My fourth Creative Feature involves two of my favourite pastimes: writing and art!
Last year, Paul Ramey’s book ‘Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire’ enthralled me. Wonderful imagery amidst an intriguing storyline drew me right into a mystery that Edgar Wilde, a teenage top-hat wearing misfit, stumbles into whilst taking amateur tours around his local cemetery. You’ll have to read the book to find out more…no really, you should! Let me introduce you to an author who does much more than write!
Paul Ramey – Writer, Graphic Artist and Musician
What inspires you, and what brought about your interest in graveyards?
I have always been thoroughly fascinated with lost or forgotten history. Capturing the mystery of times, places, and people that recorded history has lost track of is definitely what led me down the path toward writing my young-adult historical mystery, Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire. Also, I tend toward “Goth/Victorian” aesthetics, and the stories and characters draw tremendously from that.
As far as graveyards – aren’t they just the most fascinating places? I remember when I was 15 and exploring the hills of Eastern Kentucky where my dad’s side of the family has a little nook up in the hills called Ramey Branch. And up near the top of one of those hills I stumbled onto a few small, forgotten graves. And one of them, I later discovered, turned out to be my great-great grandmother, and her name was America. America Ramey. Can you believe that? I’d never even heard of her before. And every family has markers of their past, their history, scattered like breadcrumbs as they’ve made their incredible journeys across continents and through time.
On another level, if you’re an artist then the beautiful iconography, calligraphy, materials, and styles are endlessly fascinating and addicting. Many of these places are truly national treasures – outside museums with their own stories and ambience. And even the saddest, neglected cemetery still holds so many stories and opportunities for discovery, and for restoration. One of my most important goals for the Edgar Wilde books has been to educate and inform young adults as to the importance and wonder of cemeteries, by trying to weave some mysteries through the stones.
You’ve used your graphic design skills to produce a great book cover for ‘Edgar Wilde’ and I’m familiar with your pen and ink drawings. How does your art fit and complement your writing?
My artist “inner eye” is vital to writing. I’ve mentioned it before, that the cover of Edgar Wilde was one of the first things that showed up, and I often kept a printed draft of it near where I was writing, helping me to imagine more clearly a book that didn’t yet exist. The auditory aspect of writing is certainly important – the cadence, the rhythm of the text – but a lot of my style is ultimately visual conceptualization and I think a lot in terms of colors, textures, and shadows and light. And to be honest, I always thought of my novel as a potential screenplay anyway, for an eventual Edgar Wilde motion picture! I mean, if J.K. Rowling can do it, right? So again, very visual.
You have wide-ranging talents encompassing writing, music and art. Do you have a favourite creative ability, favourite colours and techniques?
Growing up, I dreamed of being a comic book writer and artist, and I still enjoy exploring the comic book styles of art. But my detailed pen-and-ink “stipple” work is the closest thing I have to an artistic craft. I’m very proud of it – these days many people who see it think it’s the result of some sort of computer program, but it’s really me, doing hours of dot-dot-dot with a pen! It’s a very zen, meditative process, and I love that place within me.
I have to also mention another source of creative pride, and that is my ability as a music composer and lyricist. I’ve been told I have a wonderful sense of wordplay and craft, and it’s exciting to be able to explore that kind of music-driven poetry and storytelling – more of a focus on essence, and intuitive partnering with the instruments, the harmonies, and tones. In 2009 I finished work on a goth/rock opera called Veil & Subdue – the Courtship of The Black Sultan, which was a three-year endeavor. The final, published Veil & Subdue is a 2-CD, 22-song album that I conceived of and recorded with my collaborator friend, Anna Loy (Anna K. Meade). The story is basically about Morpheus, the Dream King, and his ill-fated love of a mortal woman. It is based on classical mythology, but also draws inspiration from the “night terror” phenomenon that many people experience. It includes a complete libretto and is ready to be staged, if the right people come along to finally bring that dream to life. In the meantime it is available as a CD album only.
Your work is very varied, but what do you consider your best work to date – do you have a favourite piece?
I guess because I am all over the place I don’t really have a favourite. I think that many of my pen-and-ink “stipple” pieces are quite good – I look at some of them now and don’t even know how I pulled them off. My personal favourite, though, is an acrylic painting from 2004. I’m not the best painter, but I am still so thrilled with the finished product, and with the depth of symbolism going on in there. It’s called The Great Escape, and it features a character that showed up in a few paintings of mine many years back, called the Merry Prankster. He was sort of a mischievous harlequin-garbed clown character, and represented change – usually traumatic life change that you just have to laugh about because it’s just so ridiculously overwhelming. In this particular painting, he’s rising up out of a painting, so from 2-D to 3-D. He’s trying to escape his situation. But there’s a hand also rising up out of the painting, pulling him back in. It’s a female hand, and obviously represents a relationship memory or situation. He’s caught there, mid-flight, with the past literally trying to pull him back down onto the canvas. It was the last time I ever painted the Prankster, so I guess he’s still frozen there, forever caught.
I know there’s a second ‘Edgar Wilde’ book in the works, which I am incredibly excited for, what are your other future plans?
There are actually a second and third “Edgar Wilde” book currently in development, and that’s where my focus is. One of my most important personal achievements in the past decade has been learning how to focus on long-term projects, and to keep showing up for it. The Veil & Subdue project was my first major success with that. Edgar Wilde was the second. I believe Joni Mitchell coined the phrase “the rotating of the crops.” It means that you do some art, then eventually move to a writing phase, then some music (or whatever other passions you have), and then eventually you come back to the beginning. So it’s a cycle, and helps to nourish and inform each stage as you keep going around and around. That process really resonates with me, but I think mostly because I’m easily distracted, and “rotating crops” is a very comforting thought for a distracted person – an “easy out” for unfinished projects. No, these days I have to make sure I don’t drift too far, because I know I may never come back to finish what I started. So these days it’s all Edgar, all the time! And a little craft beer homebrewing. And a whole lot of raising my beautiful daughter, Sofia!
Lastly, if you could commission anything for yourself, money no object, what would it be?
I’d like to send myself on a worldwide journey to explore and document fascinating cultures, architecture, achievement, history, and experiences (including culinary). Preferably by sailboat. Possibly an ongoing blog, with eventual books to follow (both fiction and non-). And at the end of it all, I’d like for those endeavors to sustain me so that I never have to worry about finances again.
I’d also like to commission myself to take on the inevitable film adaptation of Edgar Wilde. I have no idea how to do that, but I think I could give it a shot!
A fascinating look into your creative life, Paul, thank you for sharing your many talents with us! I like the ‘crop rotation’ theory…especially as I’m an arty writer, so I’m looking forward to a little rotation myself!
Please find out more about: Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire: www.ninemusepress.com
Zen Salvador: www.zensalvador.com
Veil & Subdue – the Courtship of The Black Sultan: www.cdbaby.com/cd/paulramey
Graphic Design Portfolio: http://paulramey.carbonmade.com
Cemetery Photography Cards, Edgar Wilde Merchandise, etc.: www.zazzle.com/mementomorii
Paul Ramey is a writer, graphic artist, musician, and unrepentant cemetery buff. His most recent published works include his first novel, Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire, a two-CD goth/rock musical album, Veil & Subdue – the Courtship of The Black Sultan, and Zen Salvador, a limited-edition book of zen-styled dog wisdom. Originally from Frankfort, Kentucky, Paul now lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and child.