A Day In the Life of a Writer, Author Talk

10 QUESTIONS WITH THE TALENTED KAREN RUNGE

seeing-double-cover

Karen Runge is a name I’ve seen in the writing community many times, and was happy to learn that she has a novel published with the awesome  Grey Matter Press.  She now shares a publishing home with many cool horror writers, including one of my favorites, John F.D. Taff . I am always encouraged to see women writing horror. So, I wanted to pick Karen’s wonderfully imaginative, and disturbing brain, and find out  more about the woman the late Jack Ketchum confessed, “Karen, you scare me.”  Now, there’s a compliment.

 

 

LF: When did you write your first book?

KR: I completed my first novel-length work when I was about fifteen. Of course, it was totally terrible (!) and I’ve long since lost that manuscript. I took another stab at a novel when I was around 21, tried to get that one published, but it fell flat (it was also… pretty terrible…) and I threw it away. After that I started concentrating more on getting my name out through short stories. The first story I sold (shortly after the burning of my second book attempt) was ‘The Lighthouse’, published in the awesome Horror/Sci-Fi magazine ‘Something Wicked’, which sadly is now defunct. From there it was a steady climb up to getting my first full solo collection ‘Seven Sins’ published (Concord Free Press, 2016). My first (finally!!) full-length novel, ‘Seeing Double’, came out with Grey Matter Press last year. Took a while, but hey, I got there eventually. And no, I am nowhere near finished.

LF: As a woman, what draws you to the genre horror?

KR: I’m not sure it makes much sense to divide horror along gender lines, because horror—real horror, in the real world—is something that we all experience in some way or another in our lives. This is what makes it such a powerful art form—it doesn’t discriminate at all. I can only say that as a person, it always resonated with me as a genre that was telling the truth about the darker conditions of human nature, and their impacts on individuals as well as societies as a whole. As in, there’s no bullshit here, this is the stuff beneath every surface. That kind of exploration is important, I think, in a very fundamental way. I honestly can’t pinpoint anything female-specific that draws me to it. It’s just there.

LF: How do women react when you tell them you write horror?

KR: That depends on the woman! My poor mother, bless her, is completely baffled!! I often get the cutesy, aghast reaction from strangers, “Oh no! I could never read one of your books!” which always strikes me as borderline silly. Is there a rule somewhere that women aren’t supposed to be open to this? Women, who (again, in the real world) are subject to some truly hair-raising acts of violence, in some cases even as the norm…? And then of course the badass babes think it’s fantastic. It’s nice when people choose to be curious about it at least, and that’s a reaction I’m always grateful for when talking to non-horror fans of either gender.

LF: I so agree!

LF: I’m going to ask this question because I’ve been asked this a few times and I’d love to hear your response. Why not write Romance?

KR: For me, personally, Romance has never interested me. I find it more than a little false, like a cardboard cut-out of what human relationships really entail. I read a few Romance novels as a teenager (under pressure from school-friends who wanted me to “Put Stephen King down, for god’s sake!”) and I rolled my eyes through all of those books. I don’t want to bash the genre—it’s there, it gives people a lot of joy, it wouldn’t exist without reason. But it strikes me (both personally and as an artist) as more fairytale-escapism than an actual exploration of anything. I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh—there’s nothing wrong with escapism. But for me, as a reader and a writer, I would much rather look at realities than candy-coated dreams. If we want to talk the complexities of lust and love, though, well… you can find those to greater or lesser degrees in pretty much every genre, portrayed under much more sincere terms than what is directly labelled as ‘Romance’.

LF: I couldn’t have said it better.

LF: Please tell us a little about your book, SEEING DOUBLE. Great cover by the way.

KR: Thank you! The cover art was done by Dean Samed, a really awesome visual artist. I was thrilled with it when I first got the cover reveal. It fits the novel just so perfectly. The story on the surface is about a depraved love triangle, who disconnect from any form of true empathy in order to satisfy their own desires. Beneath that, it’s an exploration of sadism and abuse and the long-term impacts these things can have on the soul, especially when combined with malicious influences. It was my attempt at capturing the Disturbo sub-genre of horror, and the thing came out to so freaking twisted I can only think of it as a fair shot!

LF: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

KR: I write piles of dark poetry (as a personal exercise, not for publication), and in that process I often find myself uncovering things I’d like to explore further through fiction. I’m also mad about music, and sound and lyrics do a lot to inspire me. Once I’ve started a story, and the plot starts fleshing out, there are always going to be themes or details that I straight-up don’t know enough about, and am going to have to research in order to write with any kind credibility. For example, for my short story ‘Exile’ (in the Double Barrel Horror series from Pint Bottle Press) I spent a good few hours researching… lawnmowers. Lucky me. All the research I’ve done over the years for various stories has already made me a little mine of totally random and (mostly) useless information. But if you’re going to talk about something then you do need to get it right, which makes those long hours worth it, even if it only appears in the finished product as one or two sentences.

LF: What does your family think of your writing?

KR: They don’t really know too much about it, to be honest. My father takes some interest, but the rest are just happy to see me doing what I love… since I guess for the most part they don’t really understand it! My older brother loves horror too though, and our shared interest has done a lot to encourage me over the years. ‘Seeing Double’ is actually dedicated to him. But he’s more a film fan than a book guy, so he’s not entirely sure what I’m up to in my own art either. And that’s okay too.

LF: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KR: For the most part, in the aftermath, it makes me feel absolutely fantastic: super connected to myself and the world around me. A good day’s writing can put me on a high for days. Though to a degree it depends on what I’m writing, really. The heavier subject matter can be difficult to wield, juggling a ‘normal’ every day life when in the back of my mind I’m having to sift through some seriously unsettling stuff. ‘Seeing Double’, for example, was an emotional nightmare to write… but once I’d gone into it I knew I had to push through to the end. More to that point: You don’t always get to pick your stories; sometimes they choose you. But whatever journey it puts me on I love what I do, and I absolutely cannot imagine myself as anything other than a writer.

LF: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

KR: By the end of a serious day’s writing, I’ll have a very satisfying word count (we won’t talk about how much I’ll chop in edits the next day), and… a completely spotless apartment. I don’t know what goes on here, really. Writing will be going really well, I’ll hit a point, and the next thing I know I’m standing at the sink washing dishes. Or sweeping the balcony. Or doing laundry. I don’t even decide to do it necessarily… it’s like I’m aware that I need a break, but need to still in some way stay active. But all this is totally subconscious, at least for the first few minutes. It can be kinda scary. Hey, at least my home is squeaky clean!

LF: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

KR: Usually if I’m not writing, or if I’m struggling with whatever I’m currently working on, I’ll dust off my paintbrushes and get going on a visual project. Usually I’ll be listening to horror fiction podcasts like Pseudopod or The Drabblecast while I paint or draw… so it’s like ‘reading’ while working. It’s a way to switch off to a degree, while still feeding the beast. That’s honestly a very happy place for me, and I don’t give myself hell when I’m not writing. So long as I’m doing something creative, I feel like I can maybe still pass as human. Mwahaha.

karen runge
Karen Runge

 

Book and Movie Reviews

What’s Your Favorite Horror Film?

 

horror_collage_

I was born in a great decade. I’m old enough to remember what a rotary phone looks like and yet I’m quite skilled in using my smart phone ( so i’m not old). I remember when MTV aired Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. That was awesome. I also remember my parents telling me to “go play outside”, and I  liked it.  Parents weren’t over policed back then. They allowed their children to enjoy the occasional horrible meal (McDonald’s was my treat on Friday’s); no one criticized that the beef wasn’t organic or the chicken nuggets was deep fried in fat. Although, I do worry about those things now. And a lot of  us were introduced to horror films at a young age.  And I am grateful. These movies and T.V. shows terrified and excited me and I wanted more. I’m not alone. But what is it about these films that causes the horror aficionado to smile at the tremors they cause deep within?

June Lorraine Roberts shares her thoughts on two of her favorite horror films.

Devils, demons, ghosts: Tripping back in time
Asking me to write about my favourite anything gets a bit tricky. I can like things equally well for similar and/or different reasons. For favourite books, I will speak about favourite authors and characters. When it comes to film I will go on and on about favourite directors, actors and scenes.
What books and films both have in common is plot, in-depth characters, engaging story arc and a commitment to detail. They also have endings that make sense, that doesn’t mean a happy ending, just an end that is cohesive to the rest of the story.
This post has a bit of chicanery to fulfill Latashia’s request but it is an honest response about the horror film(s) that caught and held my attention long enough to be memorable.
The Exorcist
Released in 1973, The Exorcist starred Max von Sydow as the priest Father Lankester Merrin who is called in to perform an exorcism of a 12-year old girl. The foe, a demon called Pazuzu, is not unknown to Father Merrin who had come up against and defeated him once before.
The thumping bed, flying objects and cracking walls are indicative of the violence involved in this demon’s intent. Yet it is the quiet appearance of the priest, that image of him in the fog next to the street lamp that is indelible in my memory. His calm assurance that good will triumph over evil when all around is in chaos is what the watcher yearns and prays fora.
The movie is now more than 40 years old and I have never re-watched it. I really, really don’t want to. For me the demon’s voice coming from the girl, played by Linda Blair, is horrifying. Combined with the 360 degree head rotation it’s nightmarish.
Many who remember or have heard of the film may not recall that it was nominated for several Academy awards including Best Picture. Probably the best cultural recall of the time were the number of people who, after watching the movie, complained of inability to sleep, nervousness and even of demonic possession. It was quite a phenomenon. IMDB Rated 8.0
The Green Man
A creepy, quirky ghost story and this is where I cheat a bit, it’s not a movie. A BBC 3-part mini-series that was shown on A&E in 1990. It won the BAFTA (Britain’s version of the Academy Awards) in 1991 and is based on a Kingsley Amis novel.
Albert Finney plays Maurice Allington, the alcoholic, lecherous proprietor of the inn The Green Man. Located in the countryside somewhere between London and Cambridge, the inn is haunted by the former owner Thomas Underhill a scholar who had been accused of murdering his wife and who wrote aggrandizing statements about his pagan practices.
The story line includes scenes with an agnostic vicar, grave robbing, demonology, and some stellar comic timing. It’s probably hard for you to believe that it is so eerie but it truly is.
Interested in giving it a try? You can do so via YouTube keeping in mind the filming quality is affected through this medium and of course there is still no High Definition in the 90s. IMDB Rated 7.4

I have no logical explanation as to why both of these movies that involve demons and priests are the ones that stuck with me the most. Maybe I have a special fear of the devil, or perhaps of going to hell should it really exist? Will these movies catch you as they did me is hard to say. Like books, the mood and timing of films is personal and the impact can depend on many components.
These days my movie watching and reading material do not extend to the horror genre. However should I find myself wishing to have the hair prickle the back of my neck there is no doubt that This Way Darkness would be an excellent place for me to begin.
Thanks Latashia for asking me to contribute to your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside my crime fiction genre for a refreshing break. It’s always good to remember why you love movies so much. Now I’m off to read a book I’m quite interested in called The Devil’s Detective about the murder of a human that takes place in hell.
~ June Lorraine Roberts
Link: The Green Man

June

June Lorraine Roberts is a graduate from the London School of Journalism who works as a freelance journalist and corporate communications consultant. She also writes about crime fiction books and their authors seeking out debut authors and those whose books deserve further recognition.
Check out her killer blog, Murder in Common.