Post-Mortem: Northampton booQfest

Even the M1 was cheerful on Sunday and we made it to Northampton in good time. Of course, Julia Kavan‘s broomstick got her there early, too (and how does she fit her husband on it? I never knew they came with a pillion seat). We’d expected a wonderful venue and were not disappointed. Being early, we had chance to look around 78 Derngate and it took me back a few years to my student days. A big thanks to all at 78 for having us.

Here I am with the talented organiser, Daniel Burrows, just before my talk on horror and before the public took their seats. Thanks, Daniel, for organising such a great event.

If you’re wondering about the music stand, it served as a lectern, and if you think it’s empty – look again; for this talk I had all my notes and Diavolino excerpts on my Kindle, and I have say it worked a treat, far better than all those cards that slip to the floor or sheets of paper that get muddled up. And I didn’t even need my glasses for most of it due to the font sizer.

When I arrived at 78 my heart sank to find a bunch of workmen right outside the front door – and below the window to our room – digging up the pavement with a pneumatic drill. Maybe Julia put a spell on them and I’m glad to say they’d gone by the time we started. Despite Julia’s glowing introduction, I couldn’t resist having a little go at her – but why she thinks crossing her fingers like that will keep me at bay I have no idea.

The audience seemed to enjoy it as much as I did, and plenty of questions – some quite searching – came from the floor. I’ll blog about some of the issues raised in a later post. Thanks to all who came, to all who bought Diavolino, especially the lady who was prompted to buy 5 copies so she can dish them out to her friends. And finally, another author in attendance who came all the way from Wales was the horror writer Catherine Cavendish. Cat has blogged already on the event and you can visit her here:
Julia Kavan’s wicked report lies under this toadstool HERE.

So, who wants me next :-)?

Meet My Moderatrix (A booQfest update)


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.


Be afraid, very afraid: Moderatrix

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


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.

What’s In The Northampton booQfest?


In just over a week, the first Northampton booQfest gets underway. So while I try to get my own act together for the Sunday, I asked chief organiser Daniel Burrows to come and explain what it’s all about.


Daniel Burrows


Steve: Since I became involved with the booQfest the one question I get asked is ‘what’s that all about?’ So would you tell my readers-  in a nutshell?
Daniel: There isn’t a nut big enough! For me, booQfest works on so many different levels. First and foremost it is a celebration of literature that takes place right in the heart of Northampton town centre, so can be enjoyed by all. Secondly, it is a book festival with a difference. We’re looking at literature from a decidedly queer perspective, hence placing gay and lesbian authors at it’s core. Thirdly, because we’ve had such a positive response from writers who do not immediately identify as gay or lesbian, we’ve been able to widen the scope so that others can use the festival as a platform too. It’s the gay and lesbian literary festival for everyone!
Steve: What made you decide to take the huge step of organising a festival?
Daniel: Huge step? You’re scaring me!
Steve: Well, that’s a relief, since that’s what I do 🙂
Daniel: In my capacity of chairman of Northampton Gay Book Group, I was approached by Matthew Toresen of FAN Northants – an LGBT community events group – to help organise some sort of literary event in the town that would celebrate gay and lesbian writing. The original plan was to help lend identity to the gay and lesbian community of Northampton, by having one afternoon of readings by one or two gay or lesbian authors. However, once we started working on bringing the idea to fruition, we soon realised that there was scope for something a lot bigger! We didn’t plan on creating an entire weekend festival – it took on a life of its own, becoming an event that the town can be proud of hosting.
 Steve: Well, it doesn’t sound like you have anything to be scared about. Have you come up against any particular obstacles?
Daniel: We had such a fantastic response from all of the writers that we approached to take part.  It has been surprisingly easy! Perhaps I’m being naive. Ask me the same question when it’s over!
 Steve: I’d be glad to have you back for a debriefing, for sure. Now, you have a long list of distinguished authors over the three days of the festival. Tell us who you’ve got and what they are doing.
Daniel: So many people to mention. We have been very lucky. The weekend kicks off with not one but two well established gay authors guest speaking at the launch party on the evening of Friday 14th – Will Davis and Jeremy Seabrook. The superb crime writer Adrian Magson and recently published Rory Freckleton both start the Saturday proceedings by telling us about their journeys to publication. We later examine the fascination with science fiction with Doctor Who and Torchwood novel writers Paul Magrs, Joseph Lidster, Mark Michalowski and Gary Russell. More readings and signings from another local author – Councillor Dennis Meredith and then Clare Summerskill, who was once described by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as ‘a lesbian Victoria Wood’, takes to the stage. Jane Lovering pops in to give us a reading and signing and also Gregory Woods, poet and pioneering gay literary critic, joins us with some of his excellent poetry. Then more poetry in the form of the fantastic Fay Roberts, fresh from her trip to Edinburgh, before the evening ends with the great graphic novelist and local boy, Alan Moore. Alan will be talking about his involvement with AARGH! Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia and reading from the ‘Mirror of Love’ a work written at that time. We will also get a peek at his current project.
Sunday will be busy! We start with the smart and witty VG Lee talking about her latest novel ‘Always You, Edina’ and talking about writing comedy in lesbian fiction. She then joins a lesbian and bisexual panel discussion which includes Jane Reynolds, exploring issues facing lesbian authors. The vampish performance poet Sophia Blackwell will also be in this panel, and then an hour later will seamlessly reappear a mile or two down the road, at Abington Park, for a unique Poetry in the Park event. Meanwhile we have the likes of local girl Kaye Vincent, horror writer Steve Emmett (your good self!), Adrian Magson and Marion Grace Woolley all imparting their talent on to the town of Northampton on that Sunday.
Throw in some workshops with poet Fay Roberts, some creative writing and e-book workshops/seminars by local author Morgen Bailey and local storytelling by the fabulous Alex Ultradish. All this and more!
Steve: Sounds great! I wish I could be there all weekend. Now, you’ve arranged overlapping events – what’s the reason behind this?
Daniel: We’re fitting so much in to one weekend that its impossible not to! We want this to be a festival for everyone to enjoy. And there is stuff for everyone. So it’s OK to overlap some events because we’ve got the mix right. We’ve tried not to overlap genres so people can make easy decisions about what they want to see.
Steve: My own reading and talk on horror is on the Sunday and you’ve found me a wonderful venue. Could you tell people who are planning to come what to expect?
Daniel: They can expect to find out how a nice man like you can write such good horror! What is it that lies beneath that cool exterior?
Steve: You’re making me blush! Cool exterior? *sighs* I just hope I’m not so overawed that I get speaker’s block.
Daniel: I am sure moderator Julia Kavan will prize it out of you! Since Julia is a fan of yours, its an excellent pairing. This could be one of the most fun events in the festivalbecause of the genre, rather than despite it! So the audience can expect all this in the beautiful surroundings of art deco designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in a little house numbered 78 Derngate, Northampton. Very exciting!
Steve: Well, I know I’m excited and honoured to have been asked to take part. I hope it all goes well. Do you have plans to make it an annual event?
Daniel: Watch this space!
Steve: You bet! Thanks for dropping by, Daniel. I know your plate is full right now as the big day approaches. And I hope I’ll get to meet you at some point on Sunday – though that may well be something to be fearful of.
Don’t miss the Northampton booQfest, 14th to 16th September. Details here:  and all over t’internet!
Now, where’s my quill and bottle of blood…