Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over seventy books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia in 2017, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell and Before. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
It has been said that to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. With that in mind, please answer the following questions.
-What book got you interested in reading?
When I was really little, my granddad would read me stories – and I remember one about a mysterious house in the fog. Years later, I discovered it was of course Enid Blyton’s The House in the Fog, which is part of a collection I now have. Such strange things happened inside that house, like the boy turning slowly into a fox cub, and when he returned to try and find the place, it was gone. So I suppose you could say that was my first brush with genre storytelling. The book that got me interested in reading myself, and horror in general, was James Herbert’s The Rats. I read that when I was about nine, I think – and really shouldn’t have been anywhere near it. But I absolutely loved that novel, and still do! The whole man vs nature thing and the gory descriptions… That spun me off into a lifelong love of horror books, and I read whatever I could get hold of moving into my teens – including King, Campbell, Rice, Masterton and, naturally, Clive Barker. Over time, of course, I realised there was a hell of a lot more to horror novels and stories than simply blood and guts.
-Do you have a favorite genre to read?
Well, probably horror, as I say – but I do love crime, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy… All these were part of that big read in my teens, when I had a lot more time on my hands than I do now. I called it my ‘real’ education, grounding myself in all of those; not that I don’t value my actual education! My favourite authors from those genres included people like Colin Dexter – who wrote the Inspector Morse novels – Thomas Harris, Frank Herbert and his Dune novels, and Tolkien. I adored The Hobbit! But I suppose horror was the genre I kept returning to again and again. Even in my own writing, if I do a post-apocalyptic tale like Hooded Man or The Rot, or crime stories like those found in one of my recent collections Nailbiters, they have horror elements to them as well. It’s always there, like a constant companion. But then, horror is the most flexible of all genres anyway and can absorb lots of others. You can even have comedy horror stories, and I also write those in the form of my Dalton Quayle adventures; these are something of a release valve or antidote to the much darker material I’m often getting down on the page.
-Is there a book you have read more than one time?
Oh, loads… But I’ll probably go for The Hellbound Heart here, for obvious reasons – and my association with the Hellraiser mythology. For people who don’t know, I wrote The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, edited Hellbound Hearts with my wife, Marie O’Regan, and wrote last year’s award-winning Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, which saw the world’s greatest detective tackling the Cenobites. However, for me, it began and ended with Clive’s original novella which introduced it all. Quite apart from the stuff with the sadomasochistic demons, it’s a brilliant study of a marriage and an affair, with some excellent character studies: Frank, the hedonist who seduces Julia – and she’ll do anything for him, including killing victims for Frank to feast on; Rory, the hapless husband and brother of Frank; Kirsty, whose unrequited love for Rory is the stuff of legend. Horror set against the backdrop of everyday life, or as Ghostwatch writer Stephen Volk called it recently in a talk he gave: ‘the domestic uncanny’. The idea that something so outlandish as the summoning of these creatures could happen in an ordinary house just down the road is very appealing to me. Don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t be if it was actually happening down my road, but reading about it is a different thing.
-What got you interested in writing?
Probably reading first, then wanting to have a go at that myself. When I was really young it was reading the comics my dad used to buy me from the local newsagents – all kinds of stuff, from DC…Batman was my favourite…to Marvel. And I remember vividly the old Tomb of Dracula stuff that I really should not have been reading at such a tender age, but God bless dad for letting me! I started to try and draw my own comics, making up stories – and I’d also construct these elaborate tales which I would act out with my toys. When I was a bit older, I’d write stories in my English classes, usually involving ancient curses and mummies, or zombies and vampires, much to the exasperation of my teachers I’m sure. Then I simply tinkered in my teens, playing about with my mum’s typewriter and emulating the kind of authors I was reading. I still have some of these and take them out when I’m feeling a bit down, because they’re simply hilarious. One’s called Night Beast where I have all these people in helicopters on the moors chasing a monster and shooting at it with Magnums. It’s like something out of the spoof Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace! After my A-Levels, I went to art college with some sort of vague idea of becoming a comic book artist, but quickly realised I wasn’t as good as a lot of my mates. I had a go at everything there, though, including filmmaking and photography, which I specialised in. I was getting better marks for my theory writing than anything else, however, so my tutor suggested I do a theory degree – and I ended up doing a BA in History of Art, Design and Film, then a couple of years later doing an MA just in Film Studies. During that first three years, I did a couple of modules of Professional Writing – journalism essentially – which forced you to send off your work to newsstand magazines. So, when I left uni, I started up as a freelance journo, writing reviews and articles for various mags and newspapers. But that idea of writing fiction was still nagging at me… I did a correspondence course in writing and then discovered the small press scene in the ‘90s, before becoming involved in the British Fantasy Society after that…and the rest is history! Last year I celebrated 20 years as a professional writer with a collection from SST of my best stories called Shadow Casting, introduced by Muriel Gray and with cover art from Vincent Chong. It’s gone by in a flash…
-Was there a book of yours that was difficult to write? Which one was it and what made it so difficult?
Ha ha, they’re all difficult to write! Unlike some other writers, I find the actual process of writing quite hard – which might sound strange, given the amount I’ve produced over the years. I like having written something, and tidying it up or editing it, a lot more than the sitting down and banging out the words. In fact I go into a bit of a fugue state when I write, waking up and wondering how I managed to do 1,000 words before lunch or whatever. But it’s never easy… The hardest, I’d say, was my latest novel Before – out now – because it’s the most complex thing I’ve ever attempted. It’s certainly my longest piece of fiction, weighing in at about 160k wds, but it also deals with a lot of very challenging ideas. It’s being described as a dark fantasy version of Cloud Atlas, as it takes place over different time periods, but it’s also my Great and Secret Show and my American Gods, which gives you some idea of what we’re dealing with. It took a lot of planning, research and hard work, but the reviews it’s getting which are calling it ‘thrilling’, ‘truly compelling reading’ and ‘rewarding’ make it all worthwhile. I’m also very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive publisher for this one in Grey Matter; they’ve even set up a website devoted just to that one novel – http://before.greymatterpress.com/ If you read the book you’ll soon see that all the effort is right there on the page: the sweat, the blood and, yes, the tears. But I’m incredibly proud of it, especially now it’s out there in the world.