This week we have the huge honour of interviewing award-winning, flash fiction virtuoso – David Gaffney.
David thank you ever so much for coming on our blog and taking the time to chat to Horror Scribes and our followers.
Firstly, tell us a bit about you and your writing.
I write very short stories – about 150 words usually – and that’s my favourite format. I also like working to a precise word count rather than just a loose ‘under 500 words’ so prefer the story to be exactly 150 words rather than 149 or 151. I also write novels and have just published a graphic novel with artist Dan Berry
Flash fiction is still in its early days and hasn’t yet been fully embraced by mainstream culture. Do you think it ever will and how can you see it grow as a genre?
I don’t really see flash fiction as being a mainstream commercial cultural product that could compete with boxed sets and cooking shows but I think it can have a wider appeal once people who wouldn’t normally read short stories or poetry have been introduced to it. I don’t think its a thing about short attention spans – I think its the opposite People generally seem to want to be immersed in something for long periods- a film, a multi-episode series, a long novel – and generally people don’t want to have relearn a new world and a set of new characters every few pages.
Flash fiction challenges the basic structure of storytelling (beginning, middle and end). Is this a limitation of the genre?
The genre is limited by the fact that you can’t burrow down deeply into something – nor can you repeat much or allow much time for detailed description which is also a comforting aspect of longer works. There is often no sense of place or even time to a piece of flash fiction as it doesn’t allow that sort of textural development. However flash fiction can do other things and it can quickly engage a reader with a quirky idea and within a very short scene something powerful can happen which can reveal something profound and new about the world.
How do you feel about flash fiction as a medium for horror?
I haven’t read much horror in the form of flash and I would think it was difficult to do well. I can’t see Stephen King working to under 500 words. Suspense and tension might be difficult to build over a very short piece and a horror scene over just a few words might feel too explicit and unsubtle.The horror would have to be something glanced in the shadows something that might or might not be happening, a cross section through a richer story, the fragment of a bone from the story, the condensation from the breath of the story -that’s how it might well work well for me…
What scares you the most and do you have a horror scene/passage/novel that has stayed with you?
I used to be scared by the Pan books of horror short stories – I remember one where they put a rat in a copper bowl on someones stomach and the rat had to eat its way through the man to get out. since reading that I hardly ever strap a rodent to my stomach any more unless I’m sure it has another escape route.
What is your advice to new writers?
Read a wide variety of stuff not just what you like. Read what you consider to be bad stuff as well as good stuff and get feedback from other writers on what you are doing. Some people talk about finding your voice.You already have a voice – its the writing you do that links up the bits where you are imitating your heroes. Concentrate on those bits and cut the other bits out.
Please give us a one sentence horror story!
With my skin now gone, the dogs seemed to enjoy eating me even more, and the pack began to gorge in an urgent, competitive way, until the lower parts of both legs were soon down to the bone and I felt their sharp teeth and warm spittle as they investigated my thighs, looking for purchase on some desirably meaty chunk.
What a great interview and invaluable advice from one of the experts in the field. Find out more about David and his work here: www.davidgaffney.org