I credit Paul Loh with getting me back into the wordslinging game. Back in 2014, while stressing about how my filmmaking career had stalled, I began toying with the idea of delving back into my first passion, prose. I hadn’t written prose in years, and was nervous about whether or not I still had the ability.
One night, while flicking through Facebook, I saw a post from Paul Loh—he was looking for subs for a new anthology he was putting together. I threw my reticence and anxiety to the wind and decided to go for it. Paul published that story, and, well, the rest is history. Turns out I still had it. Paul honored me a couple of year later by asking me to write the introduction to short story collection, Solace in Solitude.
Though we’ve never met in person, I do consider Paul a good friend. And I had a good time during our little chat about reading.
Ryan Lieske: Greetings, my friend! Let’s have you introduce yourself to the readers.
Paul Loh: I am an author, an actor, and a screenwriter. By night, I scare people at a haunted house, sing karaoke, and perform stand-up comedy.
RL: What is the first book you remember reading, or having read to you?
PL: In kindergarten, I had Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs read to me. That book completely opened my eyes to the world of imagination. Once I realized that anything is possible in books, I fell in love with reading.
RL: What are the book books that sealed your fate as a lifelong reader?
PL: In the first grade, my dad got me a few science books. They each were about specific things like rocks, space, sea life, etc. It was the most amazing gift I had ever gotten, and it’s a gift that is still giving today. It hooked me on reading. I don’t remember a damn thing about those specific books, but the point was that I could find out things about the world and beyond that none of my friends knew. I was never very good at school, but I was always learning!
RL: I know exactly what you mean. I was pretty terrible student, but I’ve always been a great learner. I think there is a definite distinction, don’t you? Also, I think my parents bought that same set of books. TimeLife Books, maybe?
PL: It might have been TimeLife. I don’t remember. There is a very important distinction between a student and a learner. A student has a teacher. A learner is their own teacher. A student learns at school. A learner learns in life.
RL: Amen, my friend! I’d never heard it put like that, but I love it. And agree wholeheartedly.
A lot of people have told me that, even if they were a voracious reader as a child, it was their middle-school and high-school years that had the most impact on the reader they are today. Would you say this is true for you? What were the books from this period that shaped you?
PL: In my senior year of high school, my English teacher had us read A Clockwork Orange, which forever changed my life as a reader and writer. I loved the way the author envisioned a future that was complete with its own drugs, style, culture, and even lingo. Never had I seen a world so completely realized until I read Watership Down. I wanted to write things that put readers into worlds of my creation.
RL: What are your feelings on those books now? Do you revisit them often?
PL: I have not read either in years. Not because I don’t love them, but because I’ve become really busy. I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies to review on my blog. I really don’t have time to read or watch for pleasure. I watch the human version of Watership Down on AMC, called The Walking Dead.
RL: Haha! Wow, that’s actually quite accurate. Nicely played, sir.
Speaking of this time period, were you one of those kids who went rogue from the curriculum and read whatever you wanted, sometimes even ignoring what was assigned to read altogether?
PL: I stayed with the curriculum, but I also spent lots of time at the school library. All through my schooling years, I read hundreds of books on a myriad of topics. I loved the paranormal, the extra-terrestrial, the supernatural, cryptozoology, mythology, science fiction, horror, mystery, and everything in between.
RL: Any books in particular from that time stand out for you still, and why?
PL: No specific books, just topics. Anything that had a ghost, a UFO, monster, or a pyramid on the cover.
RL: I was right there with ya! Here’s a couple of the ones I was obsessed with when I was younger:
Reading is inherently a solitary activity, so did your reading life ever supersede or cause conflict with your social life growing up? Were you more apt to hide out in the library at school, or stay home on a Saturday night to read a book?
PL: I didn’t have a social life. I was always reading. My dad was in the army so I moved a lot. That lifestyle wasn’t very conducive to having friends anyway. Now, when my dad bought a camcorder, I started making home movies. At that point, I had to start making friends so that I would have actors for my movies. Other than that, I was always by myself, listening to music, watching movies, or reading.
RL: What new books, literary styles, or genres were you exposed to in college?
PL: I double majored in Literature and Creative Writing. They had me read all kinds of shit I don’t give a fuck about. It really didn’t open my eyes to anything that stuck with me. I was reading four or five books every week and I don’t remember a damn thing about any of it. I did begin to find my voice in writing, though. And I took a screenwriting course as an elective and that opened me up to a whole new avenue of creativity.
RL: What were your favorite bookstores?
PL: I loved WaldenBooks, Borders, and Barnes And Noble. In Tucson, we also have a used book store called Bookmans. Of those, the first two are now gone. The latter two, I still go to whenever I have a bit of money to spare.
RL: Did you find, as you grew older, that the books of your youth began to mean less to you?
PL: Eventually, all the non-fiction books dropped off my radar. I focused mainly on horror and science fiction. That’s all I read these days. Now YouTube is where I watch videos about ghosts, UFOs, bigfoot, sea monsters, poltergeists, etc. I don’t regret loving anything because I still love it, even if I don’t actively read about it.
RL: How has your reading life survived adulthood?
PL: I mostly read on the shitter, or right before bed.
RL: Currently, what types of books are you mostly drawn to?
PL: I’m mostly drawn to zombie books. But recently, Orson Scott Card started putting out books about the first and second bugger invasions in the Ender’s Game universe. I’m obsessed with those books! I love reading about Mazer Rackham and the bugger technology that almost eradicated humanity.
RL: Tell me about a couple of recent zombie books you’ve liked, and what it is you enjoyed about them.
PL: My favorite zombie books are The Demon Dead series by Arthur M. Wyatt. That brings a paranormal element to the zombie genre, which is my specialty. My next movie that I’m going to film is one I wrote called Haunted Undead. It’s a mixture between Poltergeist and Night of the Living Dead. A team of paranormal investigators is stuck in a haunted house with zombies trying to get in to eat them. The ghosts keep trying to scare them out of the house.
RL: How do you share your love of books with others?
PL: I write a blog about books, movies, and music. I do reviews, interviews, and recommendations. Personally, I also talk to people about books that I think they would enjoy.
RL: I’m one of those people who reads several books at a time. I’ve been called a “reading polygamist.” Are you? Our are you pretty monogamous when it comes to reading?
PL: I’m always “in the middle” of lots of books. Some of them I’ve been “reading” for years now. I may never finish them. Others, I’ll read in one sitting. It all depends on how interesting it is. But I only actively read two or three at a time.
RL: Anything you’ve read recently that you read in one sitting? What about it kept you glued to the spot?
PL: I practically read The Demon Dead: Troubled Waters by Arthur M. Wyatt in one sitting. The way he mixes the paranormal and zombie genres so masterfully hooked me from the first in the series, The Demon Dead: Tres Zombies.
RL: Now, I’m not a big fan of the term “guilty pleasure.” However, for want of a better term, what are your literary guilty pleasures?
PL: I love children’s books. At least older ones. I’ve not really gone and read any of the newer ones, but the classics are some of my favorites. I mentioned Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. I also love The Giving Tree, or really anything by Shel Silverstein. I’ve written about half a dozen children’s books myself. I do plan to eventually put them out in print form. I just need to find them in whatever box they’re sitting.
RL: what are your thoughts on “genre?”
PL: Genre only matters when I’m at the bookstore so that I know where to go. When I’m reading or writing, I don’t really categorize. I love stories and often find that mixing genre’s yields some fascinating material. It’s similar to flavor fusions in cooking. When you have more flavors, it stimulates a larger area of your tastebuds.
RL: Do you have an example of a book that you feel mixed those flavors really well?
PL: Bryan Keene’s books have demon possessed zombies, I also love David Wellington’s zombie books for similar reasons. Anything that brings in to question what happened to the spirits of the people when they died and became zombies is fascinating to me. That’s what I write about in my own stories.
RL: Are you a physical copy person, or do you prefer other ways of “reading” books, such as ebooks or audio?
PL: I don’t care if it’s paper or digital. Whatever the cheapest copy available is. I download lots of free or cheap books to my Kindle, but I also buy lots of used books for a really low price. Paper books will always be available because a lot of people want them.
RL: Do you take a book with you wherever you go?
PL: I do not take a physical book with me wherever I go, but I do have the Kindle app on my phone. I mostly read paper books at home.
RL: Do you collect books?
PL: I do have a collection of paper books. A lot of them have been autographed by the authors. That is a big reason I get paper books. I personally know a lot of authors. It is just such a personal thing to have a book by a friend on your shelf, especially if they have signed it. It’s the same with a lot of my DVDs.
RL: What books―and they don’t have to necessarily have to be all-time favorites―do you feel have influenced you and shaped you the most: as a human being, as an artist, etc.?
PL: My two favorite books of all time are Ender’s Game and The Giving Tree. Those two books have influenced me as a person, in that I find myself identifying with Ender and the giving tree. I know what it feels like to be alone like Ender. I also know what it feels like to want to provide for someone no matter the cost to myself like the tree. Shel Silverstein’s simple black and white illustrations are what I modeled my own children’s books after.
RL: Have you ever read a book that made you cry?
PL: Bridge To Terabithia made me cry. I think it’s because it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, My Girl. And of course, The Giving Tree, because I recognized the self-sacrifice and it moved me. I would do that for my loved ones.
RL: And have you ever read a book that truly, deep down in your soul or psyche, disturbed you or went too far and made you not want to finish it?
PL: I’ve never read a book or saw a movie that went too far. My imagination is far worse than anything that anyone could show me.
RL: Just for fun, what is the one book―be it a widely lauded classic, or bestselling popular phenom―do you find absolutely unreadable?
PL: I tried several times to get through Stephen King’s The Stand. I couldn’t do it. I much prefer his short fiction. I generally don’t have the patience for long novels. I think the only exceptions to that are the Harry Potter novels. Other than those, I usually read books of only a few hundred pages. That or short stories.
RL: Why do you think that is, that you don’t have the patience for longer works?
PL: As Awolnation said, “Blame it on my ADD, baby!”
RL: Haha! Fair enough! Good talking to you, Paul.
FIND PAUL LOH ONLINE:
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: HERE