New Year’s Eve. Who can believe it? Where did 2012 go? Some might say it was such a stinker of a year that it’s good riddance – and I might be one of them. I decided to have a chat with my friendly witch – sorry, old friend – author Julia Kavan to see what we have in common for the coming year, if anything, and what thoughts we might share on the year now gone.
Make sure you go all the way down to the end of the post and leave a comment – you might win a book!
S: So, Julia. 2012. Good or bad?
J: Good. And what do you mean old friend? I’m not old…
S: Well, not as old as me, no…
J: You said it! While I’ve mainly been quietly working away on long-term projects I’ve enjoyed seeing my writer friends go from strength to strength – some having more stories published (Catherine Cavendish), others being published in new genres (Susan Roebuck). How about you? You’ve had a busy year. We even managed to meet three times in the space of a month without the world coming to an end. Surely this past year wasn’t really a stinker?
S: I mean globally rather than personally. I still get rather worked up about politics and things – don’t forget I used to be a politician in a former life. I keep thinking I might get involved again but living where I do there isn’t much point, it would be just more frustration. Round here you can put a pile of horse shit up as a Tory candidate and it’ll get elected. Personally it hasn’t been the worst year on record, but I do feel my penance is paid and that it’s time for an upsurge.
So, if yours has been good, can you pick a highlight?
J: Can I only have one?
S: As many as you like, since I’m feeling generous.
J: In that case…opening the parcel containing my copies of the horror anthology Touched by Darkness, which includes my short story Dreaming, Not Sleeping. Attending BooQfest to keep you in line (you were very well behaved).
S: Oh, surely not? Wasn’t my intention I can assure you. Shame there weren’t any religious zealots in the audience, though. I’d been hoping for some decent hecklers to deal with.
Fending off Julia at Northampton BooQFest
J: Meeting some of my virtual friends in the flesh… And I imagine you have more than one highlight of the year, Steve… there was that lovely pub for a start…
S: You mean that place in York where we went after my book signing? Christ, I’m glad I don’t go to pubs much. I am astonished how tarty people can make themselves look in the name of a night out. That was horror!
J: Hmph – I thought I looked quite smart… ;-)
S: As for highlights, being a born again Yorkshireman I’m not much given to cheerfulness if I can help it, so I will have to think really hard. *adopts the thinking position* Well, obviously I was pretty chuffed getting the paperbacks of Diavolino. Having print copies meant I was able to get decent coverage in magazines and newspapers, and I can say my writing career has been boosted as a result of all that. It was great to hear from Curtis Brown that I write really well, even if they ended up turning down my latest novel. They said they didn’t know how to sell it. I hope someone will! I would also say it cheered me up to get a message from Professor Mary Beard after I tried to drum up support for her when the appalling AA Gill had a go at her.
Mary Beard is professor of classics at Cambridge University
AA Gill is not a professor by any means
That’s enough of that stuff. Tell me, have you made any resolutions for the New Year? Do you generally do so and do you keep them?
J: I don’t make resolutions or set specific goals – I just try to keep moving in the direction I want to go, and see what happens along the way. If you remain too focused on achieving the specific outcome you think you want, resolutely following a set path you think is the right path, you may miss something better (bleuch – but you know what I mean).
S: I think so, but I have to say that staying focused is the thing that keeps me going. I agree you can’t be blinkered, but you have to have a steady aim.
Well, if you don’t make resolutions, what are you hoping for in 2013?
J: Perhaps like most authors yet to find a home for their first novel, I’m hoping that this is the year that everything clicks into place. I’m hoping the novel we are working on (I can say that, can’t I? Well, I have now…) will be as good as the first chapters suggest.
S: Yes, I’m really excited about our joint venture. Shall we tell the readers a bit about it?
J: I think we should – but I’m going to let you start.
S: Oh, bugger. You know I’m not good at this sort of thing.
J: Get on with it.
S: Jeesh. Well, is it fair to call it a psycho-sexual thriller?
J: Definitely – a bit of a departure from what we usually write, I know. The horror in this story is on a more personal level – dealing with the darker aspects of human nature.
S: We have two main characters, Michael the psychiatrist and Annie the loopy girl he rescues from the rain and puddles one evening. Annie brings out things in Michael he never knew were there and it all becomes rather a nasty big mess. Is that fair?
J: It certainly seems to be nasty big mess for one of the characters…
S: In the past we’ve done a lot of critiquing for each other, but actually writing a book together is different, is it not? Do you think we will finish it before one of us kills the other?
J: Writing a book together is different, but through critiquing we have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses… bad habits, blind spots, foibles, and quirks… of course I have very few of those…
S: Other than writing longer sentences than Germans and dropping in the odd appalling speech tag you mean? I don’t have any at all. Well, except for my atrocious typing. And never knowing my past from my passed.
J: Huh! And some of your similes are too much!
We have very different voices, too – which is what makes this novel work so well, I think. If writing this story together was lovely and companionable (I do try, tho…) it would be a very dull book, in my opinion. We are very different as people, and our working methods differ –we collide sometimes, but that makes sparks, creatively speaking. As for killing each other before it’s finished…it’s a distinct possibility, but I promise I will make it painless. Almost.
S: I cannot believe you used the word ‘companionable’. I HATE that word. It appears in dull books, in my opinion.
J: I know you hate that word…. I’m aware my working methods mean you are in the dark for half of the time, waiting to see how things fit together. How do you feel about that?
S: Since I can now read your mind it isn’t an issue! No, actually I feel desolate. I do not know how you can be so airy fairy in your thinking. You drive me to drink.
J: I am not airy fairy, I’m fluid.
S: I’m certainly consuming fluids! We have to be careful how much we say, but can you tease the readers with something about your character?
J: She’s the most difficult character I’ve ever written! Just when you think you’re getting to know her, you get a glimpse of something you don’t expect, and off she goes. She’s feisty and fragile at the same time. She’s scary, too.
S: Sounds like you!
J: Difficult, you mean? Tsk.
S: And how do you view my character?
J: I’m torn about him– sometimes I can’t stand him, and I find myself feeling protective of my character… although I’m (almost) sure she can take care of herself. Then I feel sorry for him.
S: Whenever I send you a scene I’ve written and you say you hate Michael as a result, I feel really good!
Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. What will you be doing tonight?
J: I’ll be having a quiet evening at home, contemplating 2013 with a glass of something sparkling (no, not Lambrini, before you say it!). I will find a compass (I’m sure there was one in a Christmas cracker), locate Oop North, and raise my glass in your direction.
S: I have some bottles of nice stuff in the fridge but, to be honest, I had a bit too much last night and may have an early night tonight. If I do, it will be the first time since I could walk that I won’t have seen in the New Year. We’ll see. I love New Year’s Day and hate feeling crap then, especially if I miss the NYD concert in Vienna. What’s the 1st January looking like for you?
J: Writing, of course! Start as you mean to go on!
S: Ditto. After the concert, though.
J: Happy New Year, Steve – I’m looking forward to 2013.
S: Me too, and you too.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
Leave us a New Year message and once all the celebrations are over I will choose the best* one and send its author a signed copy of Diavolino. If you nip over to Julia’s I think she has something for you, too.
(*Best to my mind. And my decision is final!)