10 questions: Stephen Leslie, author of Sparks

A quirky one today from the upcoming Unbound list of crowdfunded books (my own offering is here, by the way)! Here's Stephen Leslie to explain more ...

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Stephen Leslie and my book SPARKS is a collection of short stories inspired by photographs I’ve taken over the past twenty years.

Stephen Leslie.jpg

2. Why should folk read your book?

Because there is genuinely nothing else like it out there. I’m a well-known street photographer but I’m also a screenwriter, so this is a unique book in which I make up fake contexts for my photographs. It’s funny, aesthetically pleasing and mischievous. 

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

We are constantly bombarded with images but rarely have the time to stop and consider them in any great depth. What SPARKS tries to do is get the viewer to slow down for a moment and imagine where these 80 photographs might lead. In this way you can look at a photograph of a man standing on the Holloway Road dressed as a pirate and then read about how he’s dreaming of a way to escape from his career as a chiropodist, or find out what happened to the man with the a giant python I photographed being arrested in a children’s playground....   

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?

The hardback book will be in the shops / available online from August 23rd but it can be pre-ordered now (for a discount price) on Amazon. 

Stephen Leslie cover.jpg

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

It depends what I’m working on. I write film and TV scripts for a living so my day is either about researching those projects, writing the actual scripts or shouting / weeping down the phone to my agent. In the time left I’m out taking photographs and, currently, trying to organise the exhibition to accompany the book launch.  

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m going to cheat and pick a book by an American street photographer. Sidewalk was the first book by Jeff Mermelstein. It’s truly amazing but it doesn’t contain a single word, there’s no introduction and none of the photographs are titled. However, his photographs are stuffed with potential, he captures utterly surreal moments that take place in Manhattan and from repeatedly devouring this book I’ve learned so much about the power of suggestion and the way that narrative can be implied by a look or a tiny detail. His work has been a massive influence on both my writing and my photography and indeed what my book, SPARKS does is to try and extend out from a photograph and fill in the blanks. 

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Kevin Barry’s short story collections, There Are Little Kingdoms and Dark Lies The Island are both fantastic. Denis Johnson’s Jesus Son is magical and the collected stories of Raymond Carver is pure gold.  

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

10th of December by George Saunders.

All of the Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn.

And a huge compendium of street photography featuring all my favourite photographers!

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Good ideas are sticky and magnetic, they won’t go away and they fire off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Plan but don’t be afraid to change as you go along. Follow your gut. And most of all, it’s as much about re-reading and re-writing as it is about writing.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

It’s impossible to make as a film. And, given my day job, it’s the last thing I’d ever want to do. I wrote this as an escape from the bloody film industry.

Social media contacts:

Website: www.stephenleslie.co.uk

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/sparks/


Huge thanks to Stephen for his time and his answers! As he says, Sparks is available from all good bookstores, real and virtual, from 23rd August, so you've really got no excuse to avoid getting yourself a copy!


Sign up to my newsletter here.

Details on all of my books here.