Thanks for joining us. If you're drinking a hot beverage, you might want to hold onto your mug before taking a sip because KJ's honesty may result in giggles. She's a lot of fun and I can't wait for her debut to enter the world.
Congratulations on The Book Proposal! It’s almost here!
KJ: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
Happy to be here!
It’s an accomplishment to write a book, but when it’s out in the world, it’s success. I think it’s important to recognize our achievements. You’re planning on a book launch party at a comedy club, which is pretty cool. How did you decide on how to celebrate? Who’s invited?
KJ: I love your optimistic outlook! I'm always so busy that I have a really hard time stopping and smelling the roses, so to speak. The launch party was my way of forcing myself to do exactly that. It would be easy to be flippant about it, but the planning process has been a lot of work, and honestly, I put an awful lot of thought into it.
Most book launches are done at bookstores or in conjunction with libraries. Unfortunately, in my area, there are not a lot of bookstores to choose from. This is surprising since I live in a suburb of NYC, but it's true. We do have tons of libraries, and I thought about reaching out to my local branch to partner on an event but, I don't know. I'm pretty old school about libraries. I have all this reverence for them - they're these lovely, huge buildings that house literature. What I wrote is like this very silly, funny, sometimes sexy, sometimes downright gross thing that could not be further from "appropriate" for your typical library crowd. I envisioned a loud, funny event, and while libraries are a lot of things, I don't think most people would choose "loud" or "funny" as adjectives to describe their libraries. (I could be wrong, here. I'm wrong about a lot of things.) It just felt like it would be more natural - more on-brand - to do something at a comedy club. And then I thought, what if I turned it into a fundraiser? I run a non-profit that teaches dyslexic kids to read, and also works with adults who need help with literacy skills. How cool would it be for me to take the proceeds of my debut book launch event and donate them back to an organization that creates tomorrow's readers?
Also, to be completely transparent, I am a total chicken about reading out loud - and I figured that if I hosted an event at a comedy club and arranged for some legit top-notch talent, then I could just be, like, the opening act - which takes away a lot of the pressure of the evening so I could just enjoy myself as well. And no joke, I found the best comedian. Her name is Liz Miele (totally recommend you check out her YouTube specials), she's from Brooklyn which is where my book is set, and she has dyslexia. Once I got in touch with her agent and booked her, I realized it was going to be an incredible celebration.
The whole world is invited to come to my launch party! It's not exclusive to anyone! The venue seats 200 and so far I've sold 65 tickets, so I'm feeling pretty good about that! Hoping to max it out! (Details are on my website if any of your readers would like to come! It's $25 per person which includes a signed copy of the book.
I’m honored that I read an advance copy of The Book Proposal and loved it. Not only for a great story, but the snappy banter and humor. I’m curious, how much of Gracie’s character is you?
KJ: Ha! That's a great question. If you're asking me whether I shart when I'm jogging, the answer is no. I have a weak bladder, so I pee when I run, thank you very much. Gracie and I have some personality traits that are similar, but we also have some pretty major differences, too. For example, I am a workaholic where she's a procrastinator. I am really good at managing my finances, and Gracie can't figure out that (most) authors need day jobs. But many of her traumatic childhood tales are fictional retellings of moments from my youth, yes. Mrs. A is 100% based on the mom of my best friend from the third grade. Sweetest woman you'd ever want to know but man, did she constantly try to overfeed me. The high school stuff is also based on my life but just amplified. What's really fun is that people who have known me since childhood will recognize some of the stories. It's like having a bunch of inside jokes in print, immortalized forever.
Gracie suffers from writer’s block, an author’s fear of not being able to write anything new. Have you experienced it and if so, for how long and how did you get out of it?
KJ: Hm. While I suffer incessantly from time management issues (not enough hours in the day), I don't think I've suffered from actual writer's block, to be honest. I certainly have moments where I'm not sure where a story is going or how to get from point A to point B. When that happens, I have a number of techniques that help:
1) Going on a long drive. I clear my had and just brainstorm, and usually something cool comes out of it. But when I say long, I mean long. We have a summer home that's 5 hours away, so it's on those drives that I'm able to get into a creative headspace.
2) Talking plot points out with my husband. He alpha reads everything I write, so that gives me someone to bounce ideas off of who will tell me if something won't work. It's really hard for beta readers and critique partners to tell you, "Hey, that idea is like a wine glass full of garbage juice," but my husband will give it to me straight, so now the poor guy is stuck reading rom-coms for all eternity! Anyway, we like to take walks together, and we'll hash out ideas while we do a lap or two around the park behind our house. It's a nice way to connect because after almost 15 years of marriage, you run out of things to talk about besides the kids and money.
3) Watching stand-up comedy is actually one of my favorite things to do. There's so much you can learn about how to deliver a punchline in a story, how to tie stories together, etc. Plus, it just feels so good to laugh. If I can put together an anecdote - a flashback, for example - and position it in my manuscript in a spot where it makes me laugh out loud and moves the main plot line forward - ugh, that's just gold. There's nothing like it.
I’m impressed by how much time and effort you put into promoting your book. Just organizing and running a launch team is a lot, not to mention all the added to-do’s that are expected if you want a successful launch. I think you could write a manual on how to promote your book before release day! Can you give any suggestions or recommendations for authors looking to make their launch a success?
KJ: Thank you - it's not for the faint of heart, I'll tell you that. The thing is, who can even say if this has been successful? The only way to track success from a business standpoint is by looking at sales figures, and I won't have access to that information until after release. So, I'll share what I've done, but with the caveat that we can't say that the launch has been successful until after it's over.
Basically, I feel like the last 18 months has been a very big game of throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. I started by reading books about the publishing industry. I'm always, always reading those and referring back to them at various stages of the journey. (My favorite one is called Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum.) Then, I looked up anything I could find online about launching a book, what makes a NYT bestseller, etc. Any articles that seemed helpful, I printed out and put into a binder. I read through those voraciously and sorted them into sections by themes or trends. Right now, TikTok is a big thing. I hate the internet because I am not tech savvy. Also, I'm honestly a pretty private person, especially about my family. So, the thought of getting on TikTok and dancing around stacks of my books... just, no. I started a Twitter account in 2021 because my agent and editor both said that I should be on social media and Twitter seemed the least invasive. Then, well, we all know what happened to Twitter in 2022. So I had to become an Instagram person, too - and 5 months ago I launched that account. Talk about a learning curve. I studied up on social media campaigns and branding. That was all from December 2022-January 2023. Social media is good for networking, so I am grateful for it, even if I'm not all that good at it. In February, I decided I needed a launch team. I wrote a blog post about my thoughts behind that which you can read here. My launch team has been amazing. It's 104 people, and they're all at different levels of engagement, but they all offered to read the book early and post honest reviews online. In exchange for that, I do what I can to engage them via prizes, giveaways, bonus material, etc. Then, yes, I planned the launch party, but it's part of a much bigger series of events. I have 4 events scheduled for my launch week in May, and hopefully a 5th on the horizon, along with another 5-6 planned for June and July and several online things in late April/early May. Right now, 2 of my live events are in concert with Kristan Higgins who is a big name bestselling NYT author, one who I respect and admire tremendously, so I am really, really excited about that.
Overall, I think the big takeaway is this: you only debut once. This is literally one of the only once-in-a-lifetime moments you'll ever have as an author. So I say, make it count to the fullest. No one is going to believe in your book more than you, so go as hard as you possibly can.
What do you love to read? What are you reading now?
KJ: I love to read rom-coms and women's fiction, mostly. I just came back from a week long vacation and I read three books: The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson, Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins, and Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I have too many favorite authors to list, though.