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My name is Jessica Knoll and I am the author of the New York Times bestseller, [Luckiest Girl Alive] (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1476789630/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=1HNKCSWR2DV9EDGR7NTT&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop) , which published from Simon & Schuster on May 12th. Pre-novelist life, I was an editor at Cosmo and SELF, where I wrote about sex, relationships, career, health, and more sex. I grew up outside of Philadelphia and graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York in 2006. I live in New York City with my husband—and someday soon—a big fat bulldog.
Follow me on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JessMKnoll
Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaKnollAuthor
Check out my book trailer! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vY-14QTitc
Social media proof: https://twitter.com/JessMKnoll/status/603623257619718144
Thanks so much for all the thoughtful questions. I have to run, but you can find me at the social media platforms above and I hope you check out the book.
What are you guys on when making those sex tips?
Tons of molly.
What was your inspiration behind your story? Do you see a little bit of yourself in TifAni? If so, which parts?
I just finished reading it last night, I could not put it down!
Thank you! And yes, I see a lot of myself in Ani, and in fact I was inspired to create her when I got engaged three years ago. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to have a ring on my finger—like I wasn't good enough without it—and that was dismaying to me and something I wanted to explore. How this generation of accomplished and ambitious women could still feel like they aren't enough unless they have a man. Ani came about from wondering what kind of person would need marriage so badly that she was willing to ignore her own needs and wants just to attain it.
Hi Jessica, aspiring writer here. Have you always known that you've wanted to be a writer? How much writing do you get done on the average writing day?
I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I just didn't know how I would pay my bills being one. I knew I had to be in a place where things were happening, which is why I moved to NYC after graduating college. I realized I could work for magazines, earn a decent living, and get to write and be creative. I paid close attention to other editors who had written books, and paid VERY close attention to books that generated a lot of buzz. I didn't want to just write anything, I wanted to write something that would say something about the world in which we lived in. It took a few years for that to happen, but all the while I was thinking, turning over ideas in my head, etc, etc. Once I came up with the idea for my book, I woke up and wrote every single morning before I went into Cosmo. I got anywhere from 700-2000 words on the page, and at least 1000 on Saturday and Sunday.
Hi!! I absolutely loved your book and was ecstatic to hear that you're currently working on a second novel. I also read in an interview that you've learned not to give hints on what the book is about, which I respect. But can you tell us when we can expect to hear when this novel will be complete/released?
I don't like to share my ideas when I'm working on them because inevitably someone (like my mom, love you mom!), won't like what I've come up with and then I start doubting myself. And there's a enough self doubt when you're writing a book to deal with, no need to introduce anymore! The second book is so nascent that I'm afraid I don't even know how to answer that! Hopefully I will be on your book shelf again by 2017 (gah! forever!). But we also have the Luckiest Girl Alive movie to look forward to!
What is your favorite topic to write about?
When I wrote for magazines I loved writing about career and social trends. One of my favorite stories I ever wrote for Cosmo was about the rise and fall of the thong (!) in relationship to politics and the economy. For fiction, I like to write about anything dark and gritty, and that's what I like to read too. Give me some intrigue and I'm a happy girl!
Hi Jess! I am a long-time LSPer, and just finished reading your book over the weekend. I loved Josie and Elizabeth's intertwined stories in the LSP blog and it made me curious: do you know endings of your stories when you start, or do they develop organically in the writing process?
Well, hello! So glad to see you on here ;-)
With Josie's story, no, I did not know the ending because there was no end date in sight when I first started writing the blog for Cosmo. So I had no idea where she would go. With Elizabeth, yes, I always knew how her story would end. For the book, I always knew the last line of the book. I got chills just picturing myself getting to that moment! I have always written like this. I don't necessarily know what will happen between page 1 and the last page, but I'm always writing to get to that last page, to the ending I've already determined.
I haven't yet read your book, but I plan on it soon (have a trip coming up where I need a book for a flight, PERFECT!). But I have been a religious follower of LSP and prior to that, Cosmo Bedroom Blog.
Which of the characters (Josie or Elizabeth) was your favorite to write? Did you feel like you didn't get to spend as much time on Elizabeth as you had wanted, just due to your own personal life / professional life?
How was writing a fiction blog versus a novel?
What are your thoughts on fictitious blogs as a media form versus a novel?
Thank you for reading my words all these years!
I much preferred writing Elizabeth to Josie. Truth be told, Josie's story was a little pollyanna for my tastes, but it had to be that way because she was an extension of the Cosmo brand. I tried to give the story a little more edge when I took it on my own (like Ashley being in an abusive relationship), but it didn't really work with the "Josie ethos" I'd created. It was definitely fun to do but I felt much more at home writing a scoundrel like Elizabeth :-) I actually feel like I had the perfect amount of time to write her. In the end, her story is longer than my book. There is only so much you can come up with for one character, and I think the reader can sense when you're a little tapped out because the story starts to drag. That would happen with Josie sometimes.
I much prefer the novel, if only because I can't really show my best writing or ideas on a blog. I'm always going to want to keep those close to the chest to use for a book. But a blog is a great way to get into the habit of writing and help you stumble onto the genre of book you might want to write yourself someday!
Are you the editor that's responsible for an issue of Cosmo in 2012 directly resulting with my, at the time, girlfriend putting an index finger in my butt because she had read it as a sex tip?
Just finished LGA, I couldn't put it down! gosh was it amazing. I am also an aspiring writer, and would appreciate any type of advice you can give. what can you recommend about getting a agent? (how, what where when!!) what's the editing process like. I have so many more questions but I feel this maybe the best place to start!
Thank you for your kind words about the book! I am not the best example of how to get an agent, because I was friends with my agent before I ever wrote my book. SHE was the one who kept at me to write. So I never had to query a long list of agents, which most writers have to do. But there are a lot of how-to guides, which list hundreds and hundreds of agents, examples of how to write a pitch, how to submit your manuscript, etc. Just go to your local bookstore and ask! Normally, you need to have your manuscript written or a good chunk of it written in order to secure an agent. Then, the agent is responsible for taking it out and getting you a deal from the publisher. The editor at the publishing house makes a bid on your manuscript, and then the editing process starts. It varies depending on who you work with, but for me, we first discussed some scenes and threads we both thought could be stronger, and I went in and made those changes. Next, she line-edited me, which I was used to from working in magazine, but your editor just goes through line by line and points out things that don't work, make sense, where the writing could be stronger, etc. Some people hate the editing process, and sometimes it is frustrating, but in general, I love it!
I used to read your blog Love, Sex and Pizza religiously and plan on reading your book soon! As for my question, how did you prepare/practice for writing this book? Is there any advice you can give to someone who may want to get into writing but just don't know where to start? Thanks!
I cut my teeth in the magazine world. Magazines teach you to have a perspective, to have your ear to the ground, and to find the unique angle of a story. That is just as important as being a great wordsmith. That being said, you are writing to fit a "house" voice at most magazines. You don't get to really find your own. I took a creative writing class at NYU a few years back, and I wrote a short story that was an early version of Ani. The professor loved it, and I knew I had something there. So my advice would be to see if you can find a writing group or a night class at a local college, and just got into the habit of writing, and really listen to feedback—especially the critical feedback. I can't tell you how many stories I wrote right out of college that came back from my editor, ripped to shreds. But it made me a better writer.
When did you first become interested in writing dis-likable female characters?
So it wasn't a conscious decision, like I am going to write a real bitch. I wanted to write someone who is real and honest about how much fucking pressure you are under as a young woman in this world. It used to just be that there was something wrong with you if you weren't married by a certain age, now it's that plus you're expected to lean in at work and wear a size two and be ambitious but not TOO ambitious or you'll scare a man off. It makes me angry, and I channeled that anger into Ani as a character.
I'm almost 25 and feel the same amount of pressure you did. I've been with my SO for six years and still do not feel like I'm ready for marriage. People all around us are pressuring about "getting the ring" that I am feeling smothered. My SO hasn't made any comments but every time I think about it, I feel like Ani in how she feels like she will not make the right choice since she's being so pressured.
I started to feel that way at 26. And I got engaged at 27. Immediately after, I went into a panic, because I realized I hadn't really thought marriage through. I'd only wanted it because everyone made me feel like there was something wrong with me for not being engaged. I went ahead with my wedding anyway, and I'm happy I did, but looking back I wish I had been strong enough to ignore the comments from the peanut gallery and gotten married on my OWN terms. But it is HARD to chart your own course with all that noise in the background.
I LOVED your book! Do you have any recommendations for other authors that have similar writing styles that inspired you?
Thank you! Gillian Flynn was a huge inspiration for me. I read an advanced copy of her second book, Dark Places, back in 2008 when I was an assistant at Cosmo. I was blown away, and immediately read her first book, Sharp Objects, which is my absolute favorite of her three novels. That's saying a lot, because Gone Girl is brilliant. I also loved the voice of Dolores in Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, and wanted to create a voice like that: distinct, a little precocious, and maybe even polarizing. Same goes for Esther Greenwood's voice in The Bell Jar. And you can't beat the writing in The Secret History by Donna Tartt, one of my all time favorite books ever.
what sort of demographic data did you have on your readership that surprised you the most?
I wasn't thinking demographics when I wrote the book. I just wrote the story I was dying to tell. That said, I have heard from S&S that the e-book sales for my novel, as a debut, are astounding, and they attribute that to the fact that we offered a deal on the e-book pre-publication, and also that the e-book in general is just less expensive. Their interpretation is that a lot of young women who do have to watch their dollar are the ones buying up the e-book, and it goes to show how powerful a demographic they are, and how they are just as interested in smart, provocative content as anyone else.
I loved your book! How long did it take you to write Luckiest Girl Alive in all and how did you go about finding a publisher? Did you have an agent to begin with? One more thing, congratulations on the movie rights being bought!
Thank you! I wrote LGA pretty quickly—in about nine months. But I thought on this story, and the character of Ani for years before that. My story is a little unique in that I was friends with my agent before I ever wrote a book. When you work in the magazine/publishing world, you make great connections. My agent would email me over the years, asking me if I was writing, telling me she knew I could write a book. Finally, I told her that I was used to working on tight deadlines for Cosmo, so she had to give me some! I turned in about four chapters to her every 5-6 weeks. She would give me feedback, which I would incorporate, and then start on the next chunk. We worked like this from June 2013-Jan 2014. In Feb of 2014, she took my book out to the publishers (that's how it works for mostly everyone—you get an agent first, and then the agent is responsible for getting you a deal with the publisher). She sent it out on a Friday and by Monday morning I had my first offer from Simon & Schuster! It was a surreal moment.
Thank you so much for your answer! Best of luck with everything and I can't wait to read the second book from you which will no doubt be next summer's must read x
You're so sweet! Thank you.
Thanks so much for responding!
I think the idea of the fictious blog is intriguing. As a reader, it helps develop this character into more of a "real person" because the timing is forced into more of an every day pace, versus one you can devour in one sitting. Because of that, I find it can really rope you in and hold you captive.
Do you think fiction based blogs are "new" thing that could gain more traction? Or do you think the audience isn't quite there like it is with books?
As someone who has largely worked in print in her entire life, first at Cosmo (even the blog at Cosmo was just a side responsibility. My main responsibilities were for the print magazine), then at SELF, and now as a novelist, I'm always going to prefer magazines and books to online sites and blogs. What we used to always say in magazines is that even though every sort of content under the sun is available online, the magazine experience is a curated one, which automatically elevates the quality of the content you're consuming. It's a quantity vs. quality experience. Of course, there is some great online content out there, but all in all, the print experience is always—in my mind!—going to be superior. I'm a print snob; I can't help it!
Hi jessica, I want to begin by congratulating you on your bestselling novel and the major movie deal!
When did you first conceive the idea of a character like tifani fanelli, and how long did it take to develop her story?
Also, how elated were you when you found out about lions gate making your movie?
Thank you! I first conceived of Ani when I got engaged, three years ago. I was surprised by how much pressure I felt to get engaged, and disturbed that I didn't feel good enough without a ring on my finger. From there, I started to construct a story around a girl who is so desperate for marriage that she will sacrifice everything, even her own dignity, to get that ring. I started to plot out what had happened to her that made her so engagement-hungry, and made her view marriage as a sort of solvent for her dark past.
And elated doesn't even begin to describe it! Initially, I was told that this would be a smaller, niche type of movie, and we weren't really thinking about going out to big studios like Lionsgate. But what ended up happening was that all the female creative execs at the big studios read the book and went crazy for it, saying this is the story so many women have been waiting to have told. THAT was the coolest part—just knowing I had touched a nerve.
Edit: SPOILERS!!! SORRY!
Hi!! I've been a long time reader of yours (Cosmo+LSP) and I loved your book! I read it the other night in one sitting- I couldn't put it down! Maybe in my rush to read it (I'm planning on reading it again very soon, much slower. Haha), I didn't quite understand the end. I know that you suggest that Dean will get his due via the microphone taping Ani's and his confrontation, but I was confused by the very last paragraph. Would you care to explain it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
SPOILERS HERE: Yes, you have it right. Ani made Dean confess what he did to her, knowing his mic would be hot. She wasn't sure if she would use that confession, mostly because Luke didn't want her talking about the rape, but she wanted to have it in her back pocket just in case. She calls the producer and tells him to listen for the confession once she and Luke break up, and the producer is warning her that this is going to open a huge can of worms—essentially accusing two dead teenagers of rape. Ani's point in saying that yeah, people SHOULD be outraged, is commentary on rape culture in general, that the knee-jerk reaction would be for people to be outraged that these two boys are being accused of rape, rather than being outraged over the fact that a young girl was raped.
And it closes on Ani identifying herself with her real name, signaling to the reader that she's made peace with who she really is.
Does this help??! And thank you for being such a loyal reader! xx
Do you have any dream casting choices in mind for the movie?
I do, and this is an obnoxiously coy response, but unfortunately I am not permitted to discuss casting choices! Boo, I'm sorry!
As you may or may not know, Cosmo gets a bad rap here on Reddit for being very misleading and offering bad advice. As a former editor of Cosmo, what are your thoughts on the advice Cosmo pushes out to it's readers?
I'm glad someone asked this question! I think a lot of the Cosmo naysayers are those who don't actually READ Cosmo, and rather just comment on the absurdity of one article or a few lines taken out of context. I could never understand people who accused Cosmo of being man-pleasing. I wrote about sex—a lot—for Cosmo. Every single month, 50% of what I was writing was about how to improve your satisfaction, and 50% was about how to improve his. Anyone who has a problem with that doesn't have a very healthy attitude toward sex. Good sex is about enjoying yourself and making sure your partner enjoys him or herself, and making sure you're WITH someone who feels the exact same way. That was the message we pushed at Cosmo.
This absolutely helps! Thank you so much! I was so caught up in the "yes, they should be mad, a teenage girl was raped!" that I didn't even consider the fact people would be upset that the two boys were being accused of rape, and so it didn't quite make sense. Also, this was at 3:30 in the morning, so I'm sure that was a large part of it. (:
Thank you so much for all the writing you've done! The book was brilliant and I can't wait for the movie (and hopefully another book!) to come out! I've been recommending it everyone I know. Congrats on all your success (:
Thank you! I'm glad it cleared things up!
That's a great statement. I agree with it fully. There's something to be said for the physical and tangible (which is why while eBooks are great, they won't fully replace print).
Thanks again for the answers!
You are so welcome!
Hey. use the spoilers tag. I haven't yet read the book, and feel like a good chunk of it is now ruined for me. That's pretty inconsiderate.
I'm so sorry! I didn't even know a spoilers tag existed. This is my first time doing a Reddit AMA. That's why I wrote SPOILERS in my response. 1) where is the spoilers tag? and 2) there is a LOT more that goes on in the book than what you have just read. What we just discussed isn't even the big twist in the book!
As a previous editor at Cosmo, do you have a collection of the approximately 3,137,724,657,345,345,865 different AMAZING sex moves that will drive men crazy?
Yes. My husband is a very happy man.
You have mentioned about drawing upon parallels from your own life for this novel - can you explain that a bit? There are so many dark sides to Ani that make you wonder where all came from. Was it your own experiences? Did you live these experiences yourself?? Big fan of the book but I am always amazed to read novels with such specific detail as yours and am left wondering how it all makes it into the book!
This is a tough question to answer because yes, I did draw on some real experiences for the book, but I'm not really comfortable discussing which ones. I will say that I grew up just outside of the Main Line, and attended a prestigious high school where I was a bit of an outsider—though not nearly to the degree that Ani was. I think that is a situation so many people respond to—girl from the wrong side of the tracks is thrown in the lion's den. Some of our most beloved stories start from this place. I also had a lot of anger over the pressures I've experienced as a woman, and I found a way to distill that anger into Ani's narrative and her experiences in a way that a lot of women seem to be able to relate to, which is a great feeling.