Today, I would like to welcome Paul Montgomery, an up and coming self-published author who has recently released his first novel, Clown.
Tell me more about how you got started as a writer and the inspiration behind Clown?
I’ve always enjoyed reading. As a child, I was the one always in the libraries (even on holiday) and buried in a book at every opportunity. Growing up, I enjoyed any creative writing exercises from school, and naturally, found myself carrying on at home.
I kind of credit an old, old 2000AD comic strip about a clown for this book. Although the clown in the 2000AD story was a sad old circus performer, who saw his wife killed by the mob, and his best friend (a horse) decapitated and it sent him off the deep end. So, really, the only thing I took away from it was the image of a clown. Not sure why that one stayed with me more than any other.
Once I’d decided on a clown as the main character, I think what defined the story early on was the fact that he could never remove his face paint. Every day, he woke up with a new design. That he could never see his own face, and would never fit in with the world… I think that shaped an awful lot of the character, and what had to happen to him.
What do you fear? Tell me about your own phobias.
Fears change as life goes on. The things I fear now are things I never really had to give much thought to when I was a child. Fear of losing loved ones, letting them down. After being stabbed during a mugging some years back, I still fear hearing the sound of footsteps suddenly behind me on an empty street.
As for phobias, nothing much springs to mind. I managed to get over my arachnophobia, but only just. Is there a fear of Justin Bieber taking over the world? Does that count?
What do you think makes Clown unique and distinctive as a fantasy novel?
There’s a lot of base standards in every story, and these have been previously discussed at length. The classic story types, the classic character types, the situations, etc. Ultimately, every story nowadays is a spin on something which came before. Usually it boils down to “Hero overcomes adversity and wins” or “Hero fails to overcome adversity and loses”. The nature of the hero or heroine, the nature of the adversity (people, circumstance, personal challenge, etc) is decided by the author. And every author has their own voice, as does every story. I’ve made a conscious effort with traditional fantasy clichés that if they’re going to be used, they’re going to be turned around enough that they’re not clichés any more. I think that’s true of everything that’s in there. I have ghosts, dragons, monsters, demons, old gods, orphans, love and romance, heroes, queens, and all manner of things that are found in other books. But none in quite the normal, expected way.
I think the only thing that’s kept fairly traditional is the boatman of the underworld, but even he gets a spin out of tradition.
The style of the story, as well, I can’t remember reading before.
Maybe there’s the answer. The story, the telling, the structure, the characters, the situations. These particular takes are all different in Clown. And, at the centre, the idea of what it means to be a hero has enough surprises along the way that the end brings reward.
Clown is a work of epic length – why do you think epic and large scale storylines fit together so well with the Fantasy genre?
Of all the questions you’ve asked, this is actually the one I’m having to give the most thought to. Epic and large scale stories fit well in a number of genres, but seem most comfortable with the fantasy genre. Although, there are some wonderful regular length stories, novellas, short stories, etc, within fantasy.
Perhaps, it’s because epic stories take more time to delve into. Fantasy (and sci-fi, for that matter) allow the creation of a whole new world in which to get immersed. Looking at the success of movies, books and games like Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Skyrim, Mass Effect etc, there’s a definite vogue for audiences to enjoy those worlds. It’s an investment which ultimately (hopefully) pays off.
With Clown, there’s a similar investment, which leads to a wonderful (from the feedback) payoff at the end.
There is a saying that the first novel you write is autobiographical – would you say that is true to Clown?
When I started writing about Clown, I wanted to do something about a legend. About someone leaving myths and legends in their wake, without even realising it. I deliberately wanted most of those to be untrue, just stories which had built up in the telling. I played around with this idea, twisting it into various formats, and ultimately introduced a new character. He’s never fully named (although at one point I planned on using his name as a pen name for the book), but he’s the one who follows in Clown’s footsteps, recording his life and sifting through the tales for the truth.
Every now and then, he pops in an interlude of sorts, with his own comments. He’s the one that’s most representative of me, with some of his tales coming from my own life.
So, yes, there’s some snippets there. But as yet, I haven’t gone hunting for a dragon.
What is the appeal for you of speculative and weird fiction genres like Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror?
The only limits are the ones you set for yourself. In the real world, we’re limited to what actually exists. Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror allow your imagination full stretch without limits – you’re able to fully create a world to match whatever you want it to. There’s an old saying that people will swallow a huge lie, but choke on a small one – or something like that. With fantasy, you automatically set it in a universe where people will accept that anything is made possible.
With Clown’s journey, I could take any idea that popped into my head and flesh it out, lending it credibility. Someone like Hallowe’en Jack is one of my favourite creations. However, he’d look utterly out of place in an Andy McNabb book. (Now there’s an idea…)
Just to add that there’s nothing wrong with writing in other genres. It’s at least as challenging to work with defined parameters to resolve a situation.
Could you see yourself writing work in a genre without speculative elements?
Absolutely. One of the things I enjoy doing most when writing is setting myself additional little challenges as I go along – such as having the first words of subsequent paragraphs spell out a little message. Clown is Fantasy, with a world which exists alongside our own. At some point I’d like to do a full on Fantasy piece. I have a historical fantasy piece planned, a number of horror pieces which I’m working on, and I’d love to get back to sci-fi.
However, I’m also looking to do a romantic comedy piece somewhere along the line, and see how that takes me. It’ll be a challenge keeping it normal, but I’ll see how it goes. If it works well, then it’s a new line.
What are your thoughts on the current self-publishing boom that has followed on from the launch of e-book?
Much like anything, it has good and bad elements, for authors and readers alike. Everyone who ever suffered wave after wave of rejection letters, or who saw that it was just too daunting a prospect, suddenly has this great new opportunity to share their works with the world. Self-publishing has allowed every voice that wants to be heard to be heard.
Unfortunately, that can bring problems. Things that should never be published. An abundance of works which need an awful lot more polishing, but have never passed impartial readers or editors. I’ve seen a number of backlashes against these pieces and their authors.
I guess self-publishing removes the technical need for an editor, a formatter, a publisher, a proof-reader, and leaves it all in the hands of the author. The expertise that comes with those positions is, sadly, lost at times when it is most needed.
Whether self-published or traditionally published, there are advantages and disadvantages. I’ve read some phenomenal self-published books, and some downright awful traditionally-published books, and vice versa.
What it comes down to is that e-books are the future, right now. Vinyl was replaced by CD, CD replaced by download. Videos replaced by DVD. Space Invaders has evolved to Mass Effect. Traditional books have not died out yet, thankfully, and I hope they never will. But the technology is here, and freely available. What happens with it is up to us.
What is a typical writing day for Paul Montgomery?
No such thing, I’m afraid.
If I’m lucky, I can usually manage 3 hours in the evenings to cram everything in before I need to sleep. Those three hours need to include dinner, housework, looking after a chirpy little six year old, and so on. I tend to grab little bursts of writing wherever and whenever I can.
Unlike a lot of people, I don’t need silence to work. What I do need, though, is background noise of my own choosing. I find that having something very familiar in the same genre as I’m working on in the background helps immensely. Writing Clown, that tended to be the likes of The Princess Bride and Studio Ghibli work.
So what does 2012 hold for Paul Montgomery? Any last words?
2012 marked a beginning of an experiment and an opportunity. After it had sat gathering dust for far too long, I published Clown through Amazon. I looked at a number of options when it came to the method of publishing, and decided to run a couple of experiments as I got to grips with how the system worked. Those experiments are still going on, and now that I’ve actually got something published, I can look at developing, finishing and publishing other works using the lessons learned from Clown to produce bigger and better pieces. I’m hoping that my next piece (very tentatively entitled Survivors), a tribute of sorts to slasher movies, is out this year.
Thank you, Paul!
Clown is available to purchase from the following links:
To find out more about Paul Montgomery, please use the following links: