Tony Bayliss has written several books and founded Zeus, a poetry magazine, and Masque, an Arts Magazine. After a successful career in education and business he is now a full-time writer. Bayliss has written a book, Past Continuous, that will be coming out this autumn. Contrary Life was eager to find out more…
Past Continuous is your latest book, tell us a little about it.
Matthew is clever and musical, but has trouble relating to people. He makes a mess of his romantic attempts, withdraws into himself, and becomes lonely. Worried about sinister implications of the robot research programme which employs him, his depression grows, and he commits suicide.
Sophie, bright and ambitious, yearns for a soul mate. Seemingly from the grave, Matthew visits Sophie’s dreams, and then her computer. She thinks he is in a coma, and is communicating telepathically.
She sets out to find him, and learns the truth. But what is the truth? Is Matthew dead? Or has he been imprisoned and drugged by secret forces because he found out too much? Can Matthew and Sophie ever be together, and live their dream? Is the robot population far greater than has been revealed?
The book is a balance between romance and science-fiction. It’s about love so powerful, that it transcends death, and about technological ideas which are easy to understand, and which are believable because they are only very slightly beyond our current capabilities. It’s a book which aims to make you think about what it is to be human.
The simple answer is yes. I’ve always found writing to be very therapeutic, and have used it to help me through many ‘bad’ moments in my life (you should see some of the unrequited love poetry I churned out as a teenager!), so I knew almost from the day my son died that I would eventually have to purge myself by getting thoughts on to paper. But it took a long time. Michael died in 1994 and I didn’t start writing about it until 1999. Then I kept leaving it and coming back, and didn’t finish it until 2008, by which time computer technology had changed so much that I had to re-write much of it anyway. Unlike other books I didn’t actually plan out a story. I started at the beginning with the prologue, which is the discovery of the body. Michael hanged himself in Spain, so we never found out much about how the body was discovered, except that it was hanging from a tree over a stream. From that point, the story evolved. I didn’t intend it to be sci-fi, but neither did I want it to be morbid, so the idea of giving him back his life, albeit in a different format, just grew from there. The main character, Sophie, seemed to be writing it for me. I’ve always loved and admired strong women, so I let her take control. She did a damned good job!
You have quite a few interests from opera and sport to wildlife and antiques. How do you find time for them all, and do you find it easy to split time between writing and relaxing?
I don’t compartmentalise my life into work and relaxation because I’ve always subscribed to the idea that a change is as good as a rest. I travel abroad a lot, but am always writing or planning a book, and use my life experiences to give credibility to what I write so, for example, you’ll find lots of references to wildlife, music, and even antiques, in Past Continuous. Now that I no longer work full-time, I have the luxury of spending more rather than less time on my interests, and I read an enormous amount, mainly science, philosophy, and anthropology. Everything I read and think about (mainly while walking) feeds into what I might write next.
Did you always plan to be a writer or is it something that has happened more by accident?
Absolutely intended. When I was ten, (during the Suez crisis) I wrote a diary for a year, and dreamt of one day writing a whole book. Twenty five years later (during the Falklands War), I wrote a diary again, and then repeated it in my sixtieth year (the end of Blair’s time in office). If I make it to eighty-five, I will write part four – the diary of four years in a life, with twenty-five year gaps!
Do you have another book planned after this one?
I have a couple of novels I wrote twenty or so years ago which I really need to dig out and re-write (if they appear to have any merit!) but yes, I’m engaged in a new novel in which I am attempting to do to organised religion what Orwell did to politics. It’s set in 2090, and fundamentalist Christianity has taken over in England. Life is very different…