Tuesday, 3 May 2011


A weekly author Q&A series that braves the paper-cut of author's wit so you don't have to. This week, we question David Gaffney, a prolific Manchester-based author who wrote the Edge Hill Prize long-listed The Half-Life of Songs. He is one of the stars of this month's Station Stories.

What's your 3rd favourite novel of all time? And why?

To establish accurate rankings of my favourite examples of certain cultural genres, I use a blend of the basic alternative vote system and a favourable characteristic matrix score. For example, to establish my third favourite novel I would calculate the number of favourable characteristics of my first favourite crime novel, my second favourite American novel, and my third favourite English literary work, add them together, divide by three, and then rank them by the favourable characteristics total score of each. So my third favourite novel is of course The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills. If you all try this at home the answer is always The Restraint of Beasts – it’s weird.

Q. What is the longest conversation you've ever tried to have with an animal, and what was it about?

When I was15, I spoke to my younger sister’s budgerigar for a long time about an unrequited love I harboured for a girl called Angela Watson who lived down past the farm. I was out of my head on drugs most of the time back then, living in the edge really, and the budgerigar seemed to speak back to me, and it spoke a lot of sense - about life, and cages and mirrors, and it was a really existential experience, and it asked me if I had thought about getting some big mirrors for my bedroom, because this strategy had really worked for the budgerigar, it meant there was no need to worry about searching for a real companion. I took this on board and lived like that until was thirty three, until one day I hired a professional cleaner to sort out my mirrors and fell in love with her.

Q. If your books could be printed on something other than paper, on what would you print them?

I have always wanted to have my books printed on Margaret Thatcher’s dead body because I’m really left wing and cool and I really hate Margaret Thatcher cos she really fucked the country up in the eighties - didn’t she drop bombs down mines and kill Yorkshire people and invent poll vaulting, and things like that? She was terrible. In fact I would like the printing process to actually be the thing that kills her - the little needles with ink in them would also have poison in and Margaret Thatcher would gradually die a slow death from having my short stories injected into her skin.

Q. Let's have a Madchester-style revival but for fiction writers instead. Who gets to be Bez?

Bez is a hollow cheeked Marraca shaking drug-addicted dancing fool – so who other than Julian Barnes himself, whose louche activities with the ladies and experiments with illegal substances are well documented, and whose well known book the Naked Lunch is full of racy, suburban wife swapping, mountain biking, and reefer baking, and is like a distilled bottle of Bez’s spirit in book form.

Q. What's the best colour for a book cover? No, really. I like red.

I did actually look into the effect of a book’s colour on sales when my book Aromabingo came out and it was pink. It wasn’t selling so well and this was clearly down to the colour of the cover not the content so I had a look at the top one hundred fiction sellers and it turns out that dark green is the best colour for fiction. There’s no question about it.

Q. Plug any current book or project you're working on: please use as many long words as you can.

My latest book The Half-Life of Songs is being performed live at Manchester Piccadilly station by a choir of insects, amplified and sound manipulated by digital artists. This is happening this month - see http://www.stationstories.com/ for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Crackers. Definitely can't wait for Station Stories after reading this and Nicholas Royle's contribution last month! Sounds like a fantastic project.