Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Book 4 is Cursed by Paul M. Feeney. Dean has been lucky to work with Paul on a couple of projects in the past but this is will be Paul’s first DEMAIN release (28th February 2020). The book is currently available for pre-sales on Amazon.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Welcome to the DEMAIN family, Paul.
PAUL M. FEENEY: Thank you very kindly Dean, it’s a pleasure to be here.
DP: Let’s get straight down to it: Paul – who are you and how / why did you become a writer?
PMF: Well, hello everybody, my name is Paul M. Feeney, obviously, and I’m originally from the west coast of Scotland, though I’ve lived in various parts of England for the last 11 years (soon to be moving to Aberdeen, though). I became a writer largely by ‘accident’, in that I discovered the small presses round about 2010, started getting hugely back into reading (horror, mostly), and then idly wondered if could do it myself. Part of me is still wondering...I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and I know I tried my hand writing a few times when I was younger, but it wasn’t till 2010/2011 that I really took it at all seriously. That’s when I consider my writing ‘life’ to have started properly.
DP: Can you tell us about your story Cursed.
PMF: Sure. It’s basically about a shape-shifting PI who exists in a world where all the supernatural and paranormal stuff is real, albeit mostly hidden from humanity. He investigates a case where a woman believes she’s been cursed through a DVD (a la The Ring), but not all is as it seems...
DP: I really love your protagonist – who is he?
PMF: His name is Garrison Wake, and as I’ve said, he’s a shape-shifter (he doesn’t like the ‘W’ word, though). He lives and works in Detroit, with feet in the worlds of the supernatural, the criminal, and the human, but swearing loyalty to none. He’s kind of an anti-hero, vigilante, who hates injustice but operates outside the law most of the time. He believes himself to be ‘lost’, to be already damned, so doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. I wrote a story with him a few years ago (Those Who Live in Shadow, Occult Detective Quarterly issue #4, Spring 2018), intending it as a one-off, but enjoyed it so much, he kind of stuck around. I like his cynical, sardonic approach to things, but also share his sense of justice (though perhaps not the methods, something I touch on in this story and want to explore more in further tales). He’s big, six-and-a-half-foot tall, and looks like a cross between Keanu Reeves and Brandon Lee in The Crow; he also tends to dress like the latter character, though without the clown makeup. He’s older than he looks by a few decades, and has a shady, petty-criminal past (though I’ve yet to fully investigate that myself). And he’s a loner, though people have become almost friends with him over the years, and he has a good circle of close acquaintances.
DP: Ah, thanks for clearing that up – I knew I ‘knew’ the character from somewhere…I’ll have to read Those Who Live In The Shadow again to remind myself. As you’ve set the story in the States was there much research you needed to do before actually writing?
PMF: Very little, though setting the character in Detroit is starting to prove a pain as I write more stories. For this one, I did a brief online recce of the city, but for others I’ve had to go a little deeper. The rest of it’s all fabrication.
DP: Paul, did you find any of the scenes in Cursed particularly difficult to write?
PMF: Surprisingly, I find Wake very easy to write. Usually, I struggle with stories, struggle to get momentum going, to push on through. But with Wake, they tend to come easily, with very little agonising over scenes and situations. I do have to tinker with them more, though, if they’re left lying about after finishing. Mostly this is because I’ll introduce a concept in a later story that means I have to go back and ‘retro-fit’ an earlier tale. But in general, I find writing these stories a joy. I love the faux-noir voice.
DP: Me too – I definitely want to read more Wake stories. What books (or authors) influence Paul M. Feeney?
PMF: Jings, where do I begin? I read a ton of stuff – horror, crime, science fiction, thriller, fantasy, literary, contemporary, etc. And the short answer is yes, everything I read influences me in some way or another. Lately, I’ve read a lot of short story collections that mix original, thought-provoking horror with literary stylings; books such as Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts, Laura Mauro’s Sing Your Scars Deep, Georgina Bruce’s This House of Wounds, Michael Griffin’s The Human Alchemy, and so on. I’ve also recently read books by – deep breath – Adam Nevill, John Connolly, Sarah Pinborough, Adam Millard, Tana French, Peter F. Hamilton, M. R. Carey, Damien Angelica Walters, V. E. Schwab, Laura Purcell, Tracey Fahey, Gary Kemble, Stephen Graham Jones, Tim Waggoner, and so many more. And one thing reading excellent fiction does, is make you strive to do better with your own.
DP: Ah it does doesn’t it. I’m currently writing a short for a magazine whilst at the same time reading a book by William S. Burroughs who has always been an influence on me but reading that (The Wild Boys) is really pushing me to create something special. I’ve got a strict word count on that so know that every word really does count…though there are some ‘darkish’ elements in Cursed, what do you think makes a great crime / mystery / thriller story?
PMF: Fundamentally, well-written, rounded characters. You can have all the great plot twists and scenarios, the action and breath-taking moments, but if your characters are flat and bland, no-one will give a shit. Characters, and maybe pacing, the ability to pull the reader along, make them keep going, ‘just one more page’. That’s not to say I think characters need to be ‘likeable’ or ‘relatable’; I think that’s a whole different set of bizarre – to me – requirements. After all, one person might love them, the next hate them. How do you make a character likeable to everyone? No, I think rounded is better, more achievable. And after all, many crime and thriller stories are about unlikeable people...
DP: That they are and yes, all the better for it. Creatively, is there something you’d like to do that you haven’t done yet?
PMF: I’d like to try my hand at screenwriting. I’ve got a few ideas for films but no idea how to go about writing a script.
DP: We can talk about that…finally then Paul, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
PMF – I’ve got readers? I’m surprised... ;-)
Ha ha – thanks for your time Paul! We wish you all the best with Cursed and can’t wait to read more Garrison Wake stories.
If you’d like to connect with Paul direct:
Twitter Address: https://twitter.com/PaulMichaels75
Book 3 in the Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Series is The Funeral Birds by Paula R.C. Readman. The novella is published on 28th February 2020. Prior to publication, Dean and Paula sat down and chatted.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: So, first hello Paula. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how (and / or why) you became a writer.
PAULA R.C. READMAN: Hello! I live in an amazing historical Essex village surrounded by countryside where I can go for long walks before settling down to write. Apart from writing, my other great love is wildlife and landscape photography. I was a runner up in a photographic competition and have had my photos published in local newspapers and magazines. My husband Russell and I love dressing up as Victorian-style Goth twice a year, and being part of the Whitby Goth Festival. We’ve been doing it for about 12 years now. While there, I take the opportunity to hand out promotional cards about my work.
I started writing to be published just over 20 years ago, Dean. A big milestone was looming on the horizon, so I set myself a bit of a challenge to see if it was possible for me to become a published writer. I wanted to prove that anything is possible if you’re dedicated enough, so gave myself a deadline of ten years to get my first article published. I hadn’t the money, or time to do any writing courses. I was poorly educated due to being dyslexic. The only jobs available to me were minimum wage ones. My earning went to help pay the household bills. So my plan was to teach myself from ‘how to’ books, which my husband bought off eBay.
I began with nonfiction articles and was surprised when these were accepted and published. After running out of ideas, I decided to attempt writing a novel and realised I needed more skills to be able to tell a story. I gave my husband a list of books I needed. 250 books later, he told me to get on with the writing. My first story was published in 2010 by English Heritage and in 2012 I became the overall winner in the Writing Magazine/ Harrogate Crime Writing Festival Short Story competition. Since then my stories have been published in many different anthologies in Australia, America, and UK. I’m now working towards my ultimate goal to see my name on a cover of a book in a bookshop.
DP: Well done you – it does prove that with some dedication and hard work you can achieve your dreams. Our mantra here is #nevergiveup and as a clichéd as it might sound, it’s the truth. Anyway, please tell us about The Funeral Birds.
PRCR: Relationships are at the heart of The Funeral Birds. Of course, there’s also a murder, a witch and owls in a ruined church. As the story unfolds, the reader will discover the interlinking relationships between the main players. Some are long lasting, while others have devastating effects on those around them.
DP: And your protagonists:
PRCR: Dave and Joan are loosely based on a senior married couple I know. They both have been very supportive of my writing. What I admire most about them is their deep loving relationship and their great sense of humour about life. I wanted to write about such a couple who had that same wit and deep understanding of each other that it’s almost telepathy. Of course, in my story I’ve added another element that of Dave’s long departed ancestor, Granny Martha Wenlock, who died in 1651.
DP: Because of that additional element did you have to do much research?
PRCR: No. Not as such. I originally wrote The Funeral Birds for the BBC Short Story Competition in 2015. Disappointed I had no luck; I put it away, planning to turn it into a novel one day. The title of story came from a passage in a book I read called, Owls: Their Natural And Unnatural History by John Sparks & Tony Soper (published in 1971). A chapter in the book explained the mythology surrounding owls and that they were once known as the funeral birds. As my character, Joan says “The ancient Arabs believed that victims of murder sought revenge by taking on the form of an owl.”
DP: The Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Series is a slight departure for DEMAIN as the books aren’t particularly ‘horror’ (though some do have a dark edge) – what do you think makes a great crime / mystery / thriller story?
PRCR: For me, an original plot idea with clues along the way that takes the reader on a twisting, turning carousel ride of discovery without the well-worn stereotypes characters. An unusual crime or mystery, which there’s plenty to choose from without repeating the normal selection. Also the ending must tie up all the treads of the story.
DP: Ah, perhaps not all the threads though as you may want to write a sequel…creatively Paula what would you say is your biggest success to date?
PRCR: It was having Mark Billingham selecting my crime story Roofscapes as the overall winning entry in the Writing magazine/ Harrogate crime writing festival short story competition. It gave me the confidence to keep moving forwards. Since then I have won other smaller competitions.
DP: Good for you. What are your influences?
PRCR: I enjoy reading a wide range of books from classic writers like Poe, Bram Stoker and D.H Lawrence through to modern writers like P.D James’s who I was lucky enough to meet at the Essex Book Festival. I found Barbara Erskine’s time-slip historical novels so different from others books I’d read. I used to enjoy Sophie Hannah’s crime novels. They had interesting plot lines and seemed quite different from standard crime novels. I enjoyed them so much I used to per-order them, but the last one was such a disappointment. The plot was too confusing and lacked a satisfying ending and since then I haven’t read any of her books. I enjoy Robert Galbraith’ Strike novels, and no, I’m not going to make a comment about who really wrote them. I will say I never read the boy wizard books, and nor have it read any of the 50 Shades books either.
I cannot say the books I’ve read influence my writing style, but I’m sure that it must feed into what I write. If you read well written books you must absorb it subconsciously so when you are writing, and editing your work you get a positive feeling when it’s right. I do have a moan to my husband, if I read a badly written book, so I work hard to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes.
DP: Finally, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
PRCR: From the age of six, my family lived in a cottage next to a working flourmill. My father, a Master Miller, used the same technique to grind the flour using millstones as it was for the last hundred years. I spent over 25 years researching my genealogy after discovering that the family originally came from Whitby, North Yorkshire. During my investigation, I uncovered some interesting events members of my family were involved like Whitby Life Boat Disaster in 1851. My fourth great grandfather, Capt. Thomas Hodgson was Master of the SS Steonshalh, a paddle steamer, used by the harbour authorities as a tugboat during the time when the whaling ship sailed in and out of Whitby harbour. On one occasion, the towrope broke and ship Capt. Hodgson was towing ran aground. The loss of that ship ended the whaling industry in Whitby.
DP: Sounds like a great idea for a novel…thank you Paula for your time, it was a pleasure getting to know a bit more about you and all the best with The Funeral Birds.
If you would like to connect with Paula direct:
Goodreads: Paula Readman
Amazon author’s page: Paula R C Readman
Cafelit. co.uk Meet the author. Paula R C Readman
(The Funeral Birds is released on 28th February; the Kindle version is now available for pre-sales on Amazon)
On January 31st DEMAIN publishes Dave Jeffery’s novel on Amazon (print and ebook), Finding Jericho. Before publication, Dave and Dean sat down and had a chat about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello again Dave, you need no introduction here at DEMAIN, so let’s talk Finding Jericho – your third DEMAIN release.
DAVE JEFFERY: Finding Jericho is a contemporary novel that gives insight to those who have either basic or very little knowledge of mental illness, mental health and the experiences those who endure it. The story is told in retrospect by protagonist Jonathon Dupree, who moves in with his uncle Ronald, a long-term survivor of bi-polar affective disorder. Jonathon finds out how the stigma of mental illness transcends beyond the family and into the local community. The story centres on how he deals with the pressures this kind of oppression elicits on his life. Let’s just say, it’s a learning curve.
DP: Without giving too much away, it’s quite a steep learning curve! Why did you choose to write about mental health / illness…you have some experience in the field I believe?
DJ: I’ve worked as a mental health professional in the UK for 35 years. Ironically this edition of Finding Jericho is being released on the day I retire, so this has an unmitigated level of poignancy for me. The book was a direct response to my ongoing frustration with an apparent lack of public awareness of what mental illness was/is. The contemporary setting was important as this was about grounding the story to maximise the impact for a general audience.
DP: Good luck on your retirement. I agree that there is a lack of general awareness but I will add that a lot of people / organisations are striving to be better, so at least that’s a step in the right direction – though obviously there is a long way to go. Can I ask, did you have to do much research and did you find that challenging?
DJ: I have a Degree in mental health studies and a Master’s degree in health science, so I have a pretty good grasp of the issues. I was, however, keen to make this story real for people. This meant that events had to be something that readers could relate to, irrespective of their personal experiences of mental health. The themes of grief, bullying, social isolation, and family upheaval are common to most, so it is through these aspects that Finding Jericho puts across its message.
DP: And it does that very well. Dave, all the characters in Finding Jericho are extremely vulnerable (in different ways) – was that a conscious decision and again, was that easy to write?
DJ: Vulnerability is at the heart of the story because the message I wanted to portray is that we are all susceptible to the fundamentals of life, and its challenges. Feeling vulnerable, be that physically or emotionally, is a key component to why we surround ourselves with defences, some healthy, some not. Walls are either our fortress or our prison, defined by our need to build them. The book title is a nod to this tenet.
DP: Did you always set out to write a novel such as Finding Jericho? Is it a subject you would tackle again?
DJ: The finished book is exactly how I planned, a first for me, I’ll have to admit. I think the story was so clear to me for such a long time―it seemed a natural process once it came down to the writing. I have another story that I want to tell. The working title is TABOO and explores the relationships between mental health staff and the people in their care. I just have to find a publisher interested enough to take it on. The basic premise of the story is highly controversial, so I’ll need a publisher sympathetic and up for the challenge.
DP: Well, count us in. If DEMAIN can help, you know where to find us. Finally then, can you tell us an interesting / surprising thing which either happened before / during or after writing Finding Jericho?
DJ: I found the whole experience of writing Finding Jericho as monumentally cathartic. It was also easy to write. I put this down to my desire to write it, how long I had thought about doing it. I have had readers get in touch and say the book has changed their life. As a writer, this is a profound endorsement of what you’re trying to achieve in your work. I must admit, I shed a tear when such sentiments are sent to me. On a professional level, having endorsements from the BBC and the Independent Schools Examination Board for English is validation of how the book is perceived from a literary standpoint. I’m immensely proud of this book and what it represents.
And we are extremely proud that you allowed DEMAIN to publish Finding Jericho. We wish you the best of luck with it.
Finding Jericho is published on the 31st January 2020 in both ebook / print.
Some important links which might be of interest:
MADNESS & LITERATURE NETWORK: http://www.madnessandliterature.org/
(cover by Adrian Baldwin)
Series one of the Short Sharp Shocks! comes to a close on 31st January with the final books available on Amazon- 51 books published in less than a year - well done everybody involved!
January 31st is the publication date for Dave's novella A Quiet Apocalypse in print on Amazon. Here's the full over by Adrian Baldwin (with a central art piece by Roberto Segate).