Interview with David Gaughran
We are once again honored to have another visit by David Gaughran, author of If You Go Into the Woods and his newest work Transfection. Irish writer, David Gaughran lives in Sweden. He travels the world and writes stories about his travels. What an inspiration for stories! He also blogs about writing and publishing. Let’s take a few minutes and chat with David and learn about his latest work Transfection.
What do you think readers will appreciate most about your book?
I like to describe Transfection as “old-school science fiction”. I have no idea if this term is already in use and whether I am abusing it, but I think it’s accurate. I think a lot of science fiction today focuses on alien encounters or interplanetary spaceships. That’s fine, and it’s clearly popular, it’s just not what I am into.
I always preferred the stories of obsessed scientists and their dangerous research, shadowy conspiracies, and characters where you weren’t sure if they had discovered something crazy, or were going crazy themselves. If readers like all their stories with endings where everything is all neatly wrapped up, and everything is perfectly resolved, they mightn’t like this. However, if they like stories which live on in the mind afterwards, which leave you with more questions than answers, and make you want to re-read it again to find out what really happened, then I think they will enjoy this.
Tell us a bit about your writing process.
Oh, it’s completely chaotic, and if I had one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, it’s this: don’t copy me! I work with pen and paper, I work on several projects at the same time, I flit from one to another, I don’t work regular hours, I sometimes just drop everything for days at a time, I often write until the sun comes up, I work with music in the background, I write outside, in bars, in cafes, on buses, and I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way.
What is different about this book compared to others you’ve written?
This is the first real science fiction story I have published. It’s a departure in style and content for me. I guess you could describe my other stuff as more lyrical, if you were being kind. This story is more direct, perhaps a little more visceral. It’s also more focused than anything I have written before. The camera is zoomed in pretty much the whole time. There are some similarities to my last release, an unexpected twist, you will have more questions than answers, and it takes place in a world that is like ours in some ways, but there is something off about it too that you can’t quite put your finger on.
What is the most unique or unusual research you’ve ever done for a book?
I was living in Buenos Aires when I was writing the historical novel I will release at the end of summer, and I decided to travel across the country to Mendoza. I wanted to get a sense of the town, walk around the streets, check out the buildings, and add a little colour and detail to my narrative. My first discovery was that the entire city had been levelled by a huge earthquake, forty years after my book ends. I think maybe half a church survived. I was pretty despondent, having spent 20 hours on a bus to get there.
I bumped into a couple of friends who were on their way down from Bolivia – having last crossed paths with them in Colombia. They convinced me to join them on a bicycle tour of the local vineyards which soon paved the way for a three day bender. Midway through, I had the realisation that my problem was non-existent. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t find any old buildings. They had all been destroyed. There was no proof of what the city used to look like. I was free to describe the city in any way at all!
What is the hardest part about writing?
Finishing the job. I can bash out a good short story in a couple of sittings. The clean-up can take forever because I will always get distracted by a newer idea. I need to become more disciplined in that regard. I’ve lost count of the amount of half-written stories on my hard-drive.
Who are your favorite authors?
I’m quite democratic in my tastes, and I will read a bit of anything really as long as the writer is in love with the language and can tell a good story (with the second being more important than the first).
On the literary side, I adore Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Louis de Bernieres, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Juan Pedro Gutierriez (I seem to have a South American thing going on here). Closer to home, I love Roddy Doyle, John McGahern, and Patrick McCabe (I’m Irish). I read a lot of American writers, and Jeffrey Eugenides and Kurt Vonnegut are two favourites.
I read a good bit of SF too, with Ray Bradbury & Philip K. Dick leading the pack. I love shorts too, everything from the American heavyweights like Poe, O. Henry, and Hemingway to the more surreal European stuff like Kafka.
If you could meet any author who is no longer living, who would it be?
Most of my heroes are still alive, so I can still dream of meeting them. But either way, it’s Kurt Vonnegut – no question about it. I don’t usually get affected by the death of people I don’t know, but I was struck with a profound sadness when I heard of his passing. The world is all the poorer for it.
Best and worst writing tip you’ve learned?
I’ll tell you the best. Write the book you want to read. “Write what you know” isn’t bad advice, it’s just a little limiting. Write the book you want to read.
I don’t know what the worst is, but there seems to be a myth out there amongst aspiring writers. Some of them (not all), seem to think that you need to wait until you are inspired before you can write. I think there is this idea that you must be in touch with your muse. That’s a load of old cobblers.
You need to sit down and work. That’s it, and it will be as easy or as hard as you make it.
Can you tell us a little about your next project?
I was hoping you were going to ask that. I have lots in the pipeline to keep readers busy. First up, in a couple of weeks, is Let’s Get Digital. It’s part manifesto for the digital revolution and part hands-on guide to digital self-publishing. The “why-to” as well as the “how-to”, if you like. The part I am most excited about is the final section called “Stories from the Trenches”, featuring 32 top-secret bestselling indie writers, talking about their self-publishing journeys – in their own words. Reading their stories one after the other is powerful stuff.
There will be more short stories too, both released on their own, and bundled into a collection. But the real pride and joy is my historical novel which will finally be released at the end of the summer. It’s called A Storm Hits Valparaiso, and it follows San Martin and his band of rebels – mercenaries, thieves, slaves, and prostitutes – as they fight to free Argentina from the Spanish Empire. It has been three years in the making, and I am very excited about finally being able to release it.
If you would like to read more from David Gaughran, check out his blog.