**AUTHOR PEEK** Interview with PAUL M. FEENEY
INTRODUCING… Paul M. Feeney.
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a full-time writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share to introduce yourself.
Hi, well…obviously my name is Paul M. Feeney (the M. stands for Michael, my middle name and a possible attempt at sounding distinguished…) and I live in the UK; specifically, in the north east of England, although I’m Scottish by birth. I live by myself and I have no children, so I pretty much suit myself as far as spare time goes.
Sadly, I’m not a full-time writer (barely even a part-time writer) and I have to hold down a full-time job. Without saying too much about it (I wouldn’t be allowed to anyway), I’m an Armed Police Officer for a very specific force, which sounds a lot more interesting than it really is. When I’m not there, I generally lead a relatively quiet life. Reading, writing (of course), going to the cinema, music – aside from books, music is a huge passion of mine and if I’m not off to live gigs, I’m always looking into expanding my musical library, or just strumming away on my own modest guitar collection.
I also like to draw and sketch, although I’ve only recently got back into it after years of neglecting that side of my…creativity, shall we say. I’ve found a modest talent for creating my interpretation of iconic ‘horror heads’ and I’m currently planning a whole series of them.
Other than that, there’s very little else to me.
1. How did you get started writing?
Well, I’ve harboured the notion of writing for many, many years. I’ve always been an avid reader and I think this eventually and almost inevitably turned to a mild ambition to write. But I was too self-conscious of pieces I’d written in the past and would never show them to anyone, never mind submit anywhere. Then, about three or four years ago, as I got back into horror in a big way (after not reading very much of it at all), I suddenly got the bug, threw down an idea that had been knocking around in my head and sent it off to an open submission. It didn’t get accepted, but I think that was the starting point, and it also showed that I could go through the process of conceiving the idea and following through on it. Thereafter, the ideas came thick and fast, though many just sat in my head. I wrote a short piece, The Weight Of The Ocean, partially to get over a bad break-up and that became my first accepted story, published through Phrenic Press as a kindle only release. Since then, I feel my writing has grown stronger and I’ve sent a few more stories off with more hope than when I started submitting.
2. What genre(s) do you write in and why?
I tend to be drawn to horror, the supernatural and dark fiction (a label that some who write horror prefer), although I have had ideas in such disparate areas as crime, YA and even romance/love stories! To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of labels, either in writing or reading. I simply like what I like and tend not to compartmentalise. But, more often than not, my mind will turn seemingly ‘normal’ ideas and push them into darker realms. I guess it’s just how I’m wired… I’d love to be able to write science fiction, but I don’t think I have it in me. If I did though, it would probably have a weird, dark spin on it…
3. What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
Writing. Ideas. I actually find driving is a great way for me to…meditate…and many of my ideas come to me on long drives. I’ve also ‘written’ scenes and resolved story points in my head whilst driving.
4. What is your favorite part of writing?
Getting the initial idea, coming up with scenes, dialogue, characters…getting stuck into the first few thousand words. Also editing, as odd as that sounds. I know many writers who absolutely despise editing, but I quite enjoy it. I’m not precious or protective about my stuff at all and will quite happily wade in there with a chainsaw (metaphorically speaking), shredding and changing as needed. To me, it’s the core story that’s important and the words are simply a way of showing that story…thus, there are a number of different ‘combinations’ that can tell the same story.
5. What is your least favorite part of writing?
Losing that momentum which tends to come after the first burst or two of writing. I am plagued with self-doubt and I always have a small voice in my head telling me ‘You’re rubbish, this is crap…no one wants to read this. It’s all pointless…’ I think a lot of writers have doubts, but it can be crippling for me. All I can do is try to push on with the words and hope that in a second read-through (and third, and fourth) the words actually look okay; sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
6. Pick two celebrities to be your parents. Who would they be and why?
Jings! (Scottish word of exclamation.) That’s a bit left-field… Um…I’m going to say…Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. Pretty much because, well…what a great life I’d have! No money worries for a start, plus, all that writing and publishing experience! If writing is genetic (I know it’s not…not really), think of the child those two would have…
7. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
Funnily enough, I was talking about a similar question to this the other day with a friend. He was saying it’s his favourite question to ask writers whereas a lot of writers tend to go ‘huh, that old chestnut again…’ and roll their eyes…
Ideas are funny things, I guess. Who knows where they really come from, beyond the fact that our brains seem wired up to interpret the world in the form of stories. It’s how we learn best, how we experience things that aren’t happening to us directly…it even helps us to understand each other and relate to people from different cultures, backgrounds. I think my propensity for ideas comes from the exercising of my imagination (I’ve had a pretty vivid one since I was very young)… Often, when watching a film or reading a story and it’s going in a direction I don’t particularly want it to, my brain will conjure up alternative paths and scenes. I’ve done this so much, I think it’s become almost automatic, subconscious. Also, the most innocuous of conversations can create an idea, or a word or an image can spark off a chain reaction in the mind…anything, really. And I truly believe that the more you exercise the imagination, the ‘creation’ of ideas, the more you get. They multiply, like gremlins in water…
8. Tell me about your ideal reader.
Now this is an interesting one. I think my ideal reader ties in with why I think we write, or why many of us do. It’s all about communicating something to someone, whether that’s an experience, an emotion or simply an idea or concept. I think, ultimately, I’m looking for that ‘holy grail’ with writing, a communion between reader and writer, where they ‘get it’, completely and fully. I’m looking for that because that’s what I’ve experienced with the best stories I have read – complete immersion where you can almost second guess what’s about to happen. Not that the story is predictable, but that you are so in tune with the writer that, either just for a moment or the total length of the story, you utterly believe in its reality and nothing can distract you from it.
9. What is your “go to” routine that helps you get in the mood to write? Special beverage? Music? Etc.
I’m not sure I actually have one. I was getting into the habit of only writing in coffee shops for a while, but I’m slowly weaning myself away from that, both because of the potential for caffeine addiction and for the sake of my bank balance. I just tend to sit down and smash away at the keyboard, no rituals involved, no ‘perfect environment’. Although, I don’t like it if it’s too quiet…
10. Tell us about your next book & when is it being published?
At the moment, it’s mostly short stories. I have one coming out in 2015, in an anthology called Out Of Phase from Sirens Call Publications, which is a post-apocalyptic zombie/alien invasion tale with a bit of humour involved. I’m also waiting to hear back from a few places about other short stories I’ve submitted (all horror in one way or another) and I’m reasonably hopeful for some of these.
Then, once I get a few current things out of the way (a short story I’m in the first draft of, some sketches, and so on), I have an ongoing novella to finish (I’m about halfway through this) and then I’ll finally be tackling my first novel. It’s going to be a time travelling love story with a bit of a dark overtone. I’m quietly hopeful that this particular work will get picked up.
Beyond that, I have a huge amount of ideas I really need to get out on ‘paper’ – some short stories, another novel or two and an inordinate number of novella-length ideas that I’m really excited about. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a good year for me, writing-wise at least! 😀
THE WEIGHT OF THE OCEAN
BY PAUL M. FEENEY
Casual conversations, playful moments, two friends bonding over things that mean nothing, until one day they mean everything…
Paul has a love for the ocean, but has never had the will to learn to swim. Jess draws him to the water, helping him overcome his fear. In the rocky brine, Paul finds more than courage; he finds love in its truest form: Jess. But the scars she carries hidden deep within won’t allow her to love. After a beautiful but short lived courtship, she ends their relationship.
The Weight of the Ocean, much like the pain she hides, is simply too much to bear.
THE WEIGHT OF THE OCEAN
BY PAUL M. FEENEY
I’ll ride the wave,
Where it takes me,
I’ll hold the pain,
– Pearl Jam
“Okay, so, if you could be any kind of animal, what animal would you be?”
I was sitting at an outdoor café with my friend Jess. We’d been having one of those daft conversations about nothing.
She squinted at me. “Any sort of animal?”
“Yes, any animal at all.”
“Easy,” she said, “a mermaid!”
I stared at her over my coffee. “A mermaid does not count.”
“Of course it does. That’s the animal I would most want to be.” She sat back smiling, very pleased with herself.
I sighed. “Mermaids are not real, they’re mythological. I meant an actual, existing animal.”
She pouted her lips at me. “Not fair, I want to be one.”
“Well, tough,” I said, “you’ve got to pick a real animal, that’s the rule of the game.”
She looked up to the left and put a finger to her lips in a parody of deep thought, although I knew the gesture was partly genuine.
“Got it!” she said brightly. “The animal I would most want to be, which is real and alive now, is a dolphin.”
“Okay…” I started to say, but she interrupted straight away.
“A dolphin…with a human head.”
I nearly sprayed my mouthful of coffee all over the table and her. I managed to swallow and then burst out laughing. The image of a dolphin happily swimming about with the head of Jess was quite possibly one of the strangest and silliest I’d ever had, and I have had a few. I was laughing so much but trying to keep it quiet, I was going purple with the effort. The people at the next couple of tables were looking at me in a funny way.
Jess was giving me a reproachful look. “What’s so bloody funny, you?”
I couldn’t reply for laughing. The more I tried to stop thinking about it, the more this image swam through my mind. I was crying now from laughter.
Although she was affecting an air of disapproval at my hysterics, I knew Jess found this just as funny as I did. She was just better at controlling her reactions to things. She had probably said what she had said with the maximum amount of calculation designed to make me piss myself (not literally, of course). Although we hadn’t known each other very long, mere months in fact, we were very much attuned to each other’s wavelengths. We had the same slightly skewed sense of humour, liked things no one else had even heard of. I could guess where she would go next with her dolphin/human hybrid notion.
“Also, I’d still want to have my mind and intelligence. In fact, I’d want not just my head but also my arms. Ideally I’d have my upper body and the lower half of the dolphin.”
So predictable. “So, in effect, you’d be a dolphin version of a mermaid.” I’d managed to get my laughing under control, with the occasional rogue giggle rising to the surface. Jess nodded, and gave me a little sideways smile.
She had told me once that she used to be a really good swimmer, so good in fact that there had been overtures of training to be professional, or at least of competitive standard. Why this had never happened, she hadn’t said, or I didn’t remember, just something knocking about on the outskirts of my recollections about life getting in the way of ambition. Whatever the outcome, I knew she was most at home in the water. It was a compulsion I could relate to. Ever since I could remember, the sea had called to me. Even though I had never learned to swim, and had a vague, low grade fear of drowning, I loved the sea. It made me both calm and sad simultaneously. I could spend ages staring out at that vast body of water, imagining that there was something undefined there, waiting patiently for me to return to it.
My attention returned, as Jess gathered up her bag and drained the last of her coffee.
“Are you off then?” I asked, a little rhetorically.
“Yeah, got somewhere I need to be, love.”
That was another thing about Jess. She was a tiny mystery to me, always texting various unknown people, or rushing off to undisclosed rendezvous. No matter how close we had become, how well I knew her, or thought I did, she was still, in many respects, a closed book to me. A better metaphor was that she had a wall that she put up for people, to hide whatever insecurities or vulnerabilities lay beneath. I didn’t particularly mind, because I knew it was an automatic response for the most part, but there would come a point where, if she kept doing it with me, it might be a problem.
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Thanks for sharing your work with us, Paul!