Friday, December 18, 2009

An Interview With Owen Duffy

Owen Duffy’s apocalyptic narrative, “A New Plan,” appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, Owen discusses tone, characters acting from fear, his recently completed novel manuscript and story collection, and forthcoming stories.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise for this story come from?

Owen Duffy: I had a bad cold last winter and couldn’t sleep one night. I was on some nasty cold meds and that image came to me – of guest workers arriving peaceably, and then suddenly running around with hearts in their hands. The next day, I realized I’d envisioned a story-scape about a lot of things I was thinking, teaching, reading, and feeling at the time.

AV: The tone of this piece is haunting, foreboding, it crawls under the reader's skin. How did you work to achieve the overall mood of the story?

OD: I basically just wrote down what I’d imagined – a stark, grey, invasion-y story. No one had a name or a face. I didn’t try to see things too clearly, and that in itself created its own tone. I think by using a generic narrator and setting, it allowed those frightening elements to remain in the shadows, where they’re scariest.

AV: "A New Plan" feels apocalyptic in its widespread sense of panic for coming change. How does fear underscore the story, and perhaps speak for all forms of impending change?

OD: When I wrote the story, fear of change was a very present idea. I started writing about characters who live and act out the things real people subconsciously think and feel. I thought about their worst fears, their worst actions. I thought about how these characters came to accept their beliefs, the things they might say in private as opposed to in politically correct settings. I really messed with the storytelling – how their universal experience becomes personal/collective. I thought of the dangers of all this and tried to portray it. Looking at it now, I’m horrified by these characters, because in many ways, I know they’re real.

AV: You have recently completed a novel manuscript and a collection of short stories. Can you talk a little about both projects?

OD: The novel is tentatively entitled Artichoke Queen. It’s a character driven success/tragedy, set in California and Mexico in the early 1950’s, focusing on a beautiful, competitive woman. Sordid love triangles, seedy beauty contests, amateur car racing, and lots of hard knocks. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing. The story collection is entitled The Electrical Age; themed by characters struggling to achieve love, success, dignity - and not sure they ever will.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any forthcoming stories we can point readers to?

OD: I’m currently editing a story, “Ultralight” – about an amateur pilot who goes missing in the ocean and his girlfriend’s lurid coping mechanisms. I do have a story, “Skinner Lake” coming out in the Winter 2010 Passages North. It’s a dense, textured story about a dying man trying to bribe his daughter into forgiving him for his misdeeds.

Owen Duffy holds an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark. His work has appeared in New Delta Review and is forthcoming in Passages North. He runs a small guitar based business and lives in Charleston, SC. He's completed a novel manuscript and is finishing his collection of stories. You can reach him at ocduff (at)

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