Julia Kavan’s brilliant short story is re-released today. If you missed it last time, catch it now…
Dreaming, Not Sleeping
Some nightmares are simply too good to resist…
So, I’m here. There’s no turning back.
A few steps farther off the path and I will be consumed by the dark. A few steps farther and I will be embraced by the forest, wrapped in the musty smell of decay, held in its damp caress. A few steps farther and I will be lost forever.
Fallen twigs snap beneath my feet. Leaves whisper conspiratorially as I brush past. Twisted branches snatch at my face, scratch my cheek, draw blood. I press my fingers first against the wound, then against my lips, tasting the ferrous stain on my skin. I can hear my own breathing, my own heartbeat, over the wind whipping through the canopy of trees above me.
Not long now and I’ll see him. Not long now and I’ll be held softly in his arms and loved in a way I have only briefly tasted but often imagined.
Julia Kavan made my day recently when she told me that her short story Safe Harbour had been chosen to appear in Sanitarium horror magazine. It’s a while since Julia graced this blog so I asked her to come over for a bit of a grilling.
Steve: Welcome, Julia. What do you think to the broomstick parking bay I had made for you?
JK: Well, you could have swept it… here, you can borrow my broom 🙂 Thanks for the invitation, it’s been a while…
Steve: So, Safe Harbour is out in public. Congratulations! I think readers will love it, but it hasn’t been plain sailing (excuse the pun) has it?
JK: It’s had a few ‘almost, but not quite’ moments. I think I’m most disappointed with its ‘almost, but not quite a radio performance’. I’d love to hear Safe Harbour being read, but it wasn’t to be. However, I’m thrilled that Barry Skelhorn, editor of Sanitarium, accepted the story.
Steve: I’ll read it for you if you can get me on a radio show 😉 Now, I know you have some quirks when it comes to forms of transport but how are you with boats? Since this story has a nautical flavour presumably you’re a hardened sea dog (I couldn’t say sea bitch, could I)?
JK: Quirks? What quirks…? Okay, so I have been known to get travel sick in a lift… and as for going over all those hills to get here… and actually I’d probably need sea sickness tablets to use the Thames Clipper. However, I do love the sea – particularly when it’s angry. I love the sound and the taste of it in the air. I’m not one to declare my love for the ocean from the comfort of a sun lounger at the edge of a calm blue sea. The rougher the sea (as long as I’m not on it) and the wilder the coastline, the better. And I’d rather be clambering over rocks than sitting on a beach, although I do go there to watch the sunset sometimes – there’s a certain eeriness being by the sea at night. I also used to go for walks on the cliffs at Dover when I was a kid – scrabbling up the lesser-used cliff paths (which kind of makes me shudder now) to get to the top. One day I’ll write something set there, I think.
Steve: Well, then, you’d better tell us why you wrote this story and something about it. Tempt my readers with it.
JK: Safe Harbour is a very short but intense (I hope!) horror story –– originally written for a competition, I think the prompt was ‘shipwrecked’. Along with my love of ghosts and demons and creatures of the night I also had a bit of a fascination with mermaids when I was very young – only not the Disney kind, I preferred the darker myths about the creatures.
Steve: I thought I could smell fish. Now, you’ve a very inspiring graphic to go with the story. How did you come up with that?
JK: LOL, subtle, Steve… I think you should have put a winky emoticon there… 😉 aside from my putting the final image together, the composition was pretty much down to you! We both enjoy a bit of photo-manipulation when we’re not writing, and I find it relaxing – usually. However, you kindly got the images together for me during a somewhat frazzled moment. Thank you.
Steve: Oi! I wasn’t looking for thanks. You knew what you wanted – as you always do. Listen, I know many people are waiting for your next book. What’s on the horizon?
JK: Well, of course you and I are still putting the finish touches to our joint project, ready to get feedback from some brave beta-readers. When we’ve finished working on the novel I’d like to write more horror/dark shorts. I also have a WIP – Sinner – which is growing in quick, violent bursts. I don’t know if it will turn into a novel just yet, though.
Steve: What’s your take on the state of horror publishing at the moment? Do you think readers have enough choice now?
JK: When it comes to horror novels – no, there doesn’t seem to be a huge choice from mainstream publishers…or any choice really. There was a glimmer of hope recently when a small publisher opened its door to horror submissions, only to shut it again very quickly. As you mentioned in a recent radio interview, everything seems to be crime based, about tracking down serial killers etc.
Steve: Yes, it’s a crime, when really it ought to be a sin 😈 What do you think could improve things?
JK: Well, I understand that publishing is a business and publishers are out to make money at the end of the day… but… it would be nice for them to be more willing to take a chance with new writers.
Steve: Well, yes – new writers can sell, too, after all! Have you read any really good books in the last couple of months that you’d like to share with us?
JK: I’ve been so busy concentrating on our joint project I haven’t really had time to read anything substantial. I have several books I’ve started and put to one side. Instead I’ve found myself dipping into some horror anthologies, and I’m becoming more drawn towards novellas. I have Cousin K on my ‘to read’ list thanks to your recommendation.
Steve: Cousin K is a superb book! Here’s the link to my review at New York Journal of Books:
Steve: I don’t do definitions, that’s what dictionaries are for.
JK: Grrr! I’ve part-read plenty of stories that haven’t grabbed me by the throat – and I do like to be grabbed…or seduced, or intrigued… something… I may just be really hard to please, though.
Steve: You? Hard to please? Don’t make me larf, darlin! *gasps* Where do you see yourself twelve months from now?
JK: Still writing what I love, I hope.
Steve: I know you like Pinterest, so give us something to look at that sums up your work.
JK: I do like Pinterest – I remember when I used to have folders and display books of images, cuttings and notes when I first started writing. In fact I still have everything I collected for my first novel in a box somewhere. Pinterest is much tidier J and I can access my images anywhere. I have boards for all WIPs – so if people wander around my page they’ll catch a glimpse of what may be to come.
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.
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.
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.