Tag: Jessica Knoll

Jessica Knoll sitting at a table in a restaurant

Jessica Knoll Set Out to Be Successful. Why Is That a Bad Thing?

March 21st saw The Cut’s publication of Maggie Bullock’s interview with bestselling author of Luckiest Girl Alive and The Favorite Sister, Jessica Knoll. The interview is entitled “How to Be a Writer and Still Get Really, Really Rich,” and is part of a series called Get That Money, described by The Cut as ‘an exploration of the many ways we think about our finances — what we earn, what we have, and what we want. As part of the series, we’re interviewing women about how they feel about their bank balances.’ The interview features Knoll—whose first book Luckiest Girl Alive is being made into a film by Reese Witherspoon, and whose second book The Favorite Sister is being adapted for television by the producers of Big Little Lies—discussing, in no uncertain terms, how she deliberately set out to write a New York Times bestseller, and intended to become extremely wealthy from writing. She says of the initial sale of the book: “We had an offer from Simon & Schuster. It was quite a large number, but then two more offers came in over the next couple of days and we were able to negotiate and get it even higher. My feeling was, “Yeah, this is exactly what I expected.”’ Knoll goes on to explain that she aspires to Shonda Rhimes-level success, saying “The secret sauce is being an author who can adapt her own material. Then you’re not only looking at the money that the publisher is going to pay you, you’re looking at the money that the studio, network, whatever is going to pay you. And the royalties you’re going to make because the book is on everyone’s radar.”

Her candidness and openness about her motivations is unlike anything I have ever seen from an author, and though personally, I found it extremely interesting and refreshing, it has enraged and seemingly disgusted many.

On TwitterThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author John Boyne called the piece “One of the most depressing author interviews [he’s] ever read,” accuses Knoll of having “no humility, no interest in writing a good book,’ and “bragging about money, movie stars and Porsches.” He ends the tweet by claiming that “Only someone with absolutely zero self-awareness could talk like this.”

At the time of writing, Boyne’s tweet has no less than 108 replies, the majority of which agree with him, saying things like “there’s a writer whose work I never need to read,” wondering how she can be a writer of fiction when she appears to have “so little empathy,” with one person simply commenting “I think she’s awful.” Of course there are those who interject to point out that Knoll was being interviewed specifically about her finances, not her inspiration or writing process, and that humility is not necessarily a prerequisite for writers, but the majority of responses are in agreement with Boyne: that Knoll is a superficial, inherently bad person, whose writing they will never go near.

Elsewhere on Twitter, the sentiment is similar. Knoll “may be a great writer but seems like a really terrible human being,” says one person, while another calls the interview “a perfect hate read.”

 

The Favorite Sister book cover and Jessica Knoll
Image Via Paperbacks Paris

 

I object to this line of thinking. People intentionally become wealthy in myriad ways. I don’t think it’s fair to vilify someone for combining their talent and business sense to do so. In my opinion, it’s snobbery and silly artistic gatekeeping to suggest that she has no empathy or is a bad person for admitting to doing that. The most irksome thing about the interview is the part wherein she mentions that upon purchasing her Porsche, the dealer looked to her husband to confirm her income. That, to me, is what people should be irritated about.

As she mentions in this interview, and speaks about in greater detail elsewhere, Knoll had a hugely traumatic experience as a teenager, which led to an eating disorder and also inspired Luckiest Girl Alive. I would argue that it makes perfect sense and is completely reasonable for someone with Knoll’s past to seek financial security, to be able to afford good therapy, to be able to afford a home. She saw an opportunity, she knew she could do it and do it right, and so she did.

I don’t think artists should get to tell other artists that the reasons they’ve created their work are wrong, especially not writers who have also made a fortune doing what Knoll does. Why is she wrong to want what they have, too? Because one is not supposed admit to wanting it? And one is just supposed to smile politely to oneself when it does happen, and never be so vulgar as to discuss it or admit that it’s an advantage or that they wanted, or God forbid expected, it to happen?

I was relieved to see that I am not the only one irritated by the general reaction to this interview. Among the responses on Twitter were many, mainly from women, who say they are ‘fascinated’ (a word used, interestingly, a number of times) by Knoll’s honesty and praise her for achieving her goals, and I am among them. I have never in my life seen a writer, much less a woman, be so frank about their financial goals and about wielding their talent and knowledge of the industry (Knoll was an editor at Cosmo and was working at Self at Condé Nast when Luckiest Girl Alive was published) in order to get where they wanted to go.

Writer Emma Flynn dismissed Boyne’s point, tweeting ‘I hate the idea that there’s something inherently noble about being a writer.’

I agree with her. It’s ridiculous to denigrate someone for not having the same, apparently vocational, motivations for writing that you deem necessary for the writing to be considered valuable or the writer to be considered legitimate. Is success supposed to be just an unlikely side effect of being a writer, one that, however pleasant it may be, we are not supposed to admit is desirable, and certainly not a motivation? As Flynn says, the idea that writing must be an ‘inherently noble’ pursuit, seems notional. Of course, most writers write for the sheer joy of it, the passion for it, the need for it, the urge. But who’s to say Knoll doesn’t do that too? She has spoken in the past of how writing Luckiest Girl Alive was incredibly cathartic for her and a way of dealing with her trauma,  she is a big reader and among her favorite books are Bright Lights Big City, The Bell Jar and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Knoll is a bonafide writer, a bestselling author, there are both film and television adaptation of her work in production and fair play to her for being as involved as possible in these projects. But even if she hadn’t otherwise discussed her love of reading and writing, and The Cut interview was only one she ever gave, I would still object to criticism of her ‘lack of humility’, or the interview being ‘a hate read.’ Knoll saw her chance, recognized her own abilities, used her position and secured for herself the success she desired. That is to be admired.

 

Featured Image Via WWD.com

 

 

Top 5 Thriller Writers Taking Things to the Next Level

Master of Suspense, Sir Alfred Hitchcock once said “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it,” and while there are countless authors seeking to instill in their readers the terror and anticipation of which Hitchcock spoke, there are only some who really stand out, who take risks and elevate the art of thrilling readers. Here are the top five thriller writers who are taking things to the next level.

 

1. Peter James

 

Image Via The Real Spy

 

One of the biggest names in thriller writing in the UK and Ireland, Peter James is about to hit the US, and you better be ready. Having received his first writing accolade in school, this murder mystery powerhouse has won coveted awards almost every year since 1999, and doesn’t show signs of stopping. Brace yourself for some big numbers: James is best known as the author of the Roy Grace series, which is comprised of nineteen books and counting, and has sold a cool 19 million copies worldwide, as well as earning him the number one spots in countries including the UK, Canada, Russia and Germany and being translated into thirty-seven languages. It doesn’t stop there. James has over twenty additional novels under his belt, as well as a non-fiction book, Death Comes Knocking: Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton, and has also been involved in the making of no less than twenty-six movies including A Different Loyalty, starring Sharon Stone and The Bridge of San Luis Rey, starring Robert De Niro. All in a day’s work.

 

James’s latest contribution to the world of thriller writing is his exciting new novel Absolute Proof. What would you do if someone told you they had absolute proof of God’s existence? That is the question posed by James in what Lee Child has called “the best what-if thriller since The Da Vinci Code.” Investigative journalist Ross Hunter receives the following phone call that will change his life forever…

 

‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’

 

“What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what,” asks James, “would be the consequences? The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence…”

Don’t miss your chance to win your name in a Peter James novel, signed copies of Absolute Proof and more thrilling Peter James goodies! 

2. Paula Hawkins

 

Image Via Daily Express

 

You’re probably familiar with Paula Hawkins’ phenomenon The Girl on the Train, which was made into a crazy-successful film starring Emily Blunt. But can you fathom how successful the book was, even without the film? The Girl on the Train debuted at number one on The New York Times Bestsellers list, where it spent thirteen consecutive weeks. In its first year, the book sold well over 1.5 million copies, and occupied the number one spot of the UK hardback book chart for twenty weeks, the longest any book has ever held the top spot.

 

The Girl on the Train was the first book she published as Paula Hawkins, however it was not her first published work. She wrote several romance novels under the pseudonym Amy Silver, as well as a financial advice book for women entitled The Money Goddess. Her second book as Hawkins, Into the Water, had a lot to live up to, however also became a bestseller and in February 2017, before it was first published, DreamWorks’ parent Amblin Partners purchased the film rights, with La La Land‘s Mark Platt and Jared LeBoff as producers. If you’ve seen The Girl on the Train film, you’ll be excited for this. As USA Today notes, “Hawkins, influenced by Hitchcock, has a cinematic eye and an ear for eerie, evocative language.”

 

3. Tana French

 

Image Via Oprah.com

 

A favorite author of none other than Stephen King, Irish-American author Tana French is best known for her Dublin Detectives series, which follows the homicide detectives of Dublin as they investigate strange and unusual crimes around Ireland. Her best book (in this writer’s opinion) is The Secret Place, an absolutely stunning mixture of thriller, bildungsroman, murder mystery and, unexpectedly, but so well executed, magic surrealism that will keep you entirely hooked until the end. The combination of themes and genres she weaves together really sets her apart, and ensures that no two of her novels bear much similarity to one another, beyond their consistently gripping plots, believable characters and, as King would have it, ‘incandescent’ prose.

 

Her latest offering, The Witch Elm, described by the New York Times as “her most intricately nuanced novel yet” follows a young man who goes to his dying uncle’s home to recover from an attack that left him near dead. However when a skull is unearthed beneath a tree on the house’s grounds, family secrets come to the surface.

 

 

4. Jessica Knoll

 

Image Via WWD

Image Via WWD

Jessica Knoll is an author who hit the big time straight off the mark. Her debut thriller Luckiest Girl Alive became an instant New York Times bestseller, selling 450,000 copies, and remaining on best-seller lists for four months. It was then optioned for film by Lionsgate, with none other than Reese Witherspoon set to produce. And all this for good reason; Knoll has also become a voice for survivors of sexual assault, having opened up about the gang-rape she suffered when she was fifteen, which informed Luckiest Girl Alive. Her willingness to be candid and open about her experiences has no doubt helped and inspired many survivors, and she is undoubtedly taking things to the next level with her brave, unflinching writing and honesty.

 

Apart from her literary success, over the course of her career Knoll has held the position of senior editor at Cosmopolitan and the articles editor at Self, which are incredibly impressive roles in themselves. Her second novel, The Favorite Sister, dubbed “deliciously savage and wildly entertaining”by People Magazine who named it their Book of the Week, also sat happily on bestseller lists around the world following its release in May 2018. By the following month, a TV adaptation from the producers of Big Little Lies had been announced.

 

5. Stuart Turton

 

Image Via The National

 

Despite having only one book out, what a book it is! Turton’s debut, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a high-concept thriller that has already been optioned for TV! Described as “Cluedo meets The Matrix meets Agatha Christie meets the reinvention of Sherlock Holmes as a TV series”, Evelyn Hardcastle follows an amnesiac who finds himself caught in a Groundhog Day-style game of real life Cluedo, in which he relives the death of Evelyn Hardcastle from the various perspectives of the potential culprits every day. As you can imagine, the book is doing rather well.

 

Following its appearance on the Sunday Times Bestseller list, it went on to win the Books Are My Bag Novel Award 2018, as well as being shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Specsavers National Book Awards 2018. As if that wasn’t enough, it made it onto various Must Read Books of 2018 lists, including those of Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire. But it wasn’t even all of this praise that led to the next big thing for Turton. Before the book was even released, the TV rights were optioned by House Productions. Phew!