Thursday 29 March 2012

Picking The Paranormal - Keith Pyeatt

My guest today is fellow paranormal author, Keith Pyeatt, whose books are scary, original and unputdownable. I love them!

Here he talks about his writing and how his books have evolved. Over to you Keith:
My novels are hard to pigeonhole, but each one is driven by a strong paranormal element. I like the freedom a paranormal element gives my imagination to come up with unusual threats and creative ways to torment my poor characters. The result is that my novels are a bit...different, which is never more apparent to me than when I hear from old friends who I haven't been in contact with for years. After they get around to telling me they enjoyed reading one of my novels, there's a pause. Then they ask something along the line of, "What kind of weird crap happened to you after you left Texas?"

Strangers and newer friends and acquaintances tend to be more subtle, but the gist of the question I'm asked more than any other is the same: "How do you get ideas for your novels?"
Keith Pyeatt and - friends

My short and snappy answer is to say I'm a scary guy. Maybe I'll make a face to prove it (or make them suspect that I'm also insane), but if someone seems genuinely interested in knowing, my answer is that I start by picking the paranormal. I also pick a broad theme, usually something I can define with one word, like "confusion" or "addiction" or "imagination." I pair up various combinations and see what excites me.

For example, for my most recent release, Above Haldis Notch, I chose the afterlife as the paranormal element, and I paired it with "vengeance" as the one word theme. I brainstormed ideas until I had something more specific, a premise.
 A spirit seeking vengeance against a group of people threatens to kill them and then destroy their souls.

Immediately I saw how I could play up the unusual threat. Not only must my hero protect the lives of her loved ones, she must protect the essence of life that's meant to live on after our bodies give out.  

Then I gave it a setting and began fleshing out my characters and their motivations until I had a developed concept. The hero, Jenna, would be a clairvoyant young mother who recently lost her own mother. Jenna is grieving, but she takes comfort in her clairvoyant certainty that spirits move on to something better. Then she discovers her mother's spirit, along with other departed loves ones, is being destroyed in the afterlife. Only Jenna is equipped to save them, but how? (I already know how at this point, but I'm not telling you. hehehe)

With a concept in mind, I defined my antagonist and protagonist, decided on a setting, added urgency, developed twists... Themes began presenting themselves, and everything worked together to help shape the characters, who shaped the novel... Tada!

See how smoothly that works? Another example: In my novel Struck, the paranormal element is a supernatural power thrust into a common man. The theme-in-a-word is "acceptance." I picked a fascinating setting, found my threats and challenges, and took off from there, much as I did in Above Haldis Notch, in a nice, smooth progression.

So all my ideas just grow effortlessly into novels, right? Wrong!
 Struck became too expansive in the writing of it, and I had to pare down the story and throw away a huge chunk I'd already written.

In my novel Dark Knowledge, I didn't have to throw away written text, but there was plenty of re-plotting and re-outlining involved. I'd picked a personal fantasy world as the paranormal element and paired it with the broad theme "temptation." That pairing led me to create a mentally challenged protagonist with a scary world in his mind that lured him in by offering him the thing he desired the most: intellect. So far, so good. But this theme of "good and bad together" -- highlighting how in life we can't always separate the two things and so must accept the bad with the good -- popped into my head before I finished chapter 1, and I couldn't shake it out. It changed my entire plans for the novel.
 In both cases above, I'm glad the novels changed, because I love the results. Complications happen. Ideas evolve. Unseen opportunities (or problems) suddenly stand up and wave their arms. So I can't always control how I go from a germ of an idea to a premise to a full fledged concept with a theme (or two) running through it, but I always start by picking the paranormal.

Now you know the long answer to the short question about how I come up with my ideas. Aren't you lucky?

A million thanks to Catherine Cavendish for having me here (and for providing me with some excellent entertainment through her novellas). For more information about me or my novels, please visit my website or blog. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter, and I even have a newsletter you can sample.

Struck, Dark Knowledge, and Above Haldis Notch are available at online retailers, and a good way to find the format you need on a site you like is to start here.

Monday 19 March 2012

Stalking The 'Highgate Vampire'...

I am indebted to that amusing and informative magazine The Oldie for a fascinating piece in the latest (April) issue.
(l-r: Jean-Paul Bourre and David Farrant at Highgate Cemetery)
It concerns an eccentric character called David Farrant - a multi-published paranormal investigator and President of the British Psychic and Occult Society, which he founded.

Back in the early Seventies, he achieved a certain notoriety as he was said to have stalked a vampire allegedly haunting Highgate Cemetery in London. This he vehemently denies, claiming that he was investigating the existence of an infamous and widely reported ghost, said to haunt the place. Indeed, while he is the Founding President of The Highgate Vampire Society, he denies the existence of vampires! He says the press were responsible for creating the sobriquet, 'The Highgate Vampire'.

His activities in the Cemetery did, however, lead him into serious trouble and he ended up in court, accused of 'indecent behaviour likely to offend the Church'. He was charged with two counts of desecration as a result of activities associated with a seance held in a churchyard in Barnet, where a ghost had been reported, and received a custodial sentence of two and a half years. 

In the years since, he has consistently refuted all charges of wrongdoing, save one. In 1973, he sent two police officers voodoo effigies - stabbed with pins. It was his way of trying to protect someone he cared about who, he alleged, had been the victim of physical abuse by the officers concerned. He received a further two year sentence for this.

In 1974, David Farrant was accused of nude witchcraft rituals and, while in prison, allegedly ran a thriving Coven. His cellmate was a notorious axe murderer, who eventually came to fear him.

Challenged to 'duels'  by other occultists, finding out his scary neighbour was the mass murderer Dennis Nielsen, being accused of placing a hex on musician Joe Meek (which allegedly caused him to murder his landlady and then commit suicide), Farrant has led a colourful life. So colourful, it reads like a film script.

To this day, he continues to write books, articles and conduct investigations into the paranormal. Two volumes of his autobiography (In The Shadow of the Highgate Vampire and Out of the Shadows) are already published and he hasn't retired yet. Who knows what else we might hear from (or about) him? 

If you want to find out more, he has his own fascinating website/blog

 For now, I'll leave you with one final - anecdotal - incident:

In 1974, he was accused of removing a century old corpse from Highgate Cemetery, decapitating it and placing it behind the wheel of a Ford Cortina parked nearby. 

According to The Oldie, the driver observed: 'I should have known this would happen if I left my car unlocked.'