Meet Guy Salvidge. English teacher by day, disciplined writer by term break.
Guy is the author of sci-fi dystopian novel Yellowcake Springs (2011) and its sequel Yellowcake Summer (2013), which one Goodreads reviewer boldly remarked 'Bring on the mini-series', which is a pretty flattering compliment, right?
More recently, Guy won the 2015 City of Rockingham Short Fiction Award for his entry, Frank. It's the story that keeps on giving for Guy, appearing in both Westerly Magazine and in the 2016 edition of Award Winning Australian Writing published by Melbourne Books.
As we speak, Guy is enjoying long service leave from teaching, but instead of relaxing on the golf course or doing whatever it is, non-writers do, he is racing through his own version of NaNoWriMo as he attempts to complete his new novel, The City of Rubber Stamps in 120 days. (Somewhere in between, he has to squeeze in his wedding and a honeymoon too!)
In Guy's own words, he's done his share of 'hard travelin' on this writing road, but armed with a good sense of humour, he tells some great stories about what not to do if you lose a writing competition and how Google Maps helped him engineer the setting for his new novel.
Friends and followers, come along for the ride, as Guy and I, go road tripping.
Hey there Guy, get in, where are we heading?
We’re heading on the long and winding road to achieving mainstream success as an Australian author. Hell, we’ve been on this road twenty years already!
How’s your day been? Get any writing done today?
One of the important keys to getting writing done on a daily basis is getting a good night’s sleep. Yesterday I was tired and struggled to get my writing done (although I did manage), so I got to bed about 10.15pm last night and slept for nearly ten hours. I started writing at 9.30am this morning and it took me three hours to complete my 1000 words. That makes for a good day in my book; the afternoon is given over to leisure activities, spending time with family and, if I’m feeling really diligent, a little planning for tomorrow’s writing.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a suburban noir novel, City of Rubber Stamps. Set in Perth in the present day, it’s a psychological thriller in the vein of Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal.
How’s that going?
Fine so far. I’ve set myself a target of producing a reasonable draft of the whole novel by the end of my Long Service Leave from teaching, which is more than three months away. Probably half the time I don’t really feel like writing on any given morning, but I find that a fairly strict regimen helps immensely. I beat myself up mentally if I don’t finish my 1000 words, so much so that it’s far easier to write than not. I’m just over two weeks into my stint and I have about sixteen weeks to go.
How many words do you manage a day/week/month?
During school term time, I write nothing at all. When I am writing, I find that 1000 words a day is an achievable goal. One of my favourite authors, Graham Greene, only wrote 500 words per day, but he polished those words to a fine sheen too. I’m begrudgingly admitting to myself that there may be the occasional days when I can’t write for whatever reason, so I’m allowing myself one day off per week. Thus I should be progressing the novel at a rate of 6000 words per week or about 25,000 words per month.
Do you write in the morning or evening? Or some other time?
Definitely in the morning, possibly extending into the early afternoon if I am slow in getting started. My brain works best early on, so I try to start writing about an hour or so after waking. I also have a fairly set coffee routine. I find that three black coffees is just right (spaced over a couple of hours) whereas four is one too many and starts to give me palpitations.
If you read the perfect review of your new book, what would it say?
Hmmm, this feels like tempting fate. Something like ‘Guy Salvidge announces himself as a Australian writer to watch with his latest novel.’
Do you think they would call you the next Peter Temple? Who would they compare your style to?
In terms of Australian crime fiction, hopefully Peter Temple or David Whish-Wilson, although my work is less obviously genre than those two outstanding authors. I would compare my style (but not my subject matter) with the SF author Philip K Dick, but I doubt many people would see that connection unless I pointed it out. I’ve also been influenced by Raymond Carver, so possibly him too.
Out of everything you’ve committed to the page, what do you consider the best line or scene you’ve ever written?
My favourite scene that I’ve written comes from my dystopian novel, Yellowcake Springs, in which a character thinks he’s putting his daughter to bed and cleaning up the mess she’s made, when in reality he’s cleaning up radioactive material in a nuclear reactor.
They say ‘write the book you’d like to read’. Have you done that?
Not yet, but I do read a lot of books, so I’m keeping my end of the bargain in that regard. I read 100 books in 2014 and 2015, whereas this year I’m only up to about 50 with less than three months to go.
I know you love entering competitions. Why is that?
It’s really hard to break out as an Australian author these days, so I’m hoping that the occasional competition win or two will tip the scales in my favour a little.
How does it feel when you win something?
Amazing, although it doesn’t happen often. I also try to bear in mind the good luck and timing that goes with winning, so I don’t forget to thank my lucky stars. Mostly, winning things or achieving publication serves as a much needed confidence boost.
How does it feel when you don’t?
It depends. Sometimes, if I’ve written a particular piece for a particular competition in mind, failing to get anywhere with it can be incredibly frustrating and (dare I say) rage-inducing. Whereas on other occasions, if I feel less personally invested, it isn’t so bad. Also, if a piece has been rejected several times it’s less of a surprise when it gets rejected again.
When you’ve sent a piece of work off, do you keep reading it over and over again like I do, picking up all the things you should change?
Not generally. In fact I neglect to do this to a fault, considering a work ‘finished’ when there’s always more improvement I could be doing on it.
Other than writing, what else blows your hair back?
Spending time with my kids and fiancée. Walking down by the river I live next to. Enjoying a delicious dinner and glass of wine. Working out at the gym. Watching and playing soccer. And of course reading. Right now I’m reading two books: The Grief Hole by horror author Kaaron Warren, and A Year in Darjarn by WA romance author Rebekah Cumming. Both are fine novels.
We’re nearly at our destination, so let’s play a new game I invented inspired by that stupid reality program ‘The Bachelorette’.
Which reality show would you audition for (because you secretly know you’d win)?
I don’t watch reality TV, but if there was a quiz show on the history of science fiction from 1950-1990 I’d be pretty confident!
Tomato sauce. Fridge or cupboard?
I don’t eat tomato sauce but I do eat a lot of chili and it lives in the fridge.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury. Sweet. I like eating.
Bookmark or dog-ear?
Ashamed to admit that I dog-ear.
Plotter or pantser?
A bit in between—maybe a ‘just in time plotter’.
Book cover or blurb?
Blurb. But a great cover doesn’t hurt.
Wine. Red or white?
Both. Depends on the time of year.
What is your secret indulgence?
I almost never buy this anymore, but I absolutely can’t be trusted with Connoisseur Cookies and Cream icecream. I’ve been known to eat the entire tub in one sitting.
If you met your favourite author what would you say to them?
I have a lot of favourite authors so it’s hard to be specific. Of living authors I’d admire, I’d love to meet US crime author Megan Abbott and to pick her brains about how she transitioned from one genre to another (in her case, from crime to contemporary fiction).
Thanks for travelling with me Guy, it’s been good to chat. Maybe we’ll go roadtripping again one day. In the meantime, I look forward to the release of #Thecityofrubberstamps and good luck with the wedding too. :)