Thursday 20 January 2011

Dancing With Myself: IAN AYRIS interviews IAN AYRIS

The book I'm reading at the moment,Broken Dreams, is by Nick Quantrill and is published by Caffeine Nights. Essentially a detective novel that adheres to many of the great traditions, it has that British slant to it. Just over half way through, there are enough balls in the air to keep me riveted. I'd highly recommend it, not least because of the main character Joe Geraghty.

The reason I mention it is that today's interview features a man who's also been snapped up by Caffeine Nights. Abide With Me is due out later this year and I for one can't wait to see it.

I've been following Ian for this past year and have been impressed by his output. More than that his consitency is impressive, turning out story after story from the top drawer.

It also needs to be said that he's lovely and helpful, which makes his success all the more satisfying.

Check him out here, find one of his many stories on the web and get ready for the novel. You won't be disappointed.

Here's Ian:

1. So what's all this writing malarky, then?

Started out of nowhere, really. A couple of years ago, there was this bloke come into my head. A sort of psychotic ne'er-do-well you'd like as not cross the street to avoid. But there he was. In my head. And he started talking. Only way I could get rid of him was by writing it all down. Then he went. When I looked through what I'd written, I sort of liked it. Posted it on a writing site where it was seen by a publisher. Next thing I know it's in a book (Byker Books' Radgepacket: Tales from the Inner Cities vol. One).

2. So is that where your stories come from? People getting inside your head and not leaving till you've written down what they want you to say?

Yes. That's why I can't ever plan or outline or anything, The couple of times I've tried, it's just been rubbish, like I'm trying to put bars around the process, chain it up, you know. I can't plan because the urgency to get these voices out of my head doesn't allow me to do it.

3. So what is your 'process'?

Like I said, I get these people come in my head. One at a time, normally, but sometimes it's more. And they start talking. And I listen. And then these pictures start coming. Strange pictures of the inside and the out of it. Sometimes it's just colours, or the feeling has a colour, and I work with that. When it's done, I go over what I've written a couple of times with my sensible head on whilst the emotional bit that wrote it goes and makes a cup of coffee and puts it's feet up for a while. It's exhausting, you know. Then I go down my list of places that seem to like my stuff, and decide where to send it.

4. So are you saying you don't get your ideas from anywhere, they just appear in your head?

No. I have to open the door. And that can be overhearing a conversation on a bus or a train, seeing a particular site as I'm walking down the street, hearing a song on the radio, stuff like that. All these things are gateways.

5. You're one of those wimpy house-husband wotsits, aren't you? Hoovering, ironing, dusting, looking after the kids, that sort of thing. How does that impact on your writing?

Funny. A load of my stories seem to be about characters trapped in a reality they neither understand nor deal with on any effectual level. My wife would say the correlation is unmistakeable. I'm also a counsellor in one of the most deprived areas of London. Needless to say, that also has a huge impact on my writing.

6. Word is, you've written a book. What's that about?

I've written a book called 'Abide With Me'. It's unpublished, so technically, it's just a big document on my computer, but if you want to go with 'book' that's fine with me. It's the story of two kids growing up in East London in the seventies. And it's got gangsters and football and biscuits and a spell inside and that bloke who held up them tanks in China a few years back – they're all in it. Some kind fella described it as being like 'A Guy Ritchie film, without the boring bits' – which I sort of liked. An octogenarian from the Salvation Army accused me of attempting to 'single-handedly dismantle the English language' – which I like even better.

7. How did you get into all this crime/noir stuff?

Again, sort of by accident. I had all these stories, which people on the writing sites seemed to love, but I had no idea where to send them. I'd not considered them crime and I'd never heard of 'noir'. So, I'd written this story called 'The Argument Bunny', about an unhinged man and a toy bunny. Sir Paul Brazill suggested I send it toPulp Metal Magazine. It got in. And that opened the door for me to the likes of Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir. Beat to a Pulp, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Out of the Gutter, Yellow Mama, and all those other great crime/noir zines. Turns out, I write 'noir'. And I never even knew.

8. I get the noir stuff in your stories – the downtrodden and the lost and the broken, etc. but the crime stuff, you've never written a story where the main character is on the right side of the law. Why's that?

I don't know, really. I suppose I was never into all the police procedural stuff, you know, all that forensic gumph. Just used to bore me to tears. Then I read 'Broken Dreams' by Nick Quantrill, with his PI Joe Gerghaty. 'Broken Dreams' showed me you can write a main character on the right side of the law that is both flawed and vulnerable yet take on the role of making a situation good again. After that it was just a short step to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I've got a PI story running round my head at the moment, so hopefully I'll get it down soon. Redress the balance, you know.

9. So Nick Quantrill, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, what other stuff are you influenced by?

I love a load of old stuff – Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Samuel Butler, Virgina Woolf, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad. And the Russian stuff – Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Solzhenitsyn. Spike Milligan was a genius. And the old Will Hay films, The Goon Show, and Monty Python. I love all that absurdity, you know, all those trampled boundaries.

10. Very interesting. But perhaps not quite as interesting as you think. Beer and crumpets?

Yes please.


  1. 'Single-handedly dismantle the English language' If this sort blinkered criticism cannot inspire you to keep on writing what you are currently writing then I guess nothing will. I laughed out loud when I read that bit as I do reading most of Ian’s stuff, which is always a magic mixture of tragic, funny and brilliant.

    Terrific interview, Ian.

  2. Cheers, Alan. Much appreciated, mate. Still astounds me every time I get something accepted. I sort of hope it always stays that way, you know, that sense of wonder.

    Thanks for your continued support, mate. Means loads.

    All the best,


  3. Great stuff. Like you, I just write down whatever comes in my head and finish whenever. The only stories I've planned have be rubbish!

    I think Caffeine Nights is looking very tasty at the moment. The indie publishers, like, CF, Pulp Press, New Pulp Press etc are where it's at. Dude.

  4. Great stuff, Ian. I get the voices, too, and they say very bad things. Which is good, natch! Really looking forward to the book - chuffed to bits for you!

  5. Paul: Your support from the very start has been incredible. Couldn't have done any of this stuff without you, mate. Can't believe my luck landing with Caffeine Nights. Can't wait to get cracking.

    Jools: Ah, the naughty voices. Had to be naughty ones, didn't they? But they do tend to be the most insistent. Nature of the beast, I suppose. Still can't believe the book thing. Me heart beats a dozen times a second every time I think of it. Wrote the whole book that way. Listening to the voices and watching the pictures inside my head. Seems a ridiculous thing to have done on that scale, but there you go, Jools. Some things just can't be helped :)

  6. Phenomenal. Nigel hit it on the head--the consistency of output is astonishing. Looking forward to the book.

    And I love how unassuming Ian is about everything--the book right now is "just a big document on his computer." Ha!

  7. Ian- I have enjoyed your stories very much and this interview was very entertaining. We think along the same lines. I still hate cops (at least one that are not corrupt) in stories, and all the procedural crap that goes along with it. Best of luck with the novel! Oh yeah, outlining doesn't work for me either.

  8. Well done, old chap! You've captured the mind of a writer here. Those voices!

  9. Ian has such a great and unique voice. I love what he says about his process and gateways. Superb peak behind the curtain.

  10. People have already said what I was going to say. I'm such a Johnny come lately. But not in your head - that's disgusting.

    Death to the literati, old bean!

  11. Hey Mate. Like I've said before, to anyone listening: First paragraph I read of yours I said to meself: Self, this guy is kickass crazy good. Second paragraph I said: Self, we'd better put in the reservation for a signed first edition from this guy . . . RIGHT NOW! I've never held any opinion but that one since then. And speaking from that point: I Told You So! So there.

  12. Lovely interview. Couldn't have asked better questions myself.

    Also congrats to Nigel on winning John's contest!

  13. Yes, congrats on the fairytale contest! It was a great entry.