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IRDA Winning Author Karmen Špiljak Tells All About Her Book

Add Cyanide to Taste was the winner in the Short Stories/Fiction category of the 2022 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Karmen Špiljak.

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

Add Cyanide to Taste is a collection of culinary noir short stories that was published in September 2021.

What’s the book’s first line?

You don’t expect someone to die at lunch, especially not when you’re there for your first meeting with a big client.

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

Fourteen dark tales with culinary twists range from a cursed cake and a sinister cook in a mountain village to a dinner between neighbours gone murderously wrong. The second part of the book consists of recipes for some dishes mentioned in the short stories. Some stories might contain cyanide, the recipes are cyanide-free.

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

The pandemic made me rethink quite a few things about my life and writing. I decided it was time to write the kind of book I’d always wanted to read, a quirky collection of food and murder. Working on stories offered a mental escape from the pandemic. I had loads of fun coming up with different ideas. My husband was more than happy to taste my recipes, though he did raise an eyebrow once I told him the book was called ‘Add Cyanide to Taste’.

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

My characters are a bit like people from the Twilight Zone: just as they think they know what’s going on, the ground shifts from under their feet and they find themselves scrambling to get their head around the basics.

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

‘Add Cyanide to Taste’ is a fun read and can be eaten in one go or savoured in small bites. I wanted each story to be unique and satisfying, like a box of fine Belgian pralines. Short stories are a perfect companion for commuters and people with little time to read.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

I’d love for Olivia Colman, Glenn Close and Edward Norton to play any of my characters.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

I write a few hours every day and spend the rest of my time learning the craft and reading. I also write when on holiday, but I’ve come to appreciate the value of downtime, so I take a few weeks off about twice a year.

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

The best part is having the freedom and the flexibility to write and publish the stories you want, even if the market advises against it. I was told that short story collections are hard to sell and that people don’t like reading short stories, but I went ahead and published my collection all the same. As an indie author, I also have the luxury of time, being able to leave my stories to mature and pluck them when they’re ripe. On top of that, I have direct contact with the readers, which is something I enjoy a lot.

The hardest part of being an indie is trusting your instincts in the face of self-doubt and the general snobbery that still exists around indie publishing. But I don’t let that stop me. In the end, it’s the readers who decide which books they like and which ones they don’t.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling? If so, why?

I write across different genres and wouldn’t mind publishing my speculative fiction and fantasy with a traditional publisher under a pen name. The indie route is fantastic and I absolutely love it, but it does require a substantial investment of time and energy. I’m not sure I have the capacity to run a pen name on top of my crime fiction.

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