Paul Kane is the award-winning and bestselling author of many books, including the Arrowhead Trilogy, The Gemini Factor, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and The Butterfly Man and Other Stories. He is the co-editor of Hellbound Hearts, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and the forthcoming Beyond Rue Morgue from Titan. His work has been optioned for film and television and his story ‘Dead Time’ was adapted as New Year’s Day for the NBC show Fear Itself by Steve ’30 Days of Night’ Niles, directed by Darren ‘SAW II-IV’ Lynn Bousman and starring The Sorority’s Briana Evigan, Glee’s Corey Monteith and Watchmen’s Niall Matter. His website, Shadow Writer, has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Charlaine Harris and Robert Kirkman.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things. When I was very small my dad would buy me horror comics from our local newsagents, and my favourite comic hero was – still is – Batman, because of the horror trappings of his character and costume. I also got to see quite a few horror movies when I was growing up, which scared me, but at the same time I got quite addicted to the feeling of being scared. I suppose that morphed later on into wanting to scare others. Then I began reading horror novels voraciously after coming across James Herbert’s The Rats – this was at the height of the horror boom in the 70s and 80s – though I read a lot of SF and Fantasy as well, which gave me a good grounding in genre fiction. What appealed to me here was how an author could create those same chilling feelings using just words. It’s something that’s always fascinated me and continues to do so to this day.
Fiction-wise I’m probably best known for my post-apocalyptic Robin Hood novels, the bestselling Arrowhead trilogy from Abaddon. They’re the books I get asked to talk about most at cons or author events – like just the other week when I gave a talk at the University of Nottingham. The books seem to have done quite well and I still get mail from people who enjoyed them, or they come up to me to chat at public appearances. I’m also known as ‘The Hellraiser Guy’ – something Nancy Holder called me, which seemed to stick – because of the non-fiction book The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and co-editing the anthology Hellbound Hearts with my wife, Marie O’Regan. I now have a Hellraiser interview book coming out around September time to mark the 25th Anniversary of the original movie being released, which proves I can’t really leave the mythology alone. Having said all this, Marie and I are getting a lot of attention for our latest co-edited anthology, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, which not only showcases a ‘who’s who’ of horror names – including Mary Shelley, Poe, Bloch, Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert – it also contains the stories those classic body horror films, The Fly, The Thing and Re-Animator were based on.
What are you working on now?
As always, several things at once. Marie and I are putting the finishing touches to another horror anthology launching later in the year – more details soon – and I’ve begun working on the Beyond Rue Morgue anthology for Titan books, which comes out next year. I’ve just finished editing a short novel I wrote last summer, I have a novella to start next week for a publisher, I’m working on a few scripts (for short films, TV episodes and features), and a clutch of commissioned short stories. I’ve also recently got the green light to begin another project that should be out towards the tail end of next year. This is something I’ve had on the boil for a while, so I’m quite excited about it. I’m doing publicity for the Mammoth and my latest collection The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, brought out by the award-winning PS Publishing. I had such fun doing readings and Q&As with Peter Crowther and Ramsey Campbell a couple of months ago in Liverpool and Lancaster. Marie and I are also on the organising committees of both FantasyCon 2012 – after co-chairing the biggest one ever last year – and next year’s World Fantasy Convention, which promises to be huge. Finally, I have a novel forthcoming which should – all being well – be launching at FantasyCon.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
There are too many people to mention really, but one of my guiding lights and inspirations has to be Clive Barker. I first read his Books of Blood and saw Hellraiser in my teens and it had such a profound impact on me. Along with books by James Herbert, Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell, this was probably responsible for my trying to break into horror writing in the first place. I was fortunate enough many years later to work with Clive and get to know him properly – he’s one of my favourite people – and it absolutely made my day when he called me a ‘first rate storyteller’, like everything had come full circle. I also have the greatest respect and admiration for the movers and shakers in the industry like Best New Horror editor Stephen Jones, PS’s Peter Crowther and Jo Fletcher.
I think there’s a place for both, depending on what you’re working on or reading; what the story calls for. Personally, I really love getting under peoples’ skin, and you can do that more effectively by creeping them out than presenting a monster – although I do love a good monster! In something like ‘The Butterfly Man’ or ‘Presence’, a ghost story I wrote for an anthology called Hauntings, I tried to play on readers’ emotions – what could be more thought-provoking than to remind people about the brevity of life, or make them think about the loss of a loved one? At the same time it’s fun to really turn on the jets, as I did with something like ‘Rag & Bone’ – which features, in essence, my take on the bogeyman. I’ve also written quite a lot of stuff with serial killers in, not least my novel The Gemini Factor and I think the same thing applies: you can get a gut reaction – if you’ll pardon the expression – by showing the disturbing deeds of the killer, but when it comes to lasting impact it’s always better to worm yourself inside the psyche of the reader. In terms of what I read or watch myself, again it’s the same thing: sometimes you’re in the mood for something really creepy like the recent film The Awakening – written by my good mate Stephen Volk, who introduced my novella collection Pain Cages and sometimes you really want to kick back and watch something like Drag Me to Hell, which sees Sam Raimi returning to his Evil Dead roots.
Why should people read your work?
I hope they’ll find something different in my work that operates on quite a few levels and has meaning; basically stories that are worth telling. I work hard to make the characters and settings believable, the ideas interesting and original, and to provide a narrative that sticks in the mind after reading. I’ve also been told I’m quite a flexible writer, so with a bit of luck you won’t see what’s coming in one of my stories. For example, in The Butterfly Man and Other Stories I take my lead from Clive’s Books of Blood, where he’d have an out-and-out balls to the wall horror story like ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ running alongside a black comedy like ‘The Yattering and Jack’, so it stops things from getting boring for the reader. At the same time, there are connected themes that run through my stories, so you can still tell a Paul Kane tale from anyone else’s. Things like a fear of the dark or the pain of loss crop up in a lot of my stories.
Recommend a book.
If you’re looking for a good, disturbing supernatural novel then Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter is excellent. I’ve also just started reading the third in Sarah Pinborough’s Dog Faced Gods trilogy, The Chosen Seed, having thoroughly enjoyed the first two. They move along at breakneck speed, with a central character, Detective Cass Jones, who’s extremely complex. He’s a flawed character, who’s made mistakes in his life, but still has a strong moral core. Plus I really love the idea of the shadowy Network running things behind the scenes. Highly recommended.
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