INTERVIEW WITH PAUL KANE
(This interview originally appeared in Horror Bound Magazine on 14 March 2009.) Paul Kane began his professional writing career in 1996, providing articles and reviews for news-stand publications (most recently he has worked for The Dark Side, DeathRay, Fangoria, SFX, Dreamwatch and Rue Morgue), and started producing dark fantasy and science fiction stories in 1998. His work has been widely published in many magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic alongside writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub and Michael Marshall Smith. Paul is the author of highly acclaimed The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy. Recently his story ‘Dead Time’ was developed by Lionsgate/NBC for the US network show Fear Itself. This was adapted by Steve Niles – creator of 30 Days of Night – and Ben Sokolowski of Bad Robot (Lost, Cloverfield) under the title "New Year’s Day," directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II-IV), with effects from Oscar-winners KNB (Chronicles of Narnia). Paul wrote the introduction to Horror Bound's anthology Fear of the Dark which you can read online here, as well as the short story "Keeper of the Light." We would like to welcome Paul Kane to our featured interview! Would you tell us a bit about your writing career and how it all began? Professionally, and by that I mean selling my work – whether it was articles, reviews or short stories – my career began twelve years ago. I did a module during the later stages of my History of Art, Design and Film degree called ‘Professional Writing’ with a great tutor called Pete Wall. To get our credits we had to send pieces off to magazines and newspapers, which is how I ended up with some of my first freelancing gigs – I even got feedback from The Daily Mirror. But I’ve been writing stories since I was very little, and before that I was either telling tall tales or making up stories with my toys as the main characters. I dabbled in short stories and novels when I was in my teens, but didn’t have the right discipline or enough knowledge about structure. About a year into the freelancing I took a correspondence course in fiction writing and my tutor for that suggested I send off the first ghost story I’d written. That ended up in a magazine called Terror Tales, and the editor John B. Ford invited me along to the early ‘Terror Scribes’ meetings where I met people like bestselling author Simon Clark (Night of the Triffids). John and Simon very quickly became two of my best friends and I owe them a great deal. Over the years they’ve encouraged and supported me in my fiction writing, and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without them. After those first gatherings I began to be published regularly in the small presses, then John published my first collection Alone (In the Dark) and it all continued from there. What is your creative process like? It depends what I’m writing, really. Ideas strike me all the time (someone once said, they’re not the hardest part – it’s sitting down and figuring out what to do with them), so I jot these down in little hardback notebooks. When it comes time to do a short story or a novel, I fish these out and flick through, seeing what would fit for those different lengths. I do plan out my fiction, but not to the level that it hampers creativity; I’m just one of those people who needs to know where the story will be going eventually. Even when I have to do chapter breakdowns for certain publishers, in order to get the commission, I often deviate if it’s in the interests of the story. I also try to get to know my characters before starting, sitting and pondering about what they’d do given certain situations, who they are deep down, how they might respond to things. It just makes the writing process simpler when you’re dealing with them, I find. As I go along they tend then to take on a life of their own, and you either can or can’t make them do something, which keeps it all believable. The actual process of sitting down and writing I find hard, because it’s intensive and I throw myself into it – sometimes producing 3-5,000 words a day when I’m getting into the material. I used to work weekends as well, until I met my wife who convinced me that I needed down time as well. All work…as they say. I enjoy editing, though, because by then I have a chunk of material to work with and shape – like clay, and I’m smoothing out the edges, making sure the details can be seen. What is it about the horror genre that motivates you to write? I love the genre because it allows the writer so much flexibility. You can do anything in a horror story, go anywhere, and it’s the only genre I know that you can cross with all the other ones: you can have a horror western, a horror fantasy, a horror science fiction story. Or, like I do with the Quayles, a comedy horror. Most of all I enjoy getting to the emotional core of what scares us, whether it’s through monsters or more down to earth terrors like serial killers or disease. The genre allows me to work through my own fears in this way, I find. Your work has been praised by some of the top writers in horror such as Peter Straub and Clive Barker. Who are your favorite writers within this genre and why? Clive would have to be at the top, as his work affected me the most when I first started reading horror fiction. His Books of Blood simply blew me away and changed my life forever. It was his work that showed me just what could be done with horror, and in how many different directions you could go. I was also hugely influenced starting out by James Herbert – The Rats was the first horror novel I ever read – and King, obviously, because he was everywhere. As I grew up I also fell in love with the writing of Christopher Fowler – for my money one of finest exponents of horror shorts around – Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, Stephen Gallagher, Richard Matheson and far too many others to mention, plus all the classic writers such as Lovecraft, Poe, Stoker, Shelley, Jackson, Machen and co. You have written extensively about the Hellraiser films. What was it about that those films that captured your imagination and motivated the writing of your excellent book, The Hellraiser Films And Their Legacy? Everything about it captured my imagination, from the effects to the characters and situation – this was bringing horror home to a real place I could identify with – and without a doubt the central idea of the box and the Cenobites. That whole mythology spoke to me, the Faustian deal with the Devil and being careful what you wished for. I first saw it when it came out on video, which I shouldn’t have been able to because I was underage at the time, but the cover itself had such an impact on me, as I guess it did on a lot of folk: that image of Pinhead’s face looming out from the video box. I just had to see what this movie was all about! Over the years I’ve followed all the Hellraiser releases, from the films which now number eight – with a remake/re-imagining on the cards – to the truly wonderful comic series from the early 90s. There were magazines devoted to the franchise, mainly fan produced, plus Stephen Jones’ fantastic The Hellraiser Chronicles book, but nothing that examined all the output, looking at the production side of things and the themes as well. If there had been, I would have bought it. So, I decided to write that myself. Actually, I only started off by writing about the original movie – with a small BFI book in mind of about 20,000 words. But when I couldn’t place that, McFarland – who liked what they’d read so far – turned around and said, “How would you fancy writing about everything?” I knew it was a lot to take on, and I only had about a year to do it before deadline, but it was one of those once in a lifetime things. Like Marie said to me back then, if I didn’t do it I would only regret it later, and as with most things she was absolutely right. Would you introduce us to some of your most recent work and any upcoming work? I was fortunate enough to have three books out in 2008. The first was my first ever mass market novel, Arrowhead, a post- apocalyptic reworking of the Robin Hood myth. This started out as a bunch of ideas I pitched to Jonathon Oliver at Abaddon for their Afterblight line – set in a future where 90% of the world’s population has been wiped out by a virus. He, quite rightly, marked that one out as having potential, so we ran with it. The story revolves around an ex-policeman called Robert Stokes who, after losing his wife and kid to the virus, retreats to the wilderness of Sherwood to live out the rest of his days alone. At the same time a handful of mercenaries have invaded Britain, led by De Falaise who fancies himself as the new Sheriff of Nottingham, and his treatment of the survivors in the region eventually draws Robert out to fight him. It’s kind of a knowing take on the story, because the characters recognise exactly what roles they are recreating but just can’t help themselves – like history was fated to repeat itself. The reviews and feedback for this one have been extremely positive, and I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel which is called Broken Arrow and picks up a year or so after Arrowhead. My fourth collection of stories – Peripheral Visions – also came out in late 2008, published by Creative Guy with an excellent cover by the award-winning Les Edwards. That gathers together most of my short fiction output from about 2001 onwards, including some of my more popular tales like ‘Strobe’, ‘Remote’ and ‘Suit of Lies’, plus a couple of brand new pieces like the novelette ‘Reunion’. I’m particularly proud of this collection as I think it reflects more accurately the direction I’ve taken as a writer than say Touching the Flame (2003) did, and the icing on the cake was a stunning introduction from Christopher Fowler. Finally, December saw the release of my novella RED, another updating of a classic tale: this time Little Red Riding Hood, which I know has been tackled before but hopefully not in such an horrific way. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this one, and was lucky enough to have not only New York Times bestseller Tim Lebbon to penning the intro, but also use a cover from Dave ‘The Graveyard Book’ McKean which is just amazing. Forthcoming, as I say, is Broken Arrow, which should be out later on in 2009. I’ve just finished editing a major anthology for Pocket with Marie which will also be out around Halloween but I can’t say anything more about just yet. We’re hoping to push this at the World Fantasy Convention, though. I have a 50,000 word novella hopefully coming out around that time as well, but more details as and when. At the moment I’m co-editing the fourth book in the Terror Tales trade paperback with John B. Ford, so it’s like things have come full circle. In that one we have fiction from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Peter James, Kim Newman, Peter Crowther and Jeff Vandermeer, as well as authors new to the genre.
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You can find Paul Kane’s short story “Keeper of the Light” in our anthology, Fear of the Dark - now available as an ebook!
You can find Paul Kane’s short story “Keeper of the Light” in our anthology, Fear of the Dark - now available as an ebook!
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