WI14: Talking Murder: PW Talks with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

True crime enthusiasts Karen Kilgariff, a stand-up comedian and television writer, and Georgia Hardstark, a writer and host for the Cooking Channel, launched their true crime podcast, My Favorite Murder, in January 2016 with an episode that was at once humorous and dark, personal and probing. Three years and 250 episodes later, the format of the show has changed a bit, but the spirit remains the same. The pair have also picked up more than 250,000 Facebook fans for My Favorite Murder.

In May, Kilgariff and Hardstark will have something new to share with their “murderino” fan base: their first book, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide (Forge), a 2019 Indies Introduce debut. “It’s basically a cautionary tale in the form of a dual memoir,” Kilgariff says. “We write about all the mistakes we’ve made so the reader can attempt to avoid them, or just laugh at them.”

The duo decided to write the book after realizing how much of their own stories they were already sharing in each episode. “The way we talk on the podcast is very autobiographical,” Hardstark says. “So we didn’t so much realize we wanted to write a book, rather we looked back at the episodes and said, ‘Hey, if we wrote a book it’d probably be half-done already!’ ” Yet beneath their self-effacing and funny banter, the two wrote the book for serious reasons. By sharing their own problems, they say, they want to “make people feel less alone in their issues and experiences, whether that’s identifying with us or with the people in their own lives,” Hardstark says.

Given the focus of My Favorite Murder, it’s clear that the authors are voracious readers who pore over books that tell the tales of unsolved murders and murderers. They each have a be-all end-all book on murders: “I still think about Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, even though I read it five-plus years ago,” Hardstark says. For Kilgariff, the best book is Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me, which she calls “perfectly horrifying.”

They are also avid bookstore fans and have worked together with such places as Skylight Books in Los Angeles to host conversations and live episodes of the podcast. Kilgariff says she’s haunted bookshops since she was in her 20s. “We went to bookstores sort of like they were daytime bars.”

“What I love best about independent bookstores is their unique displays,” Hardstark says. “I always head to the ‘recommended by staff’ display at Skylight, since the staff are true book lovers, so they usually have interesting tastes. I’ve found so many unexpected great books and authors that way, and that has helped me realize that writing doesn’t have to be mainstream to be good.”

Hardstark and Kilgariff remain undecided on what they will talk about at Winter Institute, but they have developed a backup plan. “We figured we’d start with reading them some funny text exchanges between the two of us, and then maybe read an excerpt or two from Fifty Shades of Grey,” Hardstark says. “Sex sells.”

Kilgariff and Hardstark will host “The Mariachi & Murder WI14 Grand Finale” on Friday, January 25, 5–6 p.m., in the Kiva Auditorium, Upper West ACC. They will also participate in the closing reception and author signing immediately afterward in the Kiva Foyer, 6–7 p.m.

A version of this article appeared in the 01/14/2019 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Talking Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

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