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Advice from IRDA Winner K.N. Salustro: “NEVER be your only editor. That never goes well.”

Cause of Death: ??? was the winner in the Fantasy category of the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author K.N. Salustro.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Cause of Death: ??? – published June 24, 2020

What’s the book’s first line?

“The morning my entire world broke, I was slumped over my desk in my windowless bedroom.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”

Death wanted a break, and got a murder mystery instead.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

Cause of Death: ??? came about because a random thought dropped into my head, and it would not leave. I had just finished my science fiction trilogy and was thinking about what my next book should be, and I thought I was going to jump right into another series. But then I had this idea about Death showing up to do their job one day, only to find that someone else had beaten them to the punch. That eventually evolved into an idea for a standalone fantasy book, and I was very drawn to working on a more contained project after finishing a space opera trilogy. There was no major incident or person that triggered me wanting to write Cause of Death: ??? (unless you count zoning out on the bus ride to work), but this story really just struck me as weird and fun and something that I really, really wanted to write. It felt like the perfect time for it, before I dove into a bigger project.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

The main character is Death so… that’s usually a pretty distinctive trait. That said, my Death has a strong sense of responsibility warring with a serious case of burn out, the same level of nonsense tolerance that you’d expect from Ron Swanson, and a fondness for coffee (black, no cream or sugar, EVER).

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

This book is not a gritty detective novel or an epic high fantasy, but it is a lot of fun, and the characters have a lot of heart (even if they lack a proper body).

Is this the first you’ve written?

Cause of Death: ??? is my fourth novel and fifth publication overall. So, far from my first, but still pretty early in my writing career.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

For my day job, I work as a creative director for a benefits administration company. The human translation of that means that I write and oversee the production of educational materials designed to help people in the workforce understand the benefits offerings from their employers, from different types of medical plans to what an HSA is and how a 401(k) works.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

I try to write every day, and I’m trying to get better at carving out set times in my schedule to sit down and focus only on that for at least an hour. I was pretty good at that in the Before Times. A bit less so now, but I’m determined to get back on track so that I can learn to write more efficiently, and get into my next stories. I’ve got a lot more that I want to tell!

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?   

I think the best and hardest part are actually two sides of the same coin. As a self-published author, you have to be involved in every single aspect of the book, from writing the first draft all the way to getting the formatting right for the print and digital interiors. AND you have to handle all your marketing by yourself. So on the pros side, you have total creative control, you learn a LOT as you bring your book to completion, and you get to be involved in things that traditional authors might not, like creation of your cover image. On the cons side, you have to take care of everything yourself if you can’t afford to hire a professional, and that can be very draining, and sometimes just impossible. (NEVER be your only editor. That never goes well.) You have to handle marketing and foot the bill for production if you plan on doing live events, but at the same time, you get to be on those front lines and see firsthand when your book makes a connection with a reader. And that’s pretty awesome.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Ursula leGuin. She was a powerhouse, and had a huge impact on my favorite genres.


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