Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Paul Meloy.
Paul Meloy was born in 1966 in South London. He is the author of Islington Crocodiles and Dogs With Their Eyes Shut, and the forthcoming collection Electric Breakfast. His work has been published in Black Static, Interzone and a variety of award-winning anthologies. He lives in Devon with his family. The Night Clock is his long-awaited debut novel.
Click here to read Risingshadow's review of The Night Clock.
AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL MELOY
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I’m 49 years old. I live in Torquay in Devon with my family and work in an adolescent unit as a mental health nurse. I took a break from nursing for a year to renovate a huge old house and write, but I got restless and missed working so now I do part time shifts and write in my spare time.
- How did you become interested in speculative fiction? What can kind of fiction do you normally read?
An English teacher gave me a book by Harlan Ellison called The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart of The World when I was about seventeen. I was already reading quite widely and had discovered Bradbury, who I thought was wonderful, but Ellison’s rage and energy, and the sheer scope of his work, impaled me there and then. His unrelenting drive to create new things, new ways of writing, were the inspiration that still makes me try and surprise myself when I’m writing.
- Have any authors, stories or novels been a source of inspiration to you?
I guess I’ve just partly answered that question, but others include John Kennedy Toole, John Irving, Stephen King, Gerald Kersh, Graham Joyce, Mervyn Peake and many more. Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is my favourite book.
- Your debut novel, "The Night Clock" (Solaris Books, November 2015), is an intriguing speculative fiction novel that is set in the same world as some of your previous stories. What inspired you to write "The Night Clock"?
I wanted to begin drawing together the threads I had been developing throughout the stories and bring the characters together on a larger stage. I wanted to see how they got on. Night Clock was originally going to be a novella, but it soon dawned on me that there was a lot going on and a lot of places to go with it.
- Which do you prefer more - writing a novel or writing a short story?
I still enjoy short stories – I particularly feel comfortable with novella-length fiction – but now I’ve written a novel (and am three quarters of the way through the sequel) I honestly have to say I prefer novels. It took me a long time to convince myself I could do it, but now I want to do more.
- For how long did you work on "The Night Clock"?
It’s hard to say, because I dipped in and out of it for years. I think I had about a third of it written and hanging about in a file on my computer for at least four years but when I moved to Devon I took hold of it and did the last two thirds in about six months.
- "The Night Clock" can be categorised as dark fantasy, horror and horror fantasy. How would you personally categorise it?
All of those are fine, and accurate, although perhaps dark fantasy, or fractured realism, fits best.
- There are many characters in "The Night Clock". How did it feel to write about the different characters?
I loved writing about them all. Some were new and some were old friends. Most of them have back stories in the short fiction I’ve published over the years, so it was fascinating for me to see how they all took their places and worked together.
- One of the main characters, Phil Trevana, is a psychiatric nurse. It was interesting to read about how he looked after his patients. Were your own personal experiences as a psychiatric nurse a source of inspiration to you when you wrote about him?
Yes, absolutely. Phil is very like me! Some of the interactions and incidents are totally real and – with appropriate liberties and protective factors – have actually happened.
- You wrote realistically about mental illness and how psychiatric patients behaved. Was it challenging to write about mental illness? Is there anything that readers should know about mental illness?
I found it quite east to fictionalise my experiences. I’m so used to the language of psychiatry, the way staff communicate with each other and patients, that I was quite happy it would sound authentic. Most people with genuine mental illness are frightened, not dangerous, and that’s why most of my characters are broken and fragile in a lot of ways. Relationship is the key to working with mental illness, and genuineness, and the gradual offering of hope. That’s really what The Night Clock is all about.
- It was fascinating to read the devil-in-dreams, the Firmament Surgeons and the Autoscopes. How did you originally come up with the idea of writing about them?
They evolved gradually from the short stories that preceded the novel. I was aware of an urgency behind the stories, as if each character was on a trajectory that would one day bring them all together. The devil-in-dreams first appeared in Don’t Touch The Blackouts and has been a regular in a lot of my stories.
- I found it fascinating that "The Night Clock" was almost like a puzzle and it was necessary to read the whole story to find out how all the pieces were connected to each other. Was it difficult to write this kind of a gradually unfolding story?
Yes, I’ll be honest, it was difficult. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to totally rewrite it in a much more conventional and linear form, it might be more coherent to readers not used to experimental fiction. It won’t appeal to everyone, although so far I have mostly had great reviews and surprisingly positive things said about the way it was written. Even most criticism has been objective and honest and I appreciate the intellect and insight they have applied to the book.
- What are you currently working on? What can readers expect next from you?
I am currently writing a sequel to NC. It’s nearly done and I’m pleased with it so far. It’s great getting the characters back together and seeing what happens. It’s darker than NC, I think, but perhaps less complex in the sense that it has fewer POVs.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Thank you for asking me to contribute to your site. I’ve really enjoyed the support and enthusiasm I’ve had from people since NC came out.