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, 26 March 2012

Just In Case. A Moving Experience...

It's finally over!
The last box has been emptied, its contents sifted through and questions such as, 'Why did I keep that? What was I thinking of?' answered with, 'Well there must have been a good reason. I know, I'll hang onto it - Just In Case.'
You see, I haven't really emptied the last box. Only the last of the ones I intend to open. As always when the packing started, I proceeded with the usual good intentions of a mammoth clear-out, ditching all the useless and the redundant, downsizing to the essentials of around 1000 books, 600 or so DVDs, around 450 CDs etc.
But I failed to allow for Just In Case.
Just In Case is that little voice that stays your hand at the very second you are about to do the sensible thing and throw that wobbly occasional table into the back seat of your car, along with all the other useless stuff destined for the council rubbish tip. 
'Hang on a minute,' it says, 'what if you get an unexpected visit from the entire victorious Welsh Rugby team? You'll be glad of that then. Best hang onto it. Just In Case.'
I surveyed the collection of glassware accumulated by my husband and I before we found each other and our lives (and clutter) joined together. Not only do we have duplicates of everything, we have triplicates, quadruplicates, octuplets. 
Myriads of wine glasses jockey for position with a sea of highball glasses, beer name it. If we lived three lifetimes and broke a glass every day for a generation or more, we could never use them all. There is nowhere to put them, so why keep them? 
'I know, I'll send a load to the charity shop,' I decided. I even had the ideal box to put them in. Until...
'Oh, hang on a minute, what if one of the removal men drops one of the boxes containing all the best glasses? I'll kick myself if I have to go out and buy more when I could have hung onto these. I know, I'll keep them for now. Just In Case.'
Time and again my good intentions were thwarted by Just In Case - who seems to have morphed into a real-life villain (male of course). Justin Case is alive and well.
And that, dear reader, is how, far from actually emptying all of them, we have ended up with a shedload of sealed boxes, stacked like a row of  slightly wobbly skyscrapers. There they sit, in splendour, behind a closed door, never to see the light of day. Until the next move of course, whereupon, my downsizing fervour will no doubt reassert itself and I will proceed, grim-lipped, to do battle once again with Justin Case. 
Justin Case - the enemy of decluttering
I can see him, rolling up his sleeves already, his arms extended and his hands beckoning. A leer cracks his face from ear to ear.
'Bring it on!' he urges, as I cower helplessly in a corner.

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.'

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Sunshine Award on a Sunny Spring Day!

My lovely writer friend, Susan Rosebuck, has given me a Sunshine Award.
She is the author of the stunning Perfect Score - a moving story of two young men from very different backgrounds, the passion and struggles they face. If you haven't read it yet, prepared to be hooked from the first page!

In line with the rules of The Sunshine Award, here are ten things that make me smile:

1. A perfect rainbow set against a leaden sky (saw one once across the M62 motorway near Huddersfield. Awesome!)
2. My cat Mimi, purring
3. Kittens (I just melt)
4. Landing at Schwechat Airport in Vienna
5. Sunset over the sea or on the Nile
6. Watching Richard Hawley in concert
7. A really good Margaux
8. Finishing my edits and feeling the story really works
9. Anthony Gormley's 'Another Place' installation on Crosby beach (known colloquially as The Iron Men)
10. This lovely walk down by the river in Hay on Wye

OK, now I'm passing this on to some other lovely writer friends:

Monday, 5 March 2012

E-Books Get Their Own Reading Week!

Well, it had to happen - and it's about time. This week is officially 'Read an E-Book Week'.
I started my E-Book life with a Sony ereader and now have a Kindle - without which I would be lost. What did I do before it? Like most bibliophiles, I carted heavy books around. I'm guessing that my right shoulder is somewhat lower than my left as a result of the extra weight it has had to carry around all these years. Now though, I can just fish out my lightweight Kindle while I'm waiting for trains, buses, appointments - or my husband!

Then, of course, there's the space-saving element. Currently in the throes of a major house move, I am all too aware that most of the boxes I'm packing are filled with books. I just hope we can squeeze them all in at the other end.

Not that I'm about to ditch all those wonderful printed books we have amassed over the years. They are far too precious and there is still nothing like the thrill of opening a new book, the smell of the pages, the relaxation of curling up on the sofa, latest Stephen King in hand, glass of red wine on the coffee table. Bliss...

But there is simply no denying that, for sheer convenience, the E-Book is a welcome invention and, frankly, anything that gets people reading has got to be a Good Thing, hasn't it?

I am a little behind with my E-Book reading (well, a lot if I'm honest). Sue Swift's latest 'Lord Devere's Ward' (see my interview Sue Swift) and Aubrie Dionne's A Hero Rising (A New Dawn) are next on my list and I must make a special mention of Peter Giglio's gripping 'A Spark in The Darkness' - a must for all horror fans. I enjoyed that story so much, I went onto read 'Anon', his earlier book about corporate terror. Brilliant! And while we're on the subject of horror, if you haven't read 'Diavolino' and 'Kid' by Steve Emmett, load up your Kindle or Nook book now. You won't regret it. And let's not forget Kiran Hunter, Julia Kavan, K. W. Taylor, Susan Roebuck. The list goes on. All great writers with whom to spend a happy few hours.

 So many E-Books - so little time. Enjoy 'Read an E-Book Week' - and share your joys with me here