Mon 26 Apr 2010
Gaius Coffey’s piece “Terry and the Eye“ is the most read story at Every Day Fiction for the month of March, and has been hailed as being “nicely uncomfortable,” “amusing,” and “brimming with life.” Today we’re sitting down with Mr. Coffey to find out a little more about him.
Gaius has written full outlines for two sit-coms, several novels, a couple of screen plays, a stage play and a radio play. He has even completed some of them. His story, “Alone, Not Lonely” has recently been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing One Page Story Prize. Currently, he is working on the final draft of a novel and flash fiction is just one of the many exciting and enjoyable diversions he has found to prevent him from actually finishing it. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two cats.
Gaius, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Flash Fiction Chronicles: “Terry and the Eye” is a story with a rather … unusual topic. What was your inspiration to write this piece?
Gaius Coffey: The actual prompt was something like “look at page 56 of whatever book you are reading and take the first line of dialogue” (the book was “A Fraction Of The Whole” by Steve Tolz). When I saw what my prompt was, it felt like I’d won the lottery; so many ideas jumped into my head and I had any number of reasons as to why an eye being open or closed didn’t matter. However, my wife had complained that a lot of my flashes end with the horrific, often humiliating, and usually painful death of at least one character and… um… it was a difficult accusation to refute.
So, “Terry and the Eye” became an experiment to see if I could write something a little warmer.
FFC: How did you feel when you found out you had the most read story for March at EDF?
GC: Pretty good, actually. Thank-you. J
FFC: Your bio blurb indicates that you have a wide variety of literary pursuits. What is your favorite form to write?
GC: It depends what I’m writing and why.
When I just want to have fun playing with words, I write flash. The only constraints are the ones you give yourself and there is no pain; you have an idea, you write. It either works or it doesn’t. It is rare that I redraft a flash piece and, when I do, it is almost always in response to specific feedback from specific readers whom I respect.
But, though I love flash and will always write flashes, one thousand words are not enough to tackle anything seriously.
I did try writing plays for various media and I enjoyed both the immediacy and the very visual way of thinking that those required. Maybe the ideas weren’t right, but ultimately I found plays unsatisfying as, even with an hour to play with, I found the results quite superficial. What I needed was a way to get truly intimate with my characters as I explored their worlds in a meaningful way.
Novel writing gives me that. The constraints drive me mad as characters have to be credible and consistent as well as to grow and change. The plot has to be paced and the storyline tweaked to build suspense. I have frequently discarded huge chunks and edited twenty-thousand word sections down to just five. But, when it finally comes together, and the story works how I intended it in the first place, it feels great.
FFC: Who or what do you credit as your biggest influence with regards to your writing?
GC: No one influence and what I am looking for changes over time. I’m more into ideas than pretty prose so Roald Dahl was close to deity for me at one point and probably no surprise that I was also impressed by the complete realities invented by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett (though I think Adams had more fun doing it).
FFC: Where do you see yourself and your writing in the future – say, a year from now?
GC: My current novel will be out there, somewhere, and I will be working on the next one.
FFC: That’s a great attitude to have – I look forward to reading more of you in the future. Once more, thank you for your time.
Tanya L. Schofield is the recently appointed Assistant Editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles. You can read her blog at Blogging in the Dark.