Gul Y. Davis

Gul Y. Davis

Gul Y. Davis’s writing has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. His critically acclaimed novella A Lone Walk – praised in the Times as ‘a strange and unexpected read, with a ragged freshness that makes it forceful and affecting’ – was awarded the J. B. Priestley Fiction Award 2001.

Please tell us something about your background and how you started writing.
I developed Obsessional Compulsive Disorder aged 13 and I began to fill my days with writing. Despite my dyslexia and a lack of regular education, my prose and poetry has somehow caught people’s attention. My piece Asylum took first place at the Koestler Awards 1998 and I was signed by a literary agent. My novella A Lone Walk was published in 2000 and received a J.B. Priestley Award.

But although new medication in 2001 enabled me to recover my mental health, it wrecked my creativity. Thankfully, since coming off the medication in 2004, my words have begun to return. Later in 2005 one of my short stories will be adapted and broadcast as a radio play on BBC Radio 4. I am enjoying writing my new novel, and my poetry is going well.

Can you describe a typical day?
A typical day? To shake off the low mood I wake with I start by doing exercise. If I have any meetings to attend I do so, otherwise check email, try to keep up with all the correspondence and odds and sods. In the evening I like to cook supper, sit outside, if the weather is nice, listen to the trees breathe, and write.

Which experiences have had most influence on your writing?
Childhood reading – with that blur between fantasy and reality so that every book I read as a child seemed plausible … perhaps one day I’d discover a hidden world, find that time had frozen and I could step across the newly laid snow towards the man in a cloak by the edge of the woods. That reading and my belief in the fantastic have influenced my imagery since. My years of trauma and distress, of mental illness and hospitals, cannot be discounted as influences, nor my political ideology or experience of family breakup, alienation and bullying. And my writers group, reading, and Donald Maass’s analysis of breakout fiction has helped shaped my sense of story and structure.

Do you have a muse?
The rhythm of words, the sounds and pictures I hear as words run together in sentences.

For you, does plot dictate character, or character dictate plot?
This is developing for me, still trying to find what works best. But I think my best results are when plot dictates character.

Which writer has been an inspiration for you?
Barbara Kingsolver, magnificent author on every level; politically, structurally, characterization, her use of language. I took forever to read The Poisonwood Bible as I kept rereading sentences over and over so delicately fragrant they were on my tongue – I needed to keep tasting them.

What is the most challenging aspect of your writer’s life?
Three things: i) Making time to write ii) The low mood and stress that interfere with my ability to concentrate iii) Developing my skills of structuring plot and story while putting together effective imagery and prose.

What is your favourite book?
My favourite book? A hard question – there are so many delicious books. I’m really enjoying Harry Potter at the moment though!

Do you feel your writing reflects your reading?
I think on a subconscious level everything you read reflects and refines your writing as you absorb what works for you (and what doesn’t) while you read.