A Quickie with Karen Runge

Nikki Noir (NN): What’s your darkest fantasy? And why will you never act it out in real life?


Karen Runge (KR): I don’t have any specific dark fantasies. You might not think so from reading some of my work, but it’s true. I am very susceptible to Appel du Vide, or Call of the Void, though. I catch it at least once a week, one way or another. Call of the Void is that crazy, flickering impulse we all get from time to time to straight-up destroy ourselves: like standing close to the edge of a cliff and feeling the urge to jump. Or driving close to a barrier and suddenly wanting to steer into it. I’ve had some fascinating moments while washing kitchen knives. What’s interesting is that as unnerving as it can be, in that split second the idea seems so thrilling. Attractive, even. I think these moments are a reminder that there’s something self-destructive sleeping in all of us, ever-ready to open its eyes. It’s just another, more hidden aspect of being human. On the second question: I won’t act on it because I’m not a lunatic, I guess. Or not yet, anyway. Ha.

NN: What real-world environment is most terrifying to you?


KR: Switch for ‘situation that happens way too often’? Getting in the car/being on the road with a reckless driver. Blood-chilling. People are way too blasé about safety when it comes to driving. I don’t think there’s anything great about breaking speed limits and running lights and showing off your ‘skills’. It’s not cool. It’s not funny. Things can get tragic faster than you can blink, and none of us are invincible. I’ve been told I overreact about this—acting like a prude, ‘no fun’, etc etc, whatever. But, sorry. Not changing my stance. My adrenaline levels when in these situations wouldn’t let me anyway. It genuinely scares me.


NN: If you could collaborate with any small press author on a project, who would it be and why?


KR: Collabs are tricky. Apart from matching ideas and the difficult art of meshing individual tones, I think it’s really important to have a solid friendship when going in, with lots of leeway for easy back-and-forth. I collaborated a few times with the very cool Simon Dewar, short story author and editor (he’s behind both the SUSPENDED IN DUSK books). He and I learned so much from each other and I’m really proud of what we put out. Since he stepped out of the writing/editing world, I haven’t really connected with anyone else that way? I would’ve loved to do something with Lydian Faust. Maybe Stephanie M Wytovich? Both badass horror babes with wonderful, quirky minds. I like this question, by the way. Giving me something to think about….

NN: Tell us about your latest project or work in progress 


KR: I’ve just shored up my second novel, DOLL CRIMES, which will be out with the very awesome Crystal Lake Publishing sometime later this year. The cover art and ARCs aren’t ready yet, but the second they are I’ll be plastering the news everywhere. I also recently completed a short film with my friend Lungile Mayindi, an independent filmmaker and film editor. The film is based on my short story ‘Good Help’, which appeared in SHOCK TOTEM #9. We’ll be dropping that in a week or two. And… I just realised I’ve been busier than I thought this past year. Nice.


NN: Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite and why?


KR: Ah, that would have to be Mark, appearing in the tale ‘Lake Seasons’, from my short story collection SEVEN SINS (published by the wonderfully dynamic Concord Free Press). As an artist I’m interested in psych and trauma horror, particularly the psychological and emotional underpinnings of dark acts, so I have to say I’m not wildly fond of the majority of my own characters. I think they’re interesting and all, but if they were real people I’m not sure I’d be so comfortable meeting up with one of them for drinks. Yeah, probably not. Mark is one of few characters I’ve created who is an absolute, genuine, beautiful soul. Just a really good guy. He does something… awful… in the story, but I hope readers understood why and what a true and desperate place his behaviour came from. Poor dude. When we reached the end, I really wanted to give him a hug. If he took a shower first though, of course. Yeah….

NN: What’s your favorite philosophical quote or phrase to live by?

AJ: ‘Time is a flat circle.’ I’m a fan of Nietzsche/Zarathustra. This phrase is a reminder to me that time is a construct of this dimension and doesn’t exist anywhere else except in a physical plane with linear time. Outside of time/space, every point of existence is accessible, visible, clear. A flat circle. I like it because it reminds me not to get stuck in any one state or mental space. That we’re all just bumbling around blind in here, while in the end everything ultimately co-exists regardless. There’s something about this concept that’s very comforting to me.

Karen Runge is an author and visual artist based in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Her works have appeared in various anthologies and other publications around the world. Her first solo short story collection, 'Seven Sins' was published by Concord Free Press in 2016, and her first novel 'Seeing Double' made its debut in 2017, from Grey Matter Press. Her second novel, ‘Doll Crimes’ is forthcoming with Crystal Lake Publishing. Never shy of darker themes in horror fiction, she has been dubbed 'The Queen of Extreme' and 'Princess of Pain' by various bloggers and book reviewers. Jack Ketchum once said in response to one of her stories: 'Karen, you scare me.’


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