I love being part of a book’s journey into the world so when Karl Muntz got in touch about his book, The Pain Eater, coming out today I simply had to invite him onto Linda’s Book Bag to find out more. Let’s see what he told me:
Staying in with Kyle Muntz
Hi Kyle, and welcome to Linda’s Book Bag. I rather think I know the answer, but what book have you brought along today?
I’ve brought along The Pain Eater. It’s a literary horror novel out today from Clash Books about two brothers who discover a creature that eats human pain.
Oo. Happy publication day Kyle. This sounds fascinating. What can we expect from an evening with The Pain Eater?
Anyone who has ever lived in a small town can expect something familiar, yet somehow uncomfortable—especially if you happen to grow up in the 2000s. The Pain Eater definitely has the darkness you’d expect from a horror novel; but beneath that, it’s about a time, and a place, and aspects of life I think anyone who has lived in a small-town will recognize.
I live in a very small town. You’ve got me thinking… What else have you brought with The Pain Eater?
I’ve brought a novel by Stephen King. I grew up loving King, especially the gritty realism of his setting and characters. But as I got older, I found myself disliking how, once you discovered what was going on, beneath the surface the characters always stumbled into some great struggle between good and evil. When I wrote the Pain Eater, I was curious to see what horror would look like if we looked into the darkness, and just saw more of ourselves.
Really, was it just Stephen King who had this effect on you?
Actually, maybe not. I feel the book might appeal to similar audience, probably especially because of the setting. But I haven’t read King much since I was quite young. Recently I’ve been a lot more influenced by writers like Larry McMurtry, Anne Tyler, and Jonathan Franzen, especially the techniques they use to make characters realistic and nuanced. At the same time, I was thinking of Haruki Murakami, who injects a bunch of surprising supernatural elements into realistic settings—but darker. So the book works gradually towards intense, grim moments that were ultimately intense enough the publisher felt it could be released as horror.
So does The Pain Eater reflect your own life?
The Pain Eater isn’t autobiographical, but it does happen to be set in the mid-2000s—right in the years when I was an angry teenager. I was quite surprised during the writing just how different many things were. The characters barely use social media; they don’t have cell-phones. One of the characters is very into Japanese nerd-culture, but they don’t stream anime on the internet—they steal DVDs from the store. The process of recreating the setting was an interesting reminder that it’s not quite “historical”, but still remote enough to feel both close and far away.
What would you drink while you’re reading the book?
Bell’s Oberon. It’s a wheat beer from Michigan that actually appears in the novel; when I was in my early 20s, I remember feeling it wasn’t summer until you could get Oberon in the stores. And these days, since I’ve lived overseas for quite a few years, it’s one of those details from home that has taken on a sort of mythical proportion.
I’d never heard of that beer. Pour me a glass and tell me what readers been saying about the book?
So far, I’ve gotten lucky with some pretty nice buzz! I was especially pumped about this blurb from Eric Larocca, author of the viral hit Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke:
“Absurd, grim, and wonderfully unique, Kyle Muntz’s The Pain Eater is an exceptional read from a new and distinct voice in horror.”
I also got a great blurb from Nick Mamatas, a multi-genre whose most recently book is The Second Shooter. I’ve been following his work for about decade now, so was incredibly excited to get this from him:
“What if the horror boom of the 1980s had instead exploded during the age of emo? Everybody you know would be reading and re-reading The Pain Eater. A dark slow burn of a novel.”
Those are fabulous responses. You must be thrilled.
Also, there have been some very kind pre-release reviews, including this one from Vanessa at Pirate Twinkie which also had some nice period references:.
“As the story spirals ever downward, it gets darker, angrier, and at times, pretty gross. There’s a level of melancholy with the characters like the feeling you would get if you listened to an entire Bright Eyes album. Maybe Bright Eyes mixed with screamo.”
And thanks to Christina, a very generous Goodreads reviewer who had this to say about the novel:
“Original, disturbing, and imaginative—all things that make for a great horror story, of which Muntz is not in short supply…Fans of horror will love this. It was graphic, it was unsettling, and it was a wildly dark take on trauma and family.”
I think The Pain Eater sounds brilliant Kyle. Thank you for staying in with me to chat about it. Happy publication day once again. Let’s raise a glass of Bell’s Oberon in celebration and I’ll tell Linda’s Book Bag readers a little more:
The Pain Eater
The Pain Eater is the story of two brothers from Michigan reunited after the death of their father. They’ve never been close, but now they have to live together―and it gets more difficult when one discovers a strange creature, vomited from the body of a dead cat. A creature that eats human pain. It feels good: too good. Soon he wants to hurt himself more, just so the pain can be taken away. But the more the creature becomes a part of his life, the more he damages everything around him. Some wounds are too deep to ever heal.
About Kyle Muntz
Kyle Muntz is an American novelist and author of Voices [2010, Enigmatic Ink], Sunshine in the Valley [2011, Civil Coping Mechanisms], VII (or) The Life, Times and Tragedy of Sir Edward William Locke the Third: Gentleman [2012, Enigmatic Ink], Green Lights [2014, CCM], and Scary People [2015, Eraserhead Press].
Excerpts and other pieces of his have also been published in Gone Lawn, Step Chamber, The Journal of Experimental Fiction and Fiction International.