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This blog was featured on 05/18/2018
Jessica Knoll on Writing, Wealth and Women’s Fiction
Written by
She Writes
May 2018
Written by
She Writes
May 2018

Jessica Knoll has been everywhere. Her new release, The Favorite Sister, perhaps the first big hit of summer 2018, is kicking off our sister site’s annual Summer Reading Challenge (with Jessica as the host). People reveled in all the celebrities dying to dig in to her new book and for more than just the exciting plot, you should be clammering towards it too.

Interviews all over have shown this inspiring and driven author has some can’t-miss messages for women and fellow writers.

As the former book editor for Cosmopolitan, and the author of the breakout debut, Luckiest Girl Alive, she is no stranger to the publishing world and with her sophomore novel climbing charts her voice is one for all women writers to hear.

In an interview with She Writes, Jessica Knoll answered some of our burning questions.

SW: As Cosmopolitan's former book editor and a bestseller yourself, what makes for a "summer hit?" Did you set out to write one when you started?

JK: A summer hit needs three components: a vibrant, energetic voice, an intriguing plot, and a little bit of dark humor.

SW: What would you recommend to aspiring authors who want to write in the thriller genre?

JK: Don't wait for the lightbulb moment! You'll be waiting forever. Start writing. Inspiration finds you when you're working. 

SW: After spending time in the book industry, did anything surprise you when you published your first novel?

JK: That I was expected to be such a big part of the publicity process. I thought I wrote the book and attended to my editor's notes and that was it. Instead, promoting it becomes a second, full time job.

SW: As a writer of contemporary women's fiction, why do you think it's important for women's stories to be told?

JK: Women are are not some rarefied breed—we're human beings, just like men! The male experience is not the default human experience, and our stories are important not just for other women to find ways to connect to each other, but because they simply make for compelling content. 

She Writes isn’t the only place where Jessica has been dropping some serious knowledge bombs though. In interviews across the map, she has been sharing her insight on everything from being an author, to wealth, to what it means to be a woman in today’s rapidly changing climate.

On Making Money as an Author

In a deeply frank op-ed in the New York Times, Jessica Knoll talks about her unabashed interest in becoming wealthy in her aptly titled article “I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry.” As authors and aspiring authors, it’s unusual to hear someone talk so brazenly about their interest in making money and doing so with her writing career.

“Success, for me, is synonymous with making money. I want to write books, but I really want to sell books. I want advances that make my husband gasp and fat royalty checks twice a year. I want movie studios to pay me for option rights and I want the screenwriting comp to boot.”

You heard her ladies… there’s nothing wrong with wanting (and demanding) to get paid.

On Relationships with Other Women

Jessica Knoll is tired of a world that pits women against one another and she’s no longer interested in participating in that culture. In an interview with Girlboss, she talks about just that:

“I refuse to let this culture define me or define my relationships with other women anymore. I’m going to be the one to define them.”

On Being Adaptable When Writing a Book

Knoll appears to not be a pantser or a plotter when it comes to her writing. In a chat with Refinery29, she talks about how her first book went as planned and the second took some flexibility.

“With [The Favorite Sister] it taught me not to get too precious with a storyline. If I found myself in the trenches with the writing and it wasn’t working, I had to honor that and readjust from there.”

On Demanding What You’re Worth

In a conversation with Moneyish, Knoll continued to discuss how she feels about women in the workplace and demanding to be paid what they’re worth. Whether you are negotiating a publishing contract or hustling as a freelance writer, Knoll encourages all women to get more comfortable negotiating.

“...the more women speak up, the more we are doing our part in getting people comfortable with seeing women behave in these more ‘manly’ ways,” she said. “It doesn’t feel so abrasive.”

On the Subject of “Women’s Fiction”

It has been an industry-wide and decades-long trend to treat any fiction written about/by women as only being marketable to women. And while that trend continues, Knoll talked to Entertainment Weekly about her mixed feelings on the topic.

“It’s a legitimate question, why books by men swing both ways whereas if it’s a book about a woman’s life it’s going to be marketed almost entirely to women,” says Knoll. “Part of me is like, well the way we did it worked, and women are the consumer. More women read than men and more women go to movies than men. I still think that there is this really archaic notion that women’s everyday lives aren’t interesting to anyone but other women and it’s just not true.”

Having sold movie rights to Reese Witherspoon and over 450,000 copies of her first book, it seems Jessica is on the path to achieving her goals. Whether you also have a secret ambition to be wealthy while writing or you just want an admirable example to follow in the thriller genre, Jessica Knoll is blazing a new path for women in the industry. She is both encouraging and trailblazing the path to bigger deals and better careers for everyone.

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