Wednesday 26 September 2012

Stranger Than Fiction - Julia Kavan

There's something spooky about horror writers. We seem to attract weird and inexplicable experiences! My fellow contributors to the new Horror anthology, Touched by Darkness are no exception, and a number of them have agreed to share their strangest experiences with us. To start us off, I'll hand you over to Julia Kavan - author of Dreaming Not Sleeping:

I’ve had many spooky encounters during my life – one of them witnessed by Cat herself earlier in the year - I’ve heard disembodied voices as a child, I’ve seen ghostly figures walking across the landing at home and we have a phantom cat (or two).

Late one winter’s night I walked up the High Street towards my house, and as I drew level with the house two doors down from mine, I saw the figure of a man walk through the gate and up the steps to my front door (illuminated by the streetlamp right outside), before carrying on up the side path of my house and into the shadows. There had been no one walking up the street ahead of me and I couldn’t say where he’d come from. He just appeared. Stupidly, (don’t try this at home) I followed in his footsteps, expecting to confront someone trying to access the back of the house. There was no one. There was nowhere he could have gone without making a lot of noise – we had a rusty side gate that needed oiling and squealed when opened, and it was impossible to climb over in the dark (don’t ask me how I know that J ). The gate was still shut so I opened it, accompanied by the usual racket from the old hinges, and did a very nervous check of the back garden. Nothing. The only way out was past me and back down the steps.

There had been several nights when I’d heard footsteps walking up the side path – the living room wall backed on to it – and although we had a small window looking out on the side garden in the cupboard under the stairs, I never dared to look through it... just in case someone looked back.

I kind of put it all down to my overactive, creepy imagination. Until the night a friend of mine rang the doorbell. It was late and dark. He told me he was just passing and had just seen a man walking up the steps to the front door before disappearing up the side path...
(He did check the place out for me – there was no one there)

As well as disappearing people, I’ve also had an entire building vanish – at least temporarily. There was a bookshop that I used to visit very regularly – almost weekly – where I would buy books on the paranormal and about magic... except for the day I walked down the hill and couldn’t find the shop anywhere. I walked up and down the hill several times. There was no bookshop. It was as if it had been plucked out of the street and the gap it would have left had sealed up. I gave up looking, deciding that it must have closed down, but puzzled as to why there wasn’t even an empty building. I even remarked to someone I knew who I met later in the day, that it was a shame the place had shut down as it had been there for years. They were as surprised as I.
The following week I walked down the hill to visit another shop....and saw the bookshop sign hanging in the place it always had. I carried on down the hill straight to the door and looked at the display of books they always had in the window. I went inside and bought the book I’d intended to buy and asked if they had been closed the previous week – the owner insisted they had been there as usual, but it had been a quiet day. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find it....

Dreaming Not Sleeping is available Here and you can find out more about Julia by visiting her website: Julia Kavan 

Touched by Darkness is available from:

Monday 17 September 2012

The Devil and Mr Emmett...

Just returned from an excellent weekend at Booqfest where an eclectic selection of writers gave readings, workshops and conducted book signings at various venues in Northampton.

Thoroughly enjoyed a Creative Writing Workshop conducted by Morgen Bailey whose energy leaves me exhausted. I'm sure for every twenty-four hours the rest of us have at our disposal, she has thirty-six. I don't know how she manages so much creative output!

The highlight for me though had to be Steve Emmett. On Sunday, he gave a riveting talk on Horror as a genre, how he became hooked on it and his early influences. He also gave his audience some food for thought on the perils of dabbling in the Black Art. I found this particularly fascinating as a writer of Paranormal Horror myself. As Steve himself put it, so many people are sceptical of anything beyond what they can see, hear, touch and prove. Yet if there really is nothing beyond the normal - i.e. paranormal - why would there be any harm in playing with ouija boards or indulging in one of the myriad forms of black magic? But the likes of Dennis Wheatley, Rollo Ahmed and the Roman Catholic Church come out vehemently against such practices. Hmm - I leave that one with you to  ponder on.
Rollo Ahmed

Steve ended his part of the proceedings with a reading from his dark and scary novel Diavolino, after which he conducted a book signing. What a great way to spend a Sunday!

Julia wards off the devil - er, I mean Steve

Horror writer,Julia Kavan, moderated and did an excellent job of keeping everything flowing smoothly while we, Steve's audience, fired question after question at him. I asked him about his next novel. My lips are sealed for now, but I can tell you, it's going to be great.

Just a brief word about the venue - 78 Derngate - a hidden gem which just happens to be the only house in England designed by one of my favourites - Charles Rennie Mackintosh - and which is, in my opinion, worth the trip to Northampton alone. I would never have known of it but for going along to hear one of my favourite Horror writers, but now you know, why not go along and give yourself a treat? The restaurant there is well worth a visit too!