Short, Sharp Interview: Frank Duffy

PDB:  What writing period do the stories in your collection, The Signal Block and Other Stories, cover?
FD: I wrote most of the stories in the collection between 2007 – 2009, though one or two, such as the title story, The Signal Block, were conceived way back in 2002, and written and rewritten, on and off, up to last year. There’s a considerable difference between those stories and the ones in my second collection, ‘Between These Pages, These Places,’ as I tend to write a lot more short stories in the first person these days.
PDB: The theme of the stranger in a strange land- Poland, London- runs through a few of your stories. Does that have anything to do with living in exile?
FD: Without a doubt. Living and working abroad has influenced my writing considerably, more than I’d ever intended. It was always at the back of my mind that going abroad and living there would find its way into my stories, if not at times become the story. Even when I’m not writing from the perspective of a character living in another country, I feel the story, or stories, have generally benefitted from my being here. Not that I think having stayed in Britain would have restricted my writing in any way. Writing, hopefully, evolves wherever the actual process takes place. But to get back to the question, living over here has probably evolved my writing in the sense of what I’m saying now, as opposed to what I wanted to say, but felt not possible where I was ten or eleven years ago. So, essentially, location, geography, they’ve contributed probably more than time and maturity has. Everything contributes.
Also, I feel I’m getting nearer to bringing together those themes and ideas that are my idea of Britain, and merging them with my knowledge, as limited as it might be, of continental Europe, which for me, without sounding too vague, is part of what I’m hoping to do. I love the inherent traditionalism of the British/Irish supernatural story, as opposed to the lack of one in a country like Poland, which is what is so fascinating trying to get the balance right.
PDB: Mountains Of Smoke is currently available as an ebook but will it also come out in paper form?
FD: Yes, Mountains of Smoke will be coming out in a limited hardback edition from Sideshow Press very soon, hopefully June or near the end of. It’ll also contain an extra story, Beyond Blood.
PDB: Is the internet the work of the devil?
FD: The answer to that question is easiest for me to explain in two parts. First, I think the internet has been useful in helping lots of writers find outlets for their work. Also, the response time, generally, is much faster, enabling writers to seek alternative publications, though saying that, it’s also true to say that some of these ‘alternative publications’ will accept anything, and that quality is significantly reduced.
Some writers, established long before the internet proved such a source of possibility for today’s new and aspiring writers, have criticized what they perceive as the newer writers of having leap-frogged ahead of others, and of having no proven track record with which to support the fact they have a collection or novel already out there – thanks to the internet. While that they may be true of some, I believe quality is not necessarily dictated according to the medium by which it’s delivered. Getting it out there quicker should be as applicable to an established writer as it is to an emerging one.
But my feelings are very mixed about the internet. It has become almost like a battleground between one group seeking to establish its superiority over another, or if this sounds rather naïve, then I think it amplifies certain voices to the point of exaggeration. Too many people have become self-appointed in what they believe is the right way to do things, or the absolute worst way to do things.  
But, as I said, nothing new in that.
PDB: Have you ever written poetry?
FD: No, I’ve never written poetry. I shared an apartment with another ex-pat, who is also an poet, Jeremy Pomeroy, a few years back. Top bloke and talented guy. The flat was swarming with poetry books. He had about a dozen instruments, including a harpsichord, a banjo and a twelve foot keyboard (okay, it wasn’t twelve feet, but it was near enough). We were in the same band together, and I never saw him wear a beret. I’m sure that counts.
PDB:  Have you ever written a screenplay? 
FD: I’ve written five screenplays. All of which are currently residing in a drawer. Actually, that’s a lie. I adapted one of my own short stories for a professional actor friend of mine, Peter Burgess, who lives and works in London. He’s tinkering with it right now, and hopefully, we might manage to make a short 15 minute film out of it. The others are too embarrassing to even look at now. I have no idea why I still have them.
But I’m definitely interested in writing them, but not right this moment. I need to develop the ideas much further than where they stand. And I’m also looking for somebody who knows what they’re doing.
I once wrote a 120 page screenplay, when I was about nineteen, only to later discover I’d written a filming script, complete with MEDIUM CLOSE-UP, EXT. P.O.V. that kind of camera instruction.
That’ll teach me not to copy the original Twilight Zone scripts from the now defunct Twilight Zone fiction magazine.
Anyway, you might be the guy for that gig, Mr. Brazill. You know a thing or two about films, or have you retired for a  life of literary grace?
PDB: How did you get involved with Sideshow Press?
FD:I got involved with Sideshow Press when I submitted a story called Not Yet Players to their flagship publication, Black Ink. The feedback from Tom Moran, my editor, who with his wife Billie, run Sideshow, was really encouraging, so I simply emailed him about whether he was interested in looking at a collection of mine.

He had said he didn’t wanted to commit himself to a collection early on, but he was pretty happy with what he read, and said let’s do it. To be honest, I was very surprised. I wasn’t sure if what I had written was going to be classified as horror anymore, since everybody kept trying to stick a ‘speculative fiction’ tag on my work.

But Tom was great, and has been very supportive. I think I’m very lucky to be working with him and Billie.
PDB: When is The Signal Block collection due out?
FD: The Signal Block and Other Stories is due out at the end of July. It’s been pushed back a couple of times, but I don’t mind as Tom is doing everything to make sure it arrives as he intends it to. A definite date will be announced soon.
Frank Duffy‘s blog, The Signal Block, is here.
Mountains Of Smoke is available here.