The Luckiest Girl Alive Spills Her Success Secrets
Need a summer read? We’ve got you. In fact, you should probably just clear your schedule. Because once you start "Luckiest Girl Alive," Jessica Knoll’s dark, clever and wildly addictive debut novel, available now, you won’t be able to put it down.
But hey, don’t take our word for it, take Reese Witherspoon’s, who says it’s “the kind of book that grabs you and doesn’t let go.”
To back up, last month, Lionsgate acquired the rights to do a movie, and Witherspoon’s production company, Pacific Standard Films, will produce it. Whilst doing her happy dance, Knoll also agreed to write the film’s screenplay (‘I’m ready. I see how the movie starts. How it peaks. I’m bursting with ideas,’ the author says). Oh, did we mention she’ll be doing this while simultaneously working on her second novel?
So if anyone needs to be on top of her game, it’s Knoll. So we got Knoll — a former SELF staffer! — to share her tips on how she manages her time and her success secrets.
SELF: Hi Jess! So you have so much going on right now — how do you keep up with it all?
Jessica Knoll: I keep a schedule like I did when I worked a normal office job. It’s just good to have a regimented routine. It makes a huge difference in my productivity. Every day, I wake up, shower and make coffee. And then I write. I try and get like 1,000 words on a page at that time. Sometimes that doesn’t happen; then sometimes I’ll get 2,000. In the afternoon I’ll normally go workout, eat lunch and do a lot of the administrative work — like answer emails and reach out to editor contacts at magazines.
SELF: That’s a pretty busy schedule. Do you ever allow yourself lazy days?
JK: I have days where I don’t get as much done as I would like, but I wouldn’t say I allow myself to be lazy. But even on those days, where I’m uninspired, I try to be productive in some way. I’ll think, If you can get just one important thing done today, you’ll feel good about that. I know if I don’t do anything, I’m going to really beat myself up later. I’ll work on administrative stuff or I’ll get in a really good workout, and I can feel good about that.
SELF: What about writer’s block. It must hit. How do you handle?
JK: I have two tricks: First, I’ll take a break and walk up to Physique 57 in Soho for a burn-inducing barre workout. Inevitably while I’m walking, something will just pop in my head—a way of phrasing something, a plot point — and I’ll jot it all down on my phone. Alternatively, I have about three books — "The Bell Jar," "While I Was Gone" and "She’s Come Undone" — that I’ll open up and read a few passages from. It reminds me that every book as these connecting scenes where maybe it’s not super exciting, but you have to sometimes get from point A to point B and it’s okay to have sections in the book to keep the advancing the plot.”
SELF: You worked as a magazine editor — first at Cosmo, then here at SELF — starting off as an assistant and working your way up. What advice do you have for those climbing the corporate ladder?
JK: Most of us know what we need to do in our jobs. So you need to just do it, and then go ten to 20 percent above and beyond that. I have faith in the process — if you do the job well, you’ll be rewarded.
SELF: What did you learn from your time in the magazine industry?
JK: Emotional intelligence is so underrated. It’s one of the most important things you can have — to be able to read things and read situations. I feel like I developed that in high school because I was a little bit of an outsider like Ani, the main character in "Luckiest Girl Alive." When you don’t fit the mold necessarily but you want to, you’ll pay attention to other people much more acutely.
SELF: Speaking of Ani — she’s a very complex character, who doesn’t always do what we expect, especially of women. How you feel about Ani and what she represents now?
JK: I think it’s a lot hard to give women a pass for their unlikable behavior. I’m hard pressed to find an anti-heroine that we also like root for and love the way we do these male characters, like Don Draper, Tony Soprano and Frank Underwood. That was the goal with my book, to get you to feel for Ani the way you feel about Don Draper.
SELF: You’re now writing your second novel. How’s that shaping up?
JK: It’s easy to forget how hard the work is because the end product is so rewarding. This is an industry where you get to see your name in print and see the fruits of your labor. So it’s easy to erase the struggle that goes into actually doing the job. I need to remind myself that the struggle is normal. Tell myself, You went through this before, you’ll get through this again.
SELF: Can you tell us anything about it?
JK: I’ve learned to not share my ideas. (Sorry!)
SELF: The big release is today — how does it feel?
JK: Writing is such a solitary endeavor, and there’s a lot you play close to the chest. But now, nearing the publication date and putting it out there for the world to see it feels very validating in a way. Like, this is what I’ve been doing the past two years of my life! It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
You can purchase "Luckiest Girl Alive" on Amazon or hit your local bookstore now.