BackStory: Six Questions with Charles Duffie
Author of Y2K
What inspired you to write ‘Y2K’?
Mass shootings have become a tragic ritual in America. These shattering events can’t be predicted and, given our current political and cultural environment, I don’t know if they can be stopped. I’ve signed petitions, I’ve sent letters, as have tens of millions of people. To release the anger and grief and frustration, I turned to fiction. The story is set in February 2000, the year after Columbine changed history. I remember how the media pumped out headlines about the Y2K crisis, suggesting the world economy could collapse. People were stockpiling food, water, gas. But there was another feeling at the end of 1999. A sense that we were at the start of a new millennium. There was palpable hope in the air. This century would be different. We were waking up, our global consciousness turning in a new direction. Of course, history did not turn out to be as bright as our hopes.
What are your favourite pieces of historical fiction?
I don’t know if this counts, but I recently read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe. She tells mythology like its history, and brings out the mythic in history. I love that combination.
How much research did you do while writing and editing this piece? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
Researching gun violence from the last 50 years, I discovered that a mass shooting is defined as 4 or more dead or wounded. By that definition, there have been over 70 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019, and it’s only April. Most never make the news.
What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?
I love sending stories out to editors and publishers. Sending a story to a professional always makes me go back and look at the story again, wondering if it’s good enough, if it’s ready. Sometimes it is. Sometimes I realize it needs a little (or a lot) more work. The funny thing is, I can’t pretend to send the story, or imagine ‘what if’ I sent the story. I have to let it go to find out if its good.
If you could live for one year in any historical period, when and where would it be, and why?
My mother was a child in Hiroshima during WWII. She and her little brother were sent, with many other children, to live in a temple on the other side of the hill. I would like to spend a few days with her at that temple before the bomb fell.
What do you like most about writing flash?
Flash feels, to me, more flexible. Because compression is expected, you can often leave out connective tissue, beginnings, even endings. It’s liberating, and can yield surprisingly satisfying results.
Charles Duffie is a writer and designer working in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Prime Number Magazine, Spelk, Meat for Tea, Exposition Review, Border Crossing, Scribble, Swimming with Elephants, Third Street Writers, Role Reboot, and American Fiction by New Rivers Press.