Please welcome author Julia Kavan. Her short horror/erotica story “Dreaming, Not Sleeping” recently released at Etopia Press.
Her nightmares were simply too good to resist.
A woman is tempted away from the safety of her husband’s arms by a skillful nighttime visitor. But they both find nothing is what it seems…
Annie: “Dreaming, Not Sleeping” delves into different states of perception and consciousness, the in-between world between reality and dreams, desire and nightmare. What about these themes and ideas most captures your writer’s imagination?
Julia: ‘In-between’ states of mind, dreams, and nightmares have always captured my imagination, even as a child. We have no control over what we dream—so experience all sorts of things we wouldn’t entertain in the real world—and if we enjoy it, it’s okay—because it was beyond our control…wasn’t it? Exhilarating and frightening dreams are also safe—because we are going to wake up… aren’t we? Lucid dreams are another thing, however—being able to control what happens in your dreams opens the door to a whole different world of adventure. As a writer, trying to capture the other-worldliness of a dream or nightmare in words is a challenge.
Anne: Have dreams or nightmares ever given you an idea for a story? Images? Atmosphere?
Julia: I am prone to waking suddenly from dreams—still immersed in whatever emotion I was feeling, but maybe with just a brief impression of what was happening—or a few scattered images may stay in my mind. I’ll jot these down as brief paragraphs, with the emotion as the central theme, in a notebook—with no other thought about where they might end up. Sometimes images from different dreams, weeks apart, will find their way into the same story.
Annie: Do you have to be in the ‘right’ frame of mind to write?
Julia: Yes, I do find it easier if I’m in a particular frame of mind, even more so if I’m writing horror or something dark. I actually spend a lot of time laughing—but have ways of switching into writing mode—although it can be hard to switch out of it again. When I’m concentrating on getting something finished the story will stay with me all the time…and I’m possibly hellish to be with. I usually edit or write lighter stuff during the day and work on darker stories at night (particularly if writing something set at night!). I use music to change mood quickly, and start writing. I’m not a practical plotter. I write what I feel first, see how it evolves—and sort it out later.
Annie: You’ve mentioned an early love for ghost stories. Do they still hold an attraction for you? Do you find ghost stories work on a different level than other forms of horror—i.e. serial killer stories or monster stories?
Julia: When I read I tend to lean more towards psychological horror now. I think ghost stories are the most subtle kind of scary. Things that can’t quite be seen, that you can’t quite grasp or that creep up on you in the dark just hinting at their presence are just as frightening as the horror that stares you in the face and grips you by the throat. I have a novel in progress which consists of three interlinked ghost stories. I hope the way my ghosts manifest their very human motivations is scary. I have to say I’ve never been scared by ‘monsters’—it’s usually people you have to watch! Oh, that Chucky doll! Does that count as a monster? Now, that’ll get me running from the room!
Annie: This might seem an obvious question at first, but what do you believe should be the primary effect on the reader of a supernatural or horror story…or does it even matter? On what level must it succeed in order to resonate with a reader?
Julia: I suppose scaring the reader would be the obvious answer. But, why do we deliberately read something which should make us uncomfortable? Every reader is different. Of course there are fears that are common to many that I can play on, but in the end I probably write what resonates with me. I’d like my readers to enjoy my stories because they are unsettling, and maybe even be aroused by some of them, despite the horrors they portray—and then question why.
Annie: You mentioned on Steve Emmett’s blog a little bit about the genesis of “Dreaming, Not Sleeping.” Could you share that with us?
Julia: I love going to forests and woods. They are stunning, peaceful places. Too peaceful sometimes. I’ll tend to wander off the main paths and just sit for a while. But sometimes I’ll hear branches cracking, and rustling along the forest floor—then the heart starts beating faster…just in case I have to run. It was on one of those walks where I managed to completely spook myself and then found a tree with ‘Do you really like it?’ written in the bark. I wondered who had written it and who they were asking… me? I was in a beautiful but suddenly very intimidating place. The images and feelings from that walk gradually evolved into “Dreaming, Not Sleeping.”
Thanks for joining us today, Julia! Readers can find an excerpt of “Dreaming, Not Sleeping” here: