My insanely talented friend Jessie Rosen wrote a novel and it was released TODAY! It’s called Dead Ringer and is a badass thriller that is all of my favorite things in a book rolled into one: A little bit of Gone Girl, a little bit of Hitchcock, a little bit of Pretty Little Liars. (This is not lip service because I love Jessie, or friendepotism – that’s a friend // nepotism mash-up, I don’t know if it works, sorry – but really, it’s the type of book I would buy even if I didn’t adore and admire the author. My past Book Club picks are evidence of this.) Without giving too much away, it’s about Laura, the gorgeous new girl at Englewood High… Who just so happens to look exactly like Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself last year. Or DID she????
So, November’s book choice is OBVIOUSLY Dead Ringer. Reasons you should read it: 1) IT’S SO GOOD. 2) It’s a YA novel, and those are so hot right now. Plus, then you’ll have something to talk to your high school-aged niece over Thanksgiving, and make her think you’re cool. 3) Jessie also moonlights as the voice behind 20-Nothings, which Time Magazine and Forbes have both listed among the top blogs (#goals). 4) Support women making great entertainment. DUH. 5) She was kind enough to do this Q&A! Get into it!
Girl, you are busy. Your blog. Your monthly storytelling show. Your screenplays and TV scripts. Now a novel! What inspired you to add “novelist” to your many career accomplishments? Why Dead Ringer as your debut novel?
I cannot even explain the wild process that brought this book to life. It started with a call from my wonderful manager Rachel Miller at Haven Entertainment asking, “how dark do you think you can write…?” I was previously a comedy-focused writer but Rachel is very passionate about the book world and felt a YA debut could be a great launching pad for my writing overall. She had the sliver of an idea that we morphed into this wild ride that became the Dead Ringer proposal. And then it sold!
Early reviews are saying Dead Ringer is like “a Hitchcock movie transferred to high school.” I don’t think you can get any higher praise than that! (I took a course on Hitchcock at USC, solidifying my obsession for thrillers.) Were his films a source of inspiration for you? Were there any other influences?
SUCH an honor. And yes. The slow burn of his films is exactly the style of this book. I also remember a similar terror reading Christopher Pike as a child, and now enjoying books like Gone Girl, Girl On A Train and even the multi-narrative structure of All the Light We Cannot See. But the hysterical thing is that I am a total scaredy cat and could probably never read my own book alone in the dark!
Um, all of those are past Book Club picks! Okay, let’s talk high school. I was a far cry from your golden girl Laura Rivers, and it was bad enough 15 years ago – I can’t imagine being a student now, with social media. Did you draw from your own experiences for the novel’s setting?
I sort of took my own experiences and turn them upside down. I was a pleaser and a brown-noser (shocker, I know), so it was so, so fun to write a character that’s the opposite. Laura is curious like I was and tries to be in with the popular crowd, like I did. But ultimately she does NOT care what others thing about her, and for that I worship her!
I befriended you through the comedy scene (and before that, revered you as a world-famous blogger.) Why did you decide to write a thriller?
I thought it would be such an incredible writing challenge to exercise my drama writing brain (or, rather, see if it existed). I was, of course, terrified of the process. But like the good brown-noser I have always been (see above), I decided I was going to make it work no matter what because writers should be able to write everything.
It’s also categorized as a YA novel… Which is right up my alley, since I love all things meant for teenagers (hello, cookie dough I ate for breakfast and closet packed with Forever 21). These days, the lines seem to be blurred for who the YA audience is – I loved Eleanor & Park, and the rest of the world loved Twilight. Why is Dead Ringer not just for people who were born in the post-Y2K era?
I like to think of this as an adult story that just so happens to feature 17-year-olds. The circumstances, character motivations and certainly the drama of it are no different than an adult novel. But there’s something so fun about a high school setting to balance that intensity out.
Since this is a Book Club post and I know you love reading as much as I do, what are a few of your favorite books?
My fave mystery of all time is The Secret History by Donna Tart. My favorite childhood book (also a twisty, turny tale) is A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle. And my favorite thing to read ever/always is anything by the great Nora Ephron.
Writewritewritewritewrite but, more specifically, write what you love. You need your heart to be in it in order for you to wake up and sit down at that nasty, scary, mean-looking blank white page every day.
And since you moonlight as a film and television writer, what advice do you have for women in Hollywood?
Two things. 1. Do not waste your time worrying about being well behaved. That’s a major hang-up of mine. “Am I being nice enough?” or “Do they like me?” or “Is this going to make them mad?” Be you boos, and the world will get in line. And 2. We need more stories about the honest, modern female experience. PLEASE write them!
Flashback to that first question – you are seriously one of the busiest people I know. How do you budget your time? What advice do you have for the rest of us self-employed dream-chasers?
It’s not easy, and I don’t always do it well, but routine is my savior. I wake up every morning at the same time, walk my dog at the same time (with my hubs), and make my way to the same café where I spend 3-4 hours working every morning. Also I LIVE AND DIE by my to-do lists which I keep in this adorable-as-hell notebook with re-fillable pages from Paper Source. It’s gold because, duh.
What’s next for you? Please tell me I can pre-order another novel of yours soon.
Fingers crossed that Dead Ringer does well enough for my publisher to engage the next TWO novels planned for the series! But right now I’m working on a new adult novel proposal and a new feature film, about the modern female experience of course.