Website: Shadow-writer

Paul Kane Born in 1973 in Derbyshire, Paul Kane has written six other fantasy/horror collections, including Touching The Flame, The Lazarus Condition and  Funnybones. His novels include The Arrowhead Trilogy.  He has worked as a writer, editor, lecturer, artist and illustrator. He is also involved in film adaptations of his stories.

Short Story Collections

The Butterfly Man and Other Stories
(P S Publishing, 2011)

reviewed by Sue Haigh

Shadow Writer

Peripheral Visions

The Shadows Trilogy

Dalton Quayle and the Temple of Deadly Danger

Master of the White Worms (2003)

Funny Bones (2003)

Touching the Flame

Alone (2001) 

Interview with Paul Kane

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Paul Kane: The stories were written over a period of about five or six years, give or take. One of the earliest from it, Windchimes, which is a very subtle but disturbing ghost story about the loss of a child, was first published in an anthology called Read By Dawn about three or four years ago. Various others have been published in anthologies (One for the Road was published in Darc Karnivale, The Suicide Room in Voices, Masques in the Poe inspired anthology Return of the Raven) and magazines, such as Estronomicon (Life-o-Matic and the award-winning A Chaos Demon is For Life) and Necrotic Tissue (Speaking in Tongues). But there are also a fair few new tales written quite recently, like the Sherlock Holmes adventure The Greatest Mystery or the title story itself The Butterfly Man. That last one was actually inspired by a piece of artwork I saw by Dominic Harman when I was co-editing The British Fantasy Society: A Celebration and myself and my wife Marie were looking for covers to use. It was a picture of a woman with butterfly wings. When I told Dominic this, he changed the sex of the person in the painting and very kindly let us use the piece as the cover for the collection. It sort of brought things round full circle.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

PK: As this is now my seventh collection, it’s inevitable that I write short stories with one eye on them being brought together at some point. But that doesn’t affect the writing of them as individual stories, I don’t think. I still wrote my sequel to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with only Festive Fear in mind at the time, and for it to be the best story I could write for that anthology. Having said that, if editors take the stories it also gives them a certain credibility and tells you that maybe they’re worthy of being reprinted in a collection along with other tales that you’ve written.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

PK: When I first approached PS about the collection, Peter Crowther told me that he’d be looking at the book being in the region of 80,000 wds – so that was my cut-off point. Luckily, that was roughly the wordcount of the reprint and new material I had gathered together – basically everything since my previous collection Peripheral Visions came out – so it was fine. In the end, we also added a bonus short story in the form of my first accepted short, The Cave of Lost Souls, which hasn’t been reprinted since 1998, plus author notes for all the stories in the collection. The order of the stories was very much what we thought would work best, making sure the more serious ones were spaced out, that we didn’t put two with black humour in too close together. I also think that the opening One for the Road leads you into the collection fairly gently, and then by the end you’re getting some of the more harder edged offerings like Rag & Bone so it gets more intense the further on you read, building to a climax with Keeper of the Light

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

PK: Stories are all around us, all the time. In fact our lives are a series of interconnected stories we share with other people, drifting in and out. Sometimes we’re the main characters, sometimes just bit-part players. I think they’re a way of looking at and commenting on life, too, or trying to make sense of it at any rate. Inspirations can come from anywhere and everywhere: a snatch of conversation; something you read in the paper; a strange saying... I always carry a hardback notebook around with me to jot stuff down, otherwise I’d forget it, and I often flip through these for ideas. But in terms of fiction stories themselves, I think it comes down to believable, credible characters – people we can root for, or against – coupled with original plots, even if it’s a new spin on something already done, and descriptions that make the reader feel like they’re really there, experiencing the events. Hopefully I’ve managed to do that with the stories in Butterfly Man

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

PK:  No one specific kind of person, as I’ve found that people from all walks of life, with all kinds of interests, like to read my work. It also seems to attract people of different age ranges as well, from the younger end of the market to people in their 70s and 80s, which is a really nice spread. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that you don’t really know what you’re going to get when you pick up a Paul Kane story? Hopefully be entertained and carried along, but also surprised as well. I initially write for my wife Marie and my daughter Jen. Marie’s my first reader and will always let me know whether something works or not, because she’s a hell of a talented writer herself. And I know Jen will read the stories after publication and reads very widely, so I try and make it the best fiction I can. Other than that, I think you should always write what you would want to read yourself, if you were picking the book up to buy. 

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

PK: Just whether they’d enjoyed it really. I hope so, because that’s what you want all your readers to say. I’d probably also ask which were their favourite stories in it and why...

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

PK: It feels great. I’m very privileged that I get to write for a living. My dad was a miner and worked down pits all his life, so compared to that kind of work I’m incredibly lucky. There’s no feeling in the world like meeting people who’ve read your books, or getting feedback on Facebook or by mail. One reviewer actually posted on my wall today ‘I've just passed the halfway mark of Butterfly Man, no one should be able to write so well’, which made my day. 

TSR: What are you working on now?

PK: Writing-wise not a great deal as Marie and I are getting ready for FantasyCon, the convention we’re chairing together. It’s been a massive amount of work, as you might imagine, and we’re looking at about 500 people attending over the course of the weekend. Probably not such a surprise though when you consider our guests are the likes of World Fantasy Award-winner Gwyneth Jones, Bestselling fantasy author Joe Abercrombie, bestselling author of Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Hollywood scriptwriter Peter Atkins, YA sensation and author of Eragon Christopher Paolini, OBE and SF legend Brian Aldiss, with British Fantasy Award-winner Sarah Pinborough as MC.
   Before things got too hectic with this over the summer, I finished off a novel which is a little different for me, and that’s with a publisher right now. I also did a sequel to Dead Time, which was filmed by Lionsgate as New Year’s Day and screened by NBC as part of their Fear Itself primetime series.
   In terms of stuff out recently, as well as Butterfly Man there’s The Adventures of Dalton Quayleout from Mundania, a tenth anniversary limited combined edition of Alone (In the Dark) and Touching the Flame called Shadow Writer, out from Mansion House Books, plus a collection of four novellas called Pain Cages from Books of the Dead.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

PK: Tim Lebbon’s Last Exit for the Lost published by Cemetery Dance, William F. Nolan’s Kincaid: A Paranormal Casebook from Rocket Ride Books, and The Gravedigger’s Tale by Simon Clark, published by Robert Hale. All three were excellent, highly recommended. I’m also looking forward to reading Long Shadows, Nightmare Light by Mark Morris and Red Gloves by Christopher Fowler, both out soon from the publisher of Butterfly Man, PS.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>