An interview with Laurie Avadis, author of Ex

As many of you know by now, Laurie Avadis (better known here as lavadis) is one of three ABC authors currently crowdfunding the publication of a novel on Unbound. Unbound works by having readers put forward the capital for the books they want to read to fund their publication - and Ex is halfway to publication. But Laurie still needs a few more pledges to put the book he wrote here on ABCtales into bookshops and onto your bookcases - so we'd like to ask you to have a look at the book and pledge if you can.

To give you a bit more of an idea of the man behind the book, we asked Laurie to tell us a little about his experiences as an author, the path that lead him into writing and the things he's learned from the ABC community. He's also divulged a fair amount about what's behind the intricate set of personalities at work in his novel - have a read of what he has to say, get a feel for his work and make sure to pledge if you like what you see.

How did you get started writing novels?

I wrote my first manuscript, Killing Little England, in the late 80's. It stemmed from my experiences with The Last Postman - my band at the time - and evolved into a huge pre-apocalyptic black comedy about the forces of earth, fire, water and deception. The main character, Pamela, morphed into M when I began to write Ex, although she is considerably more violent and volatile. Another character from that book, Colin Colins, the king of sarcasm, appears briefly as an art critic in Ex before being torn to shreds by Dorsal Grellman.

I found the process of writing fascinating and became quite obsessive about it, taking my little notepad with me as I travelled around the world. I gave my then girlfriend, latterly my wife, a manuscript for her world tour and she destroyed each chapter after she read it. The manuscript went off to a couple of people and one agent was really interested but messed me about. That led me to fall out of love with writing fiction until I joined ABCtales. That 400-page manuscript is still upstairs in my home waiting to be discovered by someone other than one of my three cats.

Can you talk a little about your writing process?

My work is character driven. I know roughly where I want each chapter to go and I set the characters off on that path, but they rarely end up doing as they are told.  I know never to force it. When the ideas come, they arrive thick and fast. I will often get up in the middle of the night to jot down an idea and will note down sentences as they come to me. It takes about two weeks to write one chapter and after that there will be numerous edits.

ABCtales was the fuel for this novel. I had feedback with every chapter and the unique privilege of reading a chapter around every three months to 30 or so people and hearing where the laughs were.

The chapters had to be moved around quite a bit as Ex was taking shape - and I am still adding new ones to flesh out some of the characters. I do not make outlines but I would say that from inception to finished work, each chapter will have been edited about 20 times.

Did the process of being read as you wrote affect the way you wrote?

M was not the main character when I began the book but a few incredibly helpful ABC members - Jonolo, Scratch and Richard, who were with me for the whole ride - but many more as well, offered invaluable support, and they formed a small M fan club.

Soon, the book became as much about his journey as the three boys and their mother. I had the opportunity to listen to what others thought during the creative process. Some people might not like that but on ABC in general people only communicate if they are going to be constructive.

You're matching pledges to the book with donations to Shooting Star Children's Hospice. How does that charity fit with the content of the book?

Shooting Star Children’s Hospice is helping children at a stage in their lives when they have never been more alone. For these children, like the boys in my book, reaching out to those who supported them before is no longer possible. They have to be incredibly brave in a way that we should not be asking children to be - they have to discover who they are before their personalities are fully formed, answer questions we do not really have a right to ask of children. SSCH were immediately enthusiastic about the project and I knew they were a perfect fit.

Ex is, in many ways, a book about London and London life - all the various extremities of it. Can you talk about the setting, and the ways in which the city becomes something of a third protagonist in the novel?

Being based in North West London for my entire life, either as a home, a place of work or both, the city is in my blood. London resonates with the echos of a thousand years of seething humanity, and it was just a matter of placing my protagonists into a living framework that I had already absorbed - which I reside in and which resides in me. Plus, I know the way from Budgens in Camden to the Royal Free Hospital so that helped...

Ex feels postmodern in its structure - are writers like Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace an influence on your work?

My influences are a little more wide ranging -A.S. Byatt, Vonnegut, Beckett, Martin Amis and, because of the filmic nature of this book, I'd also add Kubric and Polanski. This is a story of a childhood that has gone so badly wrong that the results are gothic.

Do you feel that the black humour and exaggerations in the book allowed you to portray the world in a different light to strict realism?

I don’t understand - lions and ducks can speak  - there is a mountain in Milton Keynes, mermaids can’t swim. I don’t know what world you live in....

This novel is also very much about family. Can you talk about how that sits in the novel, and the things you are trying to portray with Daniel's family?

M was brought up with a warped parenting template. He blew the head off his father before he had reached his teens, his mother killed Batman: he is emotionally illiterate. Daniel’s mother is an ethereal character and Daniel almost has to parent himself to survive.

This is not just about the journey the boys have to go on but it is M’s journey too. He is tainted  / stained by murder, stamped through with corruption like a warped stick of Blackpool rock and yet what drives him on is the love of his first son who he lost before he found out how to be a parent. There are parallels with my own father who survived the second world war when he was seconds away from death on many occasions, only to die before he had the chance to be a parent.

The world of publishing is changing. In a moment when everyone seems to be looking nervously at Amazon and watching independent bookstores close, what do you think about where writing - and reading - is going?

Unbound and ABC are the template for the future of publishing. Quality has to be maintained, along with artistic integrity and individuality, and that can only happen online - by developing a platform that can still produce beautiful well crafted books that people can possess either virtually or hold in their hands . Publishers must have the flexibility to move with a new market that has no frontiers and ABC and Unbound are doing that.


If you haven't had the good fortune of stumbling across a few chapters of Ex yet on ABC, have a browse of lavadis' ABCtales account.  Better yet, read the excerpt and watch the video pitch on Unbound - and make sure to pledge for a copy of the book if you haven't already!