Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Paul Flewitt

Meghan: Hi, Paul. It’s a pleasure to have you here today. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Paul Flewitt: First and foremost, thanks for hosting me on your blog. It’s great to be here.

I’m Paul Flewitt, and I’m a horror and dark fantasy writer (why does that always sound like an AA meeting intro?)

I live in Sheffield, UK, am married to a wonderful wife and have two amazing children. I love rock music, playing pool and hanging with friends. I guess I’m just a normal guy… I just have a bit of a screwed up imagination… honest.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Paul Flewitt: Wow. Five things people don’t know about me?

These questions are always kinda difficult, because I tend to be a pretty open and honest person (probably sometimes too much so,) so its pretty hard to think of anything anyone might not have already heard. So, I’ll endeavor to try.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and reading the bible at a young age has sometimes coloured the stuff I write, whether that be the lunatic preacher in my first novel or the demon, Jezriel, from my short story, Climbing Out.

I have never broken a bone in my body, but that is probably more by luck than management.

People often think I’m an unfeeling asshole, but I’m actually pretty sensitive and if people are hurting, I hurt too.

I recently was diagnosed as suffering from acute anxiety, which is something I battle every day.

I am a complete technophobe. If I need to figure anything technological, I need my wife to hold my hand and go in first.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Paul Flewitt: That’s another tough one because I remember reading from a very young age. My Dad was an avid reader and encouraged me to read everything, almost as soon as I could talk. Probably the first book I can remember is a collection of children’s fairytales and poetry. I can’t remember its title, but I read “There Was a Crooked Man” over and over. That is one that sticks in my mind along with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books. I’m sure there are other books and stories that I read as a kid, but those are the ones that really stick in my mind.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Paul Flewitt: I’m re-reading Clive Barker’s Abarat books. They are the only books by him that I haven’t read repeatedly, so I am putting that right. I’ve also been on a bit of a secret society kick lately, so I’ve been reading a lot of books about The Priory of Scion, The Illuminati, The Freemasons, and Rosicrucians. It’s not that I believe in their theology or theories, but the way they are formed and the psychology involved in their membership is interesting to me.

I’m also reading Clive Barker’s biography by Douglas E. Winter and doing some research in preparation for a thing I’m writing.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Paul Flewitt: I’m sure there are plenty. I read pretty much everything I can get my hands on, so nothing should really come as a surprise. I suppose people might be surprised to learn that I enjoy Bernard Cornwell books; his Sharpe series and Last Kingdom books are phenomenal. I like Ellis PetersCadphael books and Brian JacquesRedwall stories too. I have no problem reading kids’ books, YA books, historical fiction or pretty much anything else. I appreciate well written stories, no matter who they’re aimed at.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Peter Flewitt: This is another “It was Dad’s fault” questions I’m afraid.

My Dad was a hobbyist writer and poet as well as a voracious reader, so I suppose it was inevitable that he would encourage my brothers, sister and I to try our hands at it. I always had a natural ability with words and telling stories, so I always have done it to one extent or another. I enjoyed it when my English teacher set us a creative writing assignment and I could let loose with my imagination. Often I would rush through work in lessons so that I could just write a story or a poem, which my teachers would allow me to do. So, I have always written to some degree, for as long as I can remember.

As far as writing for print, I was out of work for a while during the last global financial crisis and my wife got sick of me rattling around the house while looking for a job. The job market where I live was awful at the time and I was really struggling, so my wife suggested I write something and see if I could get published. I didn’t really take it seriously, but I did as she suggested and wrote a couple of short stories. I joined an online writing group, which is where I met my editor. She read what I’d written and encouraged me to submit them for publishing. I did that and both were accepted; one was turned into my first novel. Because of those acceptances, my wife gave me a year to work at it and see what became of writing, and I haven’t been back to a day job since. I’ll be honest, I’ve been really lucky.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Paul Flewitt: Not really. I mean, I can’t seem to write in public so cafes and parks aren’t really an option; I get too easily distracted by stuff going on around me. I just sit on the sofa or at my desk with a pen and paper and scribble away until I have something. Pretty boring really… sorry!

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Paul Flewitt: Again, not really. I think possibly the quirkiest thing about my process is that I write all first drafts longhand. In this day and age of laptop computers, tablets and technology I notice less and less writers actually sit with a pen and paper and write, but to me that is where the magic is. I find I can flow better if I write longhand and watch the ink melting into the page. Yes, it is slower progress, but the final results are much better for me.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Paul Flewitt: There are many things about writing that I find challenging. Finishing a story is probably the main thing. I am my own harshest critic, and I have so many manuscripts languishing in a box unfinished because I lost the thread, because the quality of the story dipped or I just lost faith in the story. I call it “writer dysmorphia,” where you look at everything you write and decide it’s the worst thing in the world and you’re kidding yourself if you ever thought you were any good. I’ve spoken to a lot of writers, and many of them have the same thing. It’s something you just have to push through and ignore.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Paul Flewitt: I guess the politically correct answer to this would be my novel, Poor Jeffrey, or the thing I am currently writing. Instead, for me, it is a short story I wrote for Dean M. Drinkel’s Demonology anthology. I wrote a thing called Climbing Out, which was the story of a Nephilim escaping Hell and recounting his story as he literally climbed out of the Pit. For me, it’s a story that is the closest I have come yet to being the writer that I want to be.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Paul Flewitt: There are so many, for many reasons. You know those books that you read and don’t want to end? The ones where you reach the end of the story and are disappointed to the point of grief because you have to leave the world that the writer has created? That is the kind of thing that I want to write. Those are the writers that I hold as my benchmarks for success. The first book that got me like that was Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I felt at home in Middle Earth and I loved the people that inhabited it, and I never wanted to leave. Clive Barker has written many books that filled me with that feeling: Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, Cabal, Everville, Galilee. Barker is my favourite writer, and his work really speaks my language. At a time when I was getting a little jaded by horror books, Barker came along and lit a fire under my ass, so he will always be my guy.

Stephen King’s The Long Walk, The Stand, It, and Carrie are also books that transported me.

I never set out to write like anyone except myself, but reviewers have often likened my style to Clive Barker and Stephen King, which shocked me a little. Given that they are two of my favourites, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that people hear echoes of their voices in my own.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Paul Flewitt: For me, it’s making the unbelievable believable. If you can convince the reader that the fantasy that you’re creating is feasible, then they will follow you pretty much anywhere. Your characters, situations, world that you create have to be relatable to the reader, and then they’ll engage. Make the characters likeable, hateable, repulsive or loveable as you wish, but make the reader believe.

If a book leaves me with a sense that this weird, wacky and sometimes terrifying stuff could actually happen, that is when I know that it’s a good book. You get extra points if it leaves me looking over my shoulder for the antagonist to strike.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Paul Flewitt: Again, it’s about believability and relatability. If you see something of yourself in a character, then you can live vicariously through their written experience. All of the characters I write have characteristics that I have seen in someone I’ve met or walked past in the street. That’s not to say that I write friends and people I know into my books, I don’t. All my characters are composites of a lot of people and none, so if anyone sees themselves in my characters, it says more about you than me. Its about writing humanity in a way that can strike people as familiar.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Paul Flewitt: None of them really. Again, I don’t go out of my way to make my characters like anyone I know… not even myself. I mean, of course there will be echoes of me in all of the characters that I write. I am the writer and all of them come from me, so it would be weird if there wasn’t something of me in all of them… even the worst of them, but only an echo and nothing more.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Paul Flewitt: If its truly awful, I can be. I feel that, if you have no regard for the presentation of the cover, then there won’t be any regard for the story either. The cover is the first thing you see, and it has to be representative of the story within. With Poor Jeffrey I was very hands on with the creation of the cover. I gave Richard a very clear brief on what I wanted and he hit it out of the park, I have to say. It also has the advantage of being a real work of art which hangs in his studio. I will always insist on having a good deal of input into the cover art for my books. It has my name on it; it represents me and my work so it has to be right. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like too much of a diva hahaha.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Paul Flewitt: Many things about the industry, clearly. As a newbie writer, I had no idea that writing only comprises about ten percent of a writer’s time. I had no idea about promotion, blogging, and the amount of work that needs to be done away from the pen and paper. Really, publishing has been an eye-opener into what actually has to go into the production of a book. The great thing is that you never really stop learning.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Paul Flewitt: There have been a couple that were difficult for different reasons. The first would be one I call “The Mute Girl” scene from Poor Jeffrey. People that have read the book have highlighted it as a particularly hard hitting portion of the book, and I very nearly didn’t put it in because I wondered how it would be received. In the end, it went in because it was a scene that gave an insight into the mind of my antagonist, but it was a difficult one to write and edit.

The other one comes from a story I wrote for a pitched TV show called Fragments of Fear. My contribution was called Silent Invader, and dealt with a demon which haunts television and makes people commit atrocity. One of the scenes involves a mother murdering her children and her husband, which was another one that I struggled to write and very nearly didn’t put in.

Funny that both scenes are ones which involve violence against children… which probably says a lot about me.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Paul Flewitt: I wrote them hahaha. Seriously, this is a question I always struggle with because I don’t really analyse my stuff too closely. I suppose one difference is that I’m not trying too hard to be different. I just want to tell good stories, and if people see something different about them then that’s cool. I don’t go all out on gore, trying more to write characters that readers become invested in so that the situations they find themselves in become the horror, not the amount of blood that gets splashed around. One criticism that I have of some modern writers is that they go all out for shock value or disgust value, which is okay for them and they’ve got an audience for that kind of story. More power to them. Its just not the kind of story that I want to write. I want to write more in the classic mould, but for the modern era.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Paul Flewitt: I cheat. I come up with the title first, and everything flows from there. Okay, that’s not strictly true. I come up with a character first, and start to build the story about that character, and then I come up with the title. It tends to come pretty soon after beginning the story and the first one I come up with tends to be the one I go with.

Of course the title is all important, because it’s the thing that attracts the reader after the cover (assuming people are finding your work while browsing the shelves, whether physical or cyber.) It has to draw people in and intrigue, like a tag line or blurb.

How do I find the title? It’s a mystery even to me. It tends to be a phrase which seems to speak to the story and pops.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Paul Flewitt: Both, for different reasons. Short stories can be just as much a challenge as longer work, because you have to tell a complete story in a short space of time. You have to be disciplined and concise. You can’t introduce a character or side story just because it pops up and seems worthy of exploration like you can in a novel. The sense of achievement you get from a short story is just as fulfilling as a four-hundred page novel.

Conversely, a novel is a real commitment and a slog. It can represent years of work to get to the point of editing. That’s a lot of a person’s life to commit to a project. It’s a different kind of fulfillment, but still very profound.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Paul Flewitt: My stories are classic horror/dark fantasy of the 70’s and 80’s. As I’ve said previously, reviewers liken my stuff to Clive Barker and Stephen King and that is a quality that I have come to embrace after years of denial hahaha. If you like that kind of stuff, then there’s a good chance that you’ll like my work. I’ve written mostly short stories in anthologies, but they are all pretty easy to find on Amazon, as is my debut novel, Poor Jeffrey. I hope what people take away from my work is that they’ve experienced a good story. My ambition is to entertain people for a time, to take them away from the rigors of their lives for a time and offered a means of escape. If my stories achieve that for someone, then I’m a happy chappy.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Paul Flewitt: God no! No no no! If they didn’t make it into the book, then there’s a bloody good reason for that. Those scenes are consigned to the fiery pits of literary hell, never to be spoken of or recounted. Or… they might find their way into another story sometime… who knows?

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Paul Flewitt: Oh, I have several. I have a box full of manuscripts that have been abandoned because I lost the thread of them, and some of them have real potential. I delve into the box and pull out some of them every now and then, tickling at them to see if I can spark anything. There is a dark love story in there about a witch and a young guy, loosely based on the song Maggie May which has a lot of promise if I can ever get it right. There’s one called Architecture, which is a horror story about the homeless and also has a lot of promise. Another is called The Family Jeraboam, which was intended as a short story for Steve Dillon’s Refuge Collection, but kept on growing and became something quite different, and perhaps the most Barkerian thing I’ve ever written. All of them will see the light of day at some time.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Meghan: In the nearer future will be the first book in an intended trilogy: False Prophet. The finished book is with my editor, and has been for some time now. That’s an ambitious project that I’ve been playing with for three years, and is the reason that I haven’t released anything in quite a while. I have tried to concentrate on producing longer works instead of short stories. My issue is that I enjoy writing for anthologies to a brief, and I forgot how to say no for a while there.

After Prophet, I am currently working on a second book in the Poor Jeffrey world. People have been asking about it for some time, and I’ve been enjoying exploring those characters again. The sequel is tentatively titled The Last Testament of Del Foster, and is very much a sequel and a building of the themes from the first book.

I’ve also started writing the follow-up to Prophet, but that will take some time to complete because of the level of ambition in there. Its truly epic and calls on my love of Tolkien, epic Clive Barker, and Stephen Donaldson.

In short, you’ll be sick of seeing my face in the future. I have a lot to do.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Paul Flewitt: You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Paul Flewitt: Just to say thank you for having me on Meghan’s House of Books, and thanks to the readers out there who have read my stuff and shown patience while I get my head around these longer works. I know they’ve been a long time coming, but they are indeed coming. I’ll catch you all later!

Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.

In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.

In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.

In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.

Paul continues to work on further material.

He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.

You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…

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Poor Jeffrey

Grief drives people to extreme behaviour, and when Poor Jeffrey Kinsey is killed his friends go to some extreme lengths to bring him back… sometimes the magic works.

When Cal Denver comes to town and girls start to disappear, only to be found half eaten by an unidentifiable creature; some townsfolk will panic and flee… others will get angry or go insane.

For Tommy, Jade and Chloe the next few weeks will make them or break them… and a story begins… 

Poor Jeffrey; he never wanted death to be this way…