Praise for Twisted Tales Events

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‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Clive Barker interviewed by Paul Kane

Clive Barker's fiction came to international attention with the publication of his Books of Blood in the mid 1980s. His status was considerably enhanced when he adapted his novella The Hellbound Heart into the film Hellraiser, which conquered the world in 1987 and went on to spawn many sequels, as well as a series of comics that explored its mythology. Clive also directed cult film classics Nightbreed (1990) and Lord of Illusions (1995). He designed the creatures and wrote the stories for two successful computer games: Undying (2001) and Jericho (2007) and is the author of many novels, including Weaveworld (1987) and Imajica (1991). Clive is currently working on his popular Abarat series, a new comic book series within the Hellraiser universe and has several other major projects underway. For more information, please visit

PK: As a creative person did you set out consciously to explore every kind of medium or was that something that just happened along the way?
CB: No, I think you certainly look at things and say, well, could I have a crack at that? And you ask yourself, could I be an ice dancer? No. Could I have written Phantom of the Opera? Thank God, no. But there are things along the way... I’ve obviously looked at illustrated stories a lot, whether they come in the form of Blake’s mythical writings which are so gloriously combined with pictures – I don’t think illustrated is the right term because he produced such beautiful pictures, the images and the words have equal value, which I hope is true of the Abarat books as well. Which is obviously the fruit of that kind of study. So I look at something along the way. I’ve looked at some poetry once in a while, thought I’d have a crack at writing some of that. I’ve done that a little bit, and will hopefully write some more. I’d certainly like to write a play or two more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. And I’d like to write another movie or two, it’s just a question of finding time. 

PK: I once saw something where you said that the creative marks you make on the page help when you write?
CB: I do little doodles sometimes in the margins, how a creature might look or how a street might be arranged or how a world might be arranged, which I need to go back to and reference later on. Or I’ll play through particularly inventive variations of invented names. I really try and do that. I do like the fact that on this page that I’ve almost finished there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…thirteen smaller scribblings and one entire line scribbled out. And the nicest thing about that is I can still see what’s beneath it, which is useful because when I come to do the final polish it will have been typed out, and I’ll have this by my side – I’ll tend to go back to the handwritten draft and peer through the scribbling. And sometimes I’ll find that the first decision, the first choice I made was the better of the two.

PK: How do you keep track of everything, all the different names and the places?
CB: I tend to be very good with that. The only part of my mind that’s organised is the part related to the fiction. Everything else is fucking chaos. But I know where the book is. At any given time I know where a book is. I know what problems there are, where I’ve got to go next and how I’ve got to get there. And if I don’t know how I’m going to get there I know that my problem between now and tomorrow morning when I put the book down, which will be perhaps six o’clock at night to go painting, and by 8:39 the following morning when I pick it up again I need to have solved a problem related to geography, or a problem related to motivation before I pick up the pen again. You can’t dither, you can’t be insecure. You just have to trust in your own madness…I like that phrase actually. I’ve never thought of that before, you’ve dragged that out of me (laughs)

PK: It’s quotable (both laugh).
CB: It is, it’s quite quotable. Barker trusts in his own madness. It’s so horribly true, that’s the thing (both laugh). It’s all true…

PK: You’ve called it – the creative process – dreaming with your eyes open, but have you ever included anything from an actual dream you’ve had?
CB: Oh God yes. Lots.

PK: Any examples?
CB: Pinhead.

PK: He came from a dream?
CB: Yeah, yeah.

PK: Speaking of which, what do you attribute the success and the popularity and the staying power of Hellraiser to?
CB: I think a look… I think a lot of things, but a look, it caught a moment. Fetishism, in film form. We came along with a movie when the whole body modification thing was really starting to rock. And that was powerful, it spoke to that appetite that people have, the fascination, obsession. Back then one of the first interviews I did during the course of the publicity was for Skin 2, it was a really very stylish S&M magazine. And I did an interview for them, and it was sort of breaking new ground really for a director, going to a sexual area which addressed tastes of his own sexual fascination and say, hey, yes, I am very interested, y’know? This is part of my life. And I think that more than anything…I mean, I wasn’t doing it consciously; I was just saying what was going on in my life, in my imagination. It’s always been my style, well, you know this too, to say what’s on my mind. And I respect people who don’t bugger around, who don’t think about the how and the why, but actually get on and say well, yeah, actually, I love tying my girlfriend up, I love tying my boyfriend up. Yeah, yeah, I do whip him, really hard. And I think the fact is that we all really came out of the dark, if you will, and it was all part of the debate – and it just happened to be luck that I was making a movie that was part of the debate.

PK: How does it feel to have created so many mythologies which are going to live on for years to come?
CB: Well, I think it’s a lovely thing when something you make moves people enough that they want to do something with it for themselves. And I’ve never understood people bitching about, “Oh you must be pissed off about what he did with this, or what she did with that.” No. I mean to me, once you put the thing out there, it becomes part of the texture. There was a wonderful piece of academic writing done a few years ago about the influence of the Candyman mythos on the people of Cabrini-Green in Chicago, except that the academic in this case did not know that the story had been entirely invented. And she wrote the whole thing as though there really was an original myth. And I though that was perfect; that was the whole thing coming full circle. That was the myth becoming reality for a bunch of people. And when Tony Todd goes... and I actually witnessed this, it doesn’t need to be in Cabrini Green; I’ve seen it in Toronto, with a bunch of black kids going, “Candyman, Candyman!” They do it. Tony just gives them a dark look, you know. It’s great. What I like about it is I used to have a dentist’s assistant and she was this wonderful woman, she had lots of kids. And she said, “You know how I get them to go to sleep at night?” I said, “No.” She said, “I go to the mirror and say, ‘Candyman, Candyman…’ And by number three they’ve all gone!” (both laugh)

PK: There’s no greater legacy than that.
CB: Oh no - that’s tip top, isn’t it?

PK: It is. Just one final question, which gives you the most pleasure: writing or painting?
CB: When I’m painting, it’s writing… (both laugh). You can finish that yourself.

With thanks to Clive Barker (parts of this interview first appeared in the FantasyCon Souvenir Booklet).

1 comment:

  1. A good interview with Clive Barker, I wish him every success with his latest Abarat book. Part 3 of 5 which is called Absolute Midnight.

    Written by imajicaman. 30th September 2011.


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