Tell us a little bit about yourself
My background is in education, and I’ve been a historian for twenty-odd years. I have lived in Auckland for almost a year now, but I’ve been in New Zealand for four years.
When I started writing, I started with speculative fiction and science fiction, all sorts of weird and wonderful stories – mainly short stories at first, because I found the projects were quite manageable. Then I started writing a lot more historical fiction, and that led me onto my first novel.
Besides writing, I like to play the guitar, and I watch TV when I’ve got the time. I like doing a lot of reading, because I like knowing what’s out there in the literary world. And I like going out and socialising with people!
What are you currently working on?
My current writing project is a novel called Samuel’s Way. It’s a piece of historical fiction in the Gothic folk-horror genre, and it’s about witchcraft. It’s quite nasty!
What’s your writing process like?
I’m very much a pantsy writer! I will sit down and thrash out an idea, literally get it down on paper before I do anything with it. I don’t really plan much, I just explore what’s in my head, create some characters, work with those characters, and try and develop the plot and the storyline. Once the whole thing is written, I get into the process of turning it into something more coherent. That’s always harder when you’re a pantsy writer, because you don’t have that organisational process at the beginning, that comes later.
What are your writing habits?
I don’t have a set routine, but I try and write every day. I have other things that take over: I still do a little bit of teaching, and I run a business with my wife, but I do as much writing as I possibly can. In an ideal world, my regime usually is to get up in the morning, go for a walk, come back all nice and invigorated, and then sit down and do four or five hours worth of writing or editing or whatever it is I’m working on. And I might do some more in the evening as well, because my brain gets quite active in the evening, and I find that writing in the evening is quite therapeutic.
Why do you write?
I think I’m a natural storyteller. I always have been, and it’s something I’ve always done, all my life. I think even when I was an educator and a teacher, I used to camp a lot of the work that I did in anecdotal stories and stories of the past. I think it’s just a willingness and a need to be creative, to tell stories, to entertain people. That’s what writing is all about. And I guess it’s also about personal catharsis, when you’re writing things that release an emotion or plough your energies into something other than the real world, so sometimes it’s a bit of escapism.
What’s your biggest challenge with writing?
My biggest challenge was actually beginning to write. I went to the Writers’ School in Iowa twenty years ago and started doing a lot of writing – but then I just stopped. And I always said “I’m going to be a writer, I’m going to be a writer”, and a friend of mine, who is a writer, said: “If you’re going to be a writer, just write.”
And that was the biggest challenge, actually getting going. Once I got going, that was it.
And I think the biggest challenge now is finishing larger projects. Short stories and flash fiction are easy to finish – and it’s a great reason to get into writing, because you get these manageable projects that you can complete in a couple of weeks. But a big project might take you years to complete, and I think seeing it to its bitter end is probably the hardest thing, it takes a lot of guts.
I guess the other thing, for writers, is rejection. Dealing with rejection is part and parcel of being a writer. For every one acceptance you get, you probably get ten rejections, and you’ve got to be a bit thick-skinned with that.
What are your writing goals and aspirations?
Ultimately I’d like to make a career out of writing. I would like to be a writer and sustain myself financially through the act of writing. I couldn’t think of anything more wonderful.
But in the short term, my goal is to finish the big projects that I’m working on and see them in print. I’ve always felt it’s quite cool to walk past a bookshop and see something written by you in that bookshop!
Which writers would you compare your work to?
A very good friend of mine, Matt Wesolowski, is a fantastic writer. His Six Stories series of books are awesome. I rate him as one of the best writers I’ve read – I’m not just saying that because he’s a good friend! I absolutely love Stephen King, and I love the classic stuff, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allan Poe. I recently got into Andrew Michael Hurley, who has become one of the leading writers in the resurgence of folk horror. Iain Banks is another wonderful writer, I love his work. If I could emulate any of them, I would be absolutely over the moon. I think that would be a wonderful achievement, to have that level of acclaim and that level of skill and talent.
Can we read your writing and if so, where?
I’ve got my own website, www.paulmclark.com where there are links to most of the things I’ve had published.