On 16th September, as most of you will now be aware, I am appearing at the Northampton booQfest. I’ll be talking about horror, reading from Diavolino, answering questions and signing books. The moderatrix is my friend and fellow horror author Julia Kavan. With just a week to go I thought it would be a good time to drag her in here so that you can get to know her a little bit.
S: Welcome, Julia. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you had been chosen to crack the whip at my event at booQfest. How did you pull this off?
J: I originally approached Morgen Bailey when I heard about booQfest, to offer my help with either promoting the event or perhaps doing something practical at the booQfest itself, as Northampton isn’t too far away from where I live. I also mentioned I’d be stopping by to hear you speak… a few days later Daniel Burrows contacted me with the idea of me moderating your session. So, I was just as surprised to be asked as you were to find I was the one assigned to keep in you in line…erm, I mean moderate your session. (Where did I put that whip?)
S: That’ll teach you! I feel honoured to have been asked to speak at this event, especially with so many well-known writers about the place. To tell the truth, my nerves are starting to surface. I’m not quite horrified, but I can sense traces of mild terror. Are you all cool, calm and collected, ready to put down any daring hecklers?
J: As an experienced tutor I am used to speaking in front of people… although it’s been a while since I’ve done so as I’ve been concentrating on my own writing over the last couple of years. I’m certain that the audience will be friendly.
S: I’ll hold you to that. The Festival celebrates gay and lesbian authors (local and national) and their writing. This years’ booQfest is also reaching out to a wider audience so that other local writers can use it as a platform to publicise their work even if they do not directly identify with the LGBT community. Do you think there are enough opportunities nationwide for new or local or niche writers to showcase themselves and their work? If not, what would you like to see taking place?
J: I think the number of literary events created by writers themselves is growing. I’ve seen more events advertised recently than I remember seeing for a long time – after all, the whole point of writing for most authors is for others to read their work or hear/see it performed. In fact I’ve just seen that someone is already arranging a poetry festival in my home city for next year. I don’t think I will be inflicting my poetry on any poor audience, however– it takes horror to a whole new level.
I do think it’s a shame that larger bookshops no longer seem to want to support new and local authors – which is counter-productive, really – anything that brings customers in to the shop to buy books is surely a good thing (isn’t it?), and they are seen to be supporting new writers… and this week’s new writer could be next months big thing – but they have to be able to get their books seen. Luckily we have a great independent bookshop near to where I live which puts on regular readings and talks featuring both well known and local authors. With agents unwilling to take as many risks on new writers, wanting only to take on those they see as likely to achieve high sales (and fair enough it is a business they are running… but what happened to the idea of nurturing new talent?) writers are finding other ways to publish and get their stories out there. The literary landscape is changing… I wonder if the tremors started by writers being able to self-publish e-books will at some point develop into a full-blown earthquake.
S: We are certainly living in interesting times, I agree. I imagine that you’re going to kick-off the Q and A session with some probing of your own. What sort of things are you hoping to drag out of me and lay bare for the public?
J: Oh…as if I’d give you an inkling of what I’m going to ask! Where’s the fun in that? But I like to know how people tick…what makes their hearts beat faster…
S: Depends what sort of tick you mean, I suppose. I doubt it’s a big secret that, as moderatrix, you know more or less what I am going to talk about. So, without giving the game away, what would you say my theme is? In other words, if someone is looking at this and wondering whether to come or not, how would you persuade them?
J: Writers are often advised to ‘write what you know’ – some readers hearing that piece of wisdom might then look askance at the author of a horror novel, wondering if what they write is how they really think, but, in my view, there is far more to horror than gore, violence and the ability to scare a reader. There’s history and tradition. I like new horror writers who find ways to blend the old with the new. Diavolino does this in great style and this in an opportunity to discover how.
S: *blushes* Sunday 16th is by its nature going to be about me, but you write extremely taught scary stuff yourself. Why don’t you tell my readers something about yourself, your stories and where they can find you?
J: I grew up reading horror stories and a lot of sci-fi. I also read a lot of non-fiction – Fortean Times, Erik von Däniken, and magazines like Man, Myth and Magic (that might give away my age – erm – they were old, dusty copies J ). I exhausted the local library’s supply of supernatural reference books very quickly – I was fascinated by anything ‘otherworldly’. As a teenager I started writing my own horror (not sure it was terribly horrific – more like the dark ramblings of a moody teen), but back then I had no thought of trying to get published – it was just for the fun of playing with words. I returned to writing horror about 12 years ago, again for fun at first, but then I signed up to a creative writing course and started writing a novel. This was followed by a couple of screenplays as well as short stories in between. I still didn’t start submitting to publishers as I found myself teaching a creative writing course for my local college, as well as starting up a writing group for teenagers – and my time was taken up by that. Sometimes the path to where you want to be can be long and winding! Now I mostly write short stories, but I have a novel which is now being submitted to agents and publishers, and I am just starting work on another. I still write horror and suspense – I guess I’m just happiest in the dark. To find out more about me and my writing drop in at www.juliakavan.com
S: We have a super venue for the event and I’m looking forward to it, despite the nerves. I need to find where to park the car but tell me, are you coming on your broomstick?
J: Tsk, broomsticks are so yesterday, Steve. Bilocation is the way to go now – you can achieve twice as much in the same time. The question is, which version of me are you going to get on the day… the evil one or the nice one? Hmmm, doppelgänger story comes to mind…
Steve: Two of you? Now that’s an horrific thought if ever there was.