DARK REFLECTIONS, Paul Kane's latest collection, will be published on the 15th of December. Black Beacon Books is absolutely thrilled to be publishing Paul's homage to the masters of dark literature. Kindle pre-orders are open now at just $1.99 instead of $3.99. Of course, before you dive into the stories, it's important to learn a little about the man who penned them... In fact, you'll learn a lot about Paul in this interview, and if you have other questions, just post them in the comments section at the end. Let's begin!
Dark Reflections, your latest collection, will be out in December, in time for the Christmas ghost story season, and here at Black Beacon Books this is making us feel frightfully festive. Now, you’ve made quite a name for yourself over the years, but there may be some kids out there who haven’t discovered your work yet, so this interview is an opportunity for them to learn who you are—and for those familiar with your work, it’s a chance to gain more insight into the man himself. Are you ready to get dark and reflective?
I’ve always been ready to do that! Let’s go…
Dark Reflections is a collection of your fiction influenced directly by the work of classic authors including Bram Stoker, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Can you remember how your fascination with their dark worlds began?
At quite a young age. I’ve always been fascinated with the macabre and darker side of things, so I’d gravitate towards horror comics when I was little—Batman’s my favourite superhero because of his darker side and being emotionally scarred. I probably encountered Dracula and Frankenstein that way too, through comics my dad would buy me. Then of course reading the material, especially in anthologies. There was a book I found when I was about eight or nine called Ghosts, Spooks and Spectres, which had tales like ‘The Inexperienced Ghost’ by H.G. Wells and ‘The Signal-Man’ by Dickens in it. So I was devouring all this good stuff, for what I like to call my ‘real’ education, working my way through not only modern horror authors but also the classics—I still have the pieces of paper somewhere with Lovecraft’s stories in order ticked off one at a time after I’d read them. And with people like M.R. James, it was also watching those superb A Ghost Story for Christmas adaptations of tales like ‘Lost Hearts’ when I was a kid. That had such an impact on me, which you can definitely see in stories like ‘Heartless’ in Dark Reflections. Similarly, Jeremy’s Brett’s interpretation of Holmes on TV was a game-changer for me—in particular the specials like The Hound of the Baskervilles. Many have picked up on the fact that I used him as the main template for my version of Holmes, in Servants of Hell but also in stories like ‘The Case of the Lost Soul’ recently reprinted in Nailbiters—Hard Bitten, and of course ‘The Greatest Mystery’ in Dark Reflections.
If you could invite three of these authors over to your place for Christmas Eve, who would they be, what would you and Marie cook up, and how would you spend the evening?
That’s such a hard choice to make, I’m not sure we’d be able to narrow it down to three, to be honest! But my inclination would be to go with James for starters—simply because he’d tell such a great spooky story by candlelight; I always watch the Christopher Lee readings where he plays James every Christmas. Same goes for Poe, can you imagine anything better than him reading out some of his poems for the festive period? And probably Dickens—A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite books of all time, the obvious inspiration for ‘Humbuggered’ in Dark Reflections. I’d love to chat to him about where the idea came from, how he developed it. Marie and I would do what we usually do at Christmas, cook tons of festive food and break out the mulled wine! Perfect.
What is it about Black Beacon Books that made you think, hey, I want my dark reflections staring back at me from their mirror?
Whenever I finish putting a collection together, I always have a look around for a suitable publisher—sometimes they say no, but happily a lot of times they’re totally up for it. I think I was seeing Black Beacon posts quite a bit on social media, especially places like Instagram, so I went and had a look at some of the terrific books being put out—and in particular the anthologies of horror stories. I remember thinking, yes, this Cameron guy seems to be on my wavelength… So I dropped a line to sound you out! The rest is very pleasant history…
There are a number of overriding themes throughout the collection—fate, death, betrayal, madness—but what strikes me most is the recurring presence of orphans, runaways, and kidnapped children. Is this intentional?
I do seem to write about those a lot, don’t I? I was going through stories in my next general collection the other day and noticed there are large numbers of orphans or people who had horrific childhoods, which is weird because mine was great. I couldn’t have asked for better parents or been loved any more than I was. They totally supported me becoming a writer, for example, which is quite rare in itself; it’s such an unstable career. So, I guess it’s just a case of things that happen to you when you’re little have an impact on the rest of your life, which in turn makes for fantastic narratives. Like for instance, I’ve always been scared of the dark and that stems from bedtimes when I was a kid—anyone who’s read the prologue to Of Darkness and Light will see that I’m drawing on memories of imagining what might be out there lurking in the darkness when you’re a child. I was bullied at school, which also crops up in stories from time to time, particularly bullies getting their comeuppance in whatever form. Sometimes it’s intentional but I think a lot of it is just swirling around in your brain and it’s whatever makes for a good jumping off point for the tale you’re working on at the time. Whatever’s going to work best.
When you need a book to read, where do you go? Do you read ebooks, do you have a local second-hand bookshop (M. R. Jamesian antiquarian?) or do you have Leaning Towers of Pisa stacked around your house waiting to be devoured?
When I was in my teens there used to be a fantastic second-hand bookstore in Mansfield I’d visit, but there don’t seem to be as many of those around anymore sadly—at least not nearby for me. I still have a lot of books I bought from there and on holidays at the coast, though; our house is chock-full of paperbacks and hardbacks all over, you can imagine what it was like when Marie and I—two collectors—got together and put our book hoards together under one roof! These days, like everyone else, I end up in Waterstones or wherever, or looking on ebay or ABE Books for rare stuff I might not have. I’m not a big fan of Kindles or reading on my phone—I’m quite jealous of people who enjoy doing that, as it would free up a lot of space in our home. But there’s just something about reading an actual book, having it in your hands in front of you… And I think it’s to do with the fact I’m reading or writing on a screen all day as well. When I relax with a book, which is usually at bedtime, I like to disconnect from the work side of things by reading words on an actual printed page.
Name an underappreciated novel that you love.
Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells. I’ve talked a lot about this before in interviews, but we basically read the novel for English classes at school and it had such an effect on me it probably directly led to my writing so much about post-apocalyptic worlds. It almost certainly influenced the Hooded Man novels, along with epics like The Stand by Stephen King. This one’s only short, however, and what would be classified as YA now probably, because the protagonist is in his teens and it deals with his experiences after a nuclear war. But it’s also a fascinating exploration of family ties, loss, loyalty, and just a good tale well told. I’d recommend it to anyone, young, old, or in-between. You might need a hanky, though.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
I tend to write a lot on my laptop on the couch these days, as it’s only myself and Marie at home. I can spread out all my research and such around me, it’s nice and quiet so I can just get on with my work. I tend to stick to office working hours, as I used to work in journalism back in the ’90s so got into that routine before switching to writing fiction full-time—although even now I keep my hand in doing some articles and reviews. Not many, but some. I just recently did a short piece on the Hellraiser theatrical sequels for Phantasmagoria magazine, but essentially my time’s taken up with writing and editing prose at the moment. I’m juggling several books at different stages, so that keeps me plenty busy.
What’s your favourite writing snack or drink? Do you play music while you write—and, if so, what’s your favourite?
I don’t snack, really… maybe some fruit in the afternoons, but I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth or anything. I do make lots of tea in the day for us both to give myself short breaks. I start off with coffee in the morning, then switch to herbal teas around midday so I don’t have too much caffeine. Marie just has ordinary tea throughout the day. I can usually sense when it’s time to make her another cuppa. As for music, I can’t write fiction while that’s on—I need to have peace and quiet to hear the words in my head—but strangely I can edit and do non-fiction while it’s playing. I like all kinds of music, my playlist is very eclectic. At the moment a lot of songs in our house are being played from The Greatest Showman.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
Just relaxing, a nice night in watching some TV or a movie with Marie, especially as the nights are drawing in. We’ve started having a meal and a few drinks if we sign a deal, just to celebrate. I think that’s important because it’s always an achievement when you do that. I remember when I first started writing, thinking I’d never get anything published, so every little win is cherished in this game. Fortunately we’re spoilt for choice where we live now, in terms of places to eat and drink. Indian, Italian, Chinese… and the all-important, for me anyway, real ale pubs!
When was the last time you Googled yourself and what did you find?
That sounds disgusting, I… Oh, I see what you mean! I don’t look myself up that much at all, unless it’s to see if there might be any reviews or whatever of the latest books. This year with the three anthologies, Twice Cursed, The Other Side of Never and In These Hallowed Halls, we’ve been featured on a lot of sites, or have just been tagged in posts, so I’ve tried to keep up to date with all that and share them or put them in the news sections of my Shadow Writer site—which incredibly has been running about 20 years or so now! I do know there are some of my quotes from various interviews floating around out there, which is a weird thing to me—putting little snippets of things I’ve said with a calming picture in the background or what have you. But perhaps they’ll be of interest to some folk, writing advice and such. I hope so, anyway.
Are you active on social media? How do you use it?
I’m fairly active on Facebook, Twitter—or X or whatever it’s called this week—Instagram, Mastodon, Bluesky… I usually put up what we’re watching or just work-related stuff. I never know how interested people are in what we’re doing—working on, reading or watching—because writing’s such an isolated thing. But then when we go to conventions, like we did to FantasyCon in Birmingham recently, and talk to people they always say ‘Oh, we watched such and such after seeing you posting about it, and loved it!’ So that’s nice, as we’ve had so many things recommended to us in the past that we’ve enjoyed. Even some that have become favourites. Of course, everyone likes different things so what we’ve loved other people might have hated, but that’s the same with anything. Music, sport… everyone has different tastes.
What do the words “literary success” mean to you? How do you picture it?
I try not to think about it. It’s such a subjective thing, and means different things to different people. I know I’m very fortunate to be making a living from my writing or from writing-related things, because not everyone can, but as I say I used to work in journalism so that transition wasn’t too difficult for me. I was used to being paid for an article or review, whether it was working for a newspaper or freelancing for magazines, so in my head writing fiction was like an extension of that. It took a while to build that side of it all up, which I did in the small presses first—but then when the mass market stuff started kicking in, things got a bit easier. I used to teach part-time as well, Film Studies at college, or writing and painting/drawing classes out in the community, sometimes privately, so that supplemented my income, but I saw it all as being part and parcel of the creative work. Not to mention helping folk, getting a kick out of seeing them develop; a lot of my writing students went on to be published, or award-winners, which was very gratifying.
Who has been the biggest supporter of your writing?
There have been loads over the years, it’s a case of how long’s a piece of string! A writer and editor called John B. Ford was one of the first people to take my fiction and take me under his wing. He invited me to some of my first gatherings of writers and there I met bestselling author Simon Clark, who was always giving me advice and is still a good friend today. I was delighted to see his second novel Blood Crazy get another outing through Darkness Visible Publishing and a launch at FCon. Clive Barker as well when I started working for the British Fantasy Society as Special Publications Editor, and of course after I wrote The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, which led to a long friendship and several projects working together. He famously and very generously gave us permission to do the Hellbound Hearts anthology, as well as writing the foreword, then looked over and approved Servants of Hell after that. He was very complimentary about my writing, which I’ve always appreciated. There are just so many people, if I start listing folk I’ll forget someone—but they all know who they are, and I’m truly grateful. In all honesty, my biggest supporter in the genre has always been Marie—and vice versa. We met because I’d read her stories and asked her to be a Guest Writer on my site, so we get each other and the whole crazy writing thing. We’ve co-edited so many anthologies together now that we have a shorthand, and it all works wonderfully. I love doing those with my better half, which is a good job as we have at least three more lined up currently.
Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?
I’m struggling here because I’ve done so many interviews that I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t said or disclosed in those, in fact I’m probably repeating myself a lot in this one. Just a consequence of having been on the scene for nearly 30 years… Actually, I can tell you that I’m planning on doing something special to celebrate three decades of being a writer, in the same way I did when we brought out the Shadow Casting hardback from SST in 2016. I can’t say what it is exactly, but I’ve started doing research and outlines and I know precisely what the cover is going to be. In a sense, it’s going to be bringing things back full circle. I just need to find time to put it all together.
Last but not least, are more dark reflections making an appearance in the future?
Oh, undoubtedly. But seeing as the first collection took about 20 years to write and compile, I wouldn’t hold your breath to see it anytime soon. I’ve already started doing more tales in the vein of ‘The Grey Room’—one for that general collection I was talking about. So those might end up being a separate collection themselves at some point. It’s the same with all the series I have on the go, there’ll be more Scary Tales – indeed, there are already two stories for the second volume done—more Monsters books, although the latest has only just come out from St Rooster called Even More Monsters. More Nailbiter books hopefully, which are my crime/psychological collections… Whenever I have enough stories for a themed collection, I’ll bring one out. That’s how I’ve been working for a good while now, and how I’ll probably carry on working till I drop off the perch.
Thanks for the taking the time to answer these questions, Paul. Not long to go now before Dark Reflections casts a delightful shadow over the festive season!
Paul Kane is the award-winning (including the British Fantasy Society’s Legends of FantasyCon Award 2022), bestselling author and editor of over a hundred books—such as 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, Wonderland (a Shirley Jackson Award finalist) 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 and 2018, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, Black Library Live and the UK Ghost Story Festival in 2019 and 2023, plus the WordCrafter virtual event 2021—where he delivered the keynote speech—as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he has also served as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association and co-chaired ChillerCon UK in May 2022. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his novelette “Men of the Cloth” was turned into a feature by Loose Canon/Hydra Films, starring Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, You’re Next): Sacrifice, released by Epic Pictures/101 Films. His audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). He has also contributed to the Warhammer 40k universe for Games Workshop. Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the YA story The Rainbow Man (as PB Kane), the sequels to RED—Blood RED & Deep RED; all compiled in an omnibus from Hellbound—the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell, Before (an Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller), Arcana and The Storm. In addition he writes thrillers for HQ/HarperCollins as PL Kane, the first of which, Her Last Secret and Her Husband’s Grave (a sellout on both Amazon and Waterstones.com), came out in 2020, with The Family Lie released the following year. Paul lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Catriona Ward, Dean Koontz, Olivie Blake and Guillermo del Toro.