Interview with Lee Robert Adams

Describe your desk
I like writing in the pub. My current desk is third table on the right at the East Village Bar & Diner in Brno, Czech Republic. During the day it is quiet - it helps me to have a few people around, but not a crowd, and a few tunes in the background, but not blaring out. I like to have a good view of the room and the bar. I'm quite specific about the exact atmosphere I want to help me write, and the East Village is the closest I've found to my ideal in Brno.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Ipswich, a provincial town about eighty miles from London. For a long time, I didn't think it influenced my writing - I always dreamed about getting out, living in a city and write big, challenging, world-changing novels.

More recently I've begun to realise I'm not from the City, I'm from the Provinces, and now I've started to allow my experiences growing up on an estate in a nowhere sort of town influence my writing more. As a result, my writing has become more natural and more personal.
When did you first start writing?
Pretty much from when I learned the alphabet. My parents tell me I was writing before I could read, but I suspect that is a little exaggerated! So realistically, from around the age of six. I was encouraged by my Grandmothers - they loved their books. My Grandmother had stacks of Mills & Boon romances in her bedside cabinet, and my Great-Grandmother always had dozens of large print books from the library laying around. They both looked after me when I was little, so I was always surrounded by words. Not very good ones, admittedly, but I think the uncritical joy my Nans took from their books inspired me to tell my own stories.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"A Man Walks Into A Pub" came from a homework assignment from my Writers Group. Each month we set a topic or challenge, and one of the topics was the old joke that begins - A Man Walks Into A Pub...

My original idea was far more high concept - a man with no friends walks into a pub on his birthday and forces the regulars to celebrate with him. However, the writing coincided with the arrangements for my twenty year school reunion. It made me think about all the terrible things kids did to each other during their school years, and some of those stories became The Man's motivation. So "A Man Walks Into A Pub" turned into something far more dark and nasty, but also more personal and realistic.
What are you working on next?
I'm writing a Sci Fi piece called "Greetings Fellow Earthlings". It is my response to Edgar Wright's latest, "The World's End" - I like that kind of alien invasion stuff set in a small town, and I thought I could approach it from a different angle. I started writing a story about fifteen years ago about a guy who commits suicide and is shot into space (as you do). Millions of years later, he washes up on an alien planet, and the locals bring him back to life and make him feel right at home. Some time later, a space ship turns up from planet Earth, and the character is torn between sticking up for the alien race that has made him one of them, and fighting for his own species. That was too difficult, because I'm not great at spaceships and aliens, so now I've reversed it so I can have it set in a Wyndham-esque English small town.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favourite authors tend to be the ones who influencec me the most, although these days I'm more influenced by film, TV and even TV commercials than I am novels. I love Bohumil Hrabal's ability to pack so many vivid images and ideas into every paragraph - my favourite book, "Too Loud A Solitude" is astonishing in that respect, as it is less than a hundred pages long, yet every sentence seems to contain at least one brilliant thought.

I enjoy the work of Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler, because I always get the sense of hard won wisdom shining through in the words, personified in Chandler's case by Marlowe.

Magnus Mills is another big influence, particularly his first two books, "The Restraint of Beasts" and "All Quiet on the Orient Express". He's a master of stripping things right back and expressing the situation through incredibly deadpan dialogue. The second book in particular is a horror story of English politeness.

Sax Rohmer's "Fu Manchu" books really changed the way I thought about pacing my stories, particularly "The Demon Chimp of Prague", where Rohmer's breakneck, slightly hyperbolic style met the desire - influenced by Hrabal - to cram as many jokes and images into every single line.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Usually watching movies - I'm obsessed, and it constantly worries me that I'll never get to see every film ever made. I also enjoy cooking, reading, eating out, going to the pub, and enjoying my adopted hometown of Brno with my partner and our two kids.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I have to confess that I don't read ebooks. I rarely get time to read anything anymore now we have a three year old and a six month old in the house!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Sure, it was called "Tomson and the Ghouls". It was about a kid who meets a bunch of friendly supernatural creatures - a ghost, a skeleton, a blob, and a knight - at Warwick Castle, and goes on a series of adventures. I filled up notebook after notebook at school with it. I was probably around six at the time.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The one that sticks in my mind is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. I liked the ridiculous escalating nature of Sam-I-am's attempts to persuade the other guy to try the food, although probably the pictures stuck with me more at the time. I've still got my copy back home in England with a crayon outline of my tiny hand inside the cover. It was one of the first books I bought for my daughter, and she loves it too - we've found its message about trying things to see if you like them or not really helpful with her and food. ("Sam-I-am would try it.", etc.)
How do you approach cover design?
Unsatisfactorily at the moment. I have to find a cover artist and I've got a guy in mind...just need to persuade him.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal - just so many incredible ideas and vivid images packed into such a slender book. Pretty much every line has something wonderful in it. It's also intensely moving - the way he handles the fate of the protagonist's lost Romany lover is absolutely heartbreaking.

All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills - it's a brilliant horror story of English politeness, and Mills's style is so wonderfully deadpan. It reads so fast that I can breeze through it in one or two sittings, and I've given away about five copies to friends.

Three Novels by Raymond Chandler - The Penguin edition containing The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and Farewell, My Lovely. I can never remember which one is which, but I can pretty much flip it open at any page and dive in, then just get carried away by the language and the atmosphere.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson - I keep this on my list because it blew me away in my early twenties, and serves as a cautionary tale to me. It struck me at exactly the right (or wrong) time, when I was first traveling to Prague regularly and wanted to be a writer. The gonzo style appealed to me, which I interpreted as: go somewhere different, get absolutely wasted, get in a whole bunch of crazy adventures, then write about it. I proved very good at the first three points, but didn't realise that it takes a special kind of talent to pull it all off, and as a result I hardly wrote anything. I just got pissed up all the time and scribbled stuff in a notebook that I could barely read in the morning. Also I started aping Thompson's style, and took me ages to start developing my own.

Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James - my current obsession. I came to James's work late, having spent several years trying to write a supernatural novel set in my home county of Suffolk, UK. Then I discovered the BBC adaptation of A Warning to the Curious then read the story and thought, oh...he only beat me to it by a hundred years or so. Parts of Suffolk have such a specific spooky atmosphere that his stories set in the county capture so well, and now I live abroad that means so much to me.
Published 2018-01-02.
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Books by This Author

Whistle and I'll Come to You
Price: Free! Words: 10,940. Language: British English. Published: November 16, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
(3.88 from 8 reviews)
Troubled by the recent suicide of a friend, a young teacher heads to the seaside to get away from it all. His destination is Dunwich on the East Anglian coast, famed for its fish and chips, phantom bells, and a city lost beneath the waves. He discovers an ancient whistle with a mysterious inscription, and playing the instrument summons a supernatural force that haunts his every step…