Jessica Knoll will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison this Thursday evening, August 13th, at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is preferred and can be completed online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Jessica Knoll.
Ms. Knoll is the debut author of Luckiest Girl Alive (Simon & Schuster, $25.00), which was published earlier this year and has reached both the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists; the title was also selected as a Book of the Week by People magazine and has been optioned for film by Lionsgate. She has been a senior editor at Cosmopolitan and the articles editor at SELF. Ms. Knoll grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Praise for Luckiest Girl Alive:
“[A] huge summer read . . . one of those great stories that you can’t put down!”— Reese Witherspoon, InStyle
“Dark, twisty . . . razor-sharp writing . . . propulsive prose . . . [The] reveal is a real doozy—a legitimately shocking, completely unputdownable sequence that unfolds like a slow-motion horror film. It instantly elevates Luckiest Girl . . . and that momentum keeps going until its final pages.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A knockout debut novel . . . completely enthralling . . . devilishly dark and fun.”—Publishers Weekly
“Luckiest Girl Alive is crime fiction at its best, proving the genre’s deep connections to society’s fears, ambitions, and ability to question the status quo. . . . Jessica Knoll is a writer to keep an eye on, especially after being compared to Gillian Flynn by Megan Abbott. . . . However, I have found enough personality in Knoll’s debut novel to let her stand on her own, rather than label her ‘the next Gillian Flynn.’. . . . . Luckiest Girl Alive is the ultimate critical companion to millennial femininity.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
From the publisher:
HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But Ani has a secret.
There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.
The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?
Now, Jessica Knoll reveals a few secrets of her own …
Hartford Books Examiner: What inspired you to make the transition from journalist to novelist – and how did you find the process of writing LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE to compare to your expectations?
Jessica Knoll: I didn’t grow up wanting to work at a magazine—I grew up wanting to write books and screenplays. But I do not go on fool’s runs. There was no way I was just going to sit down and write a book straight out of college without first understanding how the publishing industry worked. When I moved to New York, I met a lot of writers who had cut their teeth working in magazines, so I set my mind to getting a job at one. It was the smartest move I could have made. Not only did magazines help me develop my perspective and my voice, but I made invaluable connections. By the time Luckiest Girl Alive came out, I had friends at almost every major magazine who were willing to support the book and give it a platform.
HBE: Your protagonist, Ani FaNelli, is a distinct and complex character. How did you go about capturing her voice – and what were the challenges of writing an unreliable narrator/“anti-heroine”?
JK: Depending on how you feel about Ani, my answer might make you think twice about me! The truth is that it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to nail down her voice. I harbor a lot of anger and pain from things that happened to me in adolescence, and at the point at which I wrote Ani, I was also dealing with frustrations unique to late 20s life—mostly feeling an enormous pressure to be thinner, prettier, more successful, and most important, to have a ring on my finger. I hate that we still live in a time where women are punished if they don’t fit a certain mold, and I hated that I wasn’t “strong” enough to chart my own course. I channeled all of that rage into Ani.
HBE: You had strong mentors in John Searles and Kate White. What were the greatest lessons you learned from them – and how important was it to have an experienced support network as a first-time author?
JK: Both John and Kate encouraged me to write a book—and made it seem possible. That was the biggest thing, realizing that it didn’t have to be a dream. One day I sort of had this epiphany that I was working for two people who had accomplished this amazing feat of being successful, published authors, and that they both believed I could do it too. I realized I had no excuse. I had to just sit down and get to it.
HBE: Tell us about your research into school shootings. What did you find to be the greatest misconception(s) re. perpetrators of such crimes – and how can fiction be used as a means to help us understand reality?
JK: I read several non-fiction accounts of famous school shootings but the one that blew my socks off was Columbine by Dave Cullen. It is an amazing, brilliantly researched and eye-opening look at the tragedy and how the media got the narrative all wrong. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not bullied, anti-social misfits exacting their revenge against their tormentors. They were popular and well-liked—they attended their school’s prom four days before they opened fire on their classmates! It is also technically inaccurate to refer to Columbine as a school shooting—it was a terrorist attack. Harris and Klebold revered Timothy McVey and they wanted to top the carnage of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Had their homemade pipe bombs actually detonated, the body count could have been well into the 700s, which would have been the most deadly attack on U.S. soil as it was pre-9/11.
HBE: In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within its community – and how can author events enhance the reader/writer/bookseller relationship?
JK: Word of mouth is so powerful when it comes to the success of a book, and that starts with a recommendation from an expert, which is what a bookseller is! I remember when the blogosphere first exploded, and everyone in print was nervous that magazines would become obsolete. Kate White, who was the editor-in-chief of Cosmo at the time, felt very strongly that people would continue to turn to magazines for curated content. When there is an excess of information, as there is on the Internet, readers become paralyzed and overwhelmed. We want good, solid information. Local bookstores and booksellers sift through the deluge, and narrow down your options to the best of the best.
HBE: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
JK: Luckiest Girl Alive has been optioned by Lionsgate, with Reese Witherspoon attached to produce, and I am writing the screenplay. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last two months. It’s exciting to think Ani gets another run. After that, I will turn my attention to a second book. I want to write loads of them!
With thanks to Jessica Knoll for her generosity of time and thought and to Clarissa Marzán, Simon & Schuster Publicity, for facilitating this interview.
Don’t forget: The author will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers this Thursday evening, August 13th, at 7:00 p.m.