Saturday, 30 June 2012

An interview with Stuart Ayris

Stuart is the Author of the fantastic book 'Tollesbury Time Forever' and 'A Cleansing of Souls' and his new novel 'The Bird That Nobody Sees' will be out at the end of July this year. He was kind enough to let me interview him for this blog and it was a pleasure indeed.

Tollesbury Time Forever is a fantastic read, where did the idea come from? What inspired you to come up with the story and where did the initial spark come from?

The initial spark for Tollesbury Time Forever came when I stumbled out of The King's Head one night (not for the first time) and wandered over to the Village Lock-up – a really old structure in the village square where the local drunk used to be housed over night until he sobered. I thought then what it would be like if somebody went in there one night and when they were let out the following more their perception of their surroundings had changed. The lock-up in the novel serves the figurative function of a womb or a church or perhaps even a hospital. It is a place from which you hope to emerge somehow cleansed and with a better chance of surviving the perpetual struggle that is life.

Are you a big planner or do you like to write from the seat of your pants? How much do you plan when writing a book or do you prefer to go with the flow?

In the writing of Tollesbury Time Forever I had very little planning. The notion of FRUGALITY (which will make sense of you've read the book!) only came to me when I was about a third of the way through. As you know, Ally, the second half of the novel deals almost entirely in the implementation of this notion. So no, not much planning at all. I think it is the sort of novel though that is more effective with a less linear format. Some may argue that it goes a bit far the other way, but that's fine too!

Have you always wanted to write from an early age or did you want to be a train driver or an international pop star like everyone else?

From an early age I always wanted to play in a band! I managed to do this from the ages of 18 to 20 but ended up getting an electric shock off a mic stand and was thrown back into the drum kit to emerge with a dodgy shoulder and pretty much a life-long apprehension with regard to electrics! So I can play the guitar pretty well but I've had to work hard at it. Writing is about the most natural thing I do so I'm inclined to stick with it. Until the next folk-blues revival of course at which point I may strap on the battered old six-string again!

What Authors do you like to read and what books have inspired you?

I'd say my favourite authors are Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and John Irving. My ideal book would be a combination of all three – the beautiful mad phonetic language of Jack Kerouac, the inspiring and emotional punch of John Steinbeck and the great story telling of John Irving. That would be heaven to me!

What advice would you give to any aspiring Authors out there?

You have to enjoy it to keep doing it. If at any time writing becomes an act of drudgery then maybe just do something else for a while and come back to it. Perhaps it's your mood, perhaps it's what your writing. Either way, don't force it. I have been known to write 10,000 words in a week then nothing for three months, picking up the story again when the moment feels write. Think of your writing not as a task but as a series of glorious moments!

Is Tollesbury as lovely as it sounds and what reaction did you get in the village from people that live there?

It is indeed as lovely as it sounds and just as bizarre as is depicted in Tollesbury Time Forever. Although I've lived there for a few years now I tend to keep myself to myself a lot of the time so I wander over to The King's Head (which is about a two minute walk from my home) and can be occasionally be found waiting for a bus in the square – other than that I kind of stay indoors. As such I don't know too many people. The reaction though, second hand, has been wonderful. My wife, Rebecca, is always walking the dog around the village so she knows loads of people!

What are your future plans as far as writing is concerned? Your experience as a Mental Health Nurse has obviously influenced this book, do you intend to explore mental health issues in your future writing?

Well my third novel, The Bird That Nobody Sees, will be released on 30th July 2012. It has taken me about a year to write on and off and I really like it. It as not as overtly concerned with mental health issues as Tollesbury Time Forever but of course whenever you have a novel with people in it you will have emotions and behaviours and reactions. So no, I won't be exploring mental health issues in my writing here on in but my fascination with both the beauty around me and the courage of the individual will continue to inform my writing.

If you could become any character in a book, who would you be and why?

Hmmm! I think perhaps Alice in Alice in Wonderland as that would be about as close as I could get to living in Tollesbury!

If you could look into a Crystal ball, where would you like to be in ten years time?

Just sitting in The King's Head having a drink with good people – that would suit me just fine.


How much do you really hate Paul McCartney for the Frog’s Chorus and do forgive him now! Or is it just your main character Simon that hates him? I'm a Pipes of Peace man myself!

To tell you the truth my younger self detested Paul McCartney – particularly after John Lennon was killed. I somehow felt Paul should never smile again, wondering how an earth he, being a life-long friend of John's, could have got over something that I, a complete stranger was having difficulty coming to terms with. And then what did he do? The Frog's Chorus! But of course, my older self sees that life is too wonderful to let anything tarnish your experience. Bitterness and resentment just draw a shade down on everything and you may as well never open your eyes again. So yes, like Simon in Tollesbury Time Forever, I forgave Paul McCartney for that song – but unlike Simon, forgiving Diego Maradonna is, even for me, a fair way off yet…

Diego Maradonna will never be forgiven by me anyway Stuart!

Thank You Stuart for answering my questions and I for one will be looking forward to reading more from you in the future. Anyone wanting to find out more about Stuart Ayris can find him at Goodreads and on his Blog and he is also on twitter if you type in his name.

I will definitely be reading more of his work and wouldn't mind visiting Tollesbury one day to have a drink in the King's Head and to have a walk to the salt marshes!

Thanks Stuart.

Tollesbury Time Forever by Stuart Ayris

This is one of those books that has been silently lurking inside my kindle for a good while and I finally decided to give it a go. How happy I am then to say what a remarkable read this is!

Simon Anthony has just been to his local pub and has managed to stagger his way to the Tollesbury salt marshes where his intention is to end his life.With the sound of The Beatles whizzing through his head everything stops and he falls head first into a new world where reality has had a big chunk bitten off.

He finds himself back in 19th Century Tollesbury where cars have been replaced by horses, the ale is disgusting, his home has disappeared and a strange man knows more about him than he seems to know himself.

I have read a few independently published books in the last year or so but this is literally in a league of its own. It is beautifully and imaginatively written and keeps your interest all the way. If I had to describe this book I would personally say it's like 'Life on Mars' meets 'The Prisoner.' There are plenty of story twists and turns and Tollesbury Time Forever will stay with you long after you have read the final page. Stuart Ayris is an author that I'm sure has a big future ahead and I look forward to reading more from him in the future. He has also been kind enough to let me interview him for Travelling Without Moving.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I must confess that I am one of the myriad of people who know a lot about Sherlock Holmes without having read any of the books. My only experience of Baker Street was having watched a couple of the films when I was a kid and it was fun to actually find out what Holmes was about from a literary point of view.

This is a collection of 12 short stories and was the third book to be written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring Holmes and Watson.Most of the stories follow a similar pattern. A man or women knocks on the door and asks for help from Sherlock who then proceeds to investigate each unique case in his own intelligent and meticulous manner. Each story is told from Dr Watson's point of view. I enjoyed all the stories and I found that they got better the more I got into the book, maybe the stories improved or perhaps I was just getting used to the writing style. A few of the books had disappointing endings but overall they kept my interest.

My favourites were 'The Man with the Twisted Lip', 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band' and 'The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.' I have since acquired the Sherlock Holmes collection and am hoping to see how the full novels compare to the shorts stories.

I enjoyed this collection of stories, although I wouldn't say it was the most exciting thing I have read this year but it is way above an average read.


From an aspiring writers point of view I learned that it is so important to have a storyline that evolves and reveals itself slowly so as to keep the reader wanting to turn the pages. The last story in this collection is the perfect example in which we are introduced to a secret room and its mysterious contents. I think every book needs a secret room or a locked door in some form or other.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Book 30 - The Light of Evening by Edna O'Brien

Dilly is lying in her hospital bed and her thoughts fade in and out through the years of her life, from her frightening but exciting journey from Ireland to America in the 1920's, to lost love and her struggle to exist and to have a meaningful relationship with her children. Her lost daugher, Eleanora has her own struggles (and many lovers!) and is on her way to her dying mothers side.

This is another book that I came across on our bookshelf at work, having never read Edna O'Brien before I was interested to find out what this Author was all about. I am absolutely divided in opinion about 'The Light of Evening'. On paper this has to be right up my alley, it is literary fiction and it is beautifully and absorbingly written. Each page is like a work of poetry dressed up as a work of fiction and it is quite imaginative and original. It could have been amazing if it had had more of an interesting story and a better ending and I found it to be frustratingly Arty Farty!

Too often I found myself in the past and then the present and then inside a classic literary work of fiction and then a dream and then back again. I like it when books have depth and dimensions but sometimes (as in this case) it actually got in the way of a good book. It has wetted my appetite to read more from this Author in the hope that her other titles are more readable.

This book, from my point of view anyway, walked too close a tight rope between interesting and boring, frustrating and genius. It could have been genius and other readers may think it is.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

29 - Corsair by Clive Cussler & Jack Du Brul

This story starts with a historical sea battle and then we are brought right up to the present time when the US secretary of State's aircraft has disappeared and she is presumed dead. An old sea trawler has been boarded by pirates and somewhere in the desert of Libya a group of archeologists bite off more than they can chew and there's also a search for an ancient jewel!

This is the third Clive Cussler book that I have read but it's a long time since I read the fantastic 'Deep Six' and 'Raise the Titanic' which wasn't quite so fantastic. I first tried to read this book a few years ago but stopped way short twice, so I was really determined to get through it this time. My problem with this one is probably a case of personal taste. I don't really like action adventure books, just like I don't really like action adventure movies. I know it sounds silly to say this but 'Corsair' was literally ( for most of the book) one big long action sequence and I found that rather boring! I was desperate for a good plot and some good character development and some emotional attachment to either the story or the characters. Maybe I am becoming a bit of a book snob, I hope not.

At times I was becoming nauseated and I just wanted the story to settle down and towards the last 200 or so pages it did. The story improved and the book became more exciting and gripping.I must say that the ending was particularly good and it was a pity the rest of the book couldn't have been so enticing. Perhaps one problem is that it is quite a long book at 537 pages and maybe I would have had more patience with this genre if it had been around 250 to 370 pages long. Can I forgive a book that bores the pants off me because it has a really good ending? Perhaps not but I wish more books ended so well.

If you are a lover of action adventure novels then this would probably be a good one to have in your bedside cabinet. From a writers point of view there is a lot to be said about the way Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul created novel depth by having several separate story threads going at the same time and that is something I want to take with me.