Author Katie Runde’s debut novel ‘The Shore’ explores class and loss on the coast of New Jersey

Katie Runde began her career as a High School English teacher. Now, almost fifteen years after writing ‘The Shore’ as her MFA thesis, Runde has released it as her debut novel. Published on May 24, it reflects her own experience with the slow loss of her father to a cancerous glioblastoma tumor.


Rebecca Sanabria

Contributed photo of author Katie Runde.

Ariana Lessard, Arts Reporter

Katie Runde knows the inner workings of the Jersey Shore well, thanks to an adolescence spent in Seaside Heights, New Jersey — and her family, who owned a boardwalk business.

Seaside Heights, like much of the Jersey Shore, is best known for a reality TV show: The Real Housewives. However, in her debut novel, “The Shore,” published on May 24 — Runde shows what it is really like to grow up on the Jersey Shore.

Runde began her writing career by writing for the sports section of her college paper at Notre Dame University. In 2006, she visited Iowa City for the first time and took classes at the University of Iowa, citing it as the “turning point” where she decided to make writing the center of her life.

When she was in graduate school at Warren Wilson College, she worked as a nanny for her day job. She explained that this constant exposure to teenagers was another motive for making the main characters of the novel teenage siblings Liz and Evy.

From age 19 to 21, Runde experienced the slow deterioration of her father’s health and character as a result of a cancerous glioblastoma tumor. The age of Runde’s book’s main characters, the tumor that their father has, and the heart wrenching themes of the story are all pulled from Runde’s own experiences.

Runde said she wanted to portray the kind of loss that happens before death; when someone stops acting like themself. Runde said while she has seen this portrayed in other books, none of the depictions were exactly like her own experience.

“The more people I talked to, the more I realized that having some kind of loved one who is not themselves one way or another is really a universal experience,” Runde said.

She said that the fact that this took place in a tourist town, where “everyone’s there to party,” and that her own situation was peculiarly juxtaposed with this is explored in the book.

“I really wanted to show the other side of it. The people that run the businesses, the way it feels in the offseason,” Runde said. “The way the personalities of towns that are so close can be so different.”

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“The Shore” originally began as the thesis she wrote for her MFA degree, but she did not finish writing the book until the spring of 2020. She ultimately brought to life the incarnation of her experiences with the novel’s release on May 24, almost 15 years after deciding to begin writing it.

Runde also noted that her characters have a fluid relationship with class, as she experienced on the real Jersey Shore.

“[Liz and Evy] definitely are on the higher end of [class], but it’s a bit of an up and down kind of upper class because when you have a tourist business, one bad year can really change your status,” Runde said.

For this reason, in the midst of the loss and teenage drama that Liz and Evy are coping with, they also have a responsibility to help run their family business all summer by mopping floors, cleaning drains, and more.

Runde also emphasized her advice for anybody who may find themselves grappling with the kind of slow loss that Runde writes about.

“I would say just to give yourself grace and patience. I would just say that this isn’t something you’re supposed to just be good at, and it’s not something that makes sense to your brain, right?” she said. “Try not to be too hard on yourself because it’s an unimaginable thing to have to do.”

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