Interview with Riaz Ali

Hello Everyone!

We are delighted to have author Riaz Ali amongst us today at Musikdiv India Online Magazine at our Special ‘Authors Festival’ interview series to tell us about his new book My Life With Kate Bush!
Please read on …

My Life With Kate Bush is the story of the seventies through the eyes of a child and the eighties through the eyes of a teenager. It is a hugely affectionate and humorous romp, full of irreverence, zaniness and comedy, and is also a homage to the toys, games and products of that era, with mentions of Big Trak, Rentaghost, orange flavoured Jubbly’s and the ZX-81.
Chronologically, the book covers a span of time beginning in 1976 when I spend my first day at Brookfield Junior & Infant School in Cwmbran, Gwent, and ends in London, November 1990 when I attended the Kate Bush Convention in London. Being of Asian descent it touches upon my difficulties in fitting in to the world around me once my parents were divorced and I was left being brought up by my white, welsh mother.
The book begins in 1980 with my father popping out for a pint of milk and, six months later, returning with another wife.
The book then jumps back to 1976, when I am five years old, and the following four chapters feature my adventures at Brookfield Junior school when I meet Mrs Carey, who loves the colour orange, Mr Baldwin, who loves my Groucho Marx impersonations and friends such as Paul Barnes who loves the movie Grease. I also fall in love with an older woman, Lisa Francis, who is eight years old.
On 12th May 1979 as Kate Bush played a benefit concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, I celebrated my eighth birthday by going into town, thinking I was going to buy a Smurf and a Pocketeer but coming back with the first album I would ever own, The War Of The Worlds.
My grandfather takes me for a walk along the canal, where the metal bolts in the path, I am informed, open to staircases leading down to underground caverns inhabited by unicycling dwarves.
I leave Brookfield and attend Llantarnam Comprehensive School from late 1982. There I make several new friends which lead to adventures such as exploring an abandoned mine, exploring an abandoned shop, exploring an abandoned car and, generally, just exploring abandonment.
Through contacts made via Kate Bush meetings, I meet Anthony, who artificially inseminates cows, and Paul, who writes for an eighties computer magazine and calls himself ‘The Pilgrim’.
An account of a Kate Bush meeting at Haworth, West Yorkshire in November 1988 is of particular interest as I encounter a black cat, sat, unusually, on a mat.


So Riaz, we’ll start your Interview with the very first question

1.Please introduce and tell the readers something about yourself.

Hi. My name is Riaz Ali and I live in a small town called Calne which is in North Wiltshire, UK. I am a support worker for the Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership. I live in a small cottage with a wood burner, a cat, a fiancée and a collection of dreams I keep in small glass jars.

2.What brought you to writing?

When I was around nine years old I remember reading The Omen by David Seltzer. I thought ‘I can do that’. I spent the next couple of years reading Asterix The Gaul books and everything by Enid Blyton before attempting my first short story at the age of twelve, which was titled ‘Noddy and Asterix meet Damien, the Omen’. If I recall, the three of them went camping together on Kirrin Island and solved a mystery involving a vanishing pebble that one of them thought they saw on the beach.

3.How long have you been writing?

About five minutes.
Oh, you mean how long have you been writing?
Well, based on the answer to the previous question, I guess around twenty-five years, with very large gaps in-between.

4.Which was your first literary project?Tell us something about it.

In my late teens – we’re talking about the late eighties – I had several pen-friends. I guess in this day and age, the internet has made the idea of writing letters to someone, just for the sheer fun of it, obsolete and rather strange. Back in the eighties it was still regarded as strange, particularly amongst my peers, but I loved it. I would send serialisations to my pen-friends – wild, fantastical stories inspired by my then love of Tolkien. I would include myself and my pen-friends as characters in the stories and they were received quite well. I would type them out on my old Amstrad CPC6128 computer, printing them out on a clanky and cranky DMP2000 printer. I never kept copies for myself and have no record of the stories. I wish I did.

5.Is this your new/latest project?

Well, My Life With Kate Bush is my latest completed project. I wrote it between the summer of 2008 and the spring of 2009. I have two projects nearing completion at the moment. A work of pure fiction called ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Retro Eighties Ant Man In Tweed’ which should be published by next spring. I also have a collection of short stories called ‘Tea Break Tales’ which should be published by the end of January 2012.

6. Traditional books or e-books? How do you prefer to see your works published? Have you tried ever publishing the traditional way?

I submitted ‘My Life With Kate Bush’ to an agent at Jenny Brown Associates in the spring of 2009. The agent liked my sample chapters and requested to see the full manuscript. Four months later it was rejected. Not on the grounds of any lack of literary merit – it was simply due to him trying to place a similar comedy memoir with publishers and having no success. Therefore, he turned down mine. After that, due to several changes in job and moving from one county to another, I did not try again. When I finally pulled the manuscript out of the drawer and revised it, I realised I still believed in it. I also realised that I didn’t want to wait four months each time for a rejection, so took it upon myself to research the world of kindles and self-publishing. Within a month I had an edition of My Life With Kate Bush available as a kindle purchase from Amazon and also as a physical paperback purchase from

7.Can you give a chapter sample preview of your book here for our readers to know more about it.
Yes,here it is.
( Please look at the bottom of the interview for book excerpts )

8.What are your hobbies?Things that you enjoy doing besides books of course.

I enjoy playing guitar, mostly acoustic stuff. I love Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Happy Rhodes, Laura Nyro and many others. Piano based songs, such as Laura Nyro’s, which you wouldn’t think would naturally adapt to a guitar style, do work wonderfully well.

9.Who is your favourite author?

Probably J.R.R.Tolkien. These days, the quality of Tolkien’s work is often measured by people’s enjoyment of the films. I do enjoy the movies, but if you really want to experience Middle Earth, you *must* read the books. As Tolkien says himself in his foreword, it is unlikely you will find a work of such length consistently enjoyable all the way through. But I guarantee that those parts that do hit the mark, will inspire and move you like no other work you have read.

10.What is your favourite genre to read and also to write?

Hmm. Tricky. Although I am primarily interested in comedy, I have read an awful lot of horror, particularly in my teenage years. Stephen King, H.P.Lovecraft, Clive Barker and James Herbert were favourites originally. Then, my ‘lady of the island’ introduced me to M.R.James, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanau and others.
I also enjoy the classics, having read most of the output of Ann Radcliffe, Thomas Hardy and the Bronte sisters. I am afraid Dickens never did it for me.
I have written some horror stories. One of mine ‘The House On The Hill’ came fourth in the monthly competition in September 2010. But primarily I write comedy. I have had two comedy sketches performed and broadcast on the show ‘Shoot The Writers’ broadcast on ITV about four years ago.

11.Do you have a role model that you get inspiration from?

My grandfather, who passed away in 1987, taught me the value of unconditional love.

12.Where do get your ideas from?Do you take your story ideas from real life situations?

My best ideas come when I’m not trying too hard to think of one. When I am in the bath, taking a walk through the countryside, or in that between world of waking and sleeping – that’s when the best ideas come.
Of course, for my comedy memoir ‘My Life With Kate Bush’, a lot of that is drawn from real life. Some events have been embellished of course, for comic effect. Such is the way of memories.

13. Do you have a pseudonym?

Yes. Mr P. S. Eudonym.

14.Whats your experience been like in the publishing industry?Postive or negative?Please share your experience with our readers.

Well, self-publishing has been a revelation. is a pretty incredible idea. The fact that I can obtain a professionally bound, printed paperback edition of anything I write for roughly five pounds is pretty amazing. All those dreams and aspirations I had as a teenager, dreaming of having my work published, I can achieve with a few key presses. Of course, the main disadvantage is that you have no retail outlet via high street book stores etc, but I am finding the self-promotion side of things interesting. I have not ruled out submitting my work to a traditional publisher in future, but for 2012 I see myself focusing on Kindle versions and LULU.

15.Where do you see yourself 10years from now?

Earning a living from writing J

16. What motivates you to write?

The need to tell a story. The hope that I can make my readers laugh and also touch them in some way. To make them think a little bit about the world, the universe, the friends we make and the dreams we have.

17. How important is good cover art for your books?

Oh yes. A cover needs to attract the reader initially and make them curious as to the content.

18. Do you have a price strategy for your books?

Well this is another tricky one and conflicting advice is everywhere. At the moment I am trying the low kindle price strategy, where my price is under one pound in the hope of impulse sales. Plus, in the current economic climate, I think most people would prefer to buy an Ebook for 99p or under, rather than £3 or more. I would rather build up a readership than build up my bank balance.

19. How does it make you feel when you read a bestselling book that you don’t feel is as good as yours?

The Da Vinci Code was a very good book but I felt there were pages and pages of exposition where the characters would sit around a table and dictate crucial elements of the story to each other to further the plot along, rather than create dynamic scenes which could have done the same thing but with more reader involvement.
However, the plot and general pacing was exceptional so it can be forgiven!
To be honest, I don’t expect to win any literary awards and don’t expect to change the face of the publishing world with my work. I just want people to read my books, like them, laugh at them and come away feeling good.

20.Why do you think readers should buy your book?What can you offer them through your book?

Admittedly, My Life With Kate Bush is a hard sell. Who wants to read a memoir that isn’t a typical ‘tragic life’ memoir and isn’t by anyone famous? But, it’s quirky and it’s different. If anyone has a strong love of seventies and eighties nostalgia, would love to read about the toys and games of that era, inter-mingled with a story of childhood and an awkward adolescence that is written with a liberal sprinkling of humour, then they would enjoy my book.
They don’t have to know who Kate Bush is, but it might help!

21.Where is your book available?Any Buy Link for our readers?

For kindle copies please visit Amazon UK at
or Amazon US at

22.Do you have a website or a blog that you’d like to share here. is where I am. It’s still a work in progress but over the next month I am hoping to develop it more. Alternatively, I may scrap everything you see there and switch to WordPress!

23. What advice would you give to other writers?

The same as anyone else. Read, read then read some more. Believe in yourself.

24.Anything else you’d like to share with our readers

Thank you for reading this little interview. If any of you do go on to read any of my work, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you!

  • Thank you Riaz Ali for gracing us with your presence.It was a sheer pleasure.Good luck with your book.We conclude the interview here

    Thanks again from Team MusikDIV

    Book Exerpts – Sample Chapter

    My Life With Kate Bush By Riaz Ali


    After my parents were married in 1968 they took up residence in a street called Abbey Road in Old Cwmbran. I’d like to think it was named after the Abbey Road studios in London where Kate Bush spent six months working on her third album, Never For Ever, in 1980, but in fact it was named after the Cistercian Monastery in Llantarnam, built in 1179 and populated by a number of rather grave monks who never released an album in their lives. My grandparents lived a few houses further up the street and it was during a time when people were more trusting and front doors would often be left unlocked for rogues and other unsavoury characters to enter, unlike these days when they are locked, much to the inconvenience of well-meaning thieves.
    My earliest memory is of coming down the stairs one Christmas morning and seeing a pile of presents on the sofa, all bearing my name. The one at the top, balancing precariously on a box of Lego, was a blue machine gun. I loved that blue machine gun. The trigger mechanism operated a small cylinder that created sparks that were safely contained in a small perspex box moulded into the barrel. I wondered if real soldiers on a real battlefield had guns like this, with lots of sparks flying about in a little perspex box.
    I took that gun, mounted my little white tricycle and charged down the garden path, shooting anything that got in my way, which was mainly the lady next door who was hanging out her washing. I’d shoot her and then stop, watching all the little coloured sparks dance around in the barrel. There must have been something about that dancing light that appealed to butterflies. I can remember Red Admiral’s and Cabbage White’s landing on the gun, as if it were some kind of exotic flower. The tricycle had no brakes and so would come to a natural halt as it slammed into the outdoor toilet and often, as I was propelled through the air, I would catch one of those butterflies in my hands.
    My sister, three years older than me, didn’t have a tricycle. She opted for a toy washing machine. You could fill it with water and then turn a handle on the outside that would rotate the drum, churning whatever was inside it. It was meant for doll’s clothes but I used to fill it with marbles and paint. Now, at thirty-nine years old, the sound of marbles and paint rotating in a drum always makes me think back fondly to my childhood.
    Those carefree innocent days of being four years old ended when I reached five and I was taken to Brookfield Junior and Infants School for the first time. The teacher there, Mrs Carey, took my hand and in the company of my mother, showed me around.
    “We have a wonderful canteen here Mrs Ali,” said Mrs Carey. “Does he have any special dietary requirements?”
    ‘Chocolate,’ I thought. ‘Mum, say chocolate. Tell her I need chocolate mum, go on. Please.’
    “He is not allowed pork,” said Mum. “Or anything containing pig, like rissoles or vole-au-vents.”
    “That’s fine,” said Mrs Carey. “I will make sure the canteen staff are made aware of that.”
    A few days later I held my mother’s hand as we walked to Brookfield for my first ever day in school. Mrs Carey’s class was full of painted orange wooden tables, orange curtains and, well, orange. Orange is the colour my memory associates with that room. The walls were bright orange and the little wooden abacus’s dotted around on the tables had orange beads. Mrs Carey often wore a pale orange dress and sometimes during dinner, I would eat an orange for dessert. By the end of my first day, any resistance I may have had to the colour orange had been completely worn down and I was looking forward to getting home and snuggling up in bed under my very green and not at all orange blanket.
    “Riaz,” said Mrs Carey, “Let me introduce you to the rest of the class.”
    And she introduced me to a whole bunch of other little people like myself; little people that would come to mean so much to me – Paul Barnes, Lisa Francis, Andrew Moreton, Martin Sokolovs, David Powell and others whose lives touched mine and whose friendships I would cherish over the next six years.
    That first day passed quite quickly, as did the next and very soon I felt comfortable and relaxed regarding this new routine in my life. Mum would wake me up, I would go downstairs and eat my porridge and then she would take me to school.
    I’d like to talk a little bit about porridge now, seeing as I’ve mentioned it, as I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it. The porridge I used to eat was called ‘Ready Brek’. The television advertising campaign that ran through most of the 1970’s featured a boy who ate a bowl of Ready Brek and then began to glow. He would get up in the morning, eat his porridge and a lovely yellow glow enveloped him all the way to school.
    At five, I believed that. I honestly thought that as long as I ate Ready Brek I would glow, but I never did. I would stand in front of the hallway mirror every morning, with a belly full of Ready Brek, looking for the faintest hint of a glow but I saw nothing. I better not talk about it anymore due to the ‘non-glow’ lawsuit I have currently filed against them.
    So, mum would take me to school. The lollipop lady would be waiting with her big lollipop shaped ‘Stop – Children’ sign and then we would cross the road and mum would take me into class. I would sit next to Paul Barnes and we would read our ‘Peter and Jane’ books until our first break when we would be let out into the playground. In a corner of the playground there were three small concrete drums, running in a short line. These were perfect for hiding in during games of hide and seek and also made great dens and meeting places. We would crawl into a drum, make ourselves comfortable and then set about tackling the really important questions in life.
    “Am I your best friend?” asked Paul as we sat there on one cold winter’s morning.
    “Yes. Are you mine?” I asked.
    “Yes,” he said and then we ran around aimlessly in the yard for a further five minutes before the bell went.
    The bell marking the end of break time was a peculiar thing as it started the interesting ritual known as ‘single file’. The boys would all have to group together in a single file, as did the girls. Then we would have to march (“In single file,” called Mrs Carey) around the path that led back inside the school. Dotted along the path and standing on the metal manhole covers were monitors, usually made up of the pupils from the junior school, who would make sure we kept in single file and didn’t stray on the grass at all. Several years later I would become a monitor and be privy to the secret handshakes, financial perks and prestige bestowed upon you by standing on a manhole cover and shouting “single file!” but when I was five years old, all I knew was that I had to keep in single file or else someone much taller than myself might shout at me.
    Mrs Carey, despite being orange, was a wonderful teacher and was very patient and kind. The walk from my desk to hers was always a long one, especially when I didn’t understand something and I was embarrassed by my not understanding it. When I got to her desk and pointed out my problem she would kindly take her pen and with a few deft scribbles, make me realise it was all quite simple after all.
    “There you are Riaz,” she said after sticking a little silver star underneath a story I had written. “You see? You have nothing to worry about.”
    Once, Mrs Carey set us the task of collecting leaves.
    “This is a flower press,” she said, motioning to us to come closer. Several thick square boards held together with wing nuts were lying on her desk. Mrs Carey took off the top layer and showed us what was underneath. The most beautiful daisy I had ever seen had been flattened into a wafer.
    “Over the weekend I want you to collect some of the lovely autumn leaves out there and bring them in on Monday,” said Mrs Carey, “so we can flatten them.”
    My mother would pick me up each day from school and I would hold her hand tightly as we walked the short distance home. She would chat to me about the world and I would answer her as best as I could, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze if needed.
    “It’s alright Mum,” I’d tell her as she complained about the neighbour’s cat.
    “Mum,” I began and told her about the project we had been given.
    “Well,” she said, “I saw Mr Jones the other day out in his garden. He was pruning his sycamore tree which has lovely big leaves. He was putting down poison again. He can’t seem to get rid of his moles.”
    Mr Jones was our neighbour who had a beautiful garden plagued by a recurring mole problem.
    “I don’t think we can put moles in a flower press,” I said, worriedly.
    Mum, my sister and I ended up going for a walk. It was a short walk along the canal in Old Cwmbran and there were many beautiful shrubs and flowers along its edge. Willow trees leaned over the bank, their long branches brushing against the soft ripples of the slow moving water. I spotted a large purple leaf on the floor which may have been from a maple tree and I put it in the little plastic bag that Mum had brought with her.
    “I think your father may be going away again soon,” said Mum thoughtfully, staring at the collection of leaves in the little bag.
    My sister came back and emptied her finds into the bag, followed by, “Good.”
    “Maria,” said Mum. “You shouldn’t say things like this.”
    Maria didn’t answer and we continued walking.
    On Monday morning Mrs Carey’s desk was piled high with leaves and little plastic bags. She was sorting through them, trying to choose which ones to put into the press, when she opened mine. My heart jumped. The anticipation of praise; of someone saying something good about something I had done, always gave me goose pimples.
    She pulled out the purple leaf I had found.
    “This is beautiful Riaz,” she said. “This one will definitely go in. Look at the colour on this everyone. Very beautiful.”
    She rummaged around in the bag some more.
    “But this,” Mrs Carey said, pulling out an empty triangular carton that once held a frozen orange flavoured Jubbly, “Isn’t.”
    ‘Maria,’ I thought. ‘Just you wait.’
    Mrs Carey turned it over in her hands thoughtfully.
    “However,” she continued, “It is orange so I am sure we can find a place for it on our display shelf.”
    At home, Abba would often make us change into our pyjamas, immediately upon returning from school. He would often go upstairs and supervise Maria and Mum would stand and stare at me helplessly as I made the most amazing contortions in an attempt to remove my trousers.
    “You could grow into the next Houdini,” she said to me. I didn’t know who Houdini was but from my Mum’s tone, I guessed he was someone else who also had trouble removing his pants.
    We would spend the next few hours sat in the living room watching television. Abba always used to have the gas fire turned up high. Maybe it was because he missed the climate of India but I always remember becoming uncomfortably hot and I would often make an excuse to leave that little claustrophobic room on the pretence of going to the toilet. I would enter the dining room, close the door behind me and take a deep breath of that much cooler air. I would take my time walking into the kitchen, enjoying my moment of freedom and running my hand along the raised pattern on the wallpaper.
    “Anaglypta,” my Nan told me one day when I asked her why the walls were so bumpy.
    I reached the back door and opened it.
    The night was dark.
    The kitchen light illuminated the narrow concrete path outside but within six little steps, I was alone. It was a clear night and I strained my eyes trying to count the stars in the sky. It would be some years before I would discover that they were there during the day too. When I was five I thought they only came out at night. I looked at them and wondered how high they were and what they smelled of.
    A cat jumped on the neighbour’s fence and looked at me, the moonlight reflecting in its eyes and making them look green and deadly.
    I carried on walking slowly to the small wooden shack that housed the toilet. I turned the metal handle and stepped inside, pulling the long string that turned on the weak overhead light. I looked up to see if the spiders in the corner were still there. They were. They scared me a little when they moved but as long they were grouped together like that, all fifty-seven of them, I didn’t mind.
    I wondered what I would dream of that night and I wondered what we would do in school tomorrow. I hoped Paul and I could have another meeting in the concrete drums. I hoped Lisa Roderick, with her beautiful long black hair and kind smile, would let me sit by her in Maths again.
    Then, I got my little winkie out and piddled.
    That’s how it was at five.

    Buy My Life With Kate Bush by Riaz Ali On Amazon Kindle >>

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