OUT NOW: Seven Sins

Seven Sins Out NowMy debut short story collection, SEVEN SINS, is now out in the world. Paperback and ebook copies are available from the publisher, Concord ePress, right on over here.

I originally got the idea to put together a collection in 2013. It’s been a long journey since then, with many tweaks to the original concept made along the way. The common thread in these stories is that they are all about good / well-intentioned people doing bad things. What makes this happen? When and how do good intentions go wrong? How much outer influence is required, and how much comes directly from within? I could’ve written a lot more stories exploring this idea (in fact, I did… you should see the size of my personal slush pile…), but once the dust had cleared, these seven are the ones I ended up feeling most sure about.

That’s the premise. Now for the bragging points. My polished MS dutifully did its rounds, subjected to the scrutiny of a few big-name authors who graciously agreed to give it a look ahead of the publishing date. And here are some of those big-name authors, and what they had to say about this collection.

(And YES, I was beyond nervous that they would be reading my work with the option to blurb it. And NO, I still can’t quite believe how  wonderful this feedback was.)

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“This is a book that I want to read all over again, just to see how Karen Runge does it— how she uses her prose like a razor, her insight like a probe. How she cuts so deep, but without any anesthetic at all. How you can’t help but lean over, look inside with her. The story collection of the year, for me.”

Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels

“The desire and despair of her characters is intelligently and compassionately rendered, and you’re made to feel every drop of spilled blood. A stunning debut collection.”

Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

“In this finely crafted debut collection, moments of horror peel away in layers to reveal the tender small bones of human frailty. Karen Runge writes with an unsettling confidence that makes Seven Sins as compulsive as it is terrifying, creating stories so dark they give nightmares, writing so sharp it leaves scars.”

Kate Horsley, author of The Monster’s Wife and The American Girl

“Beautiful, insidious, gut-wrenching. Like biting into windfallen fruit – so full of sunshine and sugar, but with each new sample the true taste of its own rot emerges.”

Nikki Guerlain

And my personal favourite, from the genius Stona Fitch. My publisher, my editor, my mentor. Author of the astonishing SENSELESS, a dark lit novel that has influenced me, taught me, changed me.

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I’ll stop here while I can still breathe.

 

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Coming Soon: Suspended in Dusk 2

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Any good thing has to happen at least twice. I know it, and so does Simon Dewar, AKA Horror Editor Who Makes Things Happen. Doesn’t he just. In 2014, he single-handedly put together the much-acclaimed Suspended in Dusk anthology, which snatched up blurbs from the likes of Jonathan Maberry and Kaaron Warren. It also earned itself an introduction by horror legend Jack Ketchum. Not bad for a first-time editor, to put it very, very mildly.

And so, here we go… sequel time! The final Table of Contents for Suspended in Dusk 2 has at last been confirmed and made public. Take a look at these names. And yes, it’s that good, you’re probably going to have to read this twice. At least.

Here’s the lineup:

  1. Introduction by Angela Slatter
  2. Deadman’s Road by Joe R. Lansdale
  3. The Mournful Cry of Owls by Christopher Golden
  4. The Immortal Dead by JC Michael
  5. That Damned Cat by Nerine Dorman
  6. Another World by Ramsey Campbell
  7. Angeline by Karen Runge
  8. Mother of Shadows by Benjamin Knox
  9. Love is a Cavity I Can’t Stop Touching by Stephen Graham Jones
  10. Crying Demon by Alan Baxter
  11. The Sundowners by Damien Angelica Walters
  12. Still Life with Natalie by Sarah Read
  13. Riptide by Dan Rabarts
  14. Dealing in Shadows by Annie Neugebauer
  15. There’s no light between floors by Paul Tremblay

To read more about the anthology and keep up to date with developments, take a look at Simon’s official announcement on his blog.

My short story ‘Hope is Here’ appeared in the original Suspended in Dusk. This time round my offering is ‘Angeline’, a story about a sweet young woman who only wants to please. I’ll let you imagine what that means, and where exactly that might lead her.

Mwahaha.

 

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Cover Reveal: SEVEN SINS (Short Story Collection)

SevenSins_COVER

And here it is. My debut short story collection, SEVEN SINS, is well on its way through the final edits and should be available from Concord ePress around June this year.

Edited by Stona Fitch and with blurbs from Paul Tremblay and Kate Horsley (I’m overawed at the weight of these names), SEVEN SINS aims to explore the softer  intentions that nevertheless have the power to drive darker actions.

With SEVEN SINS, I wanted to tackle the darker aspects of love and nurturing without shying away from what might happen there. In short, the sins featured here (not, by the way, the seven deadly sins we all know) are all in some way spawned by love — which is what I suspect most sins are born out of, one way or another. I’m not necessarily referring to romantic love either (how boring would that be?) but rather that between family, between friends, between strangers, between selves. I tried to talk about evil with as much compassion as I could, steering clear of sensationalism, staying true to the nature of the acts. And of course, I wanted it extreme. That was my target, and I hope I’ve hit somewhere close to the mark.

Cover and interior illustrations were done by the Boston musician and artist, Stephen Fredette, who’s work here is remarkably on-point and honestly left me stammering.

My humble thanks to Stona and Ann Fitch and their team at Concord ePress, and to Paul Tremblay and Kate Horsley for taking the time to read and so generously blurb this book.

For now, to read the full blurbs and take a look at the official book page on the Concord ePress site, head over here.

More as we get closer….

 

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Coming Soon: Debut Novel SEEING DOUBLE

gmp_logo3Well this is shaping up to be an interesting year. Unlike last year, the vast majority of which was spent either hunkered over my laptop, or daydreaming about being hunkered over my laptop. And taking notes, lots of notes. Why? Because last year I wrote a book. And this year, it’s getting published.

Earlier this month, Grey Matter Press officially announced the publication of my novel “Seeing Double”. It’s taken me a while to act on it, because I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. A book. An entire book. Of mine. My name on the cover, my creation inside. Surreal, wonderful as that particular word is, doesn’t come close to capturing my feelings around this.

But… YAY! Maybe that’s the more important word for now.

“Seeing Double” is an exploration into sadism. What makes it tick, what shapes does it take, what kinds of nightmare fuel are strong enough to fire it into action. I’ve been asked before, as I’m sure many horror and dark literature writers have, if I ever manage to scare myself. There’s a scale to that, but the answer is usually yes. And in this case, I can’t scream YES loud enough. It was a tough one to write, mentally very stimulating, required hours of research, and a lot of reflection. The kind of reflection that makes you worry you might start cracking mirrors. In short, it’s the type of horror I personally love the most: extreme. Fellow fans of the hardcore, I do sincerely hope you’ll welcome and enjoy my reprobate little babe! This is my firstborn, and mother is very proud, though she probably really, really shouldn’t be…!

Thanks to the ever amazing Sharon Lawson and Anthony Rivera, editors at Grey Matter Press, for all their incredible support. They’re fantastic to work with and I’m so honoured to have my debut novel in their skilful hands.

“Seeing Double” is tentatively set for release in September this year. Details to follow.

(And… YAY!)

 

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Debut Short Story Collection Coming Soon!

Concord Logo

My blog has been quiet for a while now, too long for sure, but not because I’ve had nothing to say. Behind the wall of hissing silence, I’ve been talking to publishers, working on edits, and… signing contracts.

I can finally spit out the scold’s bridle, along with a very sweet-tasting mouthful of blood, and announce that Concord Free Press will be publishing my debut collection of short stories a little later this year.

The collection is called Seven Sins, and it deals (in seven stories, of course) with all the ways good intentions go bad. How acts of love sometimes twist into acts of evil. How even those with the best will in the world can find themselves stepping solidly into the black and brutal edges of human nature.

I’m thrilled that the very innovative Concord Free Press will be publishing this work. If you want to know what I mean by ‘innovative’, do check out their website and you’ll see how absolutely amazing they are – and not just because they already have a reputation for working with edgy new authors and releasing beautiful, high-quality books.

More details as and when they come!

 

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Author Interview: Stona Fitch

Author Stona Fitch is one of the masters. I first stumbled across his work via one of my quirkier hobbies—that is, looking for extreme/banned/ultra-disturbing movies to watch—and came across the film SENSELESS (2008, Directed by Simon Hynd). I was so blown away that when I saw it was based on a book, herds of wild horses gone rabid and sporting six-inch fangs couldn’t stop me from getting my hands on it. And what a book. Any avid reader has experienced this: discovering a work that reaches far beyond its entertainment value. A book that touches you, stays with you, changes you. Stona Fitch’s SENSELESS got me thinking about dark literature on a completely different level. I mean it very seriously when I say this man has all the marks of genius. Read him. Read him. Read him.

But before you do that, here’s a chance to get to know him—because as well as being a prodigious novelist, he’s also the kind of legend who isn’t above giving interviews to his breathless admirers on their basic little blogs. How? Why? I don’t know. Let’s not question such beautiful things.

So with utmost pleasure (and a whole lot of awe), I present: Stona Fitch.

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Photo by Julie Faith-Sorkin Maguire

 

Karen Runge/Stona Fitch Interview
November 30, 2015

When did you first start writing fiction?

Early, really early. But I veered into journalism in my teens and twenties. Ended up working as a feature reporter in Anchorage, then as a crime reporter in Miami during the cocaine era. Writing on deadline is a great experience for any writer, but I turned out to be a terrible reporter. I liked to make things up, which is generally frowned upon in journalism. And I always felt kind of bad when I wrote about people who managed to get themselves into trouble. So, I turned back to my first love, fiction – dark and otherwise – and never left. My first novel, STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS, was published in 1992, beginning my slow, relentless rise, like the world’s oceans.

Who are some of your literary heroes, and what have you learned from them?

Eastern European writers (Kafka, Bohumil Hrabal, Bruno Schulz) taught me to explore the strange and fantastic. The modern crime masters (Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Charlie Williford, Richard Price) showed me how to compress dialog and move a story along. Literary writers (John Fante, Harry Crews, J. M. Coetzee) inspired me to focus on language and craft. And writers of novels with overt or covert political themes (Graham Greene, Russell Banks, Walter Mosley) reminded me that books can reach beyond entertainment.

I’ll happily argue that your short novel SENSELESS is one of the most impactful, insightful and relevant dark novels of the last few decades. What inspired it, and what was the process of writing it like?

senseless novelThanks for that, Karen. I wrote SENSELESS in the late 1990s, during the bright shiny years before the 9/11 attacks in New York. In fact, it was published on the exact day of the attacks – auspicious timing for a book about international terrorism, amoralists who will do anything, online hostages, the degradation of empathy, and the undermining of the European Union.

What inspired it? I had been working in Belgium on and off for years, and always sensed a palpable anger and disenfranchisement in the grittier neighborhoods of Brussels and Antwerp. That initial sense permutated into a dark, disturbing novel that wrote itself over a few months. It was like being possessed by the loas, as described in Haitian voodoo – uncontrollable, intense, exhilarating, painful. Other books I’ve written have had some variant of SENSELESS’ manic combustion (I’m a binge writer), but never to the same extent.

SENSELESS has gone on to appear in more than a dozen countries – including a recent reissue in France from Sonatine. It’s been made into a UK feature film. And it continues to get attention for being a prescient wake-up call about the terrorist era. That said, I still feel more like the novel’s surrogate than its author.

Scruffy the Cat Handbill: Mabuhay Gardens, 22 May '87

Scruffy the Cat Handbill: Mabuhay Gardens, 22 May ’87

You once described yourself as ‘more musician than writer’. How has your experience as a musician impacted you as a writer? What music inspires you?

I spent a few years on the road with a country punk band (Scruffy the Cat) when I first moved to Boston. I think what I carry with me from that time is the immediacy of a live audience. When you’re playing in a band, you can see whether you’re connecting with people or whether they’re losing interest. When I write, I’m very aware of keeping the audience engaged. I cut the boring parts, the literary equivalent of long guitar solos. And I try to keep paragraphs and chapters tightly compressed, like pop songs.

Scruffy the Cat (Stona top right)

Scruffy the Cat (Stona Fitch top right)

Your writing often contains some very disturbing elements. What are your thoughts on dark literature in general? What role do you think it plays, and why do you think so many feel the need to create it / seek it out?

I think humans are hardwired to imagine, detect, and seek out darkness and danger. It’s how our species weathered much more fraught times when a strong sense of intuition and imagination ensured survival. In the long game of survival of the fittest, the aware live (and pass on their DNA) while the naïve die. By imagining the worst, we could avoid it, destroy it, or at least try to understand it.

For much of the world, many of the daily demons and visceral fears no longer exist, leaving a void filled by dark fiction, films, art, and games. In short, readers and writers of dark material are more evolved – but you knew that already.

What are you reading right now?

A lot of non-fiction, mainly. I’m reading the new Luc Sante book, THE OTHER PARIS – his New York book LOWLIFE is one of my favorites. Because I live in Boston, I’m reading WITCHES by Stacy Schiff, a great exploration of the Salem witch trials. And I just started Charlie Williford’s biography, which proves that every writer’s life is a cautionary tale. Like I needed any more proof of that.

Give + TakeWhat are you working on right now?

I just finished DARK HORSE, the second book in the Boston-based crime series I write under my 100% more Irish pen name, Rory Flynn. It’s out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June, 2016, and I’m outlining the next two books in the series. I’m an associate producer for GIVE + TAKE, now winding its way toward becoming a film. And I’m co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Concord Free Press, the world’s first generosity-based publisher, which will be receiving a major award at NoirCon in 2016.

And the old-faithful that never gets tired… What advice do you have for young writers?

The advice I see online always sounds discouraging. It shouldn’t. It’s a great time to be a writer. There are more ways to get your work to readers, supportive communities of writers, and wider interest in dark work that used to be pigeonholed as genre. Young writers just need to write a lot, read a lot, and love to write and tell stories. Readers can tell if your heart’s in your work, or just your mind (or worse, your bank account). Reach a little further with every story or novel. Don’t make other people suffer for your art. And don’t give up – ever.

Photo by Sandy Poirier

Photo by Sandy Poirier

 

You can find out more about Stona at his website, or follow his Irish alter-ego on Twitter: @MrRoryFlynn

 

 

 

 

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IRON HARD: Making a Movie in 48 Hours

Heard of the 48 Hour Film Project? It’s an annual international competition where filmmakers are given exactly two days to write, shoot, edit and submit a 5-minute movie. Which means, in simple terms: If you do this, you can forget about sleep. You’ll get to eat only if you’re really lucky. And you’re going to have the time of your life.

I moved back to South Africa just over a month ago. I haven’t had much to do except write, hang out with old friends, and plough through my savings. Not a bad gig, but I was itching to actually do something. Enter: The gorgeous actress and poet Caroline Lavers (Cam to those who know her). A dear friend of mine, and the kind of girl it’s very hard to say no to. She told me about the project, introduced me to director Lungile Mayindi, and they invited me to help with the writing. Finally! Something to get excited about.

Our lovely leading lady, Ashanti Qata, pre-makeup

Our lovely leading lady, Ashanti Qata, pre-makeup

The competition works like this. Your movie must feature an assigned prop, line of dialogue, and a character name. This is so nobody can get cheeky and prepare too much ahead of time. Genres are then drawn at random, one for each production team. If you don’t like your genre, you have the option to draw a wild card—but do that and there’s no going back.

Friday evening, 11th September: Myself, Lungile and Cam arrive at Pretoria Varsity to meet up with our production team, sign up for the event, and get the prompts.

Prop: A box of matches

Character: Clement / Clementine O’Neil

Line of dialogue: “Here, hold this.”

Genre: Well… naturally I was breathlessly holding thumbs that we’d get horror. But no. Fantasy. Fantasy?! Get outta here.

Wild card: Espionage.

Still not really our thing, but better than writing about unicorns.

On the Road

On the Road

We then scurried off to a nearby bar and began the caffeine infusion that would not cease for the next thirty-six hours. Once we’d pooled some ideas with the rest of the cast and crew, Caroline, Lungile and I headed back into Johannesburg, where I had a free house. It didn’t help that Cam and I were so busy blasting music and talking on the way that we kept missing turnoffs! A half hour drive back to my place ended up taking something like an hour, with Lungile following close behind—no doubt wondering what in the hell we were doing. Tick-tock. My house: Quiet, calm. Three people and a somewhat bewildered cat. More coffee. We wrote until 6 in the morning, trying to wrangle our ideas into something coherent that would actually be shootable. By the end we’d binned almost all of our original ideas, and wound up with something nobody could exactly remember coming up with. But hey, I know this from my own writing: sometimes stories prefer to tell themselves.

About this little story of ours. We had exactly zero trouble taking inspiration from the box of matches as a prop. Here’s why. LION is the most common brand of matches sold in South Africa, and there’s something of a legend that there’s a penis hidden in the picture of the lion. (Gasp!) Seriously. There isn’t a single South African who doesn’t know this. For generations, kids all across the country have sat out on the back steps of their houses and stared at boxes of matches, trying to pick it out. Exploiting this for our movie was just too easy. If you watch the film and know this story, you can read it as something of an inside joke. (And a quick confession, while we’re here… I myself, in all my years, never figured out where the dick was until we made this movie! I know. Guess I’m way more innocent than I seem.)

See it?

See it?

With our somewhat depraved little script in place, we hightailed it to Cam’s house where the shoot itself would take place. Cast and crew arrived at 9 a.m. Chaos descended and didn’t quit until long after dark. Sleep? I think I grabbed an hour and a half. Food? Cam’s wonderful other half did his best to make sure we all managed to eat something, handing out hot dogs to whoever had a minute. And I really do mean a minute. Random fact: I don’t eat pork. But by the time he’d got it in my hands, I was so starved and sleep-deprived I didn’t even register what I was consuming. All I knew was that it was wonderful—and very, very needed. (Sorry little pigs! Never again, I swear…!)

Accepting the Choice Award

Accepting the Choice Award

In between fighting with faulty printers, dodging neighbours (we didn’t have permission to film out on the road… Shhh!) and arguing about vibrators, the shoot was an absolute blast. I’m not an actress (and the one scene where I actually did something on camera wound up being cut… sorry, mom!) but even as an extra, I can see why it would be such a thrilling profession. That’s one helluva way to spend the weekend. And the result? The editing took a tad too long and we missed the deadline for international entries, but we did pick up a Choice Award at national level!

IRON HARD is currently up on YouTube, here.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone involved for a truly awesome experience.

 

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