Paul Cleave: ‘Read the best. And try other things.’

By Maryann Yin Comment

Have you ever written a scary story? In honor of the Halloween season, we are interviewing horror writers to learn about the craft of scaring readers. Recently, we spoke with author Paul Cleave.

Cleave (pictured) established his authorial career with six international bestselling thrillers. His latest book, The Cleaner, will be released in December 2012. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you land your first book deal?
A: It was actually pretty complicated. Back in 1999/2000 I was using a really well known manuscript assessor in NZ who would work on novels and then submit them on your behalf. I had no luck. Then a couple of years later I had a contract with a smaller publisher, which turned out to be a nightmare as they decided not to publish, and at the same time they decided they wouldn’t give the rights back. Then, in 2004, we all learned the manuscript assessor I had first used had, in fact, not been submitted these manuscripts at all, and for years had just be taking everybody’s money. It was pretty awful. Suddenly a bunch of us realized the bigger publishing houses had never seen our books – so I submitted it once again to Random House. In 2005 they signed it up, I got a lawyer to get my rights back from the previous publisher which was pretty simple in the end, and the rest is history.

Q: What’s your advice for aspiring horror writers?
A: Read the best. And try other things. I spent years only ever reading horror, and then trying to write horror – and deep down a horror writer is still what I’d love to be. But it wasn’t until I started writing crime that things began to work for me. So now I write dark crime – which is almost like horror – just without the zombies.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: Well, I’ve just finished writing a sequel to my first book, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now. Right now I’m travelling a bit, which is cool – I’m getting to visit places I never thought I’d see. I’m dividing my time between New Zealand and England at the moment – which is actually pretty tough. I have a few ideas for future books and I just have to think them through and see if I can get one to pan out. I hope so.

Q: What are your favorite scary books?
A: Ooh – good question. There’s a bunch of Stephen King books I love. Salem’s Lot was always one of my favourites. It. Needful things. Moving away from King, and Silence of the lambs is always a good choice. I read a few really cool books a few years ago by a guy called Bently Little – he’s brilliant. The Store and The Mailman (I think that’s what it was called). I do love a great horror novel – and thankfully there are plenty of them out there now.