out this month and I'm very excited.
Name a book that you wish you'd written and why?
Under The Skin by Michel Faber, no other novel has stuck in my head so firmly. It's brilliantly strange and original. There was a film made of it a few years ago and although they did a really good job it just couldn't match the alien complexity of the novel.
Describe a typical writing day for you:
I'm a script writer by profession so I write or at least do research for writing every day. I'm lucky enough to have a room all to myself which is kept deliberately messy to both force me to search for stuff and also to discourage anyone else from coming in and finding anything. I have a 6 year old son who I often have to collect from school so I try and get most of my work done before he's chucked out at 3:15. I drink lots of cups of tea, have regular battles with the cats who both want to monopolise my lap and will occasionally listen to some furious electronic music to try and jolt me out of a rut. If I get really stuck, I'll pop out and walk around the block to take a photograph or ponder a new story, I have a twenty year archive of images so there's always a few new ones bubbling away. If I'm on a deadline then I'll also write in the evening after eating, when the boy's had his stories and gone to sleep. My wife's a writer too, so quite often we'll both be typing late in to the night while the cats march about the house honking for attention.
What's your biggest frustration as a writer?
Lack of time and the state of the British film industry but now is not the time to start ranting about all that.
How do people find out more about you?
My book: https://unbound.com/books/sparkswww.stephenleslie.co.uk
My Flickr stream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepstoat/