Saturday, 18 February 2012

Author Interview: Stuart Ayris

In the first few weeks of release the novel Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris has had over forty five star reviews on Amazon.  See an earlier post on this blog for my review of this excellent novel. I hooked up with Stuart and interviewed him about his writing and inspiration.

Describe your novel Tollesbury Time Forever in 25 words or less.

The redemptive tale of a Beatles-obsessed alcoholic with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a love of cricket. It's a novel of love and hope.

Tell us about the inspiration behind the novel

There are several inpirations I think. Probably easier if I list them:

·      all the people I have met over the years who have had their lives taken from them by the mental health system

·       'Here, There and Everywhere' by The Beatles

·       The 1981 Headingly Test against the Australians

·       My three boys, Matthew, Daniel and James

·       Tollesbury

·       The King's Head, Jack Daniels and Mr Aspall

The novel has had some great reviews and seems to strike a chord within the readers. Why do you think that is?

I honestly don't know. The fact that it had been turned down flat by every publisher and agent I sent it too made me think that there just wouldn't be an audience for it. I knew it was the sort of book I would like to read, but that was about as far as it went.

The things people have been saying about Tollesbury Time Forever in their reviews (the fact that people are even bothering to review it still astounds me) makes me well-up every time I read them. It just seems everybody that reads it 'gets' it – and that is the most wonderful surprise because, as you know, it's a bit unusual!

I think perhaps is that everybody needs hope and to be able to see hope in difficult times.

How much of your writing is drawn from real experiences?

In Tollesbury Time Forever, the places I describe are real – The King's Head, the salt-marshes, the various streets, the Village Lock-Up and Mo's Café. In terms of the people, the characters are all based, facially and physically, an people I have seen in Tollesbury. The characteristics are based on people I have met over the years. And all Simon's thoughts come and views are mine.

People who have read TTF may want to know your views on "mental illness". Would you like to share them?

I guess the best way to answer that would be to quote a passage from the book. It's a first person narrative, so these are the words of Simon Gregory:

There is no schizophrenia and there is no depression; no bi-polar disorder, personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is just life and trying to get through it. That is all. Look past the drugs and past the diagnosis, look deeper than the despair and higher than the highs - and what you have is a soul that needs embracing, a mind that needs cradling and a heart that needs to beat it’s beat without condemnation

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre. I have always loved his books and would urge anyone to read them. His prose his beautiful, his characters haunting and his plots wonderfully complex. If you're not sure, start by watching 'The Spy Who Came in From The Cold' – 1966 film with Richard Burton!

Are you working on a new story or novel at the moment?

I have three things on the go at the moment. Currently I am revising my first novel, A Cleansing of Souls. I wrote it when I was twenty-two and, although it certainly has merit, can stand some gentle revision. I'm about a third of the way through that at the moment and when I'm done I will be releasing it as an e-book in March.

After that, I will get cracking on the novel I started last summer called The Bird That Nobody Sees. I'm about thirteen thousand words in but haven't touched it since about October 2011. I hope to finish it by August and release it as an ebook in September.

Then finally, I will be writing four short stories for young teenagers, about a girl called Tremble. The first of these will be called Tremble, Peanut and The Boy.

Where can our readers find you online?
UK Kindle Forum
Dagenham and Redbridge Unofficial Forum

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Jack Kerouac:

1. Wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Be in love with yr life
4. Something that you feel will find its own form
5. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
6. Blow as deep as you want to blow
7. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
8. The unspeakable visions of the individual
9. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
10. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
11. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
12. Believe in the holy contour of life
13. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
14. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
15. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
16. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
17. You're a Genius all the time

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

 John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

 16. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

I am entirely undisciplined and rely entirely on intuition – I have tried to plan a book but it just hasn't felt right. I guess that may trip me up one day. Also the feeling that I write better after a few drinks. That too may one day be my undoing.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what five songs would you pick?

Fine question! Perhaps, in the order the story progresses, that would be:

1. Train Song by Tom Waits
2. One Too Many Mornings by Bob Dylan
3. Strawberry Fields by The Beatles
4. Here Comes That Rainbow Again by Kris Kristofferson
5. Blooming Heather by Kate Rusby


  1. Interesting how modern American writers -whether crime or not- have struck more of a chord with us Britty Gritty writers than the toffs on this side of the pond.

  2. Absolutely - about the only English writers I love are John Le Carre and JR Tolkein; yet neither have had any influence on the way I write. Strange old business!

  3. Very interesting and entertaining interview! I am especially pleased by your views on mental illness, Stuart, even if they did originate with Simon Gregory. I love these sentences: "There is no schizophrenia and there is no depression; no bi-polar disorder, personality disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is just life and trying to get through it." I shall now stop trying to diagnose myself!

  4. Excellent interview, gents. Very informative and it's also great to get to know a fellow writer a bit more.


  5. Great work on this guys! Enjoyed it very much.