Sunday 26 June 2016

GUEST POST: Confessions of my Past, Present and Future #38 - Paul Flewitt

Confessions of my Past, Present and Future


Paul Flewitt

The Past

Who here (if you’re from the UK, that is) remembers the Brittania Music and Video Club?

This was a scheme that would send out catalogues of records (remember those?) and videos that were recently released. One of my earliest and most vivid memories was leafing through that catalogue with my cousins. I couldn’t have been very old. The catalogue was split into sections; western, romance, horror… This was the 80’s and the horror section was one that I would return to, just to look at the pictures. One image that was branded onto my memory was that of a mean looking dude with nails driven into his head. That one image gave my little-boy nightmares, but it was an image that has stuck with me for a long time. Is it strange that I now view the Hellpriest as one of my best friends?
But … I’m getting ahead of myself here (as writers are often wont to do). The story really begins here…

Books and reading have always played a big part in my life from such a young age that I can barely remember a time in my life when I haven’t had a stack of books, waiting to be read.

My father, throughout my childhood was a hobby-writer, penning short stories and poems whenever the mood took him. He was an avid reader and had a large collection of books which I would routinely raid myself. It’s my dad that can probably take responsibility for my writing, because he would encourage me to imagine.

English was always my subject at school. I could read books beyond my years from a very young age and grasped the many vagaries of the English language with relative ease. Hardly surprising, given that there were times in my childhood when we didn’t own a TV and a games console was but a dream and fantasy for me. There were times when books were literally my only form of entertainment.

The first books I remember as receiving for my own were a box set of Beatrix Potter classics, bought by my parents for me. I have to say, they all provided literally minutes of entertainment before I’d read them all, but I return to them even now with my own children. I love the innocence of them and the quite obvious life-lessons they provide. My personal favourite; Squirrel Nutkin, I could read over and over… and have.

Another set of books that entered my life and never really left were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. I was enthralled from book one and lived the adventures as if I were with them on Kirrin Island. My favourite was always Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, which is perhaps the darkest book in the series and possibly informs my future tastes as both a reader and writer.

As I went into secondary school, I began to find my own books and one was a certain book of children’s horror, the name of which I can’t remember. However, it contained a story called Video Nasty; by Phillip Pullman which I read over and over. If memory serves, it was about two boys who find a snuff film and decide to find out the where’s and why-fore’s of what had gone on in the video. A rather dark tale for a kid of eleven, but it gave me a real appetite for the dark matter that I would devour with such appetite later.

Back to my dad again. He noticed that I was beginning to read “older” books and stories, so he dug out his collection of fantasy. And so, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings entered my life. I remember I was eleven and it took me several attempts to get through the whole trilogy (because the bastard never told me I didn’t really need to read all the appendices…) but when I did, it was with a sense of achievement. I lived in Middle-Earth throughout my reading of the trilogy, enraptured by the totality of creation which existed within those pages. Next I read the Shannara Chronicles (Terry Brooks) and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson) but it was always Lord of The Rings that took up a place within my young psyche. It’s a book I often return to, along with The Hobbit and the various Lays and poems. I’m looking forward to experiencing them once again soon, this time through the eyes of my own children.

Later on in school and I discovered Stephen King. Skeleton Crew was the first King book that I remember reading, given to me by a neighbour. I read it in one or two days and felt instantly at home. I ate up all of his early works; Carrie, It, The Stand, The Shining… you know the ones. I was hooked. But there was a catch. After several books, I noticed a formula creeping into his work. Soon, I was falling out with King and looking for new writers; darker writers. Herbert, Laymon, Koontz, Campbell, Masterton… all of them were devoured in my search for something. I didn’t know what, but I felt I was looking for something.

I found it when I was fourteen and a close family friend thrust a very small book into my hands and just winked. I dived in as soon as he’d left and didn’t come up for air for the rest of the day. The book was the first volume of Books of Blood, by Clive Barker, and I was lost. Here I’d found what I was groping in the dark for. Here was a writer who unlocked doors in my mind that I’d had no idea were closed until I read that book. Of course, I needed to read more so I tracked down his works and read everything that I could. Imajica is probably my favourite of all of his works (although Great and Secret Show and Everville are certainly strong competitors), melding fantasy and horror with such style that I was left gasping. I’d found, finally, my touchstone author.

The Present

The present; that’s today, right?

I guess I should start by what was in my hands most recently. I’m currently reading Matt Hickman’s Jeremy, a great little horror about an eleven-year-old kid which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Over the last few years I’ve been writing for a living, which is something of a minefield, but it has huge benefits for a reader. One thing is that it affords me the time and the opportunity to read more “new writers.” I’ve had the pleasure of being among the first to read bits and pieces from Michael Bray, Matt Shaw, Alex Laybourne and others … sometimes before they go to print. It’s a hell of a privilege and one that I do not take lightly. I’ve discovered some truly awesome writers, far too many to list here, but I would certainly urge anyone reading this to delve into the indie market and find those gems before they’re discovered.

There are a lot of us out here.

This aside, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff I missed when I was growing up, or just never bothered to read because I was so immersed in the darker writers. Most recently I delved into Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, followed by Dante’s Inferno. Soon, I’ll be reading George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series since I missed it when it was first released and only recently succumbed to the Game of Thrones fandom. I’ve also read the complete works of George Orwell, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G.Welles … all the stuff I probably should’ve read years ago. It’s been quite a journey and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m also on a mission of broadening my tastes; so writers like Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin and Bernard Cornwell have now found places on my shelves. Some writers, like Agatha Christie, I dismissed out of hand when I was a kid. Not so now. There is almost nothing that I won’t read. I learn something from every book I delve into, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. It’s not just about the learning curve for me, but it is a great bi-product of reading.

The Future

Ah, the future; that great unknowable sea that we all fear to swim and yet all are doomed to drown in.

To guess what might happen to me in the future, I should really address my most recent past. I have published several short stories which appear in anthologies and also have my debut full-length work; Poor Jeffrey available on Amazon. The last three years have been a huge learning curve, mistakes have been made and amidst those mistakes, some small triumphs too. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the business of being a writer and only now do I feel armed to take this thing forward.

Currently, I’m writing a piece for Steve Dillon’s Refuge Collection. At the same time, I’m also penning a novella for Matt Shaw’s Black Cover strand (something he challenged me to write last year and that I’ve toyed with ever since, but never quite got right). Speaking of Matt Shaw; he is currently working with me to negotiate the self-publishing market, which is something I never felt qualified to attempt before. Matt is probably the most helpful and supportive author in the indie market and I will not forget his support for me as time marches inexorably on.

In the far-flung future? Who knows? I don’t rule anything out. I foresee that I’ll be doing much the same as I currently do; which is write stories that I would like to read, in the hope that people “out there” agree with me. That’s what I do really, not trying to reinvent any wheels or on a search for something “new,” just write the kinds of stories I want to read … what greater ambition can there possibly be?

You can buy any of Paul’s books here.

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Paul Flewitt was born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire where he still lives with his family. He is the father of two children and keeper of several beta reading demons.

Paul is a writer of horror and dark fantasy, and a former steel worker. He has contributed to several anthologies including OzHorrorCon's Book of the Tribes, his short story "Paradise Park" appears in the Thirteen vol 3 anthology.
Paul's debut novel Poor Jeffrey will be relaunched in April 2016.

Paul spends his time caring for his children and devotes much of his free time to writing his next works. He writes only for the thrill of scaring his readers in new and inventive ways.

And for more about Paul, visit his site or find him on social media:

Facebook – Twitter – Goodreads – Amazon Page

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