Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
As a youngster I lived very much inside my own imagination. I was an only child of two parents who argued a lot, and most days it just seemed preferable to me that I stay in my bedroom and read, or invent imaginative and terrible predicaments for my Action Men to get themselves out of. Many, many years later when I reached the grand old age of forty-eight, I finally found out the reason for all of my parents’ arguments, but that’s a story for another time.
This being back in the days when dinosaurs still ruled the earth and the wheel was little more than an unformed idea in the head of somebody cleverer than myself, there was no Xbox, no internet, no video games and only one television in the house with three channels on it. On some days, when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction we only had two channels.
So, especially during the long school summer holidays I would quite often spend the day exploring our local area. I was lucky, and we lived in an area which seemed uniquely set up to fire my imagination. There were abandoned, crumbling farmhouses to explore, paths to follow alongside gurgling streams of water, a disused quarry, even a couple of caves to nervously enter. Looking back now it was all a health and safety nightmare, obviously.
Add to that the history of witchcraft in the local area, and I was all set up to be a fan of the supernatural and horror from a young age.
When I wasn’t outside I was in my bedroom reading.
I read comics, books, telephone directories, cereal packets, hell if there was nothing else in the house I might even read my homework questions. Everything took second place to reading, especially school. (Years later when I finished secondary school I left with one O Level in Art. My hero, David Bowie, also left school with one O level in Art, but it seems our careers then took vastly different trajectories.)
So, books. I started with the ‘classics’ at an early age, working my way through the cannon of Stevenson, Wells and, um, Biggles. Oh, and Enid Blyton too. Once past The Lord of the Rings, which I have to say defeated me on my first couple of attempts (I always stalled at Rivendell for some reason) I then ‘graduated’ onto James Herbert, Guy N Smith and Stephen King.
Before I knew it I found out all I needed to know (and a whole lot more I didn’t at such a tender age) about sex, courtesy of James Herbert. The scene from The Fog involving the headmaster, the school gym and a pair of garden shears shall forever be burned into my psyche.
My mother never paid attention to what I was reading, but my dad borrowed all my books once I had read them. I did wonder if, once he had discovered the ‘smutty’ parts, he might take them from me, but no. To be honest he just seemed rather relieved he didn’t have to explain the whole sordid business to me himself.
Although Herbert was my favourite, Guy N Smith retains to this day the dubious honour of being the only horror author to make me cry out of fear, and Stephen King cultivated a fear of looking into mirrors so intense it lasted well into my twenties.
As I grew up I left James Herbert and Guy N Smith behind and moved onto other authors, but I still read Stephen King.
These days my reading habits are varied. I still love genre fiction. I’ve just been through a long splurge on crime books, especially the work of Lawrence Block, Michael Connelly and Joe R Lansdale. I have just read The Black Country by Kerry Hadley-Price, a dark, puzzling mystery which the further I delved into it the more it seemed to me to be a horror novel in all but name.
My writing is varied too. Reflecting my love of genre fiction my flagship series of books, Joe Coffin, is a combination of horror and crime. Set in my local city of Birmingham the Joe Coffin series of books are written episodic style in the TV format. Violent, profane, explicit, funny and fast paced, my aim was to write a book I would love to sit down and watch on television.
But I also write romances and young adult, and I have even written a Western.
What does the future hold in terms of reading and writing? I am constantly looking for new books to read that will excite me and spark my interest, engage me with the characters and in the narrative. The independent world of writing and publishing is on a boom right now and beginning to seriously mature. No more do we need to depend on the big publishing houses for our next favourite book, the field has been blown wide open.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
As for writing, there will be more Joe Coffin, more Planet of the Dinosaurs (a young adult series), more romance books and probably a few mashups of genres as well.
It’s funny, but as I sit here in my cellar writing this, and surrounded by books, it seems to me very little has changed since my childhood. I’m a married man now, with two boys and the many busy days that go with family life. But I still find time to be on my own and read or write.
Just like that young boy I once was, I still love to escape into my own imagination.
And I know I always will.
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Growing up, Ken Preston never wanted a proper job, and now he sits in his converted cellar, telling lies for a living, whilst being distracted by his two cats, Lily and Luther.
He is the author of a wide range of genre novels, from zombie/cowboy mash-up Population:DEAD! to his YA pirate adventure, The Devil and Edward Teach, and contemporary horror serial, Joe Coffin.
He also writes a series of romantic thrillers, but don't tell anyone.
Pop over to his website to check out more books and for news on the latest releases, or just to say "Hi!", and find out how you could be getting free short stories delivered to your inbox every month.
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