The members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle are a varied bunch. Prose writers, poets, playwrights, memoirists, screenwriters, we sweep in from all different occupations and locations twice a week to share our work with one another.
In ‘Meet the Circle’, we introduce you to some of our members, hopefully providing an insight into who we are, what we do and what we think about Greco-Roman wrestling. Well, maybe not that last bit.
This week we will hear from Karmen Špiljak, our Thursday evening sessions’ co-chair. A Slovenian, who feels European, has been writing since a very early age. She is a big fan of crime fiction and writes mystery stories that often have feminist and environmental notes. The biggest obstacle to her writing is that she often has to negotiate computer time with her two cats.
When did you join the group?
Sometime in summer 2017. Before that, I facilitated a workshop at the retreat in May. It’s my first ever writers’ group and I was really excited to join and meet other writers.
What were your first impressions of the group?
It has a lot of talent from all over the world. When it comes to creativity, Brussels really can surprise. I was quite impressed by other people’s work and feedback. It’s great to see such a variety in genres, too. Though I was a bit nervous, the group turned out to be very supportive and motivating.
What have you published so far?
In my teenage years, I published several short stories in local newspapers, regional competitions and Slovenian magazines. During my student years, I hardly wrote anything at all, but the story idea began to shape in my mind, that became my first novel: A perfect flaw, a contemporary story about growing up and finding out who you really are.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished the first draft of a dystopian science fiction novel. It’s set about 200 years in the future in a small society that has survived a climate disaster and has taken some drastic measures to keep peace and order. My heroine suffers the results of these measures and tries to discover what really happened to her.
Who are your biggest literary influences? How have they influenced you?
I’m influenced by pretty much everything I read and definitely try to learn something from each book and author. Those closest to my heart, though, have remained the same: definitely the queen of crime, Agatha Christie. She had this incredible plotting ability that I really admire a lot.
Then there’s Stephen King. I really love how he puts usual characters in very unusual situations, which I also sometimes do in short stories. One of my all-time favourites is Douglas Adams, whose work encouraged me to get more creative and use humour differently.
But perhaps one of my biggest influences was Miha Mazzini. He’s a very versatile Slovenian writer, whose work covers everything, from literary fiction like Crumbs to haunting stories like The Collector of Names.
He also happens to be an excellent screenplay writer and film director. I was lucky enough to have had him as a tutor at a screenplay writing course in 2006. Many of the techniques that he taught then, I still use today. That course made me think that I can really write for more than just a hobby.
Do you have a memorable moment from the BWC that you could share?
We once tried to read poetry while a rather big and loud group was having dinner next to us. It proved to be a rather amusing experience.
What do you get out of the group?
Many things. For starters, it’s very rewarding to be among fellow writers, people who go through similar things when creating their stories. I learn a lot from hearing people’s feedback, which affects how I read stories. Of course, there’s also feedback on your own stories. As scary as it can feel to share your writing with the group, it’s also very rewarding, because you get new perspectives, that can help make your story richer. I certainly got a few great ideas that I incorporated into the novel I’m currently working on.