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My First Time with...Guy Gunaratne

Guy Gunaratne grew up in North West London and has worked as a designer, documentary filmmaker and video journalist covering post-conflict areas around the world, as well as co-founding two technology companies. He was shortlisted for the 4th Estate/Guardian Books B4ME Short Story Prize. In Our Mad and Furious City is his debut novel.

Guy is reading at our next Riff Raff event on May 10th in Brixton. Grab your tickets here>>>

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I was in Finland, a place called Karjaa. It was morning. All was quiet. In front of me stood giant ferns. It felt a million miles away from Neasden. I wrote “There were things I learned to call fury as a younger.”

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write your first book?

I wish I knew that touring would mean so little time spent at home. While all the kind words said about the book have been wonderful, and the publisher has worked so hard getting word out, I can’t help but miss my wife and family. It’s also kept me away from writing the next book, which is what I’d rather be doing at all times.

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

The beast. Twitter.

What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?

Plenty of tantrums. I’m a monster. Luckily I have two cats who remind me that, oh who cares, these are just words. There are sweeter things in life, like them.

Best thing about writing your book?

The beginning. That ultimate, ecstatic feeling of writing toward the unknown. And the worst?

The end. Or somewhere between the end of one book and the arrival of the next. This is where I mope around eating toast with nothing to do in the mornings. It’s awful.

Go-to writing snacks?

I’ve recently discovered ginger-coconut vegan chews. Sweden has weird snacks.

Who or what inspires you to write?

‘Inspire’ is an odd word to use for how it feels. I prefer ‘compels’. And there is no ‘who’ per se, but the maniac in me possibly believes that writing is a way toward a better understanding of the world. Or myself. Or both. I’m not sure, but the ‘inspiration’ or ‘compulsion’ comes along when I’m struggling to understand something and I’m curious enough to want to write about it.

The book that changed you?

Book(s). White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, Molloy by Samuel Beckett. In different ways, these books managed to break open the gummy parts in my brain. They loosened my grip on the comfortable, renewed my thinking. Made me brave.

Your pump up song?

Anything by Young Fathers. If I end up writing a single book like Young Fathers make music, I’d die glad. It’s an impossible dream.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?

James Baldwin. I’d just rest my chin and listen. Same goes for Junot.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?

Publishing is just an industry. With offices and paperclips and what not. Pay no attention. You’re a writer. A book person. Spend your time reading. Read plenty. All that other guff is a pantomime that will arrive in due course. Ignore it until it does. Read. Then write. You can do that alone. You don’t need an audience for it, so don’t go seeking one either. And have fun, man. It’s a beautiful thing to want to write. No-one can take it away or can give it to you.

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