Name Ian Ayris
Where are you from
Born 13/08/1969, in Dagenham, Essex.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I left school in the mid-eighties with a couple of ‘O’ Levels. I have spent my working life since in several low-paid jobs – from offices to record shops, and factories to care homes. In my mid-thirties I qualified as a counsellor, and now work as a counselling supervisor in a counselling agency in Dagenham, supervising trainee counsellors. I also work weekends in a care home for adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues.
I am recently divorced, and live with my lovely girlfriend, Karen. My three wonderful children – Mollie (16), Charlie (13), Summer (8) – stay with us four nights a week, when I’m not working. In between the weekend work, the counselling work, and the children, I try and write when I can, but I’m pretty rubbish at the organisational/self-disciplined side, to be honest. Hence two books in what will be four years . . .
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Three years since my first novel – ABIDE WITH ME – was published, I have recently found out my second novel – APRIL SKIES – is to be published in April 2016 by Caffeine Nights Publishing. The audiobook version of ABIDE WITH ME, narrated by the brilliant Karl Jenkinson, was recently been nominated for a SOVAS Award in Hollywood. A SOVAS Award is the equivalent of an Oscar for the audio industry, so it is really exciting stuff. Proper chuffed for Karl – he did a fantastic job. Unfortunately, Karl lost out to the bloke who narrated the audiobook of THE MARTIAN. I understand that was quite a big film this year.
I have also been asked by Barking and Dagenham Council to once again tutor two Creative Writing groups – beginning January 2016 – as part of the second Pen to Print project. The first project was incredibly successful, and I was honoured to be a part of it.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had my first short story published in 2011. It was sort of accidental, to be honest. I had no intention of ever being a writer, and then one day a nasty, sweary voice entered my head on the way back from Tescos. I wrote down what he said, and it turned into a short story. I submitted the short story to a writing forum online, and a couple of hours later a publisher (Byker Books) contacted me saying he wanted to publish it. He asked if I had any more. I said no, I mean, I wasn’t a writer, so why would I? I ended up writing five more for Byker Books, and ultimately, thirty five more published elsewhere online and in print. ABIDE WITH ME came in March 2012, then later that year my first novella – ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF JASON DEAN.
So that is the when. As to the why, writing is the thing that helps me makes sense of this beautiful, chaotic, wonderful world.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I still don’t, to be honest, Fiona. But I think when April Skies comes out, I probably will.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Writing ABIDE WITH ME was more of an experiment to see if I could extend the East End vernacular writing of my short stories to novel length.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
A lot of my short stories, plus the two novels and the novella, are written in first person, East End vernacular. I didn’t plan it that way. It’s just how it’s happened, I suppose.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title of my new novel is APRIL SKIES – the title of a Jesus and Mary Chain song. The song, apart from it being one of my favourite songs, contains both lyrics and music that, for me, typify the theme and attitude of the book.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I never write with a message in mind. ABIDE WITH ME and APRIL SKIES both follow the life of the narrator – John – in his journey to make sense of the world around him, growing from his early childhood years at the beginning of ABIDE WITH ME through to his mid-twenties in APRIL SKIES. The lessons he learns are his lessons. They are mine as well, but that is just the parallel process of writing. If the reader is able to get something from John’s journey too, then that is great, but is not something I think about whilst writing.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
APRIL SKIES is set in 1991, in East London/Essex, from Bethnal Green through to Dagenham, Romford, and Basildon. Being real places, they need to come across to the reader as a living, breathing environment. I hope they do. The story line reflects very much John’s working life in a factory.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The factory in the book is based exactly on the factory I worked in at a similar ages. So, in that sense, there is a large autobiographical aspect to the book, as there is in ABIDE WITH ME. I would characterize ABIDE WITH ME as being a semi-autobiographical version of my childhood, whilst APRIL SKIES is a semi-autobiographical version of my working life.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most?
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn taught me that potency of what is written lays in the details, and LA Confidential, by James Ellroy, taught me you can write in whatever the hell way you want.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading Jack and the Lad (Barrow Boys of Barking, Book 1) by local author Mickey Mayhew. It’s an East End romp with supernatural overtones. Really enjoying it.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Too many to name, but Graham Smith and Col Bury have both had their debut novels published in the last year by Caffeine Nights Publishing. I really enjoyed both books.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Aside from writing some promotional blogs in readiness for the APRIL SKIES, I have recently set up an editing service. I’ve got the inklings of my next novel running around my head too, but just inklings – nothing more.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The online community of writers is a huge support. Meeting up at the Harrogate Crime Festival with many of them gave me the impetus to finally finish APRIL SKIES after three years. The writing community is incredibly generous. Don’t know what I’d do without them.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘career’, Fiona. If that means earning a living from writing – of course, I’d love that to be the case. I’ll keep writing my books, working on the editing service, and who knows? I am a bear of very simple means, after all . . .
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The writing of APRIL SKIES was challenging and painful, and left me emotionally spent at the end of it. Therefore, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Apparently, I won a short story Wombles themed competition when I was little, so I guess my interest in writing began at a pretty young age.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
A little bit from APRIL SKIES . . .
Charlie’s motor rattles home to the tune of all sorts of fuckin shit. Thommo’s sittin in the middle of me and Charlie, lookin straight ahead, mumblin along to every song like the words was carved into the windscreen,
‘That’s it, Thommo,’ Charlie says. ‘Sing up, son!’
He dunno what else to say, Charlie. Talkin to Thommo like he’s two just makes the most sense, I suppose. Goin to the nuthouse has really shit Charlie up. Keeps movin his hands on the wheel – holdin it tight then lettin it go – then blowin out his cheeks and screwin up his face, It’s like he see something in the walls of that place and in the eyes of that fuckin idiot in his pyjamas what’s torn a piece right off him inside. Singin along with Thommo’s less about singin along with Thommo and more about drownin the screamin inside him.
That’s what I reckon.
The sun’s full out now, and I’m fuckin swelterin here in me coat. I’d take it off, but with the three of us squashed in like this, I ain’t got the room.
I don’t think things can get no worse, when Summer Holiday comes on. Fuckin Cliff Richard. Thommo goes mental, starts singin at the top of his voice, bouncin up and down and jigglin his arse like a fuckin lunatic. Nearly goes through the fuckin roof. Charlie’s beltin out the words the whole way with him, firin Thommo up to the point I wanna throw mesself out the fuckin window, just to end it all.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The whole thing. Because I write without a plan, I have no idea where anything is heading. I also write in a very visceral way, so the writing itself can be an incredibly torturous process.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Too many to mention them all. Dickens for his humour, Chandler and Hammett for the sheer joy of reading them, Ellroy for showing me you can write in whatever way you choose, as well as Thoreau and Paine for their wisdom. At the moment, I am reading a great deal of Emile Zola. His ability to translate misery and degradation into words so beautiful and riven with truth is something quite astounding.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Any travelling concerned with the book has pretty much been limited to me wandering downstairs for a cup of tea, and back up again to my desk.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All Caffeine Nights book covers are designed by the brilliant Mark ‘Wills’ Williams.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Being written in the first person, the hardest part writing APRIL SKIES was bridging the gap from it making sense in my head to it making sense to others. Hopefully I’ve managed to do it sufficiently.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The main thing I learned, Fiona, is writing a sequel is so much harder than writing the original. I don’t tend to plan anything when I write, so once I’d got the story down, the editing became something of a nightmare – making sure the characters from ABIDE WITH ME had story arcs that followed on seamlessly, that the characters themselves, in terms of behavior and dialogue were consistent from the last book to this, and most importantly of all, that the ending to APRIL SKIES was a suitable ending for both books.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write with courage, write with truth, write to inspire. Write something that means something to you. If it means something to you, it will mean something to someone else.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Only … ‘Thank you.’
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not sure what the first book I read was, but I do remember reading several of the Captain Cobwebb books, by Gordon Boshell, when I was pretty young.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My humour runs along the lines of Tim Vine, Spike Milligan, and Monty. Whatever touches my heart brings tears to my eyes, whether it be music, writing, film, the beauties and wonders of this world and the people in it – all of these I find inspiration within, all of these are capable of bringing tears to my eyes.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
There are many. But above them all, I would love to meet Thomas Paine – the eighteenth century English philosopher. Just to be in the presence of such integrity and courage can be nothing else but life-changing
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘Gone for a walk’ – because that’s all it is.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I play the guitar, and I love to read. I’ll read anything. Love the classics. I also love to walk. Walking is one of my true joys.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Don’t really watch telly much. Mostly documentaries. But I do love The Big Bang Theory. Very funny.
Films: The Shawshank Redemption, On the Waterfront, Catch-22, Once Upon a Time in America
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food isn’t really my thing, you know. I’ve been a vegetarian for over twenty years, so I’ll eat anything that hasn’t at one time had a hope or a dream. Anything at all. But I do like cheese …
As for colours . . . every colour is beautiful . . .
Music . . . Love blues and country and soul music – proper soul music, not what they call it nowadays – Otis Redding, Same Cooke, etc. Also a big fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Joe Solo, and Half Man Half Biscuit.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Blimey, that’s a hard one to answer. I don’t see myself as a writer. I see myself as me. Writing is just something I do. Take the writing away, and I’d still be me. And I’m happy with that.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?