Shadow Writer: Paul Kane

Hello, 2018, sorry I’ve been slow – been having a bit of a nap. But almost awake now, so let’s get to it.

I thought we’d start the year with an interview with the lovely Mr Paul Kane!

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, 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, 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 YA story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to REDBlood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & 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 which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

1. What do new readers need to know about Mr Paul Kane?

I’ve been writing professionally for 21 years now, for my sins, with over 70 publications behind me – fiction, non-fiction and edited books. We marked last year’s 20th anniversary with a special “Best of…” hardback collection from SST Publications called Shadow Casting, which is a good place to start if you want to try my short fiction. I work in all kinds of genres, from SF with the post-apocalyptic Hooded Man books and stories, to crime and psychological with Nailbiters, to YA with The Rainbow Man – as well as the more traditional supernatural stuff and what could be classed as Horror and Dark Fantasy. I also write graphic novels and comics – such as the one-shot from Hellbound Media, The Disease – film and TV, plays, and I’ve just added audio dramas to the list with my first one this year.

2. What draws you to horror?

I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of things, but it was probably because my dad was into watching genre shows and films. He introduced me to the likes of Star Trek, The Incredible Hulk and Dr Who at a very young age, not to mention comics he’d buy me from the local newsagents – many of which were Horror-related, like Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula. So I suppose when I started reading books it was inevitable I’d be drawn towards that kind of material, and then would eventually try to emulate it. But what I found was that Horror is able to incorporate many other genres, from comedy to SF, to Fairy Tales and Crime – in fact someone once said that it defies genre, which I kind of like. Though I think it’s probably more accurate to say it absorbs them into itself, like The Thing. Good Horror, to me, disturbs rather than just grosses you out – though obviously there’s a place for both at its table. I’m drawn more towards the kind of Horror that gets under your skin, that stays with you and makes you think. That wakes you up in the middle of the night sweating a month after you’ve seen or read it.

3. Is there a horror franchise you’d kill to play in?

Oh, loads – all of them, in fact! I’d play in anyone’s sandbox if they asked me. The ones that spring to mind are Alien, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday 13th… all the classics! I actually pitched for some of these when Black Flame were doing those novels, though none of the ideas got anywhere. But more recent franchises as well, like SAW, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Sinister… I love them all! Ask me to be involved in something dark or Horror-related, and I’m totally there. I think most Horror writers would be the same.

4. You can take three movies to a desert island with you – what do you choose?

So hard! Okay, I’ll have a go… Given my association with the Hellraiser mythos, the first has got to be Clive Barker’s original adaptation of his own novella The Hellbound Heart. I could watch that movie again and again, and indeed have. I’m even seeing it on the big screen again for Halloween and doing a Q&A afterwards at the Celluloid Screams festival. Right, now it gets trickier. I think I’d have to take Jaws, because to me it’s one of the most perfect films of all time – even with the mechanical shark – and probably the best example of how to do suspense there’s ever been… excluding all of Hitchcock’s movies, of course. And I’m tempted to say The Silence of the Lambs, which is again another example of how Crime and Horror cross over to create something unique; you only have to look at the way the Horror community “adopted” Hannibal to see that, even to the point where Horror companies were producing figures of him. A deserved multiple Oscar-winner and a movie I could definitely stand to watch repeatedly. Apart from Hellraiser, though, all of these could change if you asked me again tomorrow or next week!

5. Who were/are your literary heroes/influences?

Mr Barker’s got to be slam bang at the top of that list. I’ve been a massive fan since I came across his Books of Blood in the 80s and that’s never changed, but of course later on I also learned about his films, plays and art. Clive and his work just ticks all the boxes for me. I also see him as part of what I call my “unholy trinity”: three authors I came to around the same time, or thereabouts. Clive was one, Jim Herbert was another, and obviously Stephen King. They were the start of it, but naturally I moved on to others like Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Anne Rice, Kim Newman, not to mention the likes of Poe, Stoker, Mary Shelley, Lovecraft, Machen and so on. I call that period of my life my “real” education, where I just read anything Crime, Horror, SF and Fantasy-related I could get my hands on. So I’d probably include people like Frank Herbert, Colin Dexter and Tolkien as influences as well, which might all sound like a weird mix – but when you look at my fiction it makes a sort of sense. Later, of course, I came across authors like Chris Fowler, Neil Gaiman, Michael Marshall Smith, Nancy Holder, Simon Clark , Mark Billingham, Mo Hayder and so many more, who informed my own writing and I learned from – especially while I was trying to find my own voice. There are just too many to list really, so it’s pointless even trying.

6. What was the inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell

Well, the major ones should be pretty obvious – and I discovered both around the same time. I should have added Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the above list, because I discovered the Sherlock Holmes stories in the 80s as well, at about the same time I was reading Clive’s stories and novels. So, I suppose the die was cast even back then… But it wasn’t until my better half Marie O’Regan – who is a brilliant writer and editor herself – and I were putting together an anthology of Hellraiser stories called Hellbound Hearts, that I started to think seriously about writing a story in that universe. I suppose I was a bit jealous that I was only editing all those excellent writers, but couldn’t put one of my own tales in there. I’d also been having a go at my first Horror Holmes tales for Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell’s Gaslight series around then, and finally got in there with a tale called “The Greatest Mystery”; one which didn’t make the grade for that finally saw print last year as a limited edition release The Crimson Mystery, with a terrific cover by Roger Kastel who did the original Jaws poster. Anyway, it was also around the time that mash-ups started to become popular, so that idea of blending the two – Hellraiser and Holmes – came back to me. Because we’d just been working so closely with Clive and his people for the anthology, I pitched this to him and them, never expecting a yes at all – but how wrong was I? Clive loved the sound of it, and if I’d thought about it more at the time I would have remembered that his and Pete Atkins’ original idea for Hellraiser IV involved the Victorian era and Jack the Ripper, so there was definitely precedence. After working up an incredibly detailed synopsis for Clive to have a look at, which he offered advice on and suggestions about, I got the green light to go ahead and the search for a publisher began. I was lucky in that I knew Jon Oliver from my time working with him at Abaddon on the Arrowhead books, and he’d become the commissioning editor for Solaris in the meantime. I asked him if it was something they might be interested in and he also said yes. The rest is history really – lots of fantastic reviews, selling out of the first print run really quickly, and making various “Best of 2016” listings. It’s been my most well received book and I couldn’t be happier with the result!

7. Can you remember the first story you read that made you think “I want to be a writer”?

That’s got to be one of the tales from Books of Blood – or in fact could be any of them. It was certainly the collection that showed me what could be done in a Horror short story and how flexible it could be: from out and out terror in “Midnight Meat Train” to comedy in “The Yattering and Jack”, to simply awe-inspiring grandeur in “In the Hills, The Cities”. Having said that, I think my earlier efforts were more inspired by the likes of schlock Horrors from the time. I did one in my teens called “Night Beast” which reads like Garth Marenghi on an off day. Lots of people running around on the moors leaping from helicopters and shooting Magnums at a monster on the loose. I still have it and get it out sometimes when I want to cheer myself up. I like to think I might have improved a little since then… A little.

8. Who is your favourite villain in fiction and/or film?

That would have to be Pinhead. In the original novella the character doesn’t even have a sex, although it’s described as having a voice like a “breathy girl” – indeed all the Cenobites are meant to be androgynous in that book. But the very first time I saw Doug Bradley playing the Lead Cenobite in Clive’s original movie, I was totally bowled over by him. The combination of make-up effects, by the likes of Bob Keen, Geoff Portass and co, Clive’s words – like “No tears please, it’s a waste of good suffering!” – and Doug’s delivery, just make for something incredibly special. But the very idea of a Dark Pope of Hell, a “Magnificent Superbutcher” as he – and the other Cenobites have been called – was something that had never been seen before, and hasn’t been matched since in my humble opinion. I’m lucky in that this year I was given the opportunity to adapt the original novella into a full cast audio drama for Bafflegab, so that’s been exciting and daunting in equal measure. At time of writing, no-one has been cast so it’ll be interesting to see who’s playing who this time round.

9. What are the five novels that have influenced you the most?

Dune is one of the big ones for me. From the very first time I read that, I’ve been in love with the mythology and world, from the Sandworms and Fremen, to the different Houses – and I defy anyone not to see the Cenobitical parallels to the Harkonnens, especially in David Lynch’s filmic adaptation…which I adore. But also this idea of a legendary messiah coming to the Fremen from another world, that just had me from the get-go. You can spot its influence in stories like Of Darkness and Light and even the Hooded Man stuff, where Robert can see he’s fulfilling a kind of destiny but rails against it. The Rats was the first real Horror book I ever read when I was about nine, I think it was, so I owe Jim a great debt of gratitude for that – and was fortunate enough to become friends with him before his passing, so got to tell him what it meant to me. I loved the idea of the monster rats, the whole Man vs Nature thing, and obviously the tons of gory description. The politics and naughty bits were lost on me at that tender age. You can see the influence of that one in all kinds of stories from me, a lot of which are collected in the British Fantasy Award-nominated Monsters. From the Stephen King stable, the re are so many books to choose from – like IT, which is a phenomenal novel, or The Shining. But I’m going to go with The Stand here, because of its epic post-apocalyptic nature – and if you can’t see the footprints of that in my Arrowhead books or in my latest novel, Before, then you must be blind! Sticking with a PA novel, I’m choosing Robert Swindells’ Brother in the Land next, which still has the same impact on me now that it had when I read it in English classes at school. A post-Nuclear tale with characters I could relate to because, like Threads, they were from towns and villages like the ones I grew up in, populated by the same kind of people. That book, which would probably be classified as a YA now, taught me that when you write for a younger audience you never, ever talk down to them. That helped enormously when I came to write The Rainbow Man, as P.B. Kane, and currently as I write my new YA novella Coming of Age. Finally, yet another one of Clive’s – and as much as I love books like Imajica, his magnum opus as far as I’m concerned, or Cabal which introduced us to the Nightbreed, I’m going to go with The Great and Secret Show. Again, to see the impact of that one you need only go away and read my latest, Before – published by Grey Matter. It’s even been compared favourably to that book because of its scope and themes, which delights me no end.

10. What’s next for Paul Kane?

I’m still doing publicity for Before – which came out last month – and after that my first collaboration with bestselling author Simon Clark is on its way, Beneath the Surface from SST. That’s a World War II Horror adventure, out in the desert with a monster under the sand – so definitely a Dune influence cropping up there! Writing-wise, I’m working on Coming of Age which I mentioned and then writing the final installment of the RED trilogy, which started with RED and continued with Blood RED. Deep RED is another PA novel, and you can read a sneak preview in The Crimson Mystery. Other than that, I’m looking forward to going down to London soon to watch the recording of The Hellbound Heart, which is coming out sometime in early 2018. Plus the usual shorts I’ve been asked for, a new collection to do some fresh material for – and a book of my Horror Fairy Tales, which contains stories like “Sleeper(s)”, “Sin” and “Snow”, and which a certain person not a million miles away is kindly introducing…


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