Interview with Alan Guffy

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1) Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your entry for this contest?

Most of my story inspirations come through a mash-up or twist on things going on during my life.  In this case, I burned the roof of my mouth one day about a month ago and got a nasty sore.  It would almost heal and then something would happen and it’d get worse again.  One day, while I was walking our dogs, I started thinking what if it’s cancer?  And it made me start to consider ‘body horror’ in a different context.  About a month earlier I’d watched something that included a discussion about the CIA and sensory deprivation tortures.  That had stuck with me, and this story was the result.

2) What made you decide to enter this contest?

I’ve been trying off and on to become a more serious writer.  I’m an attorney and while I used to write prolifically, for a long time during and after law school I got away from it.  I blamed the work schedule and “life”, but part of this was also due to what I’ve heard call “editing hell.”  I wrote a short novel in college and instead of submitting it anywhere or moving on, I would review it, edit it, tinker, let it sit, then repeat.  And I did this for seven years.  Finally, a year or so ago I forced myself to move on to something new.  This year, I’ve resolved to finish the projects I’ve started and start getting my stuff out there, and entering this contest was a part of that!

3) Who are some of your favourite authors and why?

I love Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King.  I think McCarthy is a genius in a very literal sense.  I don’t think you can write the way he does with the vocabulary he has and the layers he uses and not be one. I like Stephen King because I think at his best he can be very effective at letting the characters drive the action and letting their motivations and their decisions play out naturally, rather than in a way that feels plotted.  I found his take on writing (as presented in his book On Writing) to be refreshing, and really cut through a lot the noise that you can get bogged down with in craft books.

4) What is your favourite book you read this year and why?

I’ve read a bit more nonfiction than usual this year, but in terms of novels that would probably be Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.  I thought it was a clever, interesting book and I loved the way she developed the mystery elements and revealed more and more about her characters over time.  It’s a cheat, because I read it about a year ago, but I also read a book called Son of the Black Sword that I picked up on Amazon by Larry Correia.  I’d never read him and was delighted with the decision.  It was the most fun I’ve had with a book in a while, made even better because it was a total surprise.

5) What is your best piece of advice for all the new independent authors out there?

I think it would be “find an audience.”  When I was writing my most, I had a friend who loved my writing.  He would read everything I’d write and we’d talk about it and I knew he was a genuine fan.  We grew apart, things moved on, and without that it’s a little more of a slog and a little more intimidating to put things out there.  I’ve joined writing groups to fill some of that hole, but nothing really beats having someone whose taste you trust and who knows you well enough to be earnest when things are great, and honest when things aren’t.  It keeps you grounded and can give you the confidence you need to push ahead.