Writer of the Month
March – Alt.Fiction
To celebrate the sixth year of the fantastic upcoming Alt.Fiction Festival for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, Writing East Midlands is featuring four Alt.Fiction writers as the March Writer’s of the Month.
Alt. Fiction will bring together some of the UK’s leading talent in the genre, and present a full programme of readings, panels, workshops, podcasts and much more, giving you the chance to hear from your favourite authors, find out more about the world of publishing and learn about the writing process. Alt.Fiction will take place over the 14th and 15th of April at the Phoenix Digital Arts Centre in Leicester, and is a weekend not to be missed for book lovers and budding writers, for more information please see here.
Paul Kane is an award-winning writer and editor based in Derbyshire, UK. His short story collections are Alone (In the Dark), Touching the Flame, FunnyBones, Peripheral Visions, Shadow Writer and The Adventures of Dalton Quayle, with his latest out from the award-winning PS Publishing: The Butterfly Man and Other Stories. His novellas include Signs of Life, The Lazarus Condition, RED and Pain Cages. He is the author of the novels Of Darkness and Light, The Gemini Factor and the bestselling Arrowhead trilogy (Arrowhead, Broken Arrow and Arrowland), a post-apocalyptic reworking of the Robin Hood mythology. He is co-editor of the anthology Hellbound Hearts – stories based around the Clive Barker mythology that spawned Hellraiser – and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, featuring the likes of Stephen King and James Herbert. His non-fiction books are The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark. His work has been optioned for film and television, and his zombie story ‘Dead Time’ was turned into an episode of the Lionsgate/NBC TV series Fear Itself, adapted by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II-IV). He also scripted the The Opportunity, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and The Weeping Woman – filmed by award-winning director Mark Steensland and starring Tony-nominated actor Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night). You can find out more at his website www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, John Connolly, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
Writing East Midlands caught up with Paul and asked him some questions about his writing:
“? Can you tell me a bit about your recent book The Mammoth Book of Body Horror.
Absolutely. TMBOBH is my latest book as editor, actually co-edited with my wife, Marie O’Regan. So in a sense it’s kind of following up our bestselling and British Fantasy Award-nominated Hellbound Hearts anthology. This one’s from Constable & Robinson, though (with a US release due over the summer from Running Press). We pitched some ideas to them a couple of years ago now, and this one was inspired by Film Studies classes I’d taken at University. There seemed to be a definite sub-genre of Body Horror in the movies, but nobody had really done anything to compile all the Body Horror fiction out there, some of which actually inspired the films (our book, for example, contains the stories The Thing, The Fly and Re-Animator were based on). We started to look into this, and soon realised that the tradition dates back to the likes of Poe and Mary Shelley, so we pitched an idea that would take us from Body Horror’s origins, right through to more modern exponents of the form, such as Simon Clark, Gemma Files, Richard Christian Matheson, Conrad Williams, Alice Henderson, Axelle Carolyn, Christopher Fowler, Michael Marshall Smith, Barbie Wilde (also known as Female Cenobite from Hellbound: Hellraiser II) and David Moody. We also wanted the book to be a kind of ‘who’s who’ of horror, with everyone’s favourites in there, from H.P. Lovecraft, Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch and Richard ‘I Am Legend’ Matheson, to Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell, Nancy A. Collins and Neil Gaiman, to name but a few. The finishing touch was securing the introduction from Stuart Gordon, probably best known as the director of Re-Animator, and also From Beyond. It’s a stunning line-up of tales, a book nobody has ever done before, and it’s something that we’d buy ourselves in a heartbeat as horror fans. You can find out more at the publisher’s site here .
“? Being a writer based in the East Midlands, how do you feel about writing in the region and what Alt Fiction has to offer?
I think there’s a huge pool of writers and – more importantly – support for writers in this region. Writing East Midlands, for instance, is an excellent resource for any writer: either professional or aspiring. When I first started out, I was lucky enough to be introduced to the small press scene by author and editor John B. Ford, who also organised gatherings of like-minded souls. Then I was introduced to the British Fantasy Society a bit later on by Marie. The BFS not only organise regional meetings, they have also held their flagship convention, FantasyCon, in the Midlands quite often over the last decade or so. Over the course of that time, I’ve met and chatted to many writers at these kinds of events – which is essential in what can be quite a solitary business. As for Alt.Fiction, I can’t speak highly enough of it. From panels to workshops, from readings to just hanging out at the bar with your favourite writers, there’s something for everyone at the event. This year, we’ve also been given space to do a signing for the Body Horror book, which should prove popular. I’ve been attending Alt.Fiction since the beginning, both as a punter and then a guest, and thoroughly recommend it.
“? What inspires you as a writer?
All kinds of things really, from stuff I hear or see in real life, to newspaper articles or documentaries on TV. I always carry around a hardback notebook to jot them down, because you never know when inspiration might strike. I have tons of these at home, full of ideas or snatches of dialogue, so I’m never likely to suffer from the dreaded writers’ block. You’ll find story notes in the back of a lot of my collections, the most recent being my hardback The Butterfly Man and Other Stories from the award-winning PS Publishing (publishers of books like Stephen King’s One for the Road, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts). One story in there, ‘Life-O-Matic’, was inspired by the kind of channels on satellite that do nothing but advertise products. I was at a friend’s house and he was flicking through these and I suddenly thought to myself what a nightmare it would be to live in a world like that. But also to know that you were living in a world where everything revolves around ‘product’. The result was a neat little chiller that I’m still rather fond of. If that’s piqued your interest, you can read the story here, and buy the book here
“? What would be your Desert Island book, and why?
This is so difficult to narrow down, because there are several that hold a really special place in my heart. The Rats by James Herbert is the first ever horror novel I read – I’m probably not alone in that. The Hobbit was the first ever fantasy, and Frank Herbert’s Dune my first ever SF novel. I love all three to bits. But I guess if I really had to pick just one it would be Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. I read those when I was in my mid teens and they really opened my eyes to what horror stories could do. It wasn’t just the writing style, which I still greatly admire, but also the range of ideas and the mix of themes. You might have hard-edged horror with something like ‘Midnight Meat Train’, but then the next story could be black comedy, as in ‘The Yattering and Jack’. I was delighted when things came full circle a few years ago and I actually got to know Clive, who’s one of my favourite people now. It was also hugely gratifying when he called me a ‘first rate storyteller’, because of the inspiration he’d been over the course of my career.
“? Can you tell us about your writing process, are you a detailed planner, or do you like to let an idea sweep you away?
I’m a strange mix of both. I do like to plan, even if it’s only a line or two about a chapter, or scenes in a short story. But that doesn’t mean it can’t go off in different directions once I begin. I’ve done novels where I’ve had to show detailed chapter breakdowns to the publisher before writing, only for it to work better by moving those chapters, cutting them out, or just letting the characters go off in their own directions. Sometimes even the best laid plans go out the window. In terms of my writing ‘process’, I have to be in a quiet environment when I write; I need to get into ‘the zone’, I suppose, with no distractions. I’m not one of those writers you see who works on trains and planes. And for some bizarre reason, I have to write short stories on my desktop, but longer pieces and novels on my laptop. That’s probably a comfort thing primarily, but it also seems to be psychological – like my mind decided that’s the right way to do things.
“? What advice would you give to a writer wanting to get published in the genre market?
Firstly, attend events like Alt.Fiction or FantasyCon, or even World Fantasy or World Horror. Marie and I are part of the organising team of FCon this year – we ran the biggest one ever last year – and you can book your place at http://fantasycon2012.org/. There’s also a unique opportunity to attend a World Fantasy over here in the UK next year, and Marie and I are fortunate enough to be on the organising committee of that one, too. You can find the website for this at http://www.wfc2013.org/ . These kinds of things are always worth going to, because you get to hear how professionals made it into print. I’d also encourage people to attend workshops by experienced writers, maybe even join a writing class. I myself did a Creative Writing correspondence course back in the 90s that was invaluable. I’m now teaching one private class a week, plus do workshops with Marie all over the country; the next ones we’re doing are for the Derbyshire Literary Festival in May. But the most important advice is to keep writing. Do it daily, no matter how much. Keep honing your craft and be prepared to work at it for a long time. Be patient, but be persistent – keep sending off your stories to magazines, to anthologies. Keep sending your novels in to publishers, and don’t be too downhearted if you get knockbacks. I know it’s easy to say, but I can say it because I’ve had those knockbacks as well.
“? What are your future plans?
As well as the conventions, workshops and signings we have lined up, I’m currently working on several projects at once. I like to keep busy… One is a short novel which is something a bit different for me; I can’t talk about it yet, but I’m quite excited about it. I’m also working on the next batch of short stories for another collection, which will probably be a couple of years away, as well as a collection of longer pieces. I’ve been putting together another Hellraiser non-fiction book (my first was The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy), to mark the 25th Anniversary of the first film in September. This time it’s an interview book, containing brand new conversations with the makers of the mythology, as well as exclusive behind the scenes pictures. I’m working on two novellas for one publisher, and editing another couple of anthologies. Plus I have a novel hopefully launching later on in the year. I’m also adapting one of my books into a feature for a UK production company, and have been working on adapting a bestselling novel for a production company in the States. Scripting is something I’m still new to, but I’ve had a couple of short movies produced, so I must be doing something right. Other than that, it’s just a matter of finding time to eat, sleep, and spend time with my lovely family. It’s a difficult balancing act, because I do tend to overwork, but Marie keeps an eye on me. And the time I do take off, I then thoroughly enjoy.