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

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