Welcome to this week’s and the first of 2020 A Cup of Conversation with author Stephen Ainley. Stephen and I have become firm friends on Twitter and his sense of humour makes me laugh out loud.
Only last week he posted this: “Started a pretty strict health plan. Proud of myself, I’m sticking to 1200 per day. Mind you, once it gets to night time I eat anything I want.” He is quick-witted and always brings a smile to my face. Rumour has it he is also a fantastic author and with a series of books out there he is certainly one of the more established authors out there. So let’s join him now as he chats to me about his latest release – out today!!! – and all things writing!
1. You were born in Birmingham in the UK and now live in West Australia. How did that come about?
Hi, Soulla, thank you for the invite. Milk and no sugar please, I’m sweet enough.
As you say, I was born in Birmingham in 1952. I know what you’re thinking. How could Steve have been born so long ago when he only looks about 30. Well, it’s mainly down to having good genes. Good genes and a good shirt are essential. Also, I am a great believer in meditation, or, an afternoon nap as I call it, anyway, back to the question. I did very well at school; in fact, when I was ten years old, I recall a teacher telling my parents that I was as intelligent as a 13-year-old. Unfortunately, when I left school six-years later, I was still as intelligent as a 13-year old. Be that as it may, I was ambitious, and devastated when I heard that the highly coveted Jason Recliner testing job had gone. Having nothing better to do, I joined the army in 1971. My parents immediately took advantage and emigrated to Australia. They had tried this trick once before; when I was a young lad. I had come home from school one day to find they’d moved house and forgotten to tell me. Anyway, in 1977, I left the army and once again managed to track them down and follow them to Australia, where I met the beautiful, Jane, and lived happily ever after.
2. What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved writing; it was one of the few things I really enjoyed at school. My old English teacher, Mr Haddock, was a great inspiration. He would often say, “finish your writing, or you will get a damn good thrashing,” which I found tremendously inspirational. I loved, Spike Milligan books, he was definitely an inspiration. I wrote articles, short stories and ideas for novels, and then one day my wife said, “finish that book, or you’ll get a damn good thrashing.” Apparently, she had also been tremendously inspired by Mr Haddock.
3. Do you have a favourite writing quote, and what is it and why?
Not really a writing quote, but I do recall my granddad always saying, “never attempt to whistle while eating soup.” And I think there’s something in that for all of us.
4. You’re always making me laugh on Twitter! How does your sense of humour translate into your stories?
Well, I’m glad I amuse you, Soulla. Just about everything I’ve ever written has been (hopefully) humorous. In the second Dennis Bisskit book, the boys become private investigators, and I love plotting the criminal element, but laughs are never far away. I cannot imagine myself ever writing anything completely serious. Of course, humour is a very personal thing; you just have to hope that enough people laugh at the same things you do.
5. What do you wish readers take away with them after reading your books?
My main hope, just like most authors; would be that the reader says, “I really enjoyed that, I want to read everything else by this author, buy a television station, turn their books into a tv series and send them lots of cash, lager and chocolate cake.” Doesn’t seem too much to ask.
My shortest review for, The Dennis Bisskit Adventures was, ‘this book made me feel happy.” You can’t ask for more than that.
6. Have any of your own experiences of serving in the British Airborne been woven into your novels?
As soon as I began writing The Dennis Bisskit Adventures; I knew it would end with Dennis serving in the army. Unfortunately, Dennis is far from Airborne material; in fact, he struggled in the Cubs. I mainly used my memories of getting shouted at by a multitude of scary people. Luckily I did not get yelled at to quite the same degree as Dennis, but then, few people have. The infamous, Colour-Sergeant Norman ‘Buckethead’ Plunkett is an amalgamation of several scary, shouty people I met during my military career.
7. Congratulations on your latest novel Dennis Bisskit and the Bassett Hound from Beacon’s Bottom which releases today! Can you share an extract from your book and tell us why you chose this particular part of the story.
Thank you, Soulla. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but my favourite part of Dennis books are the many stupid conversations that take place between, Dennis and Stinky. Here’s a bit of typical, Bisskit/Blackshaw banter.
“ I know you don’t believe in this sort of stuff, but you may recall my mother was very psychic; she could see things coming before they happened.”
Dennis snorted and said sarcastically, “Well, she didn’t see you coming. Your mother told everyone she met that she would be having a baby girl; she had all the clothes ready for a daughter.”
“You don’t need to remind me,” Stinky shouted. “I was still wearing dresses until I was five, she didn’t want to waste them. I vividly remember getting picked on by the other kids on my first day of school; I was the only boy in my class wearing pigtails.”
Dennis nodded his head, “I think my mother told me about that. Was that just before that man moved in with you and your mum?”
His friend frowned for a moment and suddenly looked younger, “Oh, you mean Uncle Gordon. Yes, I remember him. He had a tremendous nose, you know.”
Now Dennis frowned, but for some reason it made him look older, “What do you mean, big?”
Stinky shook his head. “No, I mean he was very good at smelling stuff. When he left us, he got offered a job in France as a truffle sniffer. They reckoned he could sniff a truffle at one hundred yards. They normally use pigs, but they said he was even better, and he kept his room a lot tidier.”
Extract from, Dennis Bisskit and the Basset Hound from Beacon’s Bottom.
8. Which three aspects of the writing journey have you improved on since you first began your writing career?
I’d say my character development as certainly improved. My use of social media for Marketing, and I have learned to balance my coffee a lot better, so I don’t spill it all over my work.
9. What is the highlight of your blogging experience?
Just starting to do more work on my website/blog. I post the latest, Dennis news on my Blog, along with short articles I’ve written over the years, covering everything from Marriage advice to My Gran’s dentures. Comments range from “Brilliantly funny.” to “My name is, Svetlana, I wish for you to marry me and have my children.” If you require a chuckle, check out my Blog Page, on theworldofdennis.com
10. What advice would you give a new writer?
If you enjoy writing, go for it. There are plenty of ways to get your work out there nowadays, even if you serialise it and stick it on a Blog. If you want people actually to read it, I’d say come up with an original idea. It’s difficult; there are so many thousands and thousands of books being published, so you need something that makes your book different, even if it’s just your style of writing.
11. Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’d say 25% planner and 75% pantser. I have a basic idea of the story. I usually have the beginning, and the end worked out, and then I just let, Dennis, go wherever he wants.
12. What are three things on your 2020 to-do list?
Market, Dennis Bisskit and the Basset Hound from Beacon’s Bottom. Finish the, as yet untitled, Dennis 4. Do a couple of new videos on YouTube; I’ve done several which you can check out under, Steve Ainley, YouTube.
Great to chat, Soulla. Time for my afternoon nap… oopps… I mean meditation.
Thank you so much Stephen for joining us today and best of luck with the new release! Judging by all the hype I am sure it will be totally amazing for you.
Thank you too for joining us and if you would like to connect with Stephen his various links are listed below.
Until next week, Happy Reading, happy Writing, happy You.
Big hug, Soulla xxx
Twitter: DENNIS BISSKIT@stephen_ainley
Facebook: Stephen Ainley@theworldofdennis
Amazon link to books: The Dennis Bisskit Adventures, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dennis-Bisskit-Adventures-Stephen-Ainley/dp/1786294052/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the dennis bisskit adventures&qid=1579330371&s=books&sr=1-1
Dennis Bisskit and the Man from Paris with the Very Large Head, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dennis-Bisskit-Paris-Very-Large/dp/1788784839/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=dennis bisskit and the man from paris with the very large head&qid=1579330509&s=books&sr=1-1eadHead
Dennis Bisskit and the Basset Hound from Beacon’s Bottom, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dennis-Bisskit-Basset-Beacons-Bottom/dp/1528978080/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=dennis bisskit and the basset hound from beacons bottom&qid=1579330589&s=books&sr=1-2