The Day I met Jason Dean by Ian Ayris

So incredibly pleased to welcome Ian Ayris back to the blog. Earlier this year he stopped by for a guest post in conjunction with his release Abide With Me, a book that you’ll be hearing me mention again come Top 10 Reads of 2012 time. Today he’s back with a fantastic post that explains how he met his novels’ characters, both those in Abide With Me as well as the star of his latest, One Day in the Life of Jason Dean.

IanAyrisAlmost exactly a year ago today, I met Jason Dean. I didn’t know it. Not at the time. But I know it now.

It happened like this . . .

In mid 2011, my writing pal – Luca Veste – asked me to write a story for a charity anthology he was planning. Of course, I agreed straight away. Luca is such a gentleman, and the cause so worthy, how could I not? As always, I had no idea what to write. The story ended up becoming – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – the protagonist an unnamed hitman with a penchant for poetry, philosophy, and high-faluting literature. An odd mix. And, like I said, he had no name. He just wouldn’t tell me. The hit man thing was odd, but it was just a job to him. And he had a daughter he loved very, very, much. Sophie.

I wrote the story, and I moved on. My debut novel – ABIDE WITH ME – was due out in a few months, and I had loads to do on the promotional side of things. My head, it was going at a million miles an hour.

When Byker Books asked me a couple of months later to write a novella for their ‘Best of British’ series, I again jumped at the chance – and again, with no idea what I would write. It surprised me, then, that the same protagonist from the OTR short story popped up. And this time he had a name. It took him two paragraphs to tell me, and he insisted on giving me a book review of Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey first, but eventually, he told me. ‘My name is Jason Dean,’ he said. ‘And I’m lyin in bed.’

During the writing of ABIDE WITH ME, I met John, and I met Kenny. And Keith and Thommo, and Dad and Mum, and Dribblin Albert, and all the others. They were the first to show me what it was like on the inside of me, what those jagged edges looked like I was so scared of – those jagged edges in the darkness that when the light was shone on them did nothing but shine so hard and so beautiful.

John was the name of my child fears, my child anxieties. Those feelings you get for the first time that seem so dark and so huge. John was scared all the way through that book, but the courage of Kenny, the pure-hearted courage of a simple boy who knew no better than to be himself showed John the darkness inside him was not due to the absence of light but existed purely because his eyes were squeezed so tight.

John explained my child fears to me. I don’t mean fears created in childhood, as such, I mean those irrational fears we carry with us, the stuff we convince ourselves is real in order to keep ourselves locked in the same old familiar, comfortable, place. Jason was different. Jason was closer to the me I have become, to the experiences I have had as an adult.

Part of me wants to stop writing this article now. The part that is scared, scared of what might come out. Scared of the feeling of breaking apart. But that feeling of breaking apart, Jason has shown me, you just walk straight through it, because sometimes, there’s nothing else you can do.

I took a deep breath. I knew this was going to be a heavy one. Over the next three months, Jason described the birth of my eldest daughter – Mollie – he described my epilepsy and my lifelong conflict with my own self-worth. In short, he put into words things I’d been struggling with longer than I can remember. Almost like he was there. Tears are coming to my eyes as I write now. I think it’s that aloneness I always felt, or perhaps the recognition that during the depths of that aloneness, during all those times, I never was alone at all.


Mollie turned fourteen a couple of weeks ago.

And she is my best friend.

Ian Ayris was born in Dagenham, Essex. Having spent most of his childhood more interested in kicking a tennis ball about the school playground with his mates than actually learning anything, he managed to leave the public education system in 1985 with but two O Levels and a handful of C.S.E.’s. And a love of writing. His academic achievements set him up nicely for the succession of low paid jobs he has maintained to this day. Ian’s love of writing resurfaced late in his thirties, and he has since had almost thirty short stories published both in print and online. He is the author of Abide With Me and the short story collection, Uncle Mildred and Other Stories. Ian lives with his wife and three children in Romford, Essex where he is currently studying for a degree in English Literature and is a lifelong Dagenham and Redbridge supporter. To learn more about Ian, visit his website.


  • Ruth Jacobs

    November 20, 2012 - 6:30 AM

    Brilliant interview, so open and honest, and lovely to know you better.

  • Anonymous-9

    November 19, 2012 - 4:13 PM

    You actually got a new picture out of Ayris! I’ve been asking for one since 2009. Good job, Ian and Elizabeth.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 19, 2012 - 4:20 PM

      Well, he did grumble a bit about having to have an actual “proper author photo” done back when Abide With Me came out, but I think the result was outstanding. 😉

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