Luckiest Girl Alive Author Jessica Knoll Opens Up and Moves Forward

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(Photo by Richard Perry for a recent article in The New York Times)

Luckiest Girl Alive came out a year ago, but it keeps coming up in conversation: among customers in our fiction section, among readers online, and in the news. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the perfect time to grab a copy in paperback.

Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon told The Wall Street Journal that her company, Pacific Standard, snapped up the film rights to Luckiest Girl Alive because, “I’m on the crusade to find a dynamic, female character, whether she’s likable or not. Likeable puts women in a very small box.”

The captivating thriller about a woman coming to terms with a violent event from her past grabbed readers’ attention when it was released last year, becoming an instant bestseller and one of the summer’s biggest beach reads (and one of our staff picks). It also caught the eye of Nashville’s own Reese Witherspoon, who optioned the book for film even before it hit bookstore shelves.

Then last month, author Jessica Knoll unveiled a personal truth she had been keeping hidden. The assault she described in the book didn’t just happen to her character, Ani FaNelli — something very much like it happened to Knoll herself in high school. Knoll published the essay “What I Know: Why I’m Coming Clean about the Real Rape Informing My Novel” in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, and her revelation set off a new conversation among assault survivors, who thanked her for opening up about how traumas of the past affect the present. She wrote:

I know that I made the mistake of thinking that living well is the best revenge. That I figured out, eventually, that the appearance of living well is not the same thing as actually living well. And even if it were, revenge does not beget healing. Healing will come when I snuff out the shame, when I rip the shroud off the truth.

Knoll will be here with us in Nashville next Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m. at the store, and we hope you’ll join us to discuss the book and celebrate its paperback release. Meanwhile, she answered a few questions for Musing.


How are plans coming along for the film adaptation of Luckiest Girl Alive?

Knoll: The script is finished and approved by Lionsgate. My part is done, for now, so I’m just as curious to see what happens next as everybody else!

Will you write more fiction?

Knoll: I’m working on a second novel that is slated to come out in spring 2017 and I’m also writing another screenplay. I will be adapting Wendy Walker’s All Is Not Forgotten, which comes out this summer.

What went through your mind the morning Lenny Letter published your essay? 

Knoll: I was excited for the essay to come out because for the first time in my life, I felt strong and supported regarding this experience. It’s a complete departure from how I felt seventeen years ago, and it was very empowering.

I’m curious about how much you’ve seen of readers’ reaction to the essay. Do you typically avoid looking at comments online or do you engage with readers?

Knoll: It would be irresponsible of me to put this essay out there and not respond to those who took the time to tell me they supported me, or that they could relate to me because they had been through something similar. My goal is to respond to every single person who has reached out to me. It’s going to take some time, but it’s really important to me to make sure everyone feels heard, respected, and supported, because so many people have done that for me over the last few weeks.

You wrote at the end of your letter, “I’m not fine. It’s not fine. But it’s finally the truth, it’s what I know, and that’s a start.” I know book tour can be both invigorating and draining, in different ways. Does it help to be out talking to people on tour, or do you find that stressful?

Knoll: I’m a little bit on autopilot right now. I have to be to revisit this part of my life daily, and to get through this next month, and that’s okay. I took on the responsibility of reliving this by writing about it. I try and take some moments to sit and cry, to let myself feel it, and then I pick myself up and get back to business. This will all be waiting for me to work through when I get home in May.

41XT-nt-KcL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWhat books were important to you — that you identified with or were helpful to you — when you were a young adult?

Knoll: Growing up, I very much identified with The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I have never struggled with depression, but I could identify with Esther, who was suffering, and who felt very alone.

You’ve got a lot going on these days. What’s your best busy-person tip?

Knoll: I do my best to respond to an email as soon as I read it. If I know I can’t respond to it in the moment I don’t open it until I know I have the time to do so. If I read it and don’t respond to it, it occupies space in my brain and leaks my energy.

Greatest writing advice you’ve ever received from the editors and mentors you’ve worked with?

Knoll: The best writing advice I ever received was better done than perfect. Writers have a tendency to be too precious about their writing. This is something Tina Fey has said too—if you wait for it to be perfect, no one will ever read it.

And as always, we love to know: What are you reading?

Knoll: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters!

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Luckiest Girl Alive Cover Image

Luckiest Girl Alive