Meet author Paul Kane @PaulKaneShadow #HorrorLounge
Tell us about your latest book
My latest book is called Before. Described as “the dark fantasy version of Cloud Atlas.” It's getting lots of 4 and 5 star reviews, which I’m delighted about.
First memory of reading horror
The first proper horror book I ever read was James Herbert’s The Rats when I was only about eight or nine, which blew me away. It definitely kick-started my love of horror literature which resulted in my reading everything from that genre I could lay my hands on – lucky it was going through a resurgence at the time. I loved the idea of these giant rats attacking people, all the gory descriptions – though the political stuff and all the naughty bits were a little lost on me at that tender age. I’m glad I got to become friends with Jim before he passed away, and tell him what an impact that book had on me and my life – not to mention career.
For readers new to horror which 3 books would you recommend they start with?
Wow, that’s a hard one… Other than Jim’s stuff, I would say Clive Barker’s Books of Blood are essential reading for any fan of the horror genre. They were a total game-changer, not only for me but for lots of people. The stories in there showed just what could be done within horror, the different types of tales that could be told – ranging from out and out terror one minute, to comedy the next. I’d also recommend The Hellbound Heart, for obvious reasons – and anyone who knows my connection to the Hellraiser mythology will be able to understand that – but you might want to class all those books together as they’re by the same author… legend that he is. I’ll also sneak in Cabal here, too, which was filmed as Nightbreed.
Second choice, I would go with anything by the also legendary Ramsey Campbell. Nobody can make the hairs on the back of your neck prickle like Ramsey; he builds a hell of an atmosphere. So, anything from his early work like The Doll Who Ate His Mother, right through to more recent books like The Searching Dead. Absolutely first-class.
And, of course, anything by Stephen King – butI see we’ll be getting to him in a moment. There are so many books and authors I could have mentioned, from Mary Shelley, Machen, Blackwood, Lovecraft… right up to Simon Clark, Christopher Fowler, Sarah Langan, Kelley Armstrong, but it’s more fun for people to go off and discover their own favourites.
Do you have a favourite horror sub-genre, and why?
Hmm, again it’s a tricky one. I’m partial to all of them, from werewolves, zombies and vampires, to comedy horror and psychological or crime – I think that’s one of the things which makes the genre so special, in that it crosses over so easy into other territories. But, simply because my wife – the author and editor Marie O’Regan – and I edited an entire anthology about it, the first one ever, I’m going to have to go with ‘Body Horror’. There are so many favourites from this sub-genre I haven’t got time to list them, but ‘Who Goes There?’ and ‘The Fly’ spring to mind in terms of classics, while Neil Gaiman’s ‘Changes’ and Brian Lumley’s ‘Fruiting Bodies’ also tick the boxes. They’re all in The Mammoth Book of Body Horror!
Most terrifying book you’ve ever read
I can’t narrow it down to just one, but Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter, Peter Straub’s Mr X, Michel Faber’s Under the Skin and Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho fit the bill for very different reasons. But they all have one thing in common, they get to you, and stay with you long after reading, which is what I think a good horror book should do.
Your favourite Stephen King book
There are just too damned many – and you catch me at a time when I’ve just seen IT, the great man’s birthday has just passed, and people are listing their top tens of his work… It’s impossible to whittle it down, but I will say Night Shift is one of my favourite collections of all time. Just look at the adaptations that came from that one: Children of the Corn; The Lawnmower Man; Graveyard Shift; Quitter’s Inc; Battleground… Wow! I was over the moon when Pete Crowther at PS asked Marie and myself to pen the afterword to the new edition of the book. It was a bit of a dream come true, to be honest.
New horror authors you’d recommend
Again, tons – and more being added to the list all the time. Some of them still feel new to me, but they’ve already established their reps now and earned their spurs: people like Adam Nevill, Alison Littlewood, Rio Youers, Sarah Pinborough, A.K. Benedict… We were recently at a FantasyCon in Peterborough and there were so many new faces there I didn’t recognise, which will no doubt be the voices of tomorrow. Just by being the co-chair of the UK arm of the Horror Writers Association I see so many newcomers who have a bright future, such as CC Adams, Eric Steele and more. It’s very nice to see, but at the same time reminds you of how old you are and how long ago all that was for you.
Who do you consider the King and Queen of horror fiction?
For me, Clive will always be the King of horror, even though some of his later material can be classified as dark fantasy… And simply because I haven’t mentioned her yet, but am such a huge fan: Anne Rice I think should be the Queen. She totally re-invented the gothic horror for a modern generation.
Your favourite horror film (adapted from a book) & why?
Ha ha, that’s an easy one. Hellraiser, adapted from The Hellbound Heart. My favourite film of all time, which spawned my favourite mythology of all time. It’s probably why I’ve written about it, and written in its universe so much – The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell… I was recently given the opportunity by Bafflegab to adapt the original book into a full cast audio drama, which is another huge ambition ticked off the list.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
Oh, another toughie. Most of the ones that I really admire, like The Shining and The Exorcist, have already been done – and remade, Hollywood being Hollywood. I think I’ll go with Clive’s first novel, The Damnation Game, as I think that would make a cracking movie – or even mini-series on Netflix or Amazon. It touches on the same Faustian ideas as Hellraiser, so that was always going to appeal to me. There have been attempts to bring it to the screen in the past, like in 2001 when names in the frame to star included the likes of Sean Connery and Paul Newman! But as yet it remains frustratingly in development hell I believe – if you’ll pardon the expression.
Best horror TV?
I’ve always had a real soft spot for Millennium, starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black – which, for me, was always much better than its parent show The X-Files. It just ticked all the boxes of crime, horror and fantasy for me. I’m also a big fan of anthology shows, though, such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits – which is why I’m so glad they’re doing new shows like Black Mirror and Inside Number 9 now.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
Oh, I’ve written in all kinds of genres, or very often combined them. The very first serious novel I wrote was a crime/supernatural serial killer book called The Gemini Factor and, just recently, Black Shuck released a collection of my darker crime stories called Nailbiters, which has an introduction by Sunday Times Bestseller Paul Finch and launched at a ticketed event in Derby. Then there’s the post-apocalyptic Hooded Man books from Abaddon, which are technically SF, but I throw all kinds of things in there, like Satanic Cults and witches – I was following my lead there from Richard Carpenter, who wrote Robin of Sherwood. I write comedy, in the form of my Dalton Quayle adventures – the most recent of which is The Bric-a-brac Man – and more generally in shorts, which you can find in FunnyBones. Some of my stories can be classed as urban horror or dark fantasy, for example Before is getting comparisons to The Great and Secret Show and American Gods… And some, like those in my ‘best of’ collection Shadow Casting – I’m thinking tales like ‘The Butterfly Man’ and ‘Signs of Life’ – are sort of unclassifiable, but I kinda like it that way.
Tell us briefly about your route to being published
When I was a kid I was always making up stories and telling them by using toys, or drawing comics – emulating the kind of stuff my dad used to buy me from the local newsagents. I was always writing stories instead of essays when I got to school as well, then in my teens having a go at a few longer pieces, but not daring to send anything off. Once I’d done my A-Levels, I headed off to art college with a view to being a comics artist, but quickly realised I wasn’t good enough; I was actually getting better marks for my essays. So I applied for a BA in History of Art, Design and Film, which allowed me to do modules in Professional Writing. That led to a career in journalism, so I was earning a living from my writing, but the fiction was starting to nag at me again. I then discovered the small presses and began writing tales for them – and attending things like the Terror Scribes meetings. From there it was on to the British Fantasy Society, and I haven’t looked back since. This year, incredibly, marks my twenty-first as a professional writer – so I should get some kind of key to the door or something.
Tell us about your fans
My fans are terrific. I couldn’t ask for a more loyal bunch; some even go out and buy anything I do, no matter what it is. They’re incredibly supportive – and I love getting out and meeting them at conventions. But even just getting mail about how much someone’s enjoyed your work is fantastic, it keeps us writers going. Recently a reader wrote to me wanting to put together a paper to deliver on the Hooded Man mythos at a major conference in San Diego. The upshot of that is it’s now being taught on some university courses, which is amazing. You never know where contact from fans will take you.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as well respected as other genres of fiction. Why do you think that is?
I’m not entirely sure, and I’m probably the wrong person to ask as I’ve always respected it. In literary circles – because horror always has been and still is massive in film and TV – I think maybe the glut of books in the 70s and 80s did it quite a lot of damage. There was a lot of rubbish published back then, as well as the obvious great fiction, and the market just imploded. Sadly, it’s never really come back again – though there are signs it’s pretty healthy in the US at the moment. Fingers crossed it will start to pick up more over here as well.
Do you think horror is ready for a renaissance?
I think so, and it’s funny because someone was saying to me recently that they think it’s so popular in the cinema at the moment because of the real life horrors that are going on around us. That happened back in World War II as well, and at other points of great stress in society. So maybe that will translate into the written word too – I hope so! Of course, horror is still being published under other banners – last year’s superb The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp, which is being turned into a film by Ron Howard, was marketed as a thriller…but really it’s horror. And it never really went away in the small presses, in fact that’s the place many horror writers are plying their trade these days.
Tips for new writers of horror fiction
Join organisations like the Horror Writers Association, which have market listings, and come along to some of the HWA UK pub meets if you’re in this country. We have one coming up on the 11th November which is tied into the launch and signing of Stephen Jones’ The Art of Horror Movies at Forbidden Planet in London, then followed by an afternoon at The Royal George pub. We recently ran a scripting event at the Quad in Derby for the HWA, and plan to do some more – so basically come along to as many of those kinds of things as possible. Conventions like Stokercon in the States – which was on the Queen Mary, Long Beach, this year – and FantasyCon are a brilliant source for tips and advice, whether it’s via panels or just chatting with like-minded people at the bar.
Do you believe in evil?
I think people are capable of great evil, and you don’t need any more evidence of that than the recent shooting in Las Vegas. That might be because of upbringing, or cultural leanings or even mental problems… But if you’re asking me if evil exists as a thing in itself, then I’m not sure. As horror writers, we’re constantly coming up with characters and situations where that is absolutely the case. I once wrote a story called ‘Pure Evil’ which was all about a scientist who thought he could remove evil from patients at a high-security prison – which came out of them in the form of a sort of black liquid… Needless to say, it didn’t end well, especially when the container broke and it infected everyone else, good or bad. That’s what we’re all about as fiction writers, though, trying to make sense of a senseless world I suppose.
What scares you?
Anything happening to my loved ones, my wife and family, my friends. My mum developed Alzheimer’s back in 2009 and died in 2010, and the way it ripped through her was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen, while we all had to just watch, powerless to do anything about it. A similar thing happened with my dad a couple of years after that, but it was an aortic aneurism that got him. That’s scary stuff, and the kind of thing I was hoping to address in my collection which launched over the summer from the Sinister Horror Company, Death – in all its forms.
3 most scary words in English language?
Last orders, please!
Do you celebrate Halloween?
We do and normally have a quiet one, which I know sounds strange for horror writers – but it’s probably because we’re so busy the rest of the year. We batten down the hatches essentially, and watch horror movies, answering the door to trick or treaters to give them sweets. I have a gig this year, however, so we’ll be out and about in the city that weekend, which will make a change for us.
Where can readers find you?