Friday 6 April 2012

Ian Ayris interview: Abide With Me

Amazon UK | Amazon US
Can you sum up Abide With Me in no more than 25 words?

'Of Mice and Men' set in London's East End during the seventies and eighties, incorporating football, gangsters, and biscuits.

What did you learn while writing it?

The entire book is written in the first person vernacular of an East London lad.  The thing I learnt whilst writing the book is vernacular has its own very strict rules of grammar, just like any other language or dialect.  To be convincing, everything has to be spot on.  Consistency is paramount.  One missed letter, one dropped ending from the wrong mouth – each character speaks a slightly different way in the book – and the whole thing crumbles.  The Caffeine Nights copy-editor for AWM was the brilliant Julie Lewthwaite – a Geordie.  Talk about a clash of cultures.  But, bless her, she did a fantastic job. 

Provide a YouTube link to a song you'd like to be the title track to the movie adaptation of your book.

To what extent do you view writing a business?

I was always one of those writers who believed business has no place in writing, that a writer's job was to write, and it was the publisher's job to look after the business side of things. But, I was so wrong.  Blimey.  See, as soon as I'd finished ABIDE WITH ME and started sending it out to publishers and agents, I'd become a businessman – pitching my product,  seeking the most profitable connections.  I didn't see it then.  I see it now.  I thought I was just a writer wanting people to read my book.  That was all.  Ah, bless.  But the submission process is the tipping point where writer becomes businessman – where writer needs to become businessman.  Then there is the promotional aspects of the job of a writer, the interviews, the social networking, the blog posts – all of these are to advertise your product, to pull in the punters. 

A writer needs to be both writer and businessman.  Whether he/she likes it or not, once you've sent you precious darling out into the world you've become a businessman.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I work twenty-two and a half hours every weekend in a residential care home for adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues – so that's my weekends shot to pieces, writing wise.  During the week, I play the part of house-husband – with varying degrees of competence, it has to be said – and I am also currently completing an Open University degree in English Lit.  Apart from these admirable pastimes, the remainder of my time is filled in with eating chocolate, drinking coffee, and staring out the window.  Oh, and following the fortunes of the Mighty Dagenham and Redbridge.  Take away the coffee, and I could be ten years old again.  A little disturbing, that, thinking about it.

How much time do you dedicate to writing? How much time would you like to spend writing?

As I implied in my previous answer, my writing time is pretty limited.  Add to that my complete inability to organise myself, the writing happens in fits and spurts, as they say.  Most of ABIDE WITH ME was written in my head waiting in the playground for the kids to come out of school, walking the littl'un round the park in her push-chair, or waiting in the queue at Tescos. 

How much time would I like to spend writing?  I'd like to say, 'My whole life,' but the honest answer is I need a degree of pressure, a degree of emotional rawness to be able to write the stuff I write.  I have a feeling given all the time in the world and a massive study, instead of no time and a place in a corner covered with the kids' bits and pieces, last month's bills, and dust, I wouldn't write a single word. 

What was the last book you bought and how did you find out about it?

The last book I bought was Nick Quantrill's latest Joe Geraghty novel 'THE LATE GREATS'.  Myself and Nick are both with Caffeine Nights, and we exchange emails almost daily about writing and other odds and ends.  I've had the pleasure of seeing TLG birth from an idea to what is a brilliant novel.  It really has been a privilege.

How effective is social media as a marketing aid?

As a marketing aid, I think social media has its limitations.  As a writer, it can very quickly become an exercise in either advertising to other writers or preaching to the converted.  Facebook is great for building relationships – for me, the essence of good marketing – whereas Twitter appears to me to be a better forum for spreading the word, although the relationship thing there is still key.

How do you feel about reviews?

I love reviews.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  As long as they're honest.  That's what matters most. 

Do you have any other projects on the go?

I have almost completed my first novella, entitled JASON DEAN, due out later this year through Byker Books.  I've also begun my second novel, and hope to have another collection of short stories out by the end of the year.