Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide
LET’S SIT CROOKED & TALK STRAIGHT: KAREN’S INTRODUCTION
Welcome to our first-ever book! We’re so glad you could join us. Isn’t it weird? We know! It is for us, too. We’ve never written a book before. We don’t know where to put our hands!
Let us begin by saying thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for buying this book. Your support truly means the world to us. We know some of you are young and hungry, living off of your wits and whatever spare change you can find in an old coat pocket. So this purchase was a true sacrifice. God bless you, child. The kingdom of heaven shall be yours. On the other hand, maybe you didn’t buy it. Maybe you checked it out of the library and the only sacrifice you made was hauling your ass to the building. Still, we like your style. And we love libraries. Never change. There’s also a chance you stole this book off your sister’s nightstand while she was in the shower and then later, when she asked you if you’d seen it anywhere, immediately started a fight to throw her off your scent. Hell yeah. We support you in any way you want to support us. Bless us all, but mostly the people who actually spent money.
Wait, hold on. Maybe you’re just standing in the bookstore right now skimming this introduction to assess whether or not you’ll like the rest of the book. What’s up, judgy? Are you pleased? Are you ever? You know what, how about you quit getting your finger grease all over our beautiful, pristine publication and just buy it. In fact, buy three. That’s right. You do what we say now. Look how the tables have turned. Also, thank you! We love the push-pull of your withholding personality. It’s not tiresome at all. Our overall point here is, no matter what you did to get this thing into your dirty little mitts, we appreciate your efforts.
Normally, we’d be talking to you through our podcast, where it’s all microphones and couches and air. But now we’ve gotten paper and ink involved and things have become rather highbrow. That’s right, this scrappy little true crime–comedy podcast that you’ve been sneak-listening to at your temp job has somehow figured out a way to transition itself into the world of … (SPINNING IN A CIRCLE AS ORCHESTRAL MUSIC SWELLS) … literature. We have gone from living inside your headphones to pouring ourselves out onto the page like a couple of Edna St. Vincent Millays. We invite you to drink deeply of us. We’ll get you good and fucked up.
Oh, you’ve never heard of us before? Sure, we understand. Podcasting is a relatively new thing. Let us introduce ourselves. We are the hosts of My—what’s that, you say? You’ve never listened to a podcast before and you’re not sure how they work and you don’t feel like getting involved? Gotcha. You’re not alone. But before you run off and buy some other book with “sexy” in the title, let us tell you a little story. It’s about two gals who were living passably fine lives in Los Angeles in the late 2010s. One was named Georgia, and she—to oversimplify both of their incredibly complex and varied careers—was a Cooking Channel host, and Karen, the other one, was a sitcom writer. So, one Halloween, they’re at a party together and they start chatting about a then new HBO series called The Staircase, which tells the story of a man going to trial for the murder of his wife. They realize they’re both obsessed and are thrilled to have found someone else to talk to about it. So they do. They talk and talk. Some people join in, some dip back out, and soon the kitchen’s clear of everyone except the two women. So they decide to meet for lunch. And they talk even more. Hours and hours of coffee and talking. The next time they see each other, Georgia suggests they start a true-crime podcast. Why not? They both already had podcasts of their own. They knew what it would entail. So they agreed to give it a try. CUT TO: hundreds of episodes, millions of listeners, sold-out international tour dates, and a book deal. It’s kind of a feel-good story. It feels really good to us, anyway.
OK, now that we’ve caught everyone up, let’s get back to the part about the book. We put a lot of effort into its creation, and for it, we have suffered mightily. For the past year and a half, we have been travelers set adrift on foreign seas aboard the HMS Write-a-Book. We set out impetuously, blindly, unfamiliar with the charted course, unsure what the food at the buffet would be like, afraid the other passengers wouldn’t be nice to us. We were anxious. We were seasick. We told ourselves, “Let’s just try to get through this metaphorical book boat journey in one piece. Be cool. Act natural. No, don’t whistle, stupid! That’s the opposite of natural. Why does everyone think whistling indicates relaxation? It’s literally one of the weirdest things you can do in public without breaking the law. Blowing spurts of air out of your pursed lips to produce a raspy little song like some sad bird impersonator. No discernable tune, no clear plan. Just kind of a long, vocalized exhale through big kissy lips. What better way to let the world know you’re at ease.” Whoops, sorry. We got carried away there. BECAUSE THAT, DEAR FRIENDS, IS THE POWER OF LITERATURE.
Here’s the bottom line—and not a lot of authors will be brave enough to speak their truth this way, but we’re just gonna say it: writing a book is a tiny bit terrifying. It threatens to expose you as the fraud that you are, but instead of running and hiding from the shame of it, you just have to keep staring into the mirror. It’s incredibly unnatural. You start out with an idea you like. You write that idea down. You let it sit for five days, and when you come back to it, the words have rearranged themselves on the page. Now it’s shape-shifted into the dumbest idea you’ve ever seen. So you try to fix it. And you just keep fixing it until you go computer-blind, all the joy is drained from your soul, and you no longer know what words mean. Then it’s on to chapter 2!
But look and listen: we did it! We actually finished a book. We must’ve, right? You’re holding it with your greasy fingers right now. And we’re all the better for it. Plus, now we’ll finally be in the Library of Congress! That’s been on our bucket list since, like, day one.
When we first agreed to write this book, we had a lot of different ideas about the kind of book we wanted it to be, but they all boiled down to the same general concept: big glossy pages with pretty pictures and a meaningful sentence or two here and there about unity or, like, the soul. A sort of printed-up Instagram or, like, a cookbook without all those cumbersome recipes. Short and sweet; the length and depth of a picture book made for a gifted toddler. And then, at the very end, maybe we’d have some kind of pull-out calendar featuring all of your favorite true-crime authors with their shirts off. But tasteful. Basically, we were imagining the kind of book you find in the sale bin at Urban Outfitters a week after Christmas. In hindsight, we can admit that we were aiming low.
But it turned out that the powers that be were expecting us to dig much deeper than that. They wanted us to give of ourselves fully. And not to use so many pictures. It was truly horrifying news.
“Just write about all the things you talk about on your show,” they said. “Write what you know.”
And this was the problem. You see, if there’s anything we’ve learned in our three years of doing this podcast, it’s that we don’t know anything. At all. We don’t know about geography or pronunciations or Roman numerals or percentages or the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey or dates or names or the law or really anything at all. It’s been a very humbling experience. And also a hilarious one. Being so consistently wrong made us very self-conscious about our lack of education and our habits of assumption and unabashedly filling in blanks. Every time we record, we know there’s a trapdoor of ignorance waiting beneath our feet. It’s made us a little skittish and untrusting of the floor. And in the beginning, it made us feel like we were doing it wrong.
But here’s the irony (a literary term): people still listened. Some even loved it. Our mistakes opened up the conversation we’d been having with each other and gave other people a chance to participate. That’s the thing with any kind of hobby like this—there’s always someone on the internet who loves it a little more than you do. They’re a little more obsessed, they’re a little better with memorization, and they’re super fired up.
At first that realization was intimidating. We’d get emails saying we said the wrong date or left out part of the story or pronounced a city name incorrectly. It felt bad, like we weren’t doing our homework correctly. But the messages were always complimentary and fun. That’s when we realized that the people communicating with us were excited to be filling us in. Because that’s the best part of being into true crime. There’s nothing more engaging than talking to someone about a case and finding out they don’t know a certain aspect of it. Now you’re the expert! You get to play newscaster and pass on the crucial information like it was passed on to you. It’s thrilling and bonding and a great way to pass the time, say, at a Halloween party, for example.
As this podcast grew, we found that not only could we show up as our deeply imperfect selves but that the people who were listening seemed to actually prefer it. The people who were into it wanted our full, sometimes insipid, and sometimes genius conversation, not just the listed facts of terrible crimes. It was a hang. And like any good hang, we felt comfortable confiding in you about all the awful mistakes we’d made in our teens and twenties (and thirties) so you could laugh and say, “I did that!” or wince and say, “I’ll never do that!” But we didn’t know how huge of a hang it was becoming until we did our first live theater show in Chicago.
We’d been booked at the Athenaeum Theatre for the Chicago Podcast Festival. We either didn’t ask how many people it held or we just weren’t paying attention, but when our theme song started and we walked out onstage, the ovation was overwhelming. Suddenly, a bunch of people who’d been silently hanging out with us all that time got to let us know that they were there. It was REAL loud. And it was totally thrilling.
We had no idea what we were doing, and it didn’t matter. That audience was there for the hang, and they let us know how happy it made them. It was such a moving experience that at the end of that show, to express our gratitude, we invited everyone to meet us in the lobby and say hi after. And they did. We ended up meeting around six hundred people that night. The staff was probably not thrilled with that bit of improvisation, but they accommodated us all beautifully and worked overtime to make it happen. And that was the first night that we got to meet a faction of the Murderino community. And they told us they loved us and that we were doing it right. You can imagine our surprise.
So now we’ve written this book about some of the themes we come back to again and again on the show and what it all means to both of us. It’s kinda personal and it’s kinda messy. Let us know if we get anything wrong.