The final days leading up to Halloween call for a special treat—something naughty & delightfully wicked, something guaranteed to send shivers down your spine one minute & laughter the next. I’m thrilled to introduce S C Cunningham, an author whose skilled mix of fueled tension, dark humor and deliciously salacious sex scenes will always leave you wanting more. Shocking, enthralling, and endlessly entertaining, her style of sexy thrillers is compared to that of Martina Cole, Karen Rose and Jilly Cooper.
Born in England, with Irish roots, the ex-model convent girl has worked in the celebrity driven worlds of music, fashion, media and sport, mixed with rock stars, royalty, footballers and maverick moguls, and safely crossed the path of a brutal serial attacker. Her diverse life and quick witted honesty afford her novels a level of authority and sincerity rare in fiction.
Her psychological thriller THE PENANCE LIST is available in print, ebook and audiobook, it has also been adapted to film Screenplay by award-winning writer Rick Friend. Her fans eagerly await the stand-alone sequels UNFINISHED BUSINESS, and FOR MY SINS which complete The David Trilogy, also written with film in mind.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Walk dogs near the sea, watch movies, read suspense/mystery, put the world to rights with close friends, cook BBQ, lie-in weekends with breakfast in bed, sunbathe on a white beach with a cocktail, book and lover within arm’s reach (sadly the last doesn’t happen often enough!)
What can you tell us about your book?
THE PENANCE LIST is a sultry, spine chilling, tale of obsession, lust and lies. A reminder to follow your gut and look over your shoulder – even at best friends. An entertaining romp, one minute covered in goose bumps, the next, laughing out loud.
Powerful flashbacks guide us through David’s journey from angelic altar boy to disturbed and psychotic killer, grabbing our hearts on the way, shocking us and daring us to feel empathy for the boy, understanding for the man.
For David is a victim himself, his beauty and vulnerability a curse. He loses his virginity to an abusive Headmaster, his spurned heart to his bullying sister’s best friend and his adoring alcoholic mother to a car crash. Young David finally cracks. Finding solace in the science lab, he takes control of his life through the ‘god-like’ dissection of rats, mice and finally, those who harm him.
Moving to London, David grows into an Adonis-like lothario, inhabiting the capital’s colourful underbelly – a world of ex-SAS officers, high-class hookers, WAGs, Footballers and the fame hungry British press. He emerges as a sexual ‘tour de force’ indulging his carnal appetites, first with his sister Helen’s boyfriend Seb, a roguishly attractive fashion photographer and then with her best friend, Chelsea career girl Tara, whom he prises away from her lover, Franco, an aristocratic Italian football star. If he can’t have her, no one can.
As Tara and her racy girlfriends meet for girlie lunches and playful banter, they have no idea that they are being stalked by a sexual predator. Their glamorous world of irreverent fun is shattered as David wreaks his havoc – first moving into the apartment above Tara’s and then spying on her every move. David uses the wealth of his inheritance, the memory of his pained childhood, and his seductive good looks to trap and torture those who have harmed and betrayed him. As Tara’s world slowly crumbles, David manipulates, seduces, and takes her prisoner, for David seeks penance and wants revenge.
Congratulations on getting The Penance List adapted into a screenplay—how did that come about?
I worked for many years in the music to film industry, so I naturally write with film in mind. In the right hands, THE PENANCE LIST will make an awesome movie, a classy, action packed ‘Basic Instinct’ thriller. A few people the film industry read the book and said it was perfect for film, so two wonderful girlfriends invested development monies and award winning Rick Friend wrote the screenplay. He has done an amazing job. Next to find a talented production team.
I can’t wait to walk the red carpet with my investor girls, and high five.
Were you able to participate in the adaptation, and where do things stand on the creation of a movie?
When Rick started working on the script I said that I would leave him alone, he was to do whatever he wished with it. A writer cannot afford to be ‘prissy’ about their work when they hand it over to film. It is no longer their baby, leave it to the professionals. But, Rick and I talked endlessly on the phone for months whilst he worked on it. I loved it, my characters were coming to life, he saw them exactly as I did. He very sweetly bounced ideas off me and checked complicated ‘strands of spaghetti’ storylines. He managed to cut the 485 page novel down to a 100 page film direction, a tough call to edit and cut text whilst keeping storyline. He transformed my chunk of coal into a diamond, a talented guy.
The sequel UNFINISHED BUSINESS will now be adapted to script also.
Which character do you identify with the most from your story, and why?
I identify with all the characters. They are a mix of people I have met in life, friends, enemies, work colleagues, fans. I have been lucky enough to work in a few ‘sexy’ industries in my time, giving me the ‘fodder’ for great storylines and characters. I worked in modeling, football and rock n’roll, standing on the side-lines observing the ‘sex, drugs & rock n’roll’. I crossed the path of a brutal attacker and attended a convent boarding school, all of which helped build the books authentic characters and lifestyle. I want to be in the room, to see, feel, smell, taste every scene. Hence film Directors like my work.
If you were a character within The Penance List, what would be your role?
There are three beautiful female leads, but to be honest, although he is a male and a smaller part, I would love to be hysterical, excitable Anton de Menton, the gay stylist. He is wonderfully funny, the loyal, kind, brutally honest, mother hen of the gang, forever making cups of tea and fainting at the sight of blood, a real scene stealer. In life I get through difficult times with laughter. Anton brings giggles to scenes, which relaxes the audience, setting them up for bigger falls when the shocks return. He is my guilty pleasure.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From people, I love them. People-watching is another guilty pleasure of mine. My female leads are mixes of my naughtier girlfriends, the cattier models from my modelling days, wannabe WAGS and groupies from working in football and music, and fellow boarders at Convent school when I was 8yrs. The males, some of which are incredibly sexy, are from a few wonderful boyfriends, and work colleagues. David’s fictional character came from meeting a serial attacker, he put fear into the hearts of Londoners for years, escaping capture. I helped the police with their enquiries and gave a photo-fit, so learned a few MO details. Hence the fictional David character was born.
I started out by wanting to warn girls to take care, that people like David exist, that evil can walk into your life at any time, follow your gut and look over your shoulder. I also wanted to shine a light on child abuse and the misuse of religious power. I also wanted to get people to relax about the subject of sex, not be so hung up, frightened to talk about it. Hey, enjoy it, with the right person; it is funny, loving, exhilarating… a gift.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Suspense, Drama, Action, Murder Mystery, Romance.
When did you know you were a writer?
It is something I have always felt, but life got in the way. I’m a single mum, I worked and wrote at weekends and holidays for ten years. When my daughter left University, therefore didn’t need me anymore, I took a risk, sold up my home and spent two years finishing THE PENANCE LIST full time, I self-published, and recorded the audiobook (which was hard work, 11 hrs of voice over… phew!).
I am currently finishing two sequels and working on a Women’s gangster drama THE LA MANGA 6. When I started I didn’t realize that to be a writer you needed to wear a few hats; a marketer, a publicist, a blogger, a sales person. My dream is to find someone I trust to do all that for me and for me to just write, write, write.
What would be your ideal writer’s retreat?
Diane Keaton’s Beach House in the movie ‘Somethings Gotta Give’ with Jack Nicholson. My idea of heaven.
What’s something about you that not many people know?
As respite from the thrillers I co-write Children’s Picture Books with my artist daughter Scarlett Raven. (www.scarlettraven.com) We once helped save a 140lb Pyrenees Mountain Dog in Dallas, Texas, called Ginormous Joe. He touched our hearts, so we started to write books about him. A share of royalties goes to SPINRescue.org, a wonderful dog charity ( www.ginormousjoe.com)
I can’t cook, but love to eat. I know nothing about plants, but love to potter in the garden. I have a thing for: Pecking Duck, marshmallows and fires, margaritas and fajitas, storms and the sea.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received since writing, or the most valuable tip you’d care to pass on to other writers?
Get the outline story finished, good or bad, just get it done, it’s the biggest hurdle. Then edit, edit, edit, edit and edit again.
Sometimes, mysteriously, what the Publishers and Agents want is not the same as the reader. Write for your readers and yourself.
I fear the Film industry is the same; safe, samey, mediocre movies are being churned out, and audiences crave for fresh, barrier pushing, brave scripts.
Where can readers connect with you?
THE PENANCE LIST is available through Amazon (Print, Kindle & Audiobook)
Thank you Eryn, good questions, loved talking to you. :)
Thank you. It was a delight to have you here!