Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another British Bloke Book Meister

Ian Ayris.  House-husband, professional counselor, writer or really quirky British crime stories.  Emphasis quirky.
Ian is another one of those up-and-coming writers of crime fiction, British style.  God knows why I seem to know so many of them.  Maybe it's because I like their brand of crime and humor.  Maybe it's because I'm cruising the 'Net too much and run across guys like this and strike up a conversation.  Maybe it's because one bad penny (me) attracts other bad pennies (not that I'm saying your bad, Ian.  You're 'bad' in a good way!  I mean to say  . . . oh, what the hell).  Whatever it is, I'm damn glad I know the guy.  He, along with the other Brits I know, are some fine writers worthy of attention.  Not only that, they're good men to know.

He has a novel coming out in March called Abide With Me.  Two school chums who grew up together in the same rough, hard neighborhood that seems to be a universal motif all over the world.  Poignant.  Powerful.  The first, I predict, of a number of excellent novels to come out of this man's imagination. 
And you get to meet the guy before he turns into a super star. Say!  We may be making history here!!
I thought I would ask him a few questions--you know, throw him into a hard wooden chair; aim a 1000 watt flood light into his face.  Maybe use a rubber-hose on him when he started to clam up.  I mean. . . what the hell.  We're friends!  And in the end, what are friends for but to give them a friendly third-degree every now and then.

So here we go;

1. You have a novel coming out. Tell us a little about it.

Well, short of repeating the blurb . . . here's the blurb . . .'3rd May 1975. Eight year old John watches his beloved West Ham win the cup, whilst at the same time, Kenny tumbles out the house opposite, blood all over his face.

Fourteen years later, both boys' childhoods ripped apart in the broken
streets of London's East End, John and Kenny find themselves frontin
up local gangster, Ronnie Swordfish.
John's got a lifetime of hurt to put right – for him and for Kenny.

But with John layin on the ground half unconscious, and Ronnie with
a sword to Kenny's head, whatever way you look at it, it don't look good.
ABIDE WITH ME is the story of two boys forced to walk blind into the
darkness of their shattered lives . . .
. . . and their struggle to emerge as men.'
2. How much of this novel is fiction and/or fiction based off your own experiences.
Much of the novel is centred around the childhoods of the two boys – and much
of that based upon my own. When I say based upon my own, I mean more the
nostalgic elements of growing up in the seventies – the pop culture stuff – and themselves
and the atmosphere, those sort of things. The school sections are are based on my
secondary school and many of the incidents and teachers in the school are based on fact.
Another key element of the book is the football culture. By football, I mean the proper
sport of football, not that silly rugby type wotsit you play in your neck of the woods, B.R. ;)
I've been watching my local football team – the mighty Dagenham and Redbridge – for much of my life. For the book, I just transplanted these experiences of standing on the terraces to the bigger stage of West Ham United. All of the West Ham stuff in the book is factual, although described through the eyes of John, so it has a certain bias.
3. When you write, how does the process begin AND how do you keep that process going
My writing process is simply to sit down at a keyboard, take a deep breath, and star
typing. After a couple of sentences of rubbish, I link into what is being played out

inside my heard in terms of the story I want to tell, and simply transcribe what I see and

hear. And it goes on like this until I decide to 'turn it off'. End of a chapter, normally.
4.  What are those traps and pitfalls which keeps you from writing. Or, to put it another way, what traps and pitfalls suddenly crop up that stops you from writing?
I'm a house-husband by day, so have my wifely duties to fulfil in the way of cleaning, shopping, taking and picking the kids up from school, etc. It's only been the last few weeks since the youngest has started school, so am currently revelling in my new-found freedom. I'm also studying for a degree in English Lit., so have to make
sure I leave time for that side of things. I'm a rubbish organiser. Lists everywhere, but

soon as I write one, I lose it or write another one that's better or decide to tidy up the
shed or something. If I've got nothing talking to me in my head, urging me to tell
their story, I simply cannot write.
5. In your own words what is the definition of a great story?  A great writer?
A great story? A great writer? For me, it's when a writer is able to transport meinto a world of their own making, where I hear the characters speaking, see the painor the joy in their eyes. That's it, for me.
6 . Several times I've heard you mention the difference between American and British noir/hard boiled writers. Several times you've mentioned humor
Always an interesting one this, B.R. Before I answer the question, I think it best if I say that any sort of generalisation in a subjective media is bound to overlook the exceptions. With that out of the way . . . I think one of the differences I've noticed whilst being in this fabulous online crime fiction/noir scene the last couple of years, is the seeming leaning towards plot-driven stories from the US and character-driven stories from here in Old Blighty. I'd like to stress again, I'm not saying one is better than the other, just something I've noticed. Being a more introverted race of beings – again generalising hugely – I mean, Lee Child, for example – perhaps us Brits are more comfortable looking inward, whereas, again generalising hugely, the American writers seem to be much more comfortable dealing with, say, the self-promotion angle of being a writer than we Brits are. I've drifted onto a different point there, haven't I. Sorry about that. But I think there's some relevance in there somewhere. And there is also the cultural thing. Being a qualified counsellor I have seen many clients that spend a lifetime coming to terms with expressing emotion. It's not the stiff upper lip thing anymore – it's the fear of what might happen if all that emotion bursts out. Writing is a safe way of expression that emotion, which is one reason, perhaps, British writers lean in that direction rather than intricate plotting. And, to be honest, the material you've got over in the US to work with is in far greater degree than over here – guns, drugs, dozens of serial killers roaming the country at will all at the same time, and a much stronger sense, I feel, of justice and heroes as something to aspire to.  Just want to add, my mate Chris Benton – one of your compatriots – writes the best character driven stuff I know. See, my theory is full of holes :)

7. Now compare British writers in this genre with writers coming out of the rest of Europe. Are their any differences? Similarities?
I'm ashamed to say, B.R., I can't put me name to reading anything on the fair continent of Europe. It's something I intend to put right, so if anyone has any suggestions of where to start, I'd much appreciate it :)
8.  In today's publishing world we see a lot of editors/publishers wanting writers of fiction to come up with a continuing series. What do you think of this? Do you write a series yourself?
I think a series makes a lot of sense for editors/publishers to push. If one book with one set of characters or character gets a committed readership, then another book with the same set so of characters or character has a fairly high chance of dragging those readers along with it. Also, if a reader comes late in the game to the series, there is a whole back catalogue to buy. For me, I've never thought I've writing a series. All my stuff seems to have endings where a sequel is pretty much beyond the laws of physics. I have, however, written two stories with self-employed hitman, Charlie Splinters, as the main character. The first story – SMALL PRINT – will be in the 2012 edition of The Mammoth Book of British Crime, and the second story, HARD TIME, placed fourth in The Watery Grave Invitational this year and will be appearing in the forthcoming collection BRIT GRIT 2.
I've written another story for the forthcoming OFF THE RECORD collection from Luca Veste where I've since used the unnamed narrator of that story as the main character in a novella I am currently working on.
So perhaps I've been dabbling with writing a series, or two, without even realising. . .
9. What are your thoughts on the conflict between creating plot versus creating vivid characters. Which one is more important? Which one do you think is your strongest and weakest areas?

Firstly, I'd have to say, I'm very much from the creating a story from a vivid character camp. Once I've got a vivid character sitting inside my head, talking to me, they tell the story themselves. I've no real input. For me, a plot can involve something as simple as a desperately paranoid psychopath going down the road to buy a bag of chips. It's all on the inside. That, for me, is where the plot is.
I find it almost impossible to plan anything in my writing, hence putting something together as intricate as a plot – beyond me, I think.

10. Genre fiction versus the classic definition of Literature. In your opinion, why is the former so casually dismissed by academia and the latter so angrily dismissed by the majority of the reading public?

Now, I love genre fiction – mainly crime fiction, of course – and I love classic literature. Is there room for both? Of course there is. As in all things, holding on to a label merely precludes you from experiencing what feels most threatening to the existence of that label. For me, Dickens could be considered a genre of his own, just as Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain are two writers that easily fit the definition of the 'literature' camp.

I think categorising in any form, for me, smacks of compartmentalism. And compartmentalism merely leads to prejudice and seclusion. Remove the labels, and great books are just great books.

11. The writing process: do you pace yourself by setting goals like writing so many pages a day? So many words a week? Or do you write when the urge hits you?

Not an easy one, that, B.R. Sort of a bit of both. I can't plan – anything. So the words per day or words per week thing doesn't really happen. My process, if that's not being too pretentious, is normally I get a rumbling of voices inside my head – all fighting for attention. I've learnt now, rather than sit down straight away and start typing – to wait until the one voice with the greatest need becomes the clearest. Sometimes it takes a day, two days, two weeks – it doesn't really matter. However long it takes to get that voice clear in my head. Sort of like tuning a radio. Once I've got it clear, I sit down and listen and type. Till that bit of the story – if it's a book – or the whole story, if it's a short, until it's finished.

That's it, really. A bit mad, I know. But there you have it :)

12.  What do you say to this statement, "The greatest (_pick a genre/style) book has yet to be written."
'The greatest hardboiled noir relationship counselling book has yet to be written.' 

An up-and-comer, boys and girls.  You should keep an eye on him.  You can jump into his blog, called (succinctly, by the way) The Voices in My Head.  Or you can find him in Facebook, Twitter, and maybe about a thousand other sites on the 'Net.  Wherever you find him, remember his name.  He's a good one.

(by the way--the look of this blog looks 'choppy' to say the least.  Blame that on me--a tekkie I am not.  And the tech I use to keep this site running (me)  decided to take a two-week ski trip in the Sahara.  In other words, buddy . . . blame it on me).

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