Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Next Literary Giant?

It could be that Stuart Ayris might become one of those literary writers students thirty years from now will have to read in literature classes as required reading.
No, I'm not kidding. 

Listening and reading comments from those who have read Stuart's works basically have said the same thing.  They all have been impressed with the way the words flowing across the page evokes powerful emotion.  That, Pilgrim, is the mark of a talented writer.

Stuart is into writing true literature;  that is, he paints the human heart in words.  The frailties.  The irony.  The hopes.  The dreams.  The failures.  All the deep emotions that make up the human heart.  An Englishman who pulls from his life's experiences stories and snapshots of real life and sets them to words.  Literature, in its most classical definition.

So I thought about asking him some questions.  To be honest, his style, his choice of story telling, are not my gig.  I do not say that in any judgemental fashion and, in fact, admire his grace and style of word slinging.   But because we do differ in our choices I thought it'd be a kick to dig into his mind and see how he ticks.

Do genre writers (me) and writers of emotive literature (Stuart) have any similarities in the way we approach story telling?  Hmmm . . .

Let's find out. 
1. Stuart everyone who has reviewed your works that you're lyrical in your writing.  That you have a way with words that is almost poetic. Tell me, did this style of writing come natural or did you cultivate it in some mysterious fashion?

My first love, way before writing, was music – most particularly the songs of Bob Dylan. When you think of songs like Subterranean Homesick Blues, Desolation Row and Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again you could read the words aloud and hear the music. There is a rhythm when certain words are put together that, when read aloud, gives you so much more than mere words can. And from there I read Jack Kerouac with his mad prose and his made up words and his absolute love of Jazz. When you read his stuff at his best it’s like listening to Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker – he riffs with words, he improvises and it is magnificent. With my first novel, A Cleansing of Souls, I just didn't have the confidence to do anything other than put one word after another. With Tollesbury Time Forever, well, I guess I was at a stage of my life where I had nothing to lose. So I wrote a book that I would love, that riffed and moved up and down and in and out like music does. There's made-up words a-plenty and there are musical references that make me smile, even if no-one else discovers them. And within the novel there is a two-act play, several poems, a song and a two hundred year old recipe for boiled rabbit.

When I type I like to think I'm playing piano in a band – sometimes that's a blues band, sometimes a rock and roll band, and sometimes I'm an old jazz man covered in cocaine. Depends where the mood takes me I guess.

So getting back to the question – did my style of writing come naturally? I suppose it is the product of the wayward, disorganised, ever-hopeful, life I have led. And that's ok.

 2.  The other striking feature of your writing is how close the professional life other than the writing of novels has seriously impressed upon your memory emotions, events, and stories.  For someone who prefers to write a more literary novel,  this must be a prerequisite.  Yes or no? 

I seriously believe I know no more about how people behave or how people should be treated having been a psychiatric nurse for almost fifteen years than I did as a 21 year old road sweeper. I know more about medication and mental health legislation but that's about it. I've spent six years managing an acute admission ward and three years managing a community mental health team – that doesn't mean I know more about people. It's just I perhaps have been exposed to experiences that otherwise may have passed me by.

In terms of the more literary novel, that is not what I have ever set out to write. I have an absolute belief that creativity is a process of remembering and recording, whether that be novels, music, paintings or any other art. When I get in a certain frame of mind I'm able to remember sequences of words that I write down and when I really get moving and grooving and the wine is flowing and the whisky flourishes I'm able to remember whole chapters that somehow form a novel. That's just how it is.

 3.  What is it about the written word, and the kind of stories you like to tell, which is so important to you?  The desire to be a writer, has this always been with you or did it come  into being in a surprising manner?

English was about the only thing I liked about school – other than football and cricket. My ultimate desire is for people to live in peace, with themselves and others. My first novel was me trying to work out how that is even possible, my second about how I personally was going to do that and the one I'm writing at the moment is about how others might do it. Changing the world is not such a grand ambition. Keeps me out of the pub once in a while anyway!

4. Tollesbury Times Forever is about an alcoholic who is mentally ill.  How did this story come about, and more interestingly, what compelled you to write it?  Is it a tale of hope and possibilities?  Or is it quiet ride into psychotic oblivion?

It is most definitely a novel about hope and possibilities. Working in psychiatry for so long I have come to a fundamental understanding that I do not believe there is such a thing as mental illness. I do not believe in medication or hospital or anything at all about the system. Tollesbury Time Forever is just about life and trying to get through it. The quiet rides are the psychotic oblivion – the handy dandy wonders are where life is really at. And if that includes seeing things nobody else can see or hearing things that nobody else can hear, then fantastic – if it helps you feel better about yourself – fantastic! If not, then it is love and friendship that you need – not medication and being locked up.

Why did I write Tollesbury Time Forever? It was just a natural progression from the thoughts and rememberings in my mind. Partly it was to make sense to myself about the conclusions I had come to and partly to give myself hope.

5.  It seems from my studies in college many great 'literary' novels ultimately turned out to be great novels which left the lasting impressions of tragedy and hopelessness.  For readers who might pick up your works, are these two emotions which will greet them and carry on after the book is read?  Or, in the end, will there also be some hope and optimism expressed as well?

I don't believe you need to have something terrible happen to you to experience an enlightenment and I don't believe hopelessness is ever positive. I agree with your point about great books bringing forth emotions but those emotions must, absolutely must, lead you to put down the book you have just finished and leave you tingling, leave you knowing with great certainty that you can make the life of a total stranger better. The Grapes of Wrath, A Prayer For Owen Meany and The Dharma Bums are three books that did that for me. There are reasons that books have been around for thousands of years. The human experience is dependant upon them just as it is beholden upon all of us to make this world a finer place. So yes – HOPE. And yes – OPTIMISM. But the major thing for those two wonderful paradigms to sustain is FORGIVENESS. And I guess that is what Tollesbury Time Forever is all about.

6.  You have a brother, Ian Ayris, who is a writer as well.  Tell us, any rivalries there between you and your brother when dealing with your literary efforts?  I know Ian writes in a different genre but his work too seems to leave a lasting impression of  quite sadness and hopelessness  (I know I said this and it sounds judgmental--but I'm not indicating that in any way--just wanted you both to know);  so this question is this--what forces in your youths helped to mold your worldly visions in this way?

No rivalry at all! I think it is wonderful what he has achieved. We have, from a fairly early age, led very different lives – and as I alluded to earlier your experiences will undoubtedly have an impact on your rememberings and your writings and your stories. I think the main thing that has led us to having writing in common is the fact that our mum and dad are wonderful. Simple as that really!

 7.  How do you define literary success?  Money?  Fame?  A fan base?  What do you hope your novels and stories will eventually accomplish?  Or are you, after the story has been written, interested in what happens next?

Ultimately I want to write full time. It is the only non-destructive thing that comes naturally to me. Success? That's one person reading one of my books and maybe thinking that in some way life has a bit more to it than they first imagined. As a psychiatric nurse I have spent years being paid to give people hope. Nobody should get paid for that, me included – that's why I want to get out of the whole nursing things as soon as I can afford to.

8.  Tell us what's coming up next for you.  What are you writing?  How many stories are waiting in queue?   What would you like to write?  And have you ever thought about trying a different genre to write in?

I'm almost 60,000 words into the first draft of my next novel – The Bird That Nobody Sees and I'm loving it. It's about friendship and angels and midgets and paintballing and pool competitions and, of course, a bird that nobody sees. When I wrote Tollesbury Time Forever I had no idea that anyone would read it. There are now 54 five star reviews on Amazon UK. That fact though doesn't change anything. I write what comes into my head – although I do now have the confidence and belief that those words have merit.

I'm almost 60,000 words into the first draft of my next novel – The Bird That Nobody Sees and I'm loving it. It's about friendship and angels and midgets and paintballing and pool competitions and, of course, a bird that nobody sees. When I wrote Tollesbury Time Forever I had no idea that anyone would read it. There are now 54 five star reviews on Amazon UK. That fact though doesn't change anything. I write what comes into my head – although I do now have the confidence and belief that those words have merit.

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