DavidGaffney.co.uk

David Gaffney comes from Cleator Moor in West Cumbria and now lives in Manchester. He is the author of Sawn Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), Never Never (2008), Buildings Crying Out,, a story using lost cat posters (Lancaster litfest 2009), 23 Stops To Hull, a set of short stories about every junction on the M62 (Humber Mouth festival 2009) ,Rivers Take Them a set of short operas with composer Ailis Ni Riain (BBC Radio Three 2008), Destroy PowerPoint, stories in PowerPoint format for Edinburgh Festival in August 2009, and the Poole Confessions, stories told in a mobile confessional box (Poole Literature festival 2010).


Short Story Collections

The Half-Life of Songs
(Salt Publishing, 2010)

reviewed by A J Kirby

Aromabingo
(Salt Publishing, 2007)

reviewed by Melissa Lee-houghton

Sawn-Off Tales
(Salt Publishing, 2006)

Interview with David Gaffney (2011)

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

David Gaffney: I wrote the stories over a long period, stretching from 2006 – to 2009, yet there is cohesion to much of the collection owing to 25 of the stories being linked by a project called 23 stops to Hull where wrote a story about towns at junctions on the M62 between Liverpool and Hull, there are a few stories based on an exhibition in Manchester Art Gallery too, and there is a set of stories inspired by a regenerated building in Lancaster called the Storey Institute. I think there is a strong sense of place in the book and a sense of people either embedded in places or alienated by places so in the end that notion gave the book its theme - the theme of half which I use right through the book – half there, half gone and so on - and the title The Half Life of Songs, rooted in the last segment of stories about people in small villages.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

DG: I had small sets of stories in mind, but not the whole thing.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

DG: I selected from stories I’d amassed over around 3 years and had to also select a few half written stories to finish off especially for the book. The order was based on the themes, and each story cluster has a link which isn’t always obvious – for example there is a section linked by the theme of older people and one section includes stories are all set in offices.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

DG: It means to me usually a set of events which happen in a certain order over a period of time, but it isn’t always told in that way, it’s often told with the shuffle option clicked. What the story actually describes may be the culmination of a sequence of events, the final scene for example, from which the events can be unravelled, but a think that for me there is usually a narrative of some sort.

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

DG: I do and it’s the type of person who doesn’t read books. I want to reach out to people who like music and films and comedy and TV and who might never read a book. I’m quite puzzled by the reaction of people who read a lot of fiction. They often talk about whether they "like" a character or not, or they say they are only interested in books about "character" rather than events and they sometimes seem to want lots of decorative language, or will say a book was very well written when it’s not really clear to me what this means. My stories are sets of words nudging against each other. I don’t think you have characters in books in the way you have characters in films. In a book the pieces of prose that sit around the action and the dialogue are also part of character, there’s no real separation for me between character and scene and description and action, it’s all one continuum, all one voice.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

DG: I’d like to ask them if there are one or two things they really like about the way I wrote that they’d like me to do more of.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DG: It’s odd to think of people reading the stories and strange when people talk to you about them. One student who was studying my flash fiction asked me why there was so much cheese in my books, and I had no idea there was a lot of cheese, but she went on to give me examples of cheese incidents and it was true there was a lot of cheese. Another said that there wasn’t much swearing and why didn’t my characters swear very much, and again, I wasn’t really sure why. Sometimes people read odd things into stories and I’m happy that they do so. I sometimes aim for a story to be only properly understood at a kind of non-verbal, unexplainable, emotional level – these are the stories which will bear repeated reading and will leave the reader thinking and puzzling, I hope. I remember as a small child seeing a sex scene involving Rachel Welch in the film One Billion Years BC and I found it incomprehensible and compulsively fascinating. That’s the effect I’d like my stories to have on readers.

TSR: What are you working on now?

DG: I’m working on a project called station stories, ia unique site specific live literature promenade event using digital technology and live improvised electronic sound. Six writers take you on a tour of Piccadilly station and read specially commissioned stories inspired by the station and the people who use it and work there. It’s a unique live literature promenade performance featuring live improvised sounds using samples of ambient station noises as they happen. Audiences are linked to the writer’s microphones by headsets using wireless technology and a musician accompanies the writers and improvises music using sampled live sounds from the station, manipulating these sounds and playing them into the audience’s headsets between and underneath the text. The writers interact with passing members of the public who may be unaware that a performance is taking place. See www.davidgaffney.org for more info

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

DG: I read Magnus Mills’ Screwtop Thompson, Michael Chabon’s A Model World, and Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Rob Shearman




Interview with David Gaffney (2007)

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

David Gaffney:I wrote a few of the very short ones over a period of 3 or 4 years, and the medium to longer ones were written between 2005 –2006. I work on several writing projects at the same time so its hard to say… the quickest I’ve done is a commission for radio three which was three weeks to do three stories of about 250- 300 words each, and that kept me busy for the three weeks. (though, I have got another job as well) I have to get the ideas down first which takes a few days, then I write a story much longer than it needs to be, so I can find out where it starts and where it ends and then decide at which point in the narrative I am going to pick it up and which point I am going to leave it….then I get out the axe and edit.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

DG: No. I tend to write in clusters, though, so there will be groups of themes. For instance in Aromabingo there are I think 5 stories on the theme of ‘the little things,’ which were commissioned by a magazine called Cent. I am interested in doing a set of interlocking short stories, which can be each be read on their own and together as a novel, and I have a sort of plan for this, but havent written it yet. I Like Dan Rhodes’ short shorts all the theme of love, and also the Jim Crace collection of very short stories all about food.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

DG: Me and my editor Jen of Salt went through everything I had, and selected from there. Jen at Salt is very good at working out the running order- I sometimes wonder whether with very short fiction people dip in and out randomly. It is possible to organise my short fiction much more – I have several stories set in offices, and several in shops, several about relationships, and these could have been put together, but….I’m not sure this structuring would add anything.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

DG: The reader I have in mind is kind of a general reader, but maybe young and with an eye for things that are a bit weird. I think he wears a hat and hums softly under his breath, which could be irritating. I think of the pleasure I get when I read Magnus Mills for example and aim for that….

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

DG:I’m fascinated by the things people get from my stories – its often a lot of stuff I never intended or never thought about. I guess this is because when you write very short you leave a lot of gaps that people fill in themselves. I’d like to ask which they like and which they don’t care for too much, and maybe why

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DG: I used to stand in Waterstones, where my books are current in the cult fiction section, and when I saw someone pick up one of my books, I would talk to them, and try and persuade them to buy it, maybe find out a little about the customer, about their life, and why they might want to buy some cookery book instead of my brilliant tome, but since the restraining order, I have less contact with potential buyers in store, and from 100 yards away across the street my binoculars don’t really allow me to see the full picture. (But I know what’s happening in there, don’t you forget it waterstones, if you’re reading this.)
    What’s odd about strangers reading your stories is that you think back to where you were when you had the kernel of the idea for a story and you remember writing it on a train or somewhere (I write everything on trains) and its amazing to think that it’s now out here in a shop and in someone else’s head

TSR: What are you working on now?

DG: I am rewriting the final draft of my novel, Never Never, which is out in September on Tindal Street Press, I’m working on a set of ultra short stories using the medium of powerpoint presentations, which will be presented on 4 April at the Wigan Words literature festival, I’m also writing a suite of mini-operas with classical composer Ailis Ni Riain, the first of which will be on radio three in March 2008.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

DG: James Salter, Lorrie Moore, Miranda July, I think

 
                     
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>