Short Story Saturday review 002: ‘Dreaming not Sleeping’ by Julia Kavan

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday review slot and the second review in this series. This week’s is of 2,500-worder ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ by Julia Kavan, first published by Etopia Press in January 2011.

Synopsis: A woman is tempted away from the safety of her husband’s arms by a skillful night-time visitor. But they both find nothing is what it seems…

Titles have to capture the essence of the story and ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ is spot on.

This is a first-person story, told predominantly from the wife’s point of view, with smaller interspersed sections from the husband, and snatched glimpses of a third character – the antagonist (who ‘speaks’ in italics). Interestingly, the wife is both protagonist and antagonist (to her husband) through her consequential actions.

I’m a big fan of inanimate objects becoming characters in themselves and here we had ‘leaves whisper conspiratorially’ which added to the already-brooding atmosphere.

Stories work well where there is more than one conflict and here we have two: the wife’s with the man in (of) her dreams and with her husband, who we can’t help but feel sorry for.

As a reader, however – and there has to be a however, this is a review – there were a couple of places where I paused; where the antagonist was referred to as a ‘he’ then an ‘it’ and then within a few words as ‘he’ again, although I can see why he could be both. A key element of any writing is ‘show don’t tell’ and one instance that leapt out at me was: ‘My dreams were frantic, fevered.’ (a good show) but it is then followed by ‘I missed him’. In the context of the story we can understand why her dreams were frantic so don’t need the ‘tell’.

Hooks are so important with any story and this has plenty of them including the intriguing ‘I’ve seen to that’. It comes just before the final scene of the story and definitely made me want to read on.

I won’t give away the ending but I did like the way it came full circle – you’ll have to read it to find out how.

The writing is very immediate, the characters convincing, pace strong, with good use of language and the steamier parts definitely engaging!

The story on paper (screen) is well laid out with asterisked paragraph spacing between point of view switches. My only observation is that these days the first paragraph of each section shouldn’t strictly be indented (get any paper book and you’re likely to find it isn’t) but a lot of what I read online is indented – I guess it’s a more relaxed format or a traditional vs self-publishing difference.

A good reviewer should be totally unbiased as to the genre that they read. Although as a teenage I used to read Stephen King books the day they came out, my tastes have since mellowed to crime and humour but Julia’s short story made me think that my choices needn’t be so narrow. 🙂

I had said this wouldn’t turn into a critique and it probably has but we’re all here to learn so I hope it’s helped.

Thank you Julia for letting me read your story.

Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia Kavan has spent most of her life living in Cambridgeshire – atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories. She has taught creative writing classes for the last ten years, whilst writing screenplays, tackling a novel and experimenting with short stories.

A true Scorpio, her tastes definitely err towards the dark side. She devoured horror stories as a teenager, including James Herbert and Stephen King in her list of favourite authors, moving on to Clive Barker and Peter Straub. As a child she would watch anything that even vaguely looked as if it may be scary… so perhaps it is only natural that this is the area her writing tends to wander into – even if she doesn’t always intend it to! Her favourite painting is Salvator Rosa’s L’Umana Fragilita. Her music collection includes Holst, Orff, 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park.

You can find more about Julia and her work via her website http://juliakavan.com, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, as well as reading our full interview (June 2011) and Julia’s poem ‘Empty’ posted here in January. ‘Dreaming Not Sleeping’ is available from Amazon.co.uk (currently £0.77 so presumably $0.99 on .com).

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

Next is I shall be spotlighting author Adele Cosgrove Bray then the blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with novelist and poet Rose Mary Boehm – the two hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Author Spotlight no.50 – Julia Kavan

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the fiftieth, is of ‘dark’ author Julia Kavan.

Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia Kavan has spent most of her life living in Cambridgeshire – atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories.

She has taught creative writing classes for the last ten years, whilst writing screenplays, tackling a novel and experimenting with short stories.

A true Scorpio, her tastes definitely err towards the dark side. She devoured horror stories as a teenager, including James Herbert and Stephen King in her list of favourite authors, moving on to Clive Barker and Peter Straub. As a child she would watch anything that even vaguely looked as if it may be scary… so perhaps it is only natural that this is the area her writing tends to wander into – even if she doesn’t always intend it to!

Her favourite painting is Salvator Rosa’s L’Umana Fragilita. Her music collection includes Holst, Orff, 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park.

And now from the author herself:

I started writing as a teenager – a fair bit of poetry (eek) and short pieces which seemed to impress my teachers at school. I liked writing anything ‘controversial’. I then experimented with what would possibly now be called fan-fiction – stories revolving around favourite characters from TV and film. I also started writing ghost and horror stories, as that was what I read most. I loved anything dark, mysterious or scary and grew up in a house full of esoteric literature. My extended family also provided a wealth of real life stories of the unexplained – from haunted war time tunnels and airfields to astral projection. Family get-togethers were like listening to a group of people reading from a copy of the Fortean Times.

I’m happy lurking in the darker side of life, so when I started writing seriously with a view to seeking publication, I decided to go with what seems to be my natural personality and stick with what I know – horror and the supernatural. My first epublished short story, Dreaming, Not Sleeping is a tale of nightmares and seduction. Very Scorpio. 🙂

My other projects have been equally as spooky. I’m about to start submitting a reworked version of a novel I wrote some time ago. I like to have some experience of what I write about, and the novel is set in the shadow of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire and the forests of Suffolk / Norfolk.

To relax, I like to go walking in forests and that’s where I often get inspiration for new stories, sometimes from the physical surroundings and sometimes from how I feel – it’s amazing how quickly somewhere very beautiful can become very threatening, just because of an unexpected noise or by taking a wrong turn…. Music plays a big part in my writing life too, either by getting me in the right mood to write a particular scene, or by blocking out the rest of the world.

My plans for the next year include a return to screenwriting. I spent a couple of years working on screenplays and I love working within that structure. Writing a scene for the screen means making as strong a visual impact as possible using few words – I find this discipline useful when writing novels, too. Once again I’m erring on the dark side by writing about the already horrific scenario of a loved one going missing – but with a nightmare twist.

Wow, what an upbringing. Mine was very ordinary but I read a lot of Stephen King (usually bought on the day of release) and although I’ve ‘mellowed’ to crime it could be why I like ‘dark’. 🙂 You can find more about Julia and her work via her website http://juliakavan.com, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, as well as reading our full interview (June 2011) and Julia’s poem ‘Empty’ posted just last Monday.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with detective novelist Bob Frey – the two hundred and fifty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

Post-weekend Poetry 005: ‘Empty’ by Julia Kavan

Welcome to the new Post-weekend Poetry and the fifth poem in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is entitled ‘Empty’ by Julia Kavan.

Empty

I see you
Flesh and blood
My derelict home
Banished, empty, all alone
Ripped apart
Soul from bone

I see you
Broken, decayed
Mindless, soulless
Unafraid

I see you
A battered shell
A staring unseeing
Hollowed out human being
A vision from Hell

I see you
Flesh and blood
My derelict home
Stupefied, shuffling, all alone
A slave forever
Your soul has flown

Wow, my type of poem. I asked Julia what prompted this piece and she said…

Many writers start out writing poetry, and I had a couple of poems accepted and published in print anthologies under another name around ten years ago. Empty was originally written for a themed competition on a writer’s forum. The prompt was ‘zombies’.  I think my interpretation of what it was to be a zombie at that time was of some emotionless being with its soul removed. I wondered what that soul might think if it could look back at its old body. It was later published by the now closed Absent Willow Review website, with some wonderful artwork.

Thank you Julia. 🙂

Born in the University city of Cambridge, England, Julia has spent most of her life living in Cambridgeshire – atmospheric and the perfect inspiration for ghost stories. She has taught creative writing classes for the last ten years, whilst writing screenplays, tackling a novel and experimenting with short stories.
A true Scorpio, her tastes definitely err towards the dark side. Her favourite painting is Salvator Rosa’s L’Umana Fragilita. Her music collection includes Holst, Orff, 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park.

She devoured horror stories as a teenager, including James Herbert and Stephen King in her list of favourite authors, moving on to Clive Barker and Peter Straub. As a child she would watch anything that even vaguely looked as if it may be scary… so perhaps it is only natural that this is the area her writing tends to wander into – even if she doesn’t always intend it to! Her short erotic horror story, Dreaming, Not Sleeping was released by Etopia Press last year, and she is currently working on a supernatural mystery set in East Anglia.

You can find Julia via her website http://www.juliakavan.com, Twitter and Facebook.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with  – the two hundred and fifty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.