Kristan Higgins will discuss her new novel, On Second Thought, at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison next Tuesday evening, January 31st, at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; reservations are preferred and can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Copies of the book will be available for purchase / signing. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd.
Today, I I’m all swoon-worthy over my virtual visitation with Kristan Higgins.
Kristan is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of the forthcoming novel, On Second Thought (Harlequin Books). A two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award, she has also been nominated for The Kirkus Prize for Best Work of Fiction on five occasions. Kristan’s works have been translated into more than twenty languages and have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, The New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She holds a BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross and began her career in publishing as a copywriter. Kristan and her family make their home in Connecticut and on Cape Cod.
Praise for On Second Thought:
“Higgins (If You Only Knew) has perfect pitch when it comes to her upstate New York protagonists and their expanded worlds that even extend to Brooklyn. Emotional depth is seared into every page along with wry banter, bringing readers to tears and smiles. Another hit for Higgins.”—Library Journal, Starred review
“Higgins’ latest tour de force is a captivating read about two sisters dealing with love, loss and new beginnings. What sets this book apart is how one event changes both women’s lives. Kate is refreshingly frank in her inner monologue, and Ainsley is charmingly self-aware and wry.”—Romantic Times
From the publisher:
From the New York Times bestselling author of If You Only Knew comes an irresistible look at the affection and the acrimony that binds families together
Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.
Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.
Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley’s and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.
Now, Kristan shares her thoughts on inspiration, family dynamics, social media, and the literary community with us …
John Valeri: What first inspired the idea for On Second Thought – and how do you endeavor to deliver “the same but different” after having written more than a dozen books?
Kristan Higgins: Hi, John! Thanks for having me!
I wanted to write a book about how people surprise you in both good and bad ways … who comes through for you when the chips are down, and who doesn’t. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write a story about a woman who marries impulsively and then finds herself widowed shortly thereafter, and all the chaos and uncertainty that would bring up. Kate uproots her life, moves from Brooklyn to a new area, is immersed in her husband’s family and hometown … and then finds herself alone.
The other main character is Kate’s half-sister, Ainsley. This idea was inspired by one of my most useful skills as an author—eavesdropping. Ainsley nurses her longtime boyfriend through cancer and finds herself unceremoniously dumped once he’s better … just when she thought he was going to propose. Now THAT was a fun dinner out, let me tell you. For me, obviously. Not for the poor woman. For the record, I hope she comes out better on the other side of heartbreak, as Ainsley does.
I think the idea of “same but different” is one every author faces. For me, the “same” part is that my characters will end up better people after going through all that they have. All my books have humor and pathos intertwined, which is a hallmark of my writing, methinks. The “different” part is the characters, their backgrounds, circumstances, events … everything else, in other words.
JV: At the heart of this story is the relationship between two sisters. What compelled you to explore this particular dynamic – and how do you think that family relations play into the development of friendships and romantic couplings?
KH: I think sisters have one of the most complex and interesting dynamics that humans can have. The things sisters have in common—DNA, childhood, parentage—create a bond that can’t be shared with anyone else, for better or for worse. For most of us, our sister is our first friend, but also the first person we’re measured against, and the one person who really marks our journey through life.
I think families play a huge role in romantic relationships. We all look to our parents as the paradigm for how to be adults, and again, that can steer a person away from or toward a healthy relationship. It’s no accident that Ainsley puts up with more than a lot of us would with Eric … if you look at her father, you’ll see what she was taught from an early age onward. Same is true with her sister Kate, but because they have different mothers, Kate’s experience creates different expectations.
JV: You’re very active on social media. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this type of communication – and how did your own experiences inform the blog that features in this story, if at all?
KH: I love social media because it lets me create a real bond with my readers. I’ve become friends with many of them, and I appreciate the outpouring of affection and support they give more than I can say. It’s an easy, fast way to show that appreciation, and I love knowing I made someone laugh with a post or a tweet. The drawbacks are that there are days when I’m sitting in my office or home and just have nothing particularly interesting to share. And it’s all too easy to get caught up in social media, so I try to limit my time there and make sure I do my job, which is to write books.
In On Second Thought, there’s a blog that goes viral, changing Ainsley’s life against her will. It was a really fun (and horrible) aspect of the book to write, but we’ve all seen that happen, haven’t we? That controversial blog that inspires a flash-mob kind of reaction … imagine if you were the subject! Gah! I’m happy to say that while I’ve had a few blogs go viral, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, so no, that part of the book wasn’t taken from my own life.
JV: What writers (or other creative beings) inspire you most – and how do you allow them to influence your work without compromising originality?
KH: It’s funny … RJ Julia has their annual Shop Local day, and they invite authors from the community to come in and hawk their books. Inevitably, I ignore my own and recommend other authors. A lot of shoppers think I work for the bookstore, in fact. Kristin Hannah, Elinor Lipman, Liane Moriarity, good old Stephen King … they all inspire me on different levels. I don’t know that they influence my work as much as light a fire under me to try to write my own best book.
JV: In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within its community – and how can author events enhance the reader/writer/bookseller relationship?
KH: I’ve always felt that libraries and indie bookstores are the heart of any community, and it’s their role to keep people reading. They’re the gatekeepers of literacy, if you will. Author events are a way for bookstores to bring their readers close to an author, give them the chance to feel that connection between book and author and get a glimpse into what goes into writing the stories we love. As an author, I’m so grateful for these events, but as a reader, even more so.
Thanks so much for your great questions, John! Hope to see you soon.
With thanks to Kristan Higgins for her continued generosity and support and Sarah Burningham, Owner-Operator of Little Bird Publicity, for facilitating this interview opportunity.