Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘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

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Monday, 11 July 2011

Paul Kane interviewed by David McWilliam

Paul Kane is an award-winning writer and editor based in Derbyshire, UK. His short story collections are Alone (In the Dark), Touching the Flame, FunnyBones, Peripheral Visions, Shadow Writer and The Adventures of Dalton Quayle, with his latest due out from the award-winning PS Publishing: The Butterfly Man and Other Stories. His novellas include Signs of Life, The Lazarus Condition and RED. He is the author of the novels Of Darkness and Light, The Gemini Factor and the bestselling Arrowhead trilogy (Arrowhead, Broken Arrow and Arrowland), a post-apocalyptic reworking of the Robin Hood myth. He is co-editor of the anthology Hellbound Hearts – stories based around the Clive Barker mythology that spawned Hellraiser – and his non-fiction books are The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark. His work has been optioned for film and television, and his zombie story ‘Dead Time’ was turned into an episode of the Lionsgate/NBC TV series Fear Itself, adapted by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV). He also scripted The Opportunity, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and The Weeping Woman – filmed by award-winning director Mark Steensland and starring Tony-nominated actor Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night). You can find out more at his website which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, James Herbert and Neil Gaiman.

DM: What were your formative influences as a horror reader?
PK: The first horror book I read, and I suspect this is the case with a lot of people my age, was James Herbert’s The Rats. Similarly, the first fantasy book was The Hobbit – another popular choice – so I’m really looking forward to the movie when it comes out. The first science fiction book was Dune, which I thought was phenomenal. But these sparked off a craving to read everything and anything published in the imaginative genres really. I used to take books to school and read whenever I got the chance, at break times, and later in free periods. At home I always had my head in a book, so it’s little wonder that I ended up being a writer. In fact, I still have some of the first attempts at fiction I did in my teens, which were heavily inspired by the kind of fiction I used to read; I often dig them out and have a look if I want a chuckle. I also have to thank my English teachers at Netherthorpe School, especially Mr Townsend – who later on taught my daughter as well. He introduced us to a book called Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells, which was about survival after a nuclear war, so Messrs Townsend and Swindells are both probably responsible for my leanings towards post-apocalyptic fiction in some of my novels.

DM: What was your first introduction to Clive's work? How did it affect you and how did it alter your perceptions of what horror is and can be?
PK: It was during this feverish reading frenzy that I came across Clive’s Books of Blood and the stories inside stopped me dead in my tracks. It was just... if you’ll pardon the expression... a revelation. Each story was so different: one might be visceral horror, the next dark comedy, the next science fiction, and the quality of the writing was simply breath-taking. I knew right there and then if I could ever write a fifth as well as Clive I’d die a happy man. Then, of course, The Hellbound Heart came along – which I read as part of the Night Visions anthology, also featuring Ramsey and Lisa Tuttle (and edited by George R.R. Martin). Bizarrely, it wasn’t until the film was on video that I actually got to see Hellraiser and made the connection between the two... being underage might have had something to do with not watching it at the cinema, but that hadn’t stopped me on a number of other occasions. Anyway, it was at that point I realised Clive was pulling the same kind of masterstrokes on film that he was in literature. I fell in love with the whole mythology of the Cenobites, but perhaps more importantly could relate to the mundane setting of the house – this was cosmic horror, but happening right on your doorstep; or more accurately, up in your loft! So, to answer the question about perception, Books of Blood introduced me to the wide range of horror, something that’s definitely informed my work as a writer – I hate to be pinned down or just do the same stuff over and over – and The Hellbound Heart/Hellraiser showed me that you could set a story with a massive fantastical scope in the reality of this world. That’s also influenced me greatly, especially in my own Controllers stories or in novels like Of Darkness and Light and The Gemini Factor.

DM: In what ways do you consider yourself to be influenced by Clive's work as a writer of horror fiction?
PK: There are just so many. A lot of authors I read in my formative years and afterwards (and still today – I’m discovering new writers all the time) have had an enormous impact on me. It would take up this entire interview to list them all. But without Clive I definitely wouldn’t have written the kind of fiction I have done, or the kind of fiction I continue to write. You can usually find something in any writing I’ve done that chimes with Clive’s output. And, of course, I also have Clive to thank personally for a lot of my career – for the support he’s given, for the kind words about my work, and for a million other things.

DM: Indeed, your collection Peripheral Visions feels like it is a response to The Books of Blood, dealing with themes such as gateways into other worlds, the torment of demons and the infinite possibilities of the human body, covering an equally wide range of styles. Was this something you were consciously aiming for, or is it simply the product of the extent to which Clive’s work fires your imagination?
PK: I’m not sure I was consciously aiming for that with a collection, as the stories were written over quite a period of time and most had been published in other anthologies and magazines – but there’ll always be an influence from Clive’s work, as I say, in whatever I do. Maybe that’s why that collection seems very Books of Blood-like, when you put them all together? I certainly think Peripheral Visions was the collection where I really found my voice – or even grew up – as a writer and began testing the waters to see how far I could stretch things. The book is dedicated to Clive, though, to acknowledge his influence on me and those stories, so I suppose the answer to your question is a mixture of both.

DM: What do you think of the numerous adaptations of Clive's works in various different media?
PK: Some are better than others – I’m thinking the early adaptations like Rawhead Rex or Yattering and Jack for TV’s Tales from the Darkside – but I even have a soft spot for the bad ones. Obviously I absolutely love Hellraiser, that’s a given. I wouldn’t have written the books, articles, and essays or conducted the interviews I have if I didn’t. I won’t go into the highs and lows of the sequels, because it’s all in my book The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, [And also in reduced form here on our website - Glyn] but suffice to say, all these years later, I’m far from bored with it yet. I think Nightbreed suffers from studio interference – I’d love to see a director’s cut at some point, if the missing footage can ever be found – but the story, performances, direction and effects still hold up. Candyman is just a superb film that gets everything right, even the transplanting of the original story ‘The Forbidden’ from Liverpool to the US. And Tony Todd is Candyman, no two ways about it. I do like Lord of Illusions, but wish there had been more Harry D’Amour on film and/or TV because he’s a much more complex character than even that movie suggests. As for the later adaptations, in my opinion they’re some of the best there’s ever been. Having seen what’s gone into them from the other side, visiting sets and chatting to people involved, I know the love with which they’ve been put together. I was extremely impressed with both Book of Blood and Dread, and I think Vinnie Jones was perfect in Midnight Meat Train. If you’re looking for disturbing, shocking and thought-provoking horror, then you can’t really go far wrong with those three.

DM: As an author and editor, how did you come to write the non-fiction book, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy? From surveying the available literature, yours seems to be the definitive work on the franchise. Given its international success and impact on the genre, are you surprised that there aren’t more books about the Hellraiser movies?
PK: That stemmed from my start in the business as a journalist and non-fiction writer – not to mention my BA in History of Art, Design and Film, and MA in Film Studies – and was probably in the planning stages before I even got any fiction accepted anywhere. It began as an attempt to write a small BFI-style book on the first movie, but that didn’t get anywhere. Another publisher accepted it on that basis, but then they went bust, so I was left with twenty thousands words on Hellraiser and not sure what to do with it. I approached a few more places who liked the writing but they all said it was too short. McFarland said the same thing, but also asked me if I’d like to expand the book to cover all the movies, plus the comics as well. I knew it would be a lot of work, in fact it was a hundred thousand words more, but I said yes and worked on the book in my spare time (this was when I was working part-time as a lecturer for Chesterfield College, before going full-time as a writer). I just wanted to write a book that a Hellraiser, Barker or horror fan would want on their shelves, and I would definitely have bought it if I hadn’t written it. That made it a bit of a labour of love for me. Doing the research, it was interesting to see how much had been written about the first couple of movies – and even then from lots of different, varied sources – but how little about the rest, or the mythology as whole. That did surprise me, but also spurred me on because it felt like I was breaking new ground with what I was doing. If my book’s the definitive look at the series (or as Total Film put it in their review ‘Kane absolutely nails it’) then I’m very proud of that. It feels like I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

DM: How did the idea for Hellbound Hearts come about? To what extent did you aim to remain true to the mythology of the Cenobites and Lemarchand's Configuration?
PK: I had the idea, after re-reading the 90s Hellraiser comics, to write about them for Legacy, and it occurred to me that nobody had done anything similar with the franchise in book form. So, I mentioned this to Clive on the phone, who loved the idea and said he’d help in any way he could (he did the foreword for us, and even painted a brand new Cenobite for the cover: Vestimenti). Marie then came on board as co-editor, because she’s a big fan of the mythology as well, and we started to figure out who we could approach for stories. Luckily, we managed to put together an excellent line-up (Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean, Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden & Mike Mignola, Peter Atkins, Conrad Williams, Sarah Pinborough, Mick Garris, Tim Lebbon, Richard Christian Matheson, Nancy Holder, Simon Clark, Steve Niles, Sarah Langan, Nicholas Vince, Yvonne Navarro, Mark Morris, Barbie Wilde, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Nancy Kilpatrick, Gary A. Braunbeck & Lucy A. Snyder and Chaz Brenchley, plus an introduction by Stephen Jones, and afterword by Doug ‘Pinhead’ Bradley) which then helped us get a publisher – although it did get turned down by a couple of places before Pocket... anthologies are just such a hard sell. Hopefully we’ve remained faithful to the original novella, which was encouraged in the guidelines we sent to authors, but we also didn’t restrict them in any way. Because we were dealing with brand new Cenobites and other characters – not to mention puzzles – there was a certain amount of freedom involved, and I think that led to some pretty amazing stories, all in all. Reviewers seem to agree with that as well, as they’ve been mostly very positive so far.

DM: Indeed, I was impressed when I reviewed the collection for Strange Horizons. One of the key associations with Clive’s work is his popularization of body horror. What attracts you to this aspect of his writing and how do you use it in your fiction?
PK: I think my grounding in horror from the 70s and 80s, reading the pulp novels that were around at the time, and also – though I was really way too young to be seeing them – getting hold of and watching Video Nasties. But it was always the stories that said something about us as people, about our existence, but combined it with the body horror which fascinated me, and probably inspired me. Clive’s work was a massive part of that, and there are definitely nods to stories like ‘The Body Politic’ in my own ‘Speaking in Tongues’, or The Hellbound Heart in ‘Rag and Bone’ (both in the forthcoming PS collection, The Butterfly Man and Other Stories), whilst at the same time trying to create my own little mythologies. I’ve always taken that lead, to use the horror of something happening to the body, but combining it with an emotional impact on the character, or the reactions of friends, families, lovers... It’s there in the Arrowhead books as well, though technically they’re classed as science fiction.

DM: Of course, though Clive is one of its greatest exponents, the tradition of body horror began much earlier. I believe that you are editing an anthology, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, with Marie? Despite this being a vital subgenre of horror, I am not aware of any anthology that focuses purely on body horror that is currently on the market (though perhaps a more narrowly defined collection could be found as part of the splatterpunk movement of the 1980s). Could you tell us a little about the scope of this anthology and what you hope it will add to the field?
PK: We are, yes. In fact we’ve been looking at cover roughs for this only recently. The book’s done and is just about to be turned in – it was commissioned last year and is due out in 2012. It’s probably because there’s been nothing like it, that we decided to do it – but again, it just seemed like such an obvious thing. I remember studying body horror in films and literature at university, but there were no fiction books in the library to reference for essays or presentations, so I think this one fills a gap in the market there. At the same time, we’ve got some huge, huge names in the line-up – I’m not allowed to talk about these just yet – so it should appeal to your average horror fan. But also, as you say, the body horror traditionally goes back quite a long way, so we’ve also tried our best to give an overview of the subgenre, going right back to some of its first exponents, right up to the present day with new stories. We’re hoping to begin promotional work on this soon, including at World Fantasy in San Diego to get the word out, so watch this space for more announcements, basically.

DM: Finally, what are your plans for writing and editing in the near future?
PK: I don’t think I’ve ever been as busy as this in my whole career, to be honest. As well as Body Horror, I’ve been working on a new novel which is nearly finished – again I can’t really say much about that – plus I have another lined up and commissioned for after that (there’s already been film interest in that mythology, to the point of it being optioned with a screenwriter attached and script in development). I’ve been producing more short stories and novelettes for future collections, plus I have a couple of novella commissions to do towards the end of the year. I’m also working on adapting a couple of bestselling authors’ novels into full length scripts, which is an interesting process. That came off the back of short films like The Opportunity and The Weeping Woman which I scripted from my own short stories. In terms of what’s out there or forthcoming to buy, in addition to the limited edition Shadow Writer book from Mansion House which is a gorgeous tenth anniversary hardback reprinting of my first two collections Alone (In the Dark) and Touching the Flame, complete with brand new material and extras, and also the PS collection due out very soon, I’ve just had a collection of my Dalton Quayle stories published by Mundania – The Adventures of Dalton Quayle – and have just signed with Books of the Dead to bring out a collection of my novellas, including the brand new one ‘Pain Cages’. All of this and I’m co-chairing FantasyCon this year with Marie down in Brighton with Guests including World Fantasy Award-winner Gwyneth Jones, Let the Right One In author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Hellraiser scripter Peter Atkins, bestselling Fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie, plus SF legend and OBE Brian Aldiss; A Matter of Blood author and British Fantasy Award-winner Sarah Pinborough is also our MC. Then Marie and I are guests ourselves at Thought Bubble in November, straight after WFC. Looking further ahead to next year, there are plans for more non-fiction work, some TV work, another novel, and perhaps an anthology or two as well... Like I say, I’ve never been busier and I’m very grateful for that fact. 

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