Pulp Heroes: Andrew Coulthard
Andrew wrote the stirring sword and sorcery tale, "Ula and the Black Book of Leng" for THE ALCHEMY PRESS BOOK OF PULP HEROES 2. Here he generously answers questions on it and other topics.
Would you like to briefly introduce yourself: what inspired your writing and when you began, and – if possible – of all of your published work could you tell me which your favourites are (and why)?
I’m a 47 year-old Brit who has been living in Sweden for the past 23 years. I’ve drawn, painted and written in one form or another since I was a kid, but have only tried to get my writing into print the past few years. I tend to see each tale as a highly distinct outing into a very specific alternative world. They are generally quite different and that makes them hard to compare.
Do you have a favourite genre, or sub-genre? What exactly is it that attracts you?
I suppose fantasy has always been my favourite genre with sci-fi as a close second. Different things have attracted me to them over the years. As a youth there was the possibility of escape from banality into fantastical worlds of limitless adventure. There was also the feeling of being able to overcome all odds and the sense of wonder and scale that great science fiction can bestow. I think that I’ve increasingly come to value fantastic settings because of their potential for demonstrating complex ideas.
Some say Pulp is a genre, others a style; which side do you come down on?
I don’t really come down on either side. To me “Pulp” is a concept that is still developing and whose meaning is therefore refreshingly elastic. The term has certainly grown beyond its original reference to the low quality paper used in cheap short story collections of the 1930s. If Pulp is a genre it includes many sub-genres: detective, western, sword and sorcery, sci-fi and horror. But Pulp tales of all denominations tend to be colourful, fast-paced, laconic and full of action and so there is clearly a classic pulp style too.
What was the inspiration for “Ula and the Black Book of Leng”?
In my youth I was great fan of Robert E Howard and particularly of his Conan stories. In this story I wanted to pull together references to the pulp works I grew up with, and also to other influences that have been important to me, but which might at first seem at odds.
Howard made Conan his noble barbarian and gave him imaginary prehistoric Celtic origins. Ula is a name that can be found in a number of different cultural contexts, but I selected it because of its Gaelic meaning: Sea Jewel. She comes from the far north but plies the seas; a noble barbarian and, I like to think, every bit as hot-blooded, daring and courageous as her literary predecessors.
In the course of the story there are also, I think, echoes of my love of Ursula Le Guinn’s EARTHSEA books and of Coleridge’s ANCIENT MARINER.
Some of my favourite Howard stories contained Lovecraftian elements and of course those who know Lovecraft will already have encountered Leng in various settings. But THE BLACK BOOK OF LENG YEN, to use the black book’s full title, is also the name of a real book of apocalyptic Buddhist writings referenced in the SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER - THE LENG YEN CHING.
Do you have a particular favourite author, or authors? What is it about their work which appeals to you?
I’m an eclectic reader and would find it hard to pick out a specific favourite author. With regard to fantasy and SF I’ve already mentioned Howard and Le Guinn, but have also very much enjoyed Iain Banks (with and without the “M”), David Gemmell, Robert Holdstock, Peter F Hamilton and many of the classic SF and fantasy authors: Alan Garner, CS Lewis, Tolkien, Moorcock, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe…
Outside writing, what else occupies your time (assuming you have any free time left)?
I have a family which keeps me busy and in my spare time I like hiking in the forests and mountains. As for my day-job, I run a training company in Stockholm that provides Business Communication and English services.
Is there any particular style of music – or musicians – which appeals to you?
An eclectic listener too, I like all kinds of music: symphonic and early music, ambient electronic music, rock music and even dance music (particularly when jogging, cycling or working out).
What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing a fantasy novel called RUTHGHER’S CONCEIT set in the same world as Ula’s adventures.