Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 4 months ago

Friends & Fiction with John Serles, plus Jessica Strawser on the after show

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Meet NYT bestselling and award-winning author of four novels, John Searles. He tells us all about his brand-new genre-bending thriller HER LAST AFFAIR, what inspired its setting at an old drive-in movie theater, and how writing it during a particularly dark time helped carry him through. John regales us with hilarious and heartwarming stories of his years as Books Editor at Cosmopolitan, penning some of those saucy headlines, his many celeb encounters, and his Instagram famous dog. On the after show we are joined by Wrriter's Digest Editor-at-Large and author of five book-club-favorite novels, Jessica Strawser, so we can hear all about her latest, THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW.

Welcome to friends and fiction. For New York Times best selling authors endless stories, novelists Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callaghan Henry are for longtime friends with more than seventy published books between them. Together they host friends and fiction with author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing. To highlight and support independent book stores. They discussed the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Hi, everybody. It's Wednesday night and that's means it's time for friends and fiction. Usually we say it's happy as night the week. I'm going to say it's the luckiest night since tomorrow. We are so happy to be here with you tonight. I'm Mary Kay Andrews and there's an Echo. I'm Christen Harmel and I hear that I go to you're right. I'm Christians in Harvy and I don't think it was me. Just meet them. I'm daddy can and I hope it isn't me. I hope it's a weird glitchy thing. Yeah, you know, it's not Wednesday night without some kind of a glitch. Nope, this were cockey backstage about how we are just saying, Oh, we've got it down, we know what we're doing. Yeah, but we don't. But Anyway, one way, you know that this is friends in fiction for New York selling authors and the stories to support indie booksellers and authors and Librarians. Now you made me lose my stride, but not hard to do, Maryk who ever had a stride? Is there? No, you can't lose what you haven't had. Right. Tonight we'll be talking with John Searle and Jessica Straws, or will join us for the aftershow. So Fun. Well, as you know, we encourage you to support independent booksellers when and where you can, and tonight we hope you will buy our guests John's book, Our last affair from our friends at turning the page and Monroe Connecticut. This is John's hometown indie. They have loads of sign copies ready to ship and if you purchase before Tuesday they will give you an access code to attend the last stream of John's amazing launch night events in New York City, which she'll tell us more about later. Remember, you could always visit the friends of fiction shop at Bookshop Dotorg to buy our guests and hosts books at a discount. And I am here to tell you if you haven't gotten your spring box yet with Christie and Mary Kay's book in it, what are you doing with your life? What is happening? Both have brand new books coming out in the couple of beat. Christie's the wedding veil, is on March twenty nine and Mary Kay's the home wreckerds on May third, and Y'all have to read what book list had to say about that book. It's pretty a great of course they're available wherever books are sold, but if you want a hand sign first edition of both of these books, plus that free gift of that amazing notebook with little stickies, you will get each of them as soon as they're released. And if you haven't read Christen's forest of vanishing stars and my surviving Savannah from two thousand and twenty one, those are both coming out this spring and paperback, mine in April and Christen's in May. Sean I'm also talk about. Are you feeling lucky? Is everyone feeling lucky? Yes, yes, good you, were it not that you must answer our latest people with your page one books are lucky at winner will get their pick between one of two amazing limited edition gift bumbles from page one books, and you know that's a subscription service. So if you win, you can choose either the boozy reader bundle of seventy five value or the Jane Austin Persuasion Bundle, a one hundred dollar value. So enter my next Tuesday, March twenty two, at midnight eas during using the entry form linked on our facebook page. Will announce a lit a winner live on the show on March twenty three, and good luck. Right. Meanwhile, sign up when I want to win. WHO Doesn't looks will announce the winner. Good luck. Sign...

...up for a three, six or twelve month page one subscription subscription package and get fifteen percent off the cost of that with the code in all caps friends. Fifteen. See, we're just so generous for just giving you codes left and right. It's so much fun. And another thing you can use a code on that I'll get you a nice big discount is Charleston coffee roaster. So everyone in the friends and fiction community gets twenty percent off all beads coffee on our partner Charleston Coffee roasters website with the code coffee with friends. That's coffee with friends, no spaces. And what better time than seek aftric's weekend to try your luck at our monthly giveaway. I consider doing that at an Irish accent, but it's really just bad. It just sound it sounds vaguely Transylvanian at the same time. Just doesn't work. So for that giveaway will be speaking three winners, one each in March, April and May, to win a three month coffee of the month club subscription and ninety dollar value. So get in it to win it, using the entry form shared on our social media and in our newsletter. And you know, obviously we work with page one books. We work with Charleston Coffee Roasters. Signing up for these giveaways. It's just a great way to show them that you're hearing about them here, you know, and to kind of get engaged with what they're doing. We like working with people whose brands and whose mission we support, so we hope you'll check them both out. We're very cheesy. Yeah, yeah, picky, picky Patty. All right, enough coffee talk. See how I got them anyway. Everything you do, we do. Let's welcome our guests for evening, John sorrels. John is the best selling author of the novels help for the haunted, strange bit true and boys still missing. His novel boy still missing was hailed as riveting by the New York Times and Inspired Time magazine to name him a person to watch. It's awesome. His second novel, strange bit true, was named best novel of the Year by Solon, and his recent novel, help for the haunted was named a Boston Globe best crime novel of the year and one of the American Library Associations Alex Award. In two thousand and nineteen. His novel, strange but true was adapted for film and it's now streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime with an Award Winning Ensemble that includes Amy Ryan, Greg Canear, Brian Fox, flight, Dan or Danner, almost a, Daniel, Nick Robinson and marble quality. Oh Man, that's so cool. So previously the longtime books editor at Cosmopolitan, John also served as the magazine's brand director, executive editor and editor at large. His writing has been published in the New York Times, The Washington Post and several other outlets. John has a master's degree in creative writing from New York University and he lives in New York. Okay, Sean, let's bring on the man of the hour, Johnson. Hi everybody, but very much. You know, sometimes when people do get this, when you're being introduced and like say I wonder where things are pulled together, and like sometimes people were like John worked at Gq, I'm like no, I never worked at G Q at so I really agree for that. Thank you so good. Well, we're thrilled you're joining US tonight. I just wish it were in person. You know, back in the day when we shared the same amazing editor at Harvard Collins. Yeah, I did have some hilarious well liquered lunches and Jimmy, I know seems to be a theme in every meeting I've had with every writer I've ever know what I know about what we would love it if you would give us an elevator pitch for her last affair. Well, I just wants I can thank you for being here. It's really an honor of pleasure to be with all of you and you're also fun. I just love the vibe of the show is just hilarious. I'm laughing. And Yeah, her last affair is set at, primarily at a kind of abandoned to Funk will drive in movie theater. That's the screen there people sometimes they's not a billboard. I'm like now. It's an old drive in movie screen and it tells rather strange and unusual love story of the woman who once owned the drive and she and her husband owned it and ran it together for fifty years and then a few nights before her their fifty anniversary, he dies in a mysterious accident and the woods behind drive in and after math she takes in a...

...mysterious tenant, will say, very charming British man named Teddy Cornwell, and it's really a book. It's a mix of genres. I don't think of my books get categorized as thrillers and I don't think of myself as a thriller writer. It just probably like all of you, like you, just think of yourself as a storyteller, you know. And so it's it's part character study, part thriller and it's really a book. Don't say it's a love story, but I say it's a story about love and I don't know. How's that for my elevator pitch? What is it doing? Good? Thanks especially. I find it very difficult, right before the book comes out, to like really get the elevator pitch nailed down. You did a really good time. Thank you, Christie. I appreciate that. Well, Johnny, your work has been described as haunting, chilling and even a little twisted, and certainly the characters in her last affair are memorables. Skyla, the aging proprietress of a long closed drive in movie theater, Jeremy, who's never gotten over his first doomed love, and Thennelle, a woman who's stifling marriage prompts her to seek out her fun first love. Where did these damaged and vulnerable people come from? Isn't an obvious I'm damn the answer. Yes, it's, I have to say. On that note, I once did a today show segment for a book that I wrote that was written by a teenage the narrative, the narrator, is a teenage girl, and the host asked me, well, how do you feel writing a book from a teenage girl? What made you do that? And I answered on the air isn't an obvious deep down I am a teenage girl and mother said, my mother said at that point I turned off the television anymore. But is just part my imagine, part like people I meet. And you know the way the book is structured. It's three seeming LEA separate story lines that Converge Halfway through the book. So you have sky let, as you mentioned, runs the driving, the most of the driving school, the drive in. Then you have Lennelle, who's in this bad, borring marriage, who one morning here's from her very first love on facebook of all places. He says, I haven't stopped thinking about you all these years, that I haven't seen each other in nearly thirty years, and she begins an online affair with them. And then you're the third character, who reconnects with the woman who broke his heart years before and they agree to go in a dinner date. It's all three people, all grappling with some issue around love and then, as I said, halfway through the book the stories collide and it becomes much more of a thriller. HMM, sounds wonderful. So, John, you have said that you started writing this book in the aftermath of a very bad year. Makes me think of that book I read to my kids. Let the terrible, horrible, no good partisonder this those I'm running away to Australia. So you said that about, you know, the aftermath of this. The book was part of the aftermath of a bad year. Would you talk about that and about whether it was part of your inspiration it led to this book? Talk to us about that, because we like hearing about bad, that story lighting into good through story something. Well, listen, I live in New York City primarily, and a few years ago a guy down the hall in his girlfriend used to fight all the time and they would always put Alexa at the center of their fights, like Alexa Calle No, Alexa, don't my one what I might. My husband would just like more than but I'd have my ear to the wall like I'm a God. Okay, wait, they're really in a big fight now, just be tuned into every D and. So I don't know the specifics of what happened, but what I told is he she caught him with someone else and so if you and the next night, when he was out with a friend, she got into his apartment and took a butcher knife and his all this furniture, attacked his flat screen TV, took his clothing out on the terrace and lit it on fire and he had the three green space theaters out there, illegal and Aus and literally blew the roof off the place. And so we were visiting a friend the Jersey shore and I we got a text said there's a fire in the building. And remember, like when we you we first heard a plane hit the World Trade Center. We thought I would probably a little rain. That's how I was, fire like, that's probably just a little kitchen fire. It'll be fine. Now the next morning we were driving home and people were sending US news clips from ABC News about this fire in New York City and we pulled up the bomb squad was here. That was police tape, but it's I mean it was not funny at the time, but I try and make it funny now.

They would not let us out there, like it's a crime scene. I'm determined. So I convinced them to let me upstairs to my apartment and I gotta are. Ceiling had collapsed. It was water and smoked. Join the special it was a disaster. There are people everywhere, like firemans, but there was one little corner of the apartment that was weirdly untouched. It was fine. So I said to Thomas, my husband, said it's okay, we'll put plastic sheets up, will sleep on the foldout. So far it's it'll be fine, don't worry, it'll be totally fine. So my personality in the fire the head of the New York Scene Fire departments and son you don't have a roof over your head, this air is toxic. You cannot sleep here. I'm always so like I can do it, it's okay, don't worry, I'll just keep going. And so we we, we were we were able to live in our house for months and months and months and months in our armed so we fu from a hotel rooms to people spare bedrooms to just fall over the place. And I check your fire INS or insurance. That's my message to everybody. But also I then, sadly, my father died in a motorcycle accident not long after hearing that time. Yeah, it was a difficult time in my life, and so happy people. We all have difficult time. So I'm not saying I'm special, but it was a lot of difficult stuff at once and I just my kind of solace was waking in the mornings and just escaping into this book and these characters and gave me a sense of peace to write this book. We talk. Were you writing it? Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead, go ahead, Christen. I was just going to ask where you writing it, wherever you were, like when you were sleeping in people's houses and, you know, in there spare rooms, like were you? Didn't you have a set writing Punnas, or were you just writing kind of wherever you land, the place on legal paths on my computer sometimes, and then we move back home. We were like, okay, we're back home, everything's gonna be back to normal, and then the pandemic happened. So now we left again. And so really during the pandemic to is when I really really UN pre down and just brought the book home and just use that time every morning would get up and it was my solace, just right. I'm sure you all feel that way sometimes. Yeah, we've often talked about how the writing of all of the books that came out last year, that we all wrote during the pandemic, with Mary k sending US text messages. Are you writing this morning with her whib? Yeah, it wasn't is a it was a small place to land in a badly burning world, John. So I can see that. But you're writing this book and all these different places. Do you have a processed you outline? There's so many twists. You bought out each twist in advance or did the characters take over? I'm imagining you moving from hotel room to apartment to your back to your round house. Do you have an out you so you're not in your office with some big outline right? So your you know, I wish it was more organized in I mb if any of your people who are outline. I end you so much. I try to and I've lose outlines, but it always changes and I and I just really start with character and I always tell the story when I was in year twelve of waiting tables and I put myself to college. It but Myselfi graduate school and I wrote a book. I want to be a writer and I wrote a book and I met a friend of a friend of a friend who was an editor at a publishing house and she said you don't need an agent, just send me the book, just send it yourself. I said okay, and I say center the book and then few months later I got the manuscript back and I took the manuscript out the box. It was a very polite projection letter. I thought, okay, Stung but fine. And then a little scrap of paper felt to the floor and it was from an inhouse reader. It was mistakenly left the manuscript and it said, I quote, I could barely make it to page sixty and I feel really sorry for anyone who has to read the whole thing find out. I know I took to my bed with vapors man it's it was painful and heartbreaking and I thought I'll never read again and it's just too hard. And I was kind of and I actually liked waiting tables and made great money. All my friends were people by retails what they loved it. But by year twelve I was kind of I was like, I want to be a writer. It's what I want to do and I you know, then I was cleaning under my bed. I don't know about for you, but weirdly writing and cleaning are connected in my mind. I heard the first sentence to this book and it was whenever my father just appeared. We looked for him on Hanover Street and really part that's true from my life my dad. I love him. May he rest in peace. He was a big drinker and a love the ladies and my mom and I big part of my child who was spend driving around looking for my father and bars and my mom and said he's him and he have a girlfriend. So I wrote down that sentence and then I went back to cleaning and I heard another sentence redempt and then I thought, you know, I'm just going to write from myself because I what I love to do. But that letter,...

...and the reason I mentioned that to in response to your question is it was kind of a teachable moment. To use that phrase, because I thought I never want anyone to have that experience again. I never to. They could fairly make its great sixty. So I really work hard and I know what would you do to from page one, paragraph, one sentence, one to pull the reader in. And the first the first sentence of this book is every marriage has its secrets, and so I that's my invitation to the reader to say it's a question like what are they? What are the secrets in this narrator's marriage? You know, and then hopefully I pulled them from there. So a lot of painful stuff, but hopefully a lot of good stuff. From It, as you said, as you said before. Yeah, that's awesome. You know, I love hearing those stories of and of rejection at the beginning of a career because I think those the things that make us into the writers we are, you know, and I think it's inspiring to people who were at the beginning of trying to become published writers to hear that it wasn't smooth sailing for any of us. I mean I think we all kind of stumbled our way into this and and it's that stumbling that makes us better. I think so anyhow. So thank you for telling that story. So, to switch trucks a little bit, we know you started working at Cosmo as an intern right out of Grad school and you stayed for over twenty years. Is that right? So that's really cool. Yeah, yeah, go ahead, there must be as a leg it's sorry. So I, as I said, it was some year, twelve waiting tables. I was frustrating. HEARD ABOUT A job at Red Book magazine Reading Fictionsubmissions, and at the time read book published eleven stories a year and they got thirty five thousand unsolicited fiction submissions, and so I would go there and fill bags of stories and bring them home and read them and often have to chat attach a rejection letter. However, after my rejection I just mentioned, I felt so about rejecting anyone else. I'd always put notes on the margins like keep going, to let your dream die. It was like scourage people, but Um. And then from there I heard a put a job upstairs at cost of Polton in the books department, opening packages and logging books and computer. And so I had no money, I cannot stress enough. So I but a jacket at the Salvation Army for twelve dollars and my friend, my mentor the novels and Hood, I remember saying too, I guess I need a resume. She's like, you're a writer right, don't need resume. So I went on the interview and they were like where's your resume? I was like to ne resumes. I think they hired folt sorry for me, and I remember saying to my mom I don't know, since I don't know how if I like this place, Cosmo, and then she's a give it it, try it for two weeks and see how you like it. And Well, I stayed for twenty three years and I retired and moved up in it and actually was so many smart, Fun, Fascinating Women that magazine and I so many great opportunities and things I got to do that I never would have been growing up the way it did. Like I said, my dad was a truck driver. No one of my family went to college. Like it was like falling through the rabbit hole, like into this world, like people wait people to send you free books to read. People just send you beauty products, people just said, you know, she's like amazing, like, I don't know, it just people invite you to all these parties, like, I don't know, I just thought I really loved the experience. It was great. That's awesome. You tell us a little bit about working for the legendary, the legendary Helen girly Brown, and also about writing some of those saucy magazine cover lines, if that was ever something that you worked on. Well, Helen, you know when I first started working there's this going to take me a little bit, but it was the day I just kind of nyu and it was the day that when I started, a cousin was the day of the OJ Simpson Verdict. Was Yer a long time and I remember we all went into her office to watch it and everyone was riveted watching what was going to have with Ojana scream, but she was just working behind her desk and she was like, I don't know, almost eighty. At the time I under what she was. She just had for her breast done. She did a plunging top, a little mini skirt, bendel bracelets, her hair teas make him. She's working away at her desk and I remember everyone else was staring at Oj but I was like that's like staring at lm awesome. It's just like good doing my ass of her. But she was so so and really sweet in that and I really loved her. She did say one funny thing. We would have lunch, you know, use like a couple times a year, and one time, when of the last times I saw her, she said, Pussy cat, I have to ask you a question. I said Yeah, Helen. She said, are you a homosexual? Yeah, I am. She said do you have a special friend?...

I said yes, I do, and she said a good Gladad. I don't know. She knew me for years and fundly her Gatar went up and then, in terms of this and too, of this cover long story ever. You know, we used to do these mow it was called the red hot read and it was basically a sex scene that we excerpt from a romantic thriller every month. I used to call it the blank of the month club, I won't say and it was just the funny, steamy expert. And so there was this, and then we had to title the excerpt. And so there was one where it was the couples like a bodyguard and woman in the passion and they end up doing it in her bedroom, then they do it in the bathtub, then they do it in a staircase, and I called it bad bath and beyond her wildest dream. That's awesome. You're in the presence of gleat here, ladies. Yes, I know, John. I feel like we're going to have to ask you to write our titles for us from now on, like just our book titles. Yes, I would say something like that. I'm here Inter departmental, like contest to see who wrote the greatest of the great cover lines, because that would win for me and and that we didn't do. I think maybe I got a race that day, though. Very Andrews could probably give you a run for your money on that. And meys how we need something clever week. She's a gave that go to. Okay, I'm not surprised. Oh, John I, I thought I remembered at one of those boozy lunches, you saying that. I don't know if it was the first time, but you said you remembered meeting her. She was in her s and she was wearing a goal Ame boosti a in the office. Yes, she did boot. I make it up, whee it, but I don't know if it's gold. We May, but she did have these things. I don't know, amazing, I'm character and she was so much fun and yeah, well, so, John, one more question than about your time there, and I have to ask this because I used to work. I worked for people magazine for about a dozen years. You and I could probably share share some stories, but I know you've spent time with so many celebrities over all your years at Cosmo and also through your husband's work in theater and through your own work, I'm sure, with your your project being adapted for for Netflix. For netflix right and but we love seeing you share all those photos and stories on facebook and instagram. So, other than Mary Kay's fake boyfriend, Paul Red, who's obviously at the top of everybody's list. Do you have any particularly favorite encounters? Well, I do have to just say about the Paul Rudd thing. I have a photo. For those who don't know, I have a photo with Paul Rudd and just once in a while I just post it to torture Mary Ca Andrews loving woods work to her, because I really do love Mary cadress. I don't she can take the fun way. And when he was just named sexy's people magazine Sexy's Man Alive, Oh, I woke up and race downstairs to like posts fast as I could attack. Well, Um men, you're fantastic to call make your producer, your marker, who runs the show. She asked me and I told her one fun thing was Furgi, the singer from black eye piece. I want, and I happen to know, the wrap to the song. They're like, send you know the wrap to her song glamorous, because I's listen to it when I would run all the time, and so she was like really, can you do it for me? And so I did it for her. I wrapped for her. Still go to Taco Bell drive through Ros Hell. I'm gonna do one like will you marry me and somehow it hasn't happened yet, but absolutely because of that question that hewing curly Brown asked. You might have something to do with it. I don't know. You already had someone special exactly. Okay, let's get back to look, that's awesome. He looks. Do you look? He feels threatened on that photo, John. He should. So let's get back to the book. Her last affair has so many twists and turns. You kept me guessing until the very last minute. I would love to know...

...why. I mean, I kind of know because I did a little cyberstalking, but I'd love to know why you set the book at a drive in movie theater and how you decided which classic movies to quote in the chapter headings. But before you answer, Sean is going to show us this amazing book trailer. Right whenever I go home to see my mom, I pass an old drive in movie theater. Most people probably don't even notice, since it's overgrown and abandoned, though I always notice the sign is still there, tucked away behind some trees. Something about this site. Let me start looking up old drive ins online and I developed kind of an obsession because I found the most haunting and beautiful images of these places all across America, forgotten by time. I love the old Speaker Poles. I love the tattered screens reaching skyward. Then one day the writer and me thought, what if a love story took place and an abandoned drive in? Since I do write romance novels, I wasn't envisioning a bodice ripper, but what if I could write a story that was unusual and dark and full of twists and turns and told the strange love story the woman who runs own the drive in? So that's how I came to write her last affair. The book comes out this March. I really hope you'll read it and I hope it makes you think about love. That's awesome right there the drive and you know, I just like I saying that video. I when I go to visit my mom. We have a little house out inside harbor and when I go to visit my mom I have to go to the ferry and Central Ang island and I passed this old drive in movie theater and no one probably even notices it because it's it's like a strip mall there and it's like a really busy stretch to wrote. I don't know why I'm clinging to my subway card as I talked to you all. Well, I don't know why. I just isn't my little place. Yeah, blanket. So anyway, I see it there and no one probably notices it, but I do, and I just always wonder, like, what was it like when was booming and popular? And then I started researching it and then I started looking up old drive ins just in general, and there I've found all these photos, like those on the video, of just these beautiful places that are just forgotten by time and they're just kind of haunting and I thought what a eerie, interesting setting for a novel set in an old drive in movie theater. And you know the tone of the book. I just spoke with this reporter from this newspaper and he paid me what I thought was such a compliment. He said, you know, it feels very much like a Cohen brothers movie, like Fargo, to me, and I don't know if you you would hear that phone, but I really do, because that film is funny and dark and sad and in kind of sinister. It has so many different things and tones to it and that's how I wanted this book to be like. I hope people find it funny in places, all the stuff at the show dog. That yes, me this character he really wants to win back as ex girlfriend and she's like will you watch my show dog? And it's this gigantic standard white with white standard poodle with all fluffed up and like a topiary kind of think. And so there are moments of humor. was stuff like that. And then there's the creepy nurse, which you think about like nurse ratchet or any wilkes in misery. There's something about a nurse because nurses are supposed to do do good and help us all. But when they turned sinister, there's something there's nothing scarier. And there's a scary nurse in this book who is up to no good. Part them when but the end of the story, I hope, when you realize what happened to her, hope people really empathize with her and feel her heartbreak. So I hope then and suit your factory. Yeah, Somebody's asking if you've ever been to a drive in movie. Yes, I carry Thoughtoman, hi carry I. When we were little. We didn't go all the time, but there were moments there were days, I'd say half dozen times, my parents would put us all in our PJ's and load up our station wagon and we go to drop and the back and so I never thought I'd read a book about it back then. But Um, I don't know. I think I'm just kind of my mom mom when the last day she gratuate high school, she took the lock from her locker and she locked it this guard reel and our little town and one day when I was little, my moment, I were walking to the town carnival I and she showed it to me. It was all rusted. She said I put that there my last day of school and I don't know, I was a weird kid. I'm still weird prison. I was like obsessed with his lock. I would look at the lock all the time and it overlooked this old foundation of a house that was never built. When I used to stare at the foundation of wonder like wonder, why do my mother but the lock there? Who built that House and never finished it? And so there's I a little bit of a obsession with abandoned places, like they've been able to drive in and strange for true, was this abandoned motel cottage that was there and helped the lunch. It was an...

...abar abandon theater in Philadelphia, and so I don't know, I think that just have they draw me in for some reason. I'm not sure why. Yeah, there they do sort of like bag a lot of questions and ask a lot of stories. I think that's I would probably do that too, especially like with your mom's lack. I can really see getting obsessed, or something like that. was of things that you and I are, but obsessed with dogs. So my family just got our first puppy, my first dog ever, salt, but your dog Ruby, there's saw, there's something Abe. Is this Sleb? I mean she has her own instagram account at Oh my God, it's really you gotta tell this, like how did it come about? And, most importantly, can reb and salt be like best friends? Yeah, of course I we will. Will connect them. I'm it'll be like instant love. You know. Last she's Oh my God, it's Ruby on Instagram, but I have been really bad at pushing his accidentally lock myself out of her town. I've got to figure how to get back in, but and I will. And and salt. What as salts? It's alts on instagram. I'm salt does not have his own account. People keep asking me when I'm going to get his own acount. I can barely keep up with all one and like, I really like posting salt content. I was telling our to difference of its people selling the back states that people message me and say we're salt content. Okay, there's a pictures, but I can barely keep up with my own one instagram account. So I don't think you have his own, but he's on there them together. The thing is there's so much darkness in the world, so some nice puppy dog pictures are really welcome to these days, I think you know. Yeah, no, I agree, it's fun. It really is a ruby and puppy porn. Everyone loves puppy porn, Ruby and salt right, and children's but what a great maybe starting to feel really weirdly left out. I'm just you love, I know right. Well, Ruby, you know, I was saying before to Y'all, like keep of all sorts of obsessions and we are obsessed with her, but we realize at a certain point what's not a bad obsession to be obsessed with this little quo. So we're okay with that. We don't like and she also we Thomas, my husband, is a theater director and he was working for six months in London and so we went to live there. Is Very complicated to get her there. You don't have to quarantine them, but you have to get a doggy passport into all the stuff and you have to fly and through. Friend Gosh, it's very complete, because my father, like, when I told him at the time, this is who years ago and he was still alive and I told him we had to get a doggy passport, we had to fly through Paris. Did you do the stuff? He looked a meazing. This something wrong with you? I used to be the person that was like, I mean, Oh my God, just board the dog. Why is it such a big deal? You have to play in your whole life round this job? And now I'm like, yeah, it's all about like the dog schedule is more important than anyone else's schedule. Exactly. Yeah, exactly, we know. Yeah, it's very true. Okay, so we I'm afraid we're going to run out of time. I don't want to run out of time before I took tell everyone my great idea about tender for dogs. Right. I mean I'm going to copy right it right off, like we right after we get off the show. So don'tnybody's deal that idea. Okay. Do you want to talk to us about your in person event happening this next Tuesday at simply space in New York City, which I am going to be at, by the way. I'm so happy you're coming and I us and I have the rest of you are going to get on a plane and get up here. So yeah, you should get no, New York City, some phity space and I wanted to do an interesting launch of them because it's been two years of some hard times for everybody and from myself to and so one of my book, Stranger True, was adapted for film and it's actually was on Netflix. Now it's on Hbo Max with Brian Cox from succession and with Margart Pawley and Nick Robinson from me, which is a big Netflix at and Amy Ryan, who was just an only murders in the building to Steve Martin, Martin Short, and so amy and I met. I'm this is so good. I wasn't so good. She's the basoon list in it. She's fantastic and we met. So good we met on the set of stranger true and became pals, and so...

I just asked us, and I'm doing to do like some kind of launch event. Would you want to do with me? She said sure, and so we're doing it some piece base and we've partnered with forty indie book stores around the country, especially my town book store, the book store in the town where I grew up. And if anyone purchases a copy of her last affair from turning the page, I'm going to repeetic it, or any of the other book stores. Yes, the book store in your screen, turing the page in Monroe Connecticut. If you purchase a book from there, you will get a unique access code to live stream the event as it's happening in front of a live audience at simphony space. And it's just going to be a great night. And you know, I like to Gab as you probably tell, but I never consider myself a good reader. I don't think I'm the best reader of my books. And so amy said, are you going to read as Huh, I'm just such a bad reader, and I said kind of Said cheapishly, would you reach just like, I'll totally read. I can do which that. I mean people probably want to hear the author read and I was like yeah, but not me. I'm not good at so she said all reads. It's going to read from the opening of the book and it's in Wheelhouse. She's an academy award nominated actress and a two time Tony Award nominated actress. She'll do a better job than I will read from the book and it's so fun. It's gonna be awesome. Yeah, and think people can look at the graphic that I'll be on our page to see how everybody else can, you know, attend the event virtually if you can't be there in person, like me, because I'm special. I'm this. I just want to say something about Mary Andrews. Is that I Thomas, my husband, was working out in Arizona testing show out there, and I flew out and I sat down on the airplane and a woman next we started asking I was reading something. We start to have books, and I said WHO's your favorite writer and she said Mary Kay Andrew she said, I've read every book she's ever written. I Love You, I love her books, and she started scrolling through her kindle and showing me every book, then taking books Americans out of the bag. He was, I like a super fan and I said what was me? I said she's my friend, and she kind of at first was like another friend. I think that she's really my fresh and you believe me. So I found a picture of America Andrews in the edge her and she was so blown away. Like she and I think then I subsequently put you in touch a red she ever write? I think she gots h yeah, she was very kind. Oh good, but she was such a superman. It was such a fun moment from me, a great introduction. Mary Hay has a restraining order now and it is fine. Oh good, yeah, but you be at the door of the symphony space place. But yeah, and Frisk me? I don't know. Yeah, so that's my stud I don't know anything else that wants to my girls. Yes, because, yes, yeah, a couple more questions. So, John, we love, we always love, a good writing tip and here we ask for whenever me's one of our favorite parts of the show. Is there a writing tip you can share with US tonight? Hum, you know, I have to say I read stuff out loud a lot. It sounds so basic, but do you all do that? Like it helps me to read things out loud. I don't know why, and I tell people that all the time, like sometimes it's good just to print it out and read it out louts you can hear it, and I know I always advise people to do that because I think it gets it out of your head and into another way. So, yeah, I love that. I feel like you should have Amy Ryan read all your all your drafts allowed in the future. Yeah, sure she'll love that. Yeah, we'll start a business where you can hire fans people to read your draft. Yeah, exactly the same APP with the dog tender, but we never do anything about can I tell you quick, honey story about that little cameo in the film, which is I when I got there they were like they called Thomas. I were driving on the line expressway and they called in like we're calling from the Wardrobe Department of Strange, it true, and you're going to do a scene with Amy Ryan and we want to figure out what you're going to be wearing so we can call in some wardrobe for you. And Someone Sam was that. I'm like okay, well, what am I appearing as they said you were be a writer who speaks at a library event and I said you don't have to call in any clothing because that's I have a close full of that. They get this, bring up close to us in Canada, bring clothes and we'll pick something and you'll wear it. So I go with my I've worked at Cosmo all day, ran the airport, fly up, sleep over the next day, get there and they go through my clothes and they pick something I wear and it's shot and a library and about to go on and the wardrobe sum riser says, can you come back here in the in the stats I've...

...talked to. I said what she said. It's about your nipples. They're really aggressive like this, and they said she said, I'm I'm gonna have to take them rights, like what should lift your shirt? They had to lift my shirt up. I want you right now. It's really cool, realized to me. And so then I did the scene and then afterwards we like went to drinks, whatever, and I remember I got back to the hotel because I hadn't even checked into my hood. No, but the night, first night I stayed at this producer's house. The next time staying in a hotel and I got to the desk and the producers then do one. I A drink at the hotel. She asked me and I said, you know, I just going to go upstairs peel my nipple tape off and falls like Oh, I have a prop handing me my hotel, my room key, and I could tell the person at the hotel was like, I don't know what kind of weird stuff you into, but I don't want a part of it. And then I got home. I said Thomas, I'm like, look, I had two read straight here. I'm here. Yeah, my nipple store. Sir John, that's hilarious thought. That is the first and last time anyone has ever said no, thank you, I want to go peel up. Yeah, say it out loud. I'm just I'm gonna let you say. All right, John, usually to give us a book. I'm getting off the compressive apolls and up fading. So listen, you gonna be boring guests. I I aim to entertain. So we're here for anything, but we would love a book. But we also love that New York Times Book Review Question, which is what might we surprised to find in your library or on our nightstands? Well, a book. I spread that. I really that just hit the new yor times best. So number four is the golden couple by Sera, a wonderful book. Two great women, you know, great writers. I love them both. And then surprised. You know, there's a little the West Village newspaper here in the city that I love because it's just love how the writing. It'll start out was like a straight article and then turn into an opinion piece and then the writer suddenly he's like yelling about something and then like my dog and like I just love when it comes because I it's my favorite thing to read us a little Weston. That's a crazy poetry, like good poetry. But then I don't know, so that's probably maybe surprising. I don't know if there's anything else that surprising. On there's a lot of new books. Okay, John, if you wouldn't mind sticking around for a few minutes, we have one more question for you, but first we have a few reminders for all of you out there. So I'm here to always talk about one of my favorite things are writers block podcast gusts. Will always poke HMM, will always post links under announcements each time a new one goes out. And No, no, no, each time a new one drops drawn just cool as you. I am not as tech savvy cool as you, so I'm going to try. You have every own APP, that's true. Yeah, every Friday and new podcast drops and I'm the last episode. Ron talked to Brad meltzer about his life and work and Y'all do not want to miss it. It is so interesting and Brad opens up about so much, what a fascinating career and his new book, the lightning Rod. And then this week Ron and Mary K are talking to Harlan Kobin about his new novel, the match, which just came out yesterday, and I know they have a bantastic conversation you don't want to miss. Okay, so don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and while you're hitting all those little subscription buttons, make sure to subscribe to our kick out a piece of paper, our newsletter, our Youtube Channel and logo plus, which is a new streaming platform that we are on that also includes a lot of brand new content from other independent creators. And also, obviously subscribe to tinder for dogs, which will be available tomorrow from it Jay, from the brain of Mary K Andrews. So if you're not hanging out with us yet in the friends and fiction of Bush official book club are missing out. You know, we talked about them every week. We Love Them. It's run by Lisa Harrison and Brenda Gardner. It's now more than Elevenzero strong and we hope you'll join the group if you're not a member, and make sure that you're there march twenty one, when they'll be discussing the soulmate equation by Christina Lauren, who, of course, we love. Christina and Laura the there a lot of fun and we know you'll enjoyed that shot and...

...make sure you join us right here. Nice week Wednesday at seven pm or we will welcome Lisa Scott Elini with her newest what happened to the minutes? And then in the after show we're going to be talking to our friend joy callaway with her new novel, the Grand Design. Then I'll march thirty. We have something very exciting coming up soon, novel that called the running mail, and we've got some nice head where I can't say that Word Mary K Milin or millinery. Ibviously in my head I was like is that millinery? millinery? But it's clas but it's it's versions of wedding mails, but some of them are more elaborate than others, so you're going to want to be there for that. If you're ever wondering about our schedule, it's always on the friends of fiction website and on the header graphic on our facebook page. John, you are up with one more question and I love this question. I'm with my daughter and son in law this weekend and they said what is the favorite thing? One are your favorite things about the show? And I said when we get to ask them. What were the values around reading and writing in your family when you were growing up? Well, as I said, my dad was a cross country truck driver and I would go on trucking trips with him. You know, always say my parents sent me in the summers trucking to, quote, make a man out of me and they didn't get the results they want to. But I on those trips my dad actually buy me in the truck stops. He would buy me mass market paperbacks of speeping kings, the shining wow, John Irving's books, and my mom had a huge city shels and collection of Mass Market City Sheldon paperbacks and I would often take those on those trips with my dad and I that was where I really love to read, learned sort of love to just trucking was kind of actually not that exciting for me. I would like being with my dad, but I that's really what I remember in a practical sense of books being introduced to me. And then also I just growing up, like I didn't know I was gay, but the other boys somehow picked up on it. I didn't really fit in with them. I was terribly, terribly fully. So I would get dropped off at the library or day most days and kind of hide in the library and that's where I love to learn to read and just love books to and find my escape in them. So I would say, you know, really it was a very little house and there was a TV on and almost every room. I'm like, can we just pick one TV please, this one, one TV, not five. But it was a lot of chaos and no looking back at such a nostalgian fondness for a bit at the time. There was not a lot of place to have quiet, and so I would always think those books and go in the bathtub. I'm like such a big batholo still to this day, because that was the quiet place in that little house to hide out and read. So those are my memories of reading growing up at I don't know that answer your question exactly. Know it's amazing and I told them I said so many writers. They will bring up the word library. I'm guessing percent of the time, but never once has someone said my dad was a trucker and brought home mass market paperbacks, and I love that. I think that's amazing, John. That's amazing. Thank you. It's really such a pleasure spending time with you all and thanks for thanks for introducing her last affair to people and I do hope people will join us on mark twenty two for the streaming event with Amy Ryan. I know I'll be seeing you marry Kate in person. Yes, people tuning in tonight will get a copy and get the code to join US virtually right and don't forget before you go, John, tell our viewers and listeners where they can find you online. Oh, on Instagram, it's just at John Searles. And on Facebook I have an author page, John syle's author and then twitter, I don't use as much, but stirls books and then also, by the way, tomorrow, actually tomorrow, Jan and I have an essay coming in the New York Times. Call if I can mention the confessions of a wedding hater, and it's about how all my life, when I'm the first line says, if you're reading this and I attended your wedding, I want to apologize for my behavior, because it's no my whole life I hated weddings and I would get the invitation I Bil I don't want to go, and then during not can you cut him? This is bad press for my book. I'm sorry. In the end it's good pressed because this summer, twenty five years and day we met Thomas, my partner, and for twenty five years now my husband. We married twenty five years of the day we met and now I am a I love weddings. The last line says, if we're getting married, please invite me, because I think the piece is tongue and cheek and funny, but also kind of explores why I had...

...a little bit of a wall up about weddings and marriage and all the stuff, and and then once I got Mary Myself, I realized there were the most beautiful thing. A wedding is the most beautiful thing and like the Bat, the toasts and the dancing and like. So now I'm a complete convert. So this cake, so that come tomorrow, and so I hope people will. I'll share it on social media and instagrammal stuff, but I hope you'll check it out. Sod delettions, it's so really thank you so much, John. We never have an of time together, but thank all of you. Thank you're awesome. Thanks for thank's John, my friend. Okay, now, don't leave, because we have a great actor show. It's Donna, Jessica Strawser. And don't forget, you can find all of our back episodes on Youtube. We're live there every week, just like we are on facebook, and if you subscribe you won't miss a thing. Plush, you'll have access to some special short clips, be sure, and do not miss next week, same time, same place, as we welcome another old friend, Lisa's got a lady. We're back. Yeah, she's creates so and daring. I loved him. Yeah, yeah, he was fantastic. Well, thank you, Mary Kay. I know and I know he's an old friend of yours. So it was so nice to get to meet a friend of yours and spend some time with him and, you know, we get to talk about in nipple tape and there's just you know, yes, that was a yeah, that's a first. There's not enough opportunities for that, but it really are. It's really it does. Just doesn't come up in conversation. That offense. Well, aside from that, I did love I mean, cappy, Mary Kay, your stories are often inspired by abandoned places. To how and but to see and drive past something like an abandoned drive through over and over we do it up. We would do it a million times and he imagined a whole story. They're not. It makes the story even more fascinating than it already is. Hearing the kind why that would bubble up for him. I love it. At those pictures are haunting of the drive throughs. Yeah, yeah, the insane went to his creative bringing. was interesting that we're doubly bussed tonight because we got an amazing after show author this beginning. Yeah, absolutely. So I'll start by telling you a little bit about her. Jessica Strasser is the editor at large of Writers Digest. She previously served as the editorial director for almost a decade, and in that role she became known for her indepth cover interviews with talented people such as David Sadaris and Alice Walker. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, is modern love column, which is fantastic. Oh, I love that. Jessica several novels, including almost missed you. Now that I could tell forget. You know me and a million reasons why, which was called a standout and a starred booklist review. Jessica lives in Cincinnati and her new novel, the next thing, you know, is set to be released next week. I want to tell poppy writers together. Hi, Jessica, everybody, Hey, we want to hear me. Okay, we're so thrilled you're here. All right, and John was so good. I didn't know I was suppist to bring all my pictures of myself with Paul Rudd. I know I try not to post mind just because it makes mery tape for Dallas, but need emotion very hush hush, because you don't want to make her too mad. I did not that note. I'm gonna see if I can find mine with Paul Redd and have oh my gosh, I definitely do not have a picture with Paul Redd. Okay, I want to talk about your boat, but the next thing you know has been described as a star is born meets me before you. I love that. Can you tell us a bit about it, please? Yes, that is the that is the very succinct elevator pitch. So I'll give you the chattier elevator pitch, which is and the next thing you know is about a young, thirty something woman named Nova who has just recently done a huge one hundred and eighty in her life. She's left her job, her boyfriend, her hometown, everything she considers safe and familiar and has made the decision to become an end of life Dulah. So if you picture, you know, a midwife or a birth Dula, holistic roll like that at the other end of life. So you know, she works with clients who are poor health or getting up there and age and and...

...becomes a helpful presence and whatever they need and their last months or weeks or however long. But she is not like this buttoned up hospice nurse type. She's like this young, freewheeling, motorcycle riding, just free spirit who will come at clients like what do you want to do with the time you have left, and then she'll help them do it. And so one day this man goes to her own age, rolls up and his muddy jeep smelling like a bonfire, and she doesn't recognizing him. She's never seen him before, she doesn't know who he is, but he is a pseudo famous, pretty well known musician on like the indie music festival scene who has recently disappeared from the public eye and no one knows where he went. But where he went is that he shows up at her door and he has this degenerative condition where he's physically losing his ability to play his guitar and you can tell right away that he's going to be a tough nut to crack and like no client she's had before. But they also had this immediate chemistry. So you know, it's a story of the power of connection and hope against the odds and you know what it really takes to live life with purpose and no Regretsu. Okay, now talk to us if you would, Jessica, about the seat of inspiration for this book. It's such interesting subject matter. I don't think I'll and know there was such a thing. How did you get the idea to write about end of life duels? I was actually researching a completely different novel that I did not end up writing. I was playing at the idea of I was gonna have this hostage situation, not like in a high steaks thriller, more like in a what ended up being anxious people. So he did it better. It's probably better that I didn't write it, but I wasn't. I was going to have like this hostage situation where there was an ensemble cast and I wanted to have like this me, your Old Lady, who is nobody knows that she's terminally ill, so she was going to decide to be a hero and act like completely out of character because she figures she's on her way out anyway. So I had this idea for this. Yeah, it's terminally character. Who was going to do this amazing out of character thing? And I was researching what your state of mind might be like, things that you might look up if you got a bad diagnosis, and I came upon the existence of end of life Duelas and I was so fascinated, I think, because I immediately just thought what a special person it would take to do I mean, I immediately loved I'm sure you guys are the same way I just love to make up backstories for interesting people, like kind of big game I'll play out in public when, you know, my husband and I sometimes decide like what other couples are talking about if they're on their first day eater there, you know, and just the idea of I could invent so many interesting backstories for why people might become, you know, an end of life Duela. And I also thought you could be really misunderstood if you did that job, because it's kind of tabit you and people don't really like talking about, especially in our culture. People don't like talking about like, you know, the the final phase of life. They're very adverse to it. So they have to navigate, they have to kind of mediate and navigate these really hard conversations that families don't necessarily want to have. So I just thought it would be really, really interesting. And then I ended up not writing that hostage book and writing a million reasons why, and in the back of my mind I had already gone down this this rabbit hole and sort of what was in the back of my mind inventing a backstory for this imaginary Duela. And when it came time to write a new novel, that was thought was it had been marinating for a really long time by them. I love how we're doing research for one book and I give this is another. I also a better, probably a way better, idea than I actinally had, hopefully, I hope so. It's funny, though, how things can kind of marinate that way and become something you didn't expect, but almost the thing that it was supposed to be. I love that so just because you seem to be drawn to writing a out sort of these shades of gray kind of situations where we can see multiple sides, where there's not always a clear right or wrong, you know, and where the characters backstories really do play a huge role in how things unfold. Why do you think those shades of gray interest you so much? Because I think everybody is shades of gray. We just don't always see each other that way. You know. I mean so many times you and actually that's exactly how it is with the characters and this book,...

...where everyone around them kind of thinks they have their number, they think they have that person pegged, and there's so much that they don't know. And especially now, I think, and in the last two we were already living so much of our lives online with social media, you know, putting up what you want to put up, but especially in the last two years, how much more isolating it's been. There's a lot there's a lot of there's a lot that you just don't know what people are going through. So for me, the gray areas totally. Yeah, it's the only thing I want to write about because I feel like that's what's real, that's what's really going on. I agree. I look writing about this. It's great too, and I think you like just on that. Something I liked write about. I think you liked write about too. Is when not a good answer, there's not a good solution, there's not a good like none of the options are good. So like, what do you do? You know, which I am always interested people in those situations because I think we all find ourselves in this situation sometimes. But, like switching gears just a little bit, we mentioned earlier that you're an editor at large for Writers Digest. So can you tell us a little bit about like that side of your work, and do you think that being exposed to so many writers processes and, you know, ways of thinking has shaped the way that you write? I definitely think I mean, oh my gosh, early on, absolutely, I mean I was you couldn't have had the writing bug at all and done the job, that job, for very long without wanting to try it yourself. I think the cumulative effect of it all, especially interviewing so many, I think you, you all do a really good job of showing that here, because you're also interviewing all of these amazing writers and I was doing it on the phone from my desk and you're doing it on facebook and everyone else can watch, and so you're showing everyone else actually the same thing that I learned, which was that these writers, who we always have kind of put up on pedestals, thinking they have their tapped into some kind of secret, you know, I don't know, magical source, are really just people like they might need to have their nipples tape down at you know, yeah, just like the real als that you have these real conversations with enough writers and you kind of think, okay, everyone is just for all just people doing that, and that makes it seem very doable, because so many people want to write a novel and they are so intimidated by the idea of doing it and they feel like they have to. Well, I maybe I would need to roll in and I'm a favor program or how would I learn it? And really you can just start a less. So many of the people come at it, you know, so many people who are succeeding in this business come at it and it's totally sideways way and the only way that they succeeded was by just picking up a pencil. So I mean, yes, I had tons of inspiration coming at me on how to do it and grade advice on how to do it. And really anybody can get that by reading writers digest or. There's also an a website called career authors that I contribute to, that has a great monthly news letter that's totally free. The information is out there and shows like yours just connecting with what really makes writers tick. You can learn a lot. was there a makes this big question? was there one big surprise that you've had and all the probably hundreds of interviews you've done, Jessica, that just kind of went fun your head a room, one big surprise? Oh Gosh, you know, I don't think so. Maybe David Sadaris is such a lovely man. He He, you know, if you read his essays and you know he he's kind of this cremudgin. He puts forward this personality that he's kind of a curmudgeon and he's really annoyed by people. And I mean he was one of the only writers to ever send me and written postcard after our interview. You know, he had been he had like terrible tragedy in his family of the day of our interview and he didn't cancel it and then on his post card he was like, I'm sorry, if I see him down, it's likely. He was just such a lovely man. So I think just some authors, some authors just aren't what you expect. I think I had been such a fan of him, of his work forever. Talking to him on the phone was like having my radio and PR station like responding to my questions, because I had heard so much,...

...you know, and the radio, and it was weird to have that same voice talking back at me. And Yeah, there sometimes there's just a really lovely side to people that you don't necessarily see. So, yeah, I think I've had my head turned in good ways, only good ways. Great, it's a great answer. Yeah, well, Jessica, you've been great. I know we could go on and on and on. We would pick your brain all night long if we could. But thank you so much for joining US tonight. And, ladies, I'm sure you want to say good night, right, Jessica, thank you to sign. Just the cups and got fun. We're so good but so exact, right. The next thing you know and tell people where they can find you on social media. Oh, I'm at Jessica strosser author on facebook and Instagram, or at Jessica strowsercom. I'm going to be doing. I have a pretty robust hybrid event calendar, so there's a combination of virtual and in person events and those are all on my website to perfect. Everybody. Go look that, look and buy it. Oh yeah, thanks so much, thanks, thanks, ladies and night. Thank you for tuning in. You can join us every week on facebook or Youtube, where our live show airs on Wednesday nights at seven PM eastern time. Also, subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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