Author Q&A with Leslie Tate

Author Q&A with Leslie Tate

Ways to be Equally Human tells Leslie's inside story of coming out as a non-binary person, from being ‘othered’ in gendered toilets to stepping up on stage & radio and taking action with Extinction Rebellion. Leslie has written a fantastic blog about his new book which he has given us to publish here. This is an important book filled with poetic life-fiction that takes the reader on a journey through crazy childhood dreams and gender dysphoria into personal growth. Full of lyrical writing, humour and quirky insights, this is a book for lovers of language, nonconformists and passionate thinkers. 

The Art of Slow Writing

I’m a slow author. It took three years to write my latest book Ways To Be Equally Human. That’s an average of 40 words per day. So, if you were reading my book you’d have reached my daily word limit HERE.

Some days, of course, I write more, some less. But being an author is a job where you have to show up 24/7 and find a way of doing it. It’s about sitting down and filling that blank screen with pencilled-in sketches, then redrawing and recolouring them again and again. And that’s a lonely business. There are no office chats or team meetings while you’re doing it. No boss, but no support. So you have to maintain direction when it doesn’t flow, stay critical but motivated, while suspecting that anything produced quickly is substandard. You also have to get used to disappointment – deleting several hours’ work when you reread it next day, searching the Thesaurus for words that just won’t come, and realising belatedly that you have to start the whole thing again. And that’s 174 words, written in 6 hours. Still slow, of course.

There are other points of view. In Ways To Be Equally Human I start from a more upbeat perspective: for me, writing is an adventure. So I type something on screen, look at it, then change or delete by feel. The aim is for something immediate, but also tested repeatedly, then chopped and changed in order to achieve closure. It’s not about ordering material, but reflecting experience as it is. At the same time, I’m listening for the hard-to-reach phrase that bends the rules – though only so far. Words have their own way of putting things; something the writer learns to work with, moving between the original phrase and the standard ‘filler’. It’s a shifty business: stepping back, balancing, testing the ground, then taking my chances.

But that’s slow, too. It’s analytic, discursive and detailed – the opposite of plot-driven – and just the sort of writing the Big Five don’t publish. They go for the work of literary ‘knowns’ or noteables with agents behind them. For them, authors are a brand, TV/film rights are the target, and the rule is: repeat the formula.

Compare that with the indie author published by an alternative press who aims to explore hidden insights:

In the process of writing and promoting our work we may find ourselves in a room on our own or bigging ourselves up in a bargain basement. Some authors learn the ‘rules’, others go it alone, many give up. If the main myth of our times is the rise and fall of the wunderkind, then we’re all individualists on mission impossible.  For me, to record that journey may be risky and the mindset complex but what counts is the person we become – and the qualities it brings to a book.

So writing is a Faustian bargain in reverse. Instead of success at any price it aims to rediscover our best selves. Because with slow writing there is no deadline, payback or hype. It digresses, it takes risks, and is unpredictable.

For me, that means my waking hours are often occupied by what Saul Bellow calls the “primitive prompter or commentator within.” It’s an obsessive search, juggling words and phrases, searching for the golden statement. Something outside time that also points to what’s urgent, happening now.

So yes, Ways To Be Equally Human is not only slow, but driven as well. It’s about emergencies, moments of truth, and our real and present dangers. How we live now under the shadow of climate and personal breakdown.

Ways to Be Equally Human was released May 20 2024, go and grab your copy now!

Back to blog