I want to welcome Paul Kane. First I’d love for you to introduce yourself.
Thanks for having me on the site! I’ve been writing professionally for almost twenty years now, fiction and non-fiction, which I’m celebrating next year with a new collection from SST – Shadow Casting – but I’m probably best known for my Hooded Man novels which are part of Abaddon’s Afterblight Chronicles; mine detail the adventures of a post-apocalyptic Robin Hood in Arrowhead, Broken Arrow and Arrowland – gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus. I’m also known for my association with Clive Barker and his work, especially the Hellraiser mythos: I wrote The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and co-edited Hellbound Hearts with my wife, the author Marie O’Regan. But people can find out much more about me at my website (http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk).
Tell us about your latest release.
I have two or three books out at the moment, including the collection Monsters from the award-winning Alchemy Press (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monsters-Paul-Kane/dp/0992980976/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434630189&sr=8-1&keywords=paul+kane+monsters), which has cover art from Clive Barker and an introduction by Nicholas Vince (Chatterer Cenobite from Hellraiser), plus the more comic horror book Dalton Quayle and the Bric-a-Brac Man from Pendragon (http://www.pendragonpress.net/books/dalton-quayle-and-the-bric-a-brac-man-by-paul-kane/). But there’s also the novella Flaming Arrow (available to buy at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flaming-Arrow-Afterblight-Chronicles-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00XPIBTCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433166685&sr=8-1&keywords=flaming+arrow and http://rebellionstore.com/products/flaming_arrow) which marks the return of my version of Robin Hood after five years. It takes place quite a while after the last installment, where we find my Hood as an older character, thinking of retiring and handing over control of his peace-keeping force ‘The Rangers’ to his adopted son Mark. But, of course, things don’t go anywhere near according to plan and there’s not only chaos brewing at home in
but a trap waiting for him during a tour of Ranger outposts abroad.
Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.
1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?
I’d have to say the Sheriff of Nottingham here, just because of the kind of fiction I’m best known for. My answer to the Sheriff, De Falaise, is a proper old school type villain inspired by the likes of Nickolas Grace – from my favourite interpretation, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood – Alan Rickman and Keith Allen. That’s why I like the character so much. I’ve said this before in interviews, but I think Robin Hood was one of the first superheroes and there are decided parallels to Batman in there – so, I’m going to have to say The Joker for me is also on a par with the Sheriff. He’s just so complex and OTT. I would have chosen Pinhead, but to me he isn’t really a villain – he’s just massively misunderstood. ;-)
2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?
Now, that is definitely Robert Stokes – my version of Hood. Again, I’ve written about this a lot of late (in particular an essay I did for Sci-Fi Bulletin called ‘A Hero’s Journey’ http://scifibulletin.com/books/fantasy/feature-a-heros-journey/) but I feel like I’ve grown with Robert as I’ve told his adventures over the years. He started off quite a damaged character, after the loss of his wife and child to the A-B Virus in Arrowhead, but he found a purpose battling evil and y’know what? He’s very good at it. He’s the kind of hero I’d like to be in alternate life: fiercely loyal, moral and incredibly badass.
3.) What genre do you write? What made you pick that one?
The Hooded Man tales are technically SF, or a sub-genre of that, but I’m a horror writer really at heart. That’s probably why I throw Satanic cults, witches and cannibals into the mix when writing these stories. Flaming Arrow even has a new set of genetically modified human monsters because I love monsters so much – I did mention my collection, right? ;-) I think you probably end up writing what you enjoyed watching and reading when growing up, and although I read widely back then – and still do – I kept returning to horror time and again. I do think it’s the most flexible of all genres, in that it can incorporate other genres and their tropes. Therefore you can have an SF Horror, a Comedy Horror, a Crime Horror – like my own Gemini Factor – which allows you to explore other areas you might be a fan of. I guess that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to write so much in that field, although I am known for others as well. I’ve even written YA fiction with The Rainbow Man, though that has a dark side as well.
4.) What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on a few graphic novel scripts for SST, who – as well as bringing out Shadow Casting – are also publishing my follow-up to RED, Blood RED: a horror reworking of Little Red Riding Hood. One of those graphic novels will be an adaptation of my novel Lunar, which is being turned into a movie as well. I’m also doing research at the moment for another mass market novel, which is a bit of a dream come true project – but I can’t say much more about that one at this time.
5.) What got you to start writing?
I think I’ve always had stories inside me trying to get out, even when I was very little and used to make up elaborate scenarios to play out with my action figures. My dad used to buy me comics from the local newsagents and I tried to copy the artwork from those, making up my own strips – I wanted to be a comic book artist growing up, in fact. Then, when I discovered SF, Fantasy, Crime and Horror novels, I devoured pretty much everything, and that led to me having a go at some of my own amateur tales, bashed out on my mum’s old typewriter. I still have some of them around; ooh, they’re so bad… But authors inspired me to start writing, really. People like Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, Chris Fowler, Frank and James Herbert, Anne Rice, Ramsey Campbell – but especially Clive. Reading his Books of Blood was a revelation for me – if you’ll pardon the pun – and I’ve never looked back since!
6.) Where do you get your ideas from?
Ideas are everywhere. They’re not the hard part of writing; for me, the writing is the hard part of writing. I get dozens of ideas every day, which I jot down in little hardback notebooks – hardback, so you can write them down if you happen to be out and about and don’t have anything to lean on. It might be a newspaper or magazine article, a snatch of overheard conversation, a song or TV program… anything can spark an idea off really. Then it’s just down to you how you extrapolate it. Some will naturally be short stories, some will have more meat and turn out to be novel-length, some are in-between and end up being novellas or novelettes, but that length should suggest itself to you before you start. For something like Hooded Man, it was a case of working within the Afterblight universe but trying to carve something of my own out in it. So I figured if 90% of the world’s population died out, things would probably go back to how they were in Hood’s time originally, with the strong preying on the weak. I grew up not far away from Sherwood Forrest and used to get taken there very often by my parents, so there was that inspiration as well, drawing on trips there. And things just thankfully fell into place, allowing me to do my own reworking of the mythos featuring a character who knows it’s happening – that events are replaying themselves – but he can’t do a damned thing about it.
7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?
People tend to think of the life of a writer as being glamorous, and I suppose photos of myself and Marie at various events meeting quite famous folk do make it appear that way. But probably 99% of what being a writer is all about is being sat at a desk, bashing out the words on the computer – then editing them over and over. So I think people might be quite surprised that a lot of our life is taken up just with hard graft.
8.) Do you have any special talents?
Not that I could mention on a public forum… Both my thumbs bend back quite far, probably the consequence of both of them being trapped in car doors when I was a kid – at different times. The nails fell off and everything, it was really painful.
9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?
When I first started writing for the small presses I got a couple of really good pieces of advice. The first was from John B. Ford, who accepted my first short story for Terror Tales, ‘The Cave of Lost Souls’. He suggested the scattershot method of sending out stories, doing lots of them and sending out to lots of magazines to build a reputation – which I eventually did. The second was from bestselling author Simon Clark – he of Night of the Triffids fame – at one of the early events I went to. He told me that you’ve got to be in this game for the love of it – you can earn a decent living writing, but you can probably earn a much better living more easily doing a lot of other jobs. He also told me that if you got your head down, put the work in and took small steps, you’ll look round at some point and see just how far you’ve come – and he was absolutely right. It’s a kind of snowball effect. The more effort you put in, the more you get out of this profession essentially.
10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?
Probably either Bella Lugosi or Boris Karloff, as I’d love to know how they felt playing two of the most iconic monsters of all time – being associated with them so much – and what the pros and cons of that were.
11.) What song would you say describes your life?
The Verve’s ‘Lucky Man’, I’d say. I’ve been lucky in my personal life, in that I’ve got a lovely wife and kids. Plus I’ve been lucky enough to do something I love for a living and to get much further than I ever thought I would with it. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of my heroes, including Clive who became a wonderful friend, so I’ve no complaints.
12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?
Has to be a wolf. I’ve written so many stories featuring them recently, from my novelette The Curse of the Wolf – which traces the lineage of a werewolf bite back through the ages (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Curse-Wolf-2-Cursed/dp/1503231755/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434631596&sr=1-6&keywords=curse+of+the+wolf) – to completing the ‘Life Cycle’ trilogy of stories for Monsters with a new novelette ‘Lifetime’, and the aforementioned sequel to RED, all of which are actually tied together in a new kind of mythology. I’ve had to put myself in the mindset of a wolf, and werewolf, so I guess that would be the easiest animal to slip into as I feel like I know the score now.
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty 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 and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. 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, Dreamwatch 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, Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, plus Edge-Lit in 2014, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for network US television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film) and the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane). 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 www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
Once, a long time ago, this was a world. A living, breathing world.
Now it’s just a shell, a shadow of what it once was. Not that Mouse could remember the time before; he was far too young. This was the only world he’d ever known, the one he’d grown up in. Alone, more or less, since he was very little. He had vague recollections of a family, parents maybe—or at the very least people who had looked after him... to begin with. But they weren’t around for very long. He couldn’t remember exactly why: one minute they were there, the next they were gone. Anything could have happened to them really; as much as it was a dead world, it was also a dangerous one.
It hadn’t always been that way. Somehow, Mouse knew that. Perhaps the people who’d been around during the first few years of his life had told him so. There had been peace... of a kind. Some sort of order, at any rate. It was all he did know, as he hadn’t come across anyone who could tell him more. Not that he’d ask. It wasn’t wise—you only fell for that once. Trust was a hard thing to come by in this day and age, so it was best just to not get involved.
He’d been scavenging all this time, and had become incredibly good at it. Hunger was a pretty good motivator, even when you were very small—not that he was much bigger now—and fear kept you safe. Mostly. It was a combination that had worked well enough up to this point. It had also seen him travel a lot, moving on if a place had already been picked over—or he’d found all he could. Flitting from one burnt-out town to another, just as he was doing today. Sometimes you got lucky, like when he’d found that untouched basement with the tinned goods in. Tins were his best friends, they survived anything.
More often than not, there were days like this, when he found nothing. Mouse took one last look over his shoulder, at the scarred remains of the structures he’d been searching. The latest city he’d entered, which looked pretty much like all the others he’d ever come across. Except it wasn’t like all the rest, he felt. And there was a sadness he couldn’t explain as his eyes took in the rubble that filled the streets, the caved-in walls of buildings, bricks sticking out like broken teeth.
He shrugged, hitching up his backpack and leaving. It was time to head off somewhere else, somewhere that held more promise than this.
Time to hit the road again.
Mouse hadn’t been walking for very long down that road when he came across a curious sight in the distance.
He was used to seeing blackened stretches of land; there was little else sometimes, between the towns and cities. What remained of that living, breathing world he had never seen. But the landscape here was slightly different. It was uneven, rising and falling around him. As Mouse drew closer, he saw that it was littered with short, squat columns, fixed into the ground. He crouched and peered at one of them, running a finger over the surface, then wiping off the ash that covered it. Beneath were rings, lots of them: larger on the outside, then progressively smaller the closer to the centre they came.
There were lots of the strange objects here, all of differing sizes and shapes.
“It used to be how you could tell the age,” came a voice from behind him.
Mouse jumped, whipping out the piece of jagged metal he used as a weapon. How anyone had crept up on him was a mystery; Mouse was the quiet one, the sneaker—though someone was obviously much better. But the speaker wasn’t as close as he’d sounded. He sat on one of the odd columns, his cloak hanging down over the sides. He was leaning on something long and twisted, two hands clutching it for support. His white hair and beard rippled in the breeze passing through this place, and his skin was as wrinkled as old leather. Mouse had never seen anyone as old as him, in fact. The man looked older than time itself.
Mouse was simultaneously terrified and intrigued, fixed to the spot. But standing here out in the open like this, gawping, was a good way to get yourself killed. Perhaps it was a trap, and any moment now he’d be attacked from other angles, his backpack snatched from him as he was kicked and stomped into the ground.
He made a concerted effort to move forward, placing one foot in front of the other. “You... You stay where you are,” warned Mouse, looking about him all the while as he covered the distance between them, expecting at any moment to have to defend himself.
But the attack never came.
The man laughed softly. “You have nothing to fear from me, I assure you.” His voice was rough, but kindly. His breathing was laboured, though, as if it was an effort for him to speak at all. “I am quite alone.”
Still cautious, Mouse took another few steps. Out of habit, he looked the man over for anything that he might be able to steal. Wasn’t the usual way he did things, he preferred not to get his hands dirty, but when the opportunity presented itself he would grab it with both hands. The man shifted his position, took one of his owns hands off the twisted thing in front of him, and held it up.
At first Mouse thought he was commanding him to halt, then realised he was showing that he had nothing of worth about his person. Just his clothes, by the looks of things; no belts or pouches, certainly no food or drink. Mouse’s eyes flicked sideways again to the oddly-shaped thing the man was still gripping with his other hand.
“You like this?” the old fellow asked, laughing softly again. “I bet you’ve never seen anything like it before, have you?”
In spite of himself, Mouse shook his head.
“Or like this...” Now the old man tapped the thing he was sitting upon. “Most forests were completely obliterated, but, well, this one is a little bit special.” He sighed. “Only the stumps remain, however. All that’s left of the trees.”
Mouse frowned. “Trees?” He had no idea what the word meant, nor what a stump was. Or a forest, for that matter.
“Yes. There used to be trees here, so many of them. Huge, tall trees that reached into the sky.” He craned his head back and without even realising it, Mouse did the same. When he looked down again the man was patting the thing he was leaning upon. “These grew from the sides, they were called branches. It’s called a staff; it helps me to walk.”
Trees, branches, staffs... It was like gibberish to Mouse’s ears.
“So you see, I cannot give it to you—much as I’d like. And I have nothing else to offer a... collector such as yourself.” That much Mouse had figured out already. “Oh, wait. Except, perhaps...”
Mouse held his breath, waiting for the man to continue.
A story? Mouse let out the breath again. He needed something to eat, or maybe even items to trade for food. What did he need with a story, with words? You couldn’t—shouldn’t—trade them. He shouldn’t even be here talking to this old fool, had lingered too long in the one spot as it was.
“A story about the old days,” the man clarified.
That made Mouse pause. The time before? Had this man lived through those times? He was old—ancient—that was for sure, but still... And how would Mouse know if he was telling the truth or not? Might be more nonsense like the thing with the trees, the branches. Yet there were the... what had he called them? Stumps? Mouse had never seen anything like those things before, with their rings for telling ages. He shook his head again.
“Are you sure? I would imagine someone like you would be very interested in those times. In what happened here in the past, back when this really was a forest.” The old man grinned, revealing a mouth almost devoid of teeth. “It’s a tale about good and evil and everything in-between. Heroes and villains, battles and wars.”
Mouse edged just that little bit closer.
“In the beginning, there was a great plague,” the storyteller told him. “It killed all but a handful of people with a certain kind of blood. And there was a man who survived, who was almost driven crazy by the death of his wife and child. He sought refuge out here in the wilderness, where he lived alone. Where he hunted with his bow and his arrows. Until he was needed, that was. Until he was called on to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Who were being bullied by a lunatic who wanted to take over the world.”
Without even realising what he was doing, Mouse had sat down opposite the storyteller on a nearby stump. He listened, head cocked, transfixed by what the old man was saying.
“He had help, of course, this man. This hooded man. There was a gruff farmer... Oh, a farmer is someone who used to grow food in the ground.” He laughed at Mouse’s reaction to that one; nothing could possibly grow in the earth that surrounded them now. “There was a priest, a holy man—you probably don’t know what religion is, either, do you?” Mouse’s silence was answer enough. “Anyway, that man believed in an almighty power called God, who created us all. Who created the world and watched over us, guiding events. The priest always thought that Hood had been sent to them by God... Then there was a giant of a man, Hood’s trusted second-in-command. They were like brothers, those two. Fought side by side so many times. And there was a woman Hood met who taught him the true meaning of love.” When the storyteller noticed Mouse frowning again, he explained: “That feeling of connecting with someone. Of trusting someone. Of wanting to look after them. No?”
Mouse shook his head yet again, this time much more emphatically. Maybe those people he could hardly remember had... had loved him. They’d tried to look after him, at any rate. But—whether it was through choice or not—they’d left him alone to fend for himself. Which is what he’d done; it was what he was still doing.
The storyteller shrugged, then carried on. “Ah yes, that’s right. There was a young lad as well, about your age when he first encountered Hood.” Now he really did have Mouse’s attention. “Together they fought a number of foes, building up their own army in the process. A peace-keeping force like no other.
“Their enemies included a witch and a man who thought he was a dragon... Oh, that’s a mythical creature, one with wings who could breathe fire.” The storyteller realised he was going off subject and got on track again. “Not to mention other armies from different places, one a group who worshipped the opposite number of that priest’s God.”
Mouse pulled his legs up and folded his arms around his knees, his jagged metal weapon still in his fist, though he had loosened his grip slightly. The more the old man talked, the more Mouse wanted him to. There was something, not just about his tone of voice, but the story itself.
A story, the man continued, of what had once been this forest, of the city Mouse had just come from. Back when it had still been standing, back when it had contained something called a castle.
“So,” said the storyteller, “should I go on?”
Mouse nodded, just as emphatically as he’d shaken his head before. Real or not, he was hooked.
“All right then. Well, this particular story takes place after the others, but is no less important. Indeed, it might just be the most important of all the stories concerning the legendary Hooded Man...”
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