So who is Adam Lowe?
I’m a crazy, mixed-up, butterfly squid kinda guy, in a senile, mashed-up, mothy prawn kinda world. I live on the boundary of six other universes, and flatshare with an Egyptian deity, a talking dodo and fallen angel called Dave.
Let’s start again. Where are you from?
I was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire. That’s where my roots are. But I live in Manchester now.
Why did you move?
I wanted a change of scenery. I’ve never lived anywhere except Leeds. I was getting into bad habits. And I don’t just mean the week-long orgies of sex and drugs. Do you how many carpets I’ve had to buy because of corpses we had to roll up and ditch beside the motorway? Ikea were getting suspicious.
How is Manchester treating you?
Very well, actually. I’ve fallen in love with it already. My latest novel, which I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, is called Cottonopolis, after the Victorian nickname for the city.
What’s it about?
It’s a weird urban fantasy where a boy tries to find a unicorn’s horn to save his comatose sister. Meanwhile his comatose sister’s spirit has left her body and is wandering round a secret city within a city, Cottonopolis, where the locals have used their skills in weaving to tap the very fabric of reality to enact their spells. The city is powered by a magical spinning wheel, with a spindle made of . . . yep, you guessed it—a unicorn’s horn!
Does it have any relation to Sleeping Beauty?
A little, yes. As I said, the hero’s sister is in a coma, but there are other things too. There’s a monstrous vampire lady who lives in an underground palace of flesh and bone, who turns her enemies into a living tree with blood-fruit. She’s after the satin heart of a slumbering girl called Velveteen, for reasons I haven’t quite worked out yet, but it’ll be something brilliant when I do. She’s kind of a Cottonopolis analogue of Sascha, the sister in a coma. There’s some sort of link between Cottonopolis and Sascha. There’s a curse and somebody has to figure out what the hell is going on.
You once wrote a story about two twelve year old girls going on a fantastical journey through the entrails of a paedophile. Is there anything as disturbing in this story?
Plenty. Do you like spiders? Because if not, there’s a giant, otherworldly spider-demon with a thousand arms, called the Spindle Spooler, who is spinning a powerful spell called the Tapestry through the city. He’s driving Ben, the hero, a bit nuts. He can see the pattern of the Tapestry in the cracks in the road, in smashed windows, in the bottom of his teacup. Things are going a bit weird for him, and he’s still trying to find his way into Cottonopolis.
Frankly, I think you’re nuts.
That’s what the clinician said. He’s under my lawn now.
You killed him?
No. He likes to pretend he’s the King of the Potato People. He dug my garden up, buried himself in compost like a quilt, and pretends to be a tuber. It’s a bit irritating really, because I keep catching his nose when I use the lawnmower.
Hmmm. Anyway. You write poetry too?
Indeed. Lots of it. From satire to saucy voyeurism to fantasy. I wrote a comical re-imagining of the lay of King Equitan in the form of a fabliau. I also wrote a reworking of The Song of Solomon, written as love-notes left in a wall by a Jew and a Palestinian on either side of the divide. Then there’s the poem about the Virgin Mary complaining about God knocking her up, and suggesting that next time He try Madonna.
What’s your most popular poem?
It’s a toss-up between ‘Fruit’ and ‘Pride’. I recently read both on Yorkshire Telly and their website nearly overloaded with viewers! They’re my signature poems, a sort of statement of who I am, and a message not to fuck with me.
I’m sure we wouldn’t. Who are your favourite poets?
I have lots of favourite poets. James Nash really got me back into writing poetry and Dorothea Smartt has kept me writing poetry ever since. Grace Nichols was my first poetry love. Now I’ve widened my reading to include Clare Shaw, Kate Bingham, Kwame Dawes, Rommi Smith, John Agard, Jackie Kay, Carol Ann Duffy, Sapphire, Patience Agbabi. I read as widely as I can. Outside of poetry I read everything from literary to fantasy to literary fantasy. My favourite authors are Jeff Noon, Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter, Deb Hoag and Jeff VanderMeer.
Do you have a favourite colour?
The colour you get when you look at the sun or push your finger into your eyeball. I love that colour. Just don’t come sticking your dirty fingers in my eye without warning . . .
What else do you do?
I’m also a publisher and an occasional journalist. Whatever pays the bills really. There’s something about making books, though, that I really get off on. Making and designing the covers, laying out the insides, editing the works themselves. It satisfies my creative impulses. I refer to myself as a literary whore and that works for me.
So is that how writers make a living these days?
What, whoring themselves? Well maybe. But writers tend to do a lot of things other than writing in order to pay their bills. Most successful writers have websites and blogs and Twitter accounts. Marketing yourself as a credible writer and a source of knowledge on writing and publishing takes a lot of time. So do performances, readings and events. But that stuff’s all vitally important. It’s part of audience building. I heard somewhere it takes two years to build a core audience, and you shouldn’t try publishing anything until then.
But you’ve had lots published?
I have. I’ve been somewhat precocious in that sense. I always like to dive headfirst into things. I always have been an early starter, whether it was writing or sex or publication. I never really had the time or will to slow down and do things at their proper pace. It worked, because it got me an audience, and I’m reaping the rewards now, but it doesn’t work for everyone. It takes a certain type of madman to juggle all those things at once and even I nearly went mad a few times.
What’s your secret?
I have a magic box full of spells. They look like parrots. When I release one of them, they find a potential reader, perch on his or her shoulder, and feed them subliminal messages until they buy one of my books. Failing that, they’ll tear open their chest, fly inside their ribcage and bond with their soul. That way, their soul belongs to me. [cackles like Ursula in The Little Mermaid] Just don’t bother with the people who read celebrity autobiographies or anything in the Richard & Judy Book Club. They have no souls.
What are you up to at the moment?
Other than Cottonopolis and reaping the souls of innocent readers worldwide, I’m in talks to get a new, expanded edition of my first book out.
Tell us about that.
Troglodyte Rose was a really ambitious project, and it eventually came out as an illustrated novella in 2009. Since then I’ve expanded it to novel-length, which I think the characters and world really deserve. I know a lot of my early readers felt they wanted more, and now I can finally give it to them. Those hardback copies, of course, will be worth a bomb one day, since they formed a numbered, signed edition of only 100 copies.
I’ve had a few short collections out. Pamphlets, really, although we never called them that and they were produced to the same standards as a full-length collection. I’m now working on something longer. My poetry’s really grown since ‘Fruit’ and ‘Pride’, so I want a collection that reflects that. In terms of titles, I’m considering calling it Garden of Earthly Delights. It seems appropriate.
Do you have a message for your readers?
Just that I thank them for their support and I hope they continue to read. I never forget a fan. I have to be careful with my acknowledgement pages these days, because they’ve become a litany of readers. I think I’m too approachable. One of these days I’ll have to give up getting so involved with my readers and get an intern to reply to my emails instead. But that’s not gonna be any time soon.