What attracts you to writing horror and fantasy fiction?
I’ve always been drawn to the more imaginative side of things, and the darker the better really. I grew up reading a lot of horror, SF, fantasy and crime, so it just followed naturally that I’d end up writing it. I started out by drawing homemade comics, then having a bash at some pieces of prose in my teens – which were truly terrible, it has to be said. I was trying to do what my favourite writers were doing, and failing miserably, but the more I did the better I got at it… though we’re all still learning all the time as writers. One of the reasons I love working in these kinds of fields is the scope to comment indirectly on life, the universe and everything – to quote one of my favourite books. Good genre writing has always done that and I like to think my stuff’s no different. In Arcana, for example, I was able to use the device of a parallel universe where magic-users are hunted down as a means to comment on disinformation and the way power corrupts, a message that’s more important than ever at the moment. In The Controllers tales, which were gathered together by Luna last year, I was addressing our feelings of helplessness as human beings; how we don’t really have any control over anything at the end of the day, though we might kid ourselves we do.
Is there anything specific that you aim to or are interesting in exploring within your work?
It varies from project to project. In the first thriller for HQ/HarperCollins, Her Last Secret, I was exploring the disintegration of a family and how the breakdown in communication between a father and daughter can lead to all kinds of problems. But I was doing this within the framework of a murder mystery, which is what I was saying in the previous answer. Using the tropes to comment on things you find interesting in life. Trying to make sense of life essentially. I love doing character studies, something you see very often in my work. How the choices we make every day lead us to certain points, whether that makes us happy or unhappy; or whether we do really have a choice anyway. I find all that kind of stuff fascinating. A werewolf tale I just wrote for the Horrific Tales anthology Leaders of the Pack, ‘Lifeline’ – which is actually a spin-off from my Life Cycle trilogy – is another character piece that allowed me to say something about the abuse of women and fighting back. It’s something I feel incredibly strongly about, and this just offered me the opportunity to say something about it, again by using genre tropes to do so.
Oftentimes, the horror genre is not taken as ‘serious literature’. Do you agree? Is this something you wish to subvert?
Well, it’s a popular genre so first and foremost it’s meant to entertain – but that doesn’t mean it can’t deliver messages about important issues. You only have to look at the reception the work of writers like Paul Tremblay, Tim Lebbon, Laura Mauro and Josh Malerman gets to see it’s entirely possible for genre publications to be taken very seriously indeed. Something like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, of example, presents some of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever read, but can’t be taken as anything other than ‘serious literature’. That’s what makes publishers like Luna so important, because they fly the flag for intelligent yet entertaining genre literature. As for me subverting a trend, I don’t really think about it to be honest. I just to put the best work out there I can.
Which novels/authors inspire you?
Way too many to mention. As most people know by now my favourite writer is Clive Barker, and Books of Blood, The Hellbound Heart, Cabal and so on have had a profound impact on my life and my own work. As I mentioned, I grew up reading everything I could within the imaginative genres, from people like James Herbert, Stephen King, Frank Herbert, Anne Rice, Poppy Z. Brite, Robert Heinlein, Ramsey Campbell… But the list goes on and on. I’m inspired every day by new writers who come along and try to keep up to date with what’s out there. At the moment, because I’m doing a lot of work in the crime genre, I’m reading a quite a few authors in that field and have come across some wonderful new books lately, like CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man, MW Craven’s The Puppet Show, Cara Hunter, Jo Jakeman, Roz Watkins and Will Dean’s novels… but again the list goes on and on and on.
Your website has been host to many big names in the horror scene, is there anything new we should keep our eyes peeled for?
In terms of what’s out there or coming out in the future? We work with a lot of authors, established and new, for our anthologies from Titan. Last year saw the publication of Wonderland – dark stories set within the Alice universe – and coming out around now we have Cursed, which tackles darker fairy tales. Dipping into some of those should give people an idea of who’s doing some really great work within the genre at the moment, from the likes of MR Carey, Robert Shearman and Neil Gaiman, to LL McKinney, Jen Williams, Christina Henry and Rio Youers. If dark crime is more your bag then Exit Wounds is the one for you, which, as well as featuring names like Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver and Lee Child, contains stories from the likes of Fiona Cummins, Paul Finch, Sarah Hilary and Steph Broadribb. And, as you say, keep checking out the Guest Writers on my site month by month…
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over ninety 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, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and Pain Cages (an Amazon #1 bestseller). 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 and 2018, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, plus Black Library Live in 2019, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequels to RED – Blood RED & Deep RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell, Before (an Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller) and Arcana. He also writes thrillers for HQ Digital/HarperCollins as PL Kane, the first of which, Her Last Secret, came out in January. Paul lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Reganand his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.ukwhich has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.