Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her books 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 is a two-time recipient of Romance Writers of America RITA® Award and a five-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction.
Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, her greatly adored children, two overly frisky rescue dogs and an occasionally friendly cat.
Is there a conference workshop you’ve attended that really helped you, or that you remember because it was something new or different, helpful or interesting? Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence workshop is, for me, the ultimate class for writers. I first saw him when I had four books under my belt; I honestly don’t know that I could have kept writing without that class. On some level, I knew everything he was teaching, but the way he presented it made it feel like I’d been bumbling around in the dark, and he handed me a map and a flashlight.
What is the biggest challenge a romance writer faces in today’s market? For new writers, discoverability is harder than ever. There are so many great books out there; breaking out is wicked hard. For those of us who are established, I think the biggest challenge is to keep growing as a writer. We all have our schticks—I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t write a bad date scene—but I don’t think we can write the same book over and over and just change the names and places, you know what I mean? You have to stay true to your voice, deliver the goods your readers come to expect, but you can’t phone it in. There are simply too many other good writers out there.
Do you use a critique group/partner, beta reader(s), your editor and/or agent, or some combination for feedback? I have a group of close friends, and we go away to plot a couple of times a year. We write in different genres and have very different styles, so it’s really refreshing and fun, and they’re among my best friends in the world. But we just plot; we don’t critique. I don’t use beta readers (still am not quite sure what that is); the first people to read my manuscripts are my editor and agent.
What methods of promotion have been the most successful for you? Reader interaction, hands down. Through any medium, really—Facebook, Twitter, signings, book tour… I think one of the reasons readers like my voice is the emotional honesty and everyday situations I write about, and I think I have an authenticity about me that makes them feel like they know me. Which they do. I’m not exactly a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and I lack the skill to pretend to be anything other than what I am. What does your writing day look like? Do you have a certain time of day you write? How many days a week? A certain word goal per day? I work every day; I might not write fiction every day. I usually go to my office for a good chunk of the day, almost 9-5. I seem to hit my groove midday, and I write till I pretty much can’t anymore. Rather than a daily word count, I shoot for a monthly goal, because life can get in the way of writing, as it should.
Do you edit as you go or purge and go through after? Do you write multiple drafts or edit as you go, barely needing revisions when typing The End? What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot? I always start the writing day by reading what I wrote the day before. I usually tweak it, or leave notes to myself, such as “This sucks. Fix it.” I don’t write sequentially anymore; I write the dessert-first method, where I create different Word documents for different scenes and write what really speaks to me. For example, in my last book, there were three narrators, and I wrote one’s entire story first and just ignored the other two.
I write one enormous, sloppy, wretched first draft, then I overhaul it with a shovel and an axe, and send it to my editor and agent. I’m a big believer in letting the first draft suck, and a worshipper at the altar of revisions.
The plot and the characters are completely intertwined for me, but I often start a book with the general idea… What if you were a newlywed and your husband died? What if your boyfriend broke up with you in a blog that went viral?
What are you working on this very moment? Other than this interview? I just finished line edits for a book that will come out next summer, and I’m about to start with the idea for the next book, which will be my 19th, I think. Maybe 20th.
What was your most memorable pitching experience? Blessedly, I never had to pitch. I got my agent via a query letter.
Can you share with us a fan letter, email, or meet and greet experience with a reader that stuck with you? I have this one memorized. “Dear Mrs. Higgins, I have never had a boyfriend like the ones in your books. My boyfriend is not very nice. When he hits me, I always forgive him. Well, not really. But your books taught me what love should be, and I what I deserve, and I want you to know I’m not with him anymore.”
That one moves me to tears every single time I think of it. It’s not what you think when you sit down to write a book— Hm, maybe this book will inspire an abused girl to leave her horrible boyfriend. You think about the characters, the funny parts, the angst, the romance. And then you get a letter like this, and it drives home just how powerful stories are, and how important a thing we’re doing when we write them.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an author? Believe in yourself and get over yourself. You can do this, but you’re not a special unicorn of magical powers. Work hard. Stay true to yourself. Don’t sell out. Be nice to people.
What skill would you like to master? Tap dancing.
What are some small things that make your day better? Bird song, rain and a snuggle from the dogs.
Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to? U2, Adele, Prince.
What TV channel doesn’t exist but really should? Hideous Surgeries Shown in Graphic Detail. (I still hope to go to medical school and live this firsthand.)
What is something that a ton of people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of? "The Bachelor/Bachelorette"! I’ve never watched a single episode, and I can’t imagine why I ever would.
What is special about the place you grew up? The woods all around me. I swear to God, there were fairies out there in the ferns and moss.
What do you regret not doing or starting when you were younger? I wish I’d traveled more in college and just afterward. But I travel a lot now, so I’m making it up as I go along.
Favorite food? McIrish makes me this dish he calls Pasta alla Kristalina. Linguini, olive oil, roasted broccoli, garlic and Kalamata olives with parmesan cheese. Just typing that made me hungry.
Would You Rather: Would you rather be transported permanently 500 years into the future or 500 years into the past? Eesh. Future, I guess, because I’m kind of a germaphobe and wouldn’t want to get, say, the Black Plague.
Would you rather give up bathing for a month or give up the internet for a month? Most definitely, I’d give up the Internet. See above.
Would you rather have an unlimited international first class ticket or never have to pay for food at restaurants? First class ticket!
Would you rather have free Wi-Fi wherever you go or be able to drink unlimited free coffee at any coffee shop? Since I really only like coffee that I make myself, I’ll go with free Wi-Fi.