Louis Greenberg

is a writer, editor and familyman. He writes fiction under his own name and as S.L. Grey, with Sarah Lotz. He has a keen but purely amateur interest in art, food, music, photography and travel. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his family and dogs.

Events

Franschhoek Literary Festival, 16-18 May 2014

Kingsmead Book Fair, Johannesburg, 24 May 2014

Coffee Morning, Exclusive Books, Killarney, 29 May 2014, 10:30 a.m.

End Times Colloquium, Wits Club, Johannesburg, 23-25 July 2014


Find out more about Louis here.

Visit Louis' Books LIVE blog.

 

 

Prawn Apocalypse

This story first appeared in the Sunday Times Lifestyle on 14 September 2014:

Granma Vito talks like she’s a hundred years old, but she’s only been alive for seven summers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s pretty ancient for a Parktown Prawn, but sometimes she spins her tales a little fuzzy.
        ‘Give me some of the sweet stuff,’ she says, her broken left mandible clutching uselessly at the air in front of her mouth.
        I spear a bit of moist dog pellet from the pile and approach her, trying not to inhale her stink as I point the mush into her mouth. ‘Mmm …’ Her jaw clatters and scrapes as she guzzles. ‘Have some,’ she says.
        ‘No, thanks, Granma.’ I’ve never developed a taste for dog food. I prefer fruit, worms, carrion. Anything natural. Once, I ate a snail.
        Granma Vito shrugs, her hinges creaking. ‘Come closer then, little grub, and I’ll tell you the truth.’
        That’s another thing about Granma Vito: calling me a grub. I know she does it to annoy me, to get some response. I’ve moulted four times since I hatched – as a newt, Granma Vito, not a grub! – and I’m almost an adult. But I’ve seen two summers now, and I refuse to rise to the bait.
        The fact is, I love Granma Vito. I love her stories, whether they’re fact or fantasy. Frankly, they’re the only bit of light down here as we huddle in ever-diminishing numbers against the terrible siege from beyond the burrow.
        It wasn’t always like this, I know. And Granma Vito’s tales remind me of a glorious time before I was an egg.
        ‘What’s your name?’
        ‘Excuse me, Granma?’
        ‘I said: What’s your name?’

Read on ...

 

 

 

Radio interview with Michele Magwood

Michele Magwood recently interviewed me on TM Live Radio. We talked about Dark Windows, religion, sex, politics, vampires and a houseful of books. Listen to the interview on the player below or click here.

 

 

Waxing opinionated with Geosi Gyasi

Ghanaian book blogger, Geosi Gyasi, recently sent me a probing interview that allowed me to wax opinionated on politics, place, a reading culture and - yes - writing. I've extracted a couple of questions below; you can read the full interview here.

***

Geosi Gyasi: Your most recent book, ‘Dark Windows’ was published by Umuzi in April this year. In real life, do you think crime in Johannesburg could ever be cured?

Louis Greenberg: I have fantasies of some benign and overwhelming shift in our – Johannesburg, South African, global – politics and relationships that would strip greed and self–interest away and leave people in a better position. If humans spent as much time and money treating social inequity as they do on weapons and dirty energy and accumulation of wealth, we could solve all our social diseases tomorrow. Are people hard-wired to be greedy and self-interested, or is it just the way we’re encouraged to be by all our dominant political and religious systems? I don’t know, but part of my creative drive at the moment is imagining alternatives.

Geosi Gyasi: Do you feel your stories have political underpinnings?

Louis Greenberg: Despite my diatribe in the last answer, I am always drawn back to personal politics – the politics of individuals, what makes us unique and what connects us. I think if we can avoid ever becoming numbers, statistics, categories (to come back to your first question), we can remember each other’s humanity. The problem with macropolitics is that it tends to generalise people and when we concern ourselves with macropolitics, we tend to generalise ourselves and our reactions to others. I think writing novels – telling our individual and intimate stories – is a perfect vehicle to remind people of each other’s individuality and connectedness. This is why we should read fiction. And we shouldn’t allow people who don’t value or read fiction to govern us!

Read more

 

 

Dark Windows tasting menu (?!)

Tiah Beautement recently set me the interesting and unusual challenge of describing Dark Windows as a meal. Here's what I came up with:

organic quinoa and kale salad ‘paltrow’ served on a black mirror
(wheat-grass shot)

double espresso and protein shake intermission

oysters with hemp-infused blood orange jus
(chocolate stout)

snoek pate on patchouli crackers
(west-coast blanc de noir)

braai three ways: bloody steak, grease-dripping wors and burnt chicken
(castle lager)

hacked goat bredie
(joburg sorghum beer or black label quart)

cold pea soup with lavender amuse bouche

vegetarian abyssinian injera
(telea and coffee)

‘wellness centre’ jelly and custard with trio of smoothie ice cream
(triple-taxed hard tack from under the sink)

more coffee

Read the rest of her interview for Short Story Day Africa, in which I talk about food, street art and escaping suburban drudgery.

 

 

The Spark for Dark Windows

Lauren Beukes hosted my guest blog about Dark Windows on her blog series, The Spark. The Spark gives African writers a chance to describe the origin of their latest books.

***

The spark for Dark Windows is shrouded. All I remember is that early in 2011 Sarah Lotz and I had just finished writing The Ward, the second S.L. Grey novel.

Between juggling a dozen freelance editing and tutoring projects,  I was tooling away rather unconvincingly on a solo novel involving cricket umpires, an agoraphobic psychologist and a sports betting scam.

I had plotted the whole thing out on my whiteboard in different-coloured pens, even as far as detailing the day-by-day weather conditions in the city where it was set. But I had no momentum. The fact that I was romancing my whiteboard instead of sitting down and writing suggested that I wasn’t feeling the plot or hearing the characters.

Then one morning I came into my office with the kernel of Dark Windows – maybe it came to me in the bathtub or during those five extra minutes of sleep – flipped the white board around and started typing. This new idea had enough fuel to get me started. You need that propelling momentum when you start a novel, like the massive tanks required to get a tiny capsule up into space. Once you’re there, you can drift around exploring for quite a while before inevitably burning your way back down to earth.

I think that initial burst of energy came because Dark Windows was the sort of novel I wanted to read right at that moment – (by the time you’ve finished, of course, you’re onto other things) – so I had to set to writing it. I’m inspired by writers like David Mitchell, Scarlett Thomas, Audrey Niffenegger, Haruki Murakami and our host, Lauren Beukes, who blend magic and rich ideas with recognisable, concrete cityscapes. That’s what I wanted to do with Johannesburg in Dark Windows: apply a magical filter to it that would make it just that little bit less familiar and mundane, because to someone who’s lived here all his life, despite all their fits and starts Johannesburg and South Africa can sometimes be depressingly predictable.

Read on

 

 

Dark Windows is now available

Dark Windows is now available in southern African bookshops and online. Click here for all the available South African online buying links, or pop into your local bookshop. You can also buy it from southern Africa as an e-book.

If you are outside southern Africa, try The Book Lounge or Love Books, two top South African independent book shops, which will be able to send you a copy. If you love reading, help defend the book trade around the world by buying local, independent or national before supporting multinational retail conglomerates.

Johannesburg is becalmed. A wave of New Age belief and an apparent cure for crime have radically altered South Africa’s political landscape.

Jay Rowan has been hired to black out the windows of random vacant rooms. He’s trying to keep out of trouble, but he’s a pawn in political aide Kenneth Lang’s project Dark Windows. A mystical charlatan has convinced Lang’s boss that she can affect the ultimate transformation with a supernatural visitation, the Arrival, and Lang needs to prepare for its coming. When Jay and his married girlfriend Beth realise that someone has died in every room, political and personal tensions come to a head and Jay, Beth and Lang must confront the past they’ve been trying to avoid.

Dark Windows is a moody, intelligent literary thriller.

 

 

Dark Windows extract and events

You can now get an early look at Dark Windows. Chapter One is available online at the Random House Struik website. Click here and press "Read Extract" below the book's details.

The rest of the book will be out in April. Click here for all the available South African online buying links, or pop into your bookshop and ask them to keep you a copy.

Exclusives online is offering a 10% discount off Dark Windows until the end of March along with South African speculative fiction titles by Henrietta Rose-Innes, Rachel Zadok, S.A. Partridge, Cat Hellisen, Charlie Human, S.L. Grey and others to coincide with their Big, Bad Speculative Fiction Twitter Town Hall happening tomorrow, Thursday 20 March from 2 p.m. (CAT). Follow the #SpecFic hashtag ad join in the melee!

As you've probably seen, the Franschhoek Literary Festival's programme is out. I'll be discussing the limits of the imagination with Savannah Lotz, Sarah Lotz and Charlie Human on Friday morning, 16 May. On Sunday 18th at 10 a.m., Jenny Crwys-Williams will be asking Lauren Beukes, Sihle Khumalo and me about our research into our settings. Two super panels among dozens!

I'll also be on panels at the Kingsmead Book Fair in Johannesburg on 24 May, and at the End Times Colloquium with several of the world's leading apocalypse scholars at the Wits Club from 23-25 July. Please check my website for the updated details on those events as they're finalised.

 

 

Dark Windows Lego preview!

Dark Windows Lego story, copyright S.A. PartridgeS.A. Partridge is not only an exciting writer of novels for young adults, but she's also the creator of the wonderfully quirky and artful Lego Stories. It wasn't long before she matched her love of books with her love of Lego and started recreating book scenes from the plastic blocks and minifigures. Now she's come up with a fab set of Lego Stories based on South African novels, including my upcoming Dark Windows!

I love the creepy room Lego Jay finds himself in and his anxious expression. With a preview like this, I'm not sure what more needs to be said.

Check out all of Sally's Lego Stories at her Tumblr, and read her blog post about the South African literary series here.

 

 

“A Mummy in a Modern City”

Presentation to Monstrous Antiquities: Archaeology and the Uncanny in Popular Culture conference, University College London, 1–3 November 2013

Good afternoon. I’m Louis Greenberg, much more a fiction writer than an academic, and I’ll be reading an extract from my short story, “Akhenaten Goes to Paris” then chatting briefly about the ideas behind it.

Book of the Dead coverThe story appears in The Book of the Dead, which was published by Jurassic London and launched the other night. It’s apparently the first-ever anthology of original mummy stories and is written by a great selection of current talent, so you should get hold of a copy.

****

“Akhenaten Goes to Paris”

Uncle Menny assured me that there wouldn’t be a problem getting onto the plane. ‘Just smile and act normal and they’ll wave you through,’ he said. I don’t think Uncle Menny’s travelled for a long time.

Read the full presentation here.

 

 

Dark Windows cover revelation!

Screaming Woman detail from Dark Windows coverHolistic Spirals detail from Dark Windows coverHospital detail from Dark Windows cover

Lauren Smith has just posted a cover reveal and interview with magician-illustrator, Joey Hi-Fi, at her book blog, Violin in a Void. It's made me excited for the book again! I'm amazed and honoured by the effort and attention Joey's put into the cover. He discusses the book and the illustrations more eloquently than I could at Lauren's blog.

I'll let Lauren host the full cover for a few days, but have put up a couple of the details here.

The Beggars' Signwriters coverAs a side note, I'm fascinated by how the Dark Windows cover mirrors that of The Beggars' Signwriters, even though Joey hadn't looked at it. I should write another book about frames next.



 

Pan Macmillan to publish two new S.L. Grey books

It's a very happy day for S.L. Grey. Apart from being the launch date of our third book, The New Girl, we are delighted to announce that Pan Macmillan has bought UK and Commonwealth rights to publish the next two S.L. Grey novels. Julie Crisp, Pan Macmillan's editorial director, has shared the news on the Tor UK blog.

Sarah and I are thrilled to be joining such a fine stable of writers and are grateful for Julie and her team's warm enthusiasm for our upcoming projects. We're also immensely thankful to Oli Munson, our agent of steel, and Jennifer Custer and Hélène Ferey in A.M. Heath's international rights department for working tirelessly to spread our twisty tales around the world. They've already placed the next book in France, Germany and the Netherlands. And huge thanks to Laura Palmer and Corvus for taking the initial brave chance on us.

Julie Crisp's press release offers the first sneak preview of Underground, our next novel, which will be published by Pan Macmillan in mid-2015. We wanted to come up with something fresh, but not lose the claustrophobic thrills our readers have become used to.

 

 

S.L. Grey story, mesmerisingly read

The Lowest Heaven cover by Joey Hi-Fi"We'll Always Be Here", the story S.L. Grey wrote for Jurassic's science fiction anthology, The Lowest Heaven, has been recorded for a free podcast by Dark Fiction Magazine. It is beautifully, mesmerisingly read by the awesome Kim Lakin-Smith. Episode 15 of Dark Fiction also includes podcast fab stories by Jaine Fenn, Alistair Reynolds and Sam Sykes.

Click here to hear the story.

 

 

A ghost-eater at the Open Book fringe

The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories cover

I recently co-edited an exciting anthology of short stories by a hot mix of young and established writers with Diane Awerbuck. Now it's being treated to a launch on the Open Book weekend in Cape Town. You are invited!

INVITATION

Join a celebration of hot local writing talent as Aerodrome launches The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories, an e-book anthology of 31 stories published by Umuzi.

Editors Diane Awerbuck and Louis Greenberg will be in conversation Umuzi's Fourie Botha for a little bit, followed by tea... and cupcakes!

TIME:
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sunday 8 September
You can let Aerodrome know that you're going on the Facebook invitation so that they can bake extra cupcakes – or just come along.

VENUE:
The beautiful Warren Editions Project Space, round the corner from the Book Lounge, on the 3rd floor, 62 Roeland Street, Cape Town.

THE BOOK:
Available on the Kindle, and at Exclusives and Kalahari's online stores from 5th September.

THE WRITERS:
Mia Arderne, Daniel Berti, Leila Ruth Bloch, Lien Botha, Tembi Charles, faith chaza, Bronwyn Douman, Genna Gardini, Sandra Hill, Ilze Hugo, Conrad Kemp, Wanjiru Koinange, Nadia Kamies, Michael King, Sophy Kohler, Liam Kruger, Christopher Kudyahakudadirwe, Alexander Matthews, Steven Otter, Brett Petzer, Jolyn Phillips, Donald Powers, Werner Pretorius, Calvin Scholtz, Tom Schwarer, Stephen Symons, Dina Segal, Jen Thorpe, Caitlin Tredoux, Olivia Walton, Makhosazana Xaba

 

 

Announcing my new novel, Dark Windows

I’m delighted, at last, to announce that my new novel, Dark Windows, will be published by Umuzi in April 2014. This is my first solo novel to be published since The Beggars’ Signwriters in 2006 and I’m very pleased.

Dark Windows is set in an alternative-present Johannesburg. A wave of New-Age belief has radically altered the country’s political landscape, but not everyone buys into the miracle. The novel follows three troubled characters – a veteran political aide, a stalled wife and an uncommitted contractor – as they get caught up in an unsettling political scheme and a series of mysterious suicides. Michael Titlestad describes Dark Windows as "a fascinating combination of satire and gently apocalyptic writing that is aesthetically and ideologically accomplished and thought provoking".

‘Eight years!’ I hear you exclaim. ‘What have you been doing since then?

Not that I want to make excuses or anything, but here’s what:

This last item has probably been the best sort of boot camp for my own writing, and the lessons I’ve learnt from working with Sarah Lotz, including a master class in plotting and pacing, have added to my original style, resulting in a mix of depth and pace in both my solo and our collaborative novels that I’m very proud of.

I’m excited when I feel that I’m improving as a writer, and that the next book will be better. And the best way to evolve more quickly, I’ve learned in these last years, is to write more, and more often. Reading and working in words helps too.

And the final item on that list:
The first draft happened mostly during two paying-work-dodging, burnout-inducing shifts of six weeks each spaced a year apart.

After all that, you can see why I’m so pleased to be back in the Umuzi fold as a published author. I’m lucky to have Henrietta Rose-Innes as my editor to guide me through the next phase, of making this thing better than I can make it myself. I trust the process the will be vigorous, but not leave me a wrecked shell of the shell I already am. Also assembling for awesome publisher Fourie Botha’s crack team at Umuzi is Joey Hi-Fi on the cover.

Watch this space for more information. Thank you for your patience, encouragement and interest!

 

 

S.L. Grey caught in Aerodrome's Photobooth

Sarah and I were recently photographed by Gareth Smit for Aerodrome.co.za's Photobooth exhibition. The shoot happened at the Franchhoek Literary Festival earlier this year, and the exhibition launched on 1 August at Skinny Legs & All in Cape Town.

There are several other fun and artful portraits of local and overseas writers, including Lauren Beukes, Rachel Zadok, Alexander McCall-Smith and Zapiro. Click here to view the online gallery. The exhibition runs in Cape Town until mid-September.

 

 

Louis in The Spotlight with Bruce Dennill

Arts reviewer and musician, Bruce Dennill, recently interviewed me on his "The Spotlight" show on Radio Today about S.L. Grey's The Ward, collaboration, my solo work and literary festivals. He also played some great indie South African music.

Listen to the interview on the player above or click here to stream the podcast at Podomatic. (The interview kicks in around 5:30.)

 

 

Aerodrome interviews S.L. Grey

When Sarah Lotz and I got together at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in May, Aerodrome, a lovely new South African literary web journal, took the opportunity to interview us about our work together as S.L. Grey.

Click here to view the video at Aerodrome.

 

 

End of the Road line-up announced

End of the RoadJonathan Oliver has just announced the contributors to the new Solaris anthology, End of the Road, over at the Solaris blog.

End of the Road is a collection of road stories from some of genre's nastiest. S.L. Grey's unpleasant story, "Bingo", will be rubbing shoulders with the work of a fab line-up, including Ian Whates, Lavie Tidhar, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Sophia McDougall and Adam Nevill.

Gather your nerves and grease your brakes for the December 2013 release.

Click here for more information about End of the Road.

 

 

 

 

Announcing The Book of the Dead

Jurassic LogoI'm delighted to share the news that I have a new story coming out in Jurassic's next collection, The Book of the Dead, alongside another stellar line-up of genre specialists, including David Bryer, Jesse Bullington, Paul Cornell, Lou Morgan and Molly Tanzer.

Niall Alexander got the scoop at Tor.com and shares all the details here. My story, entitled "Akhenaten Goes to Paris", tells the story of a ... well, you'll just have to wait until October to find out more.

From the Tor.com article: "If you loved [The Lowest Heaven,] that inspired and inspiring anthology—as I indubitably did—you’re going to be over the bloomin’ moon about this new book! It’s another anthology of original short fiction, with an equally telling title—a lot like this column, come to think of it—and I’ve got so much more than what it’s called to talk about.

I guess I’ve already given the name of the great game away—no prizes for guessing that Jurassic London’s forthcoming short story collection is called, yes, The Book of the Dead—but we still have to work out what it’s all about.

Why, only 'the most mysterious, versatile and under-appreciated of the undead: the mummy!'"

Click here for more information about The Book of the Dead.

 

 

Countdown to The New Girl

The New Girl coverIt's a hundred days until you get to meet The New Girl.

S.L. Grey's third novel, and the last in the Downside trio, will be released in the UK on 3 October 2013, and will come to South Africa and the rest of the Commonwealth in November.

Ryan Devlin, a predator with a past, has been forced to take a job as a handyman at an exclusive private school, Crossley College. He's losing his battle to suppress his growing fascination with a new girl who seems to have a strange effect on the children around her.

Tara Marais fills her empty days by volunteering at Crossley's library. Tara is desperate, but unable, to have a baby of her own, so she makes Reborns - eerily lifelike newborn dolls. She's delighted when she receives a commission from the mysterious 'Vader Batiss', but horrified when she sees the photograph of the baby she's been asked to create. Still, she agrees to Batiss's strange contract, unaware of the consequences if she fails to deliver the doll on time.

Both Tara and Ryan are being drawn into a terrifying scheme - one that will have an impact on every pupil at Crossley College...

Click here for more information on S.L. Grey's books, and where to buy them.

 

 

The Short Story Day Africa interview

I recently answered an interview of questions crowdsourced from Short Story Day Africa followers. Click here to find out my views on sex, food and revenge in my writing.

SSDA

Short Story Day Africa
happened on 21 June 2013. It celebrated the continent’s shorter fiction on the shortest day of the year. It had a special focus on encouraging youngsters to enjoy and create short stories and will culminate in the publication of two anthologies at the end of the year: the best submitted short stories by adults and by schoolchildren.

This year, I was proud to sponsor the book voucher prizes for the under-9 and 10-to-13 writing competitions.