20 Minutes with Paul Elard Cooley

Paul E. Cooley

Paul E. Cooley

Paul Elard Cooley (aka The Fiendmaster) has evolved a growing canon of psychological and supernatural horror. Notable not only for its bone-chilling dread, but also its use of history as the backdrop for the progression of tales he tells, Paul has distinguished himself as a storyteller and a student of history. And if you’ve heard what he does to Muppets, you might question our sanity in bringing him on the show.  As it turns out, he’s a cool guy who’s willing to share some excellent insights for writers and horror fans. (and we dare you to check out Paul’s Workshop Episode!)

PROMO: Tales from the Archives, vol II (http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/tag/tales-from-the-archives/)

Showcase Episode: 20 Minutes with Paul E. Cooley

[caution: mature language – listener discretion is advised]


Listen to this episode on iTunes

Episode Breakdown

00:50 – Happy Father’s Day to the fine gentlemen at The Dead Robots’ Society!! 🙂

01:50 – Paul’s Dark Majesty

04:35 – How do you approach history in the context of your stories?

  • 05:15 – Earlier times have little documentation
  • 05:35 – Researched religions that were known
  • 05:45 – Worked backwards from known info from future times
  • 06:10 – Epic of Gilgamesh for “Lovers”
  • 06:20 – When you go past 1500 BCE we really don’t know crap
  • 06:45 – Leaps of faith, Borders and *gasp* Wikipedia at least as a starting point
  • 07:30 – Good source of resources


08:20 – How do you know which epoch is where your story will be

  • 08:45 – For “Legends”, wanted to explore Fertile Crescent (the beginning of civilization)
  • 09:35 – Good place to found a new religion
  • 10:10 – For “Lovers” it was Hammurabbi’s Babylon
  • 10:20 – Play with the first real legal system
  • 11:05 – Had the religion of Ishtar
  • 11:35 – Explored them as a writer and a student of history
  • 11:45 – Look at what would go forward in the series, forging threads of future stories
  • 12:00 – “Interlopers” had to be Alexander’s greatest failure
  • 12:10 – Next is “Scrolls” in Alexandria


12:30 – Does your research generate story ideas or do you have the story in place?

  • 13:45 – Mostly driven by plot
  • 13:55 – Details, however, do need to inform the story (like money or markets)
  • 14:30 – Trying to go through areas where I want to put the stories and I have an idea of why the story makes sense to be there


14:45 – PROMO: Tales from the Archives


16:15 – What makes a story a horror story?  How do you crank up the revulsion?

  • 17:55 – Make it as personal to the character as possible
  • 18:00 – Obstacles internal and external
  • 18:50 – Details and fear/speculation of the character
  • 19:30 – Traditional suspense would be the reader knows something the character doesn’t
  • 19:55 – Gotta make the character sympathetic, then do terrible things
  • 20:30 – Draw upon Joseph Campbell (hero cycle)
  • 20:50 – What scares you?


21:30 – What are your thoughts about the adage of “you’ve got to kill your darlings”?

  • 22:00 – You can go too far… there needs to be a reason
  • 22:45 – What are the losses you – and your audience – can live with
  • 23:10 – I’ll give you just enough details for YOU to form the picture
  • 23:30 – If you’re giving them everything, then I think you’re doing it wrong


23:45 – What are you working on now to improve your skills as a writer

  • 23:55 – Trying to get out of limited 3rd person omniscient point of view
  • 24:25 – I don’t like multi-POV books, but I have to in order to tell the tales I want to tell
  • 25:30 – Writing other works that involve multiple POVs
  • 25:55 – Like software, I create a prototype and then put it into production
  • 26:10 – I keep old work and draw on it
  • 26:30 – I’m terrified of is wasting my time


26:55 – Paul… you’re an ass. You destroyed my childhood.

  • 27:35 – I did The Street as a lark
  • 28:00 – Wrote “Stuffing” in 4 hours
  • 28:15 – Got lots of feedback asking for the next one
  • 28:50 – I have three or four more stories in The Street (at least)
  • 30:10 – It’s a lot of fun to look at these childhood characters as if they were real and off the set
  • 30:30 – Muppets can be just as bad as Pee Wee Herman

About Author

Dave Robison has indulged in creative pursuits his entire life. His CV includes writing Curious George fan-fiction at the age of eight, improv theater at age ten, playing trumpet at age twelve, as well as a theater degree, creating magazine cover art, writing audio scripts, designing websites, creating board games, hosting mythological roundtables and generally savoring the sweet drought of expression in all its forms. His years of exploration give him a unique, informed, and eloquent perspective on the art of storytelling.

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