Books with Buzz: Kristan Higgins Interview (Contest Now Closed)

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

One of my best discoveries of the past year was the author Kristan Higgins.  I ripped through all four books in her backlist and found them entertaining and thoughtful, funny and romantic.  She’s become a comfort read for me, actually, so I was excited to learn that there is more comfort forthcoming.  On February 1st, HQN releases The Next Best Thing.  Kristan graciously took time to answer my questions about the book, and will be giving a signed copy of it to a lucky reader.

All you need to do to enter for the giveaway is to leave a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, January 28th. The winner will be randomly selected and posted here on Friday morning.  The usual caveats apply:  This contest is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada and, since the purpose of the giveaway is to put early books into the hands of readers who wouldn’t  otherwise get them, if you review for another Web site or blog that receives advance copies, please don’t enter.

And now, here’s Kristan!

What can you tell us about your upcoming book, The Next Best Thing?

The Next Best Thing is about Lucy, a young widow who’s trying to get on with life five years after the death of her husband, Jimmy. She’s not looking for love…stability and predictability sound a lot better this time around. Lucy figures she’s already had the love of her life, lost him and suffered so much because of it that what she wants now is a nice, slightly boring guy who won’t thrill any part of her.

First order of business for Lucy: suspend the benefits package in her friendship with Ethan, her late husband’s brother. For the past two years, she and Ethan have, er, comforted each other, and while Ethan is Lucy’s best friend, he’s the last guy she’d pick for a husband. He’s way too dangerous, way too lovable. Ethan, however, has other plans. He’s lived in his brother’s shadow all his life, and while he’s initially willing to let Lucy try to find Mr. Not-So-Bad, it’s harder than he thinks to stand by and watch.

I’ve heard this will not be the only book readers can expect from you in 2010?

You are correct! All I Ever Wanted is scheduled for an August release. This one’s the story about getting over a one-sided relationship…Callie was madly in love, he wasn’t…and even worse, he’s her boss. When she learns he’s seeing someone else, she forces herself to get out there and find some other man…even though Mark seemed so perfect. Ian McFarland is clearly not that guy…a rather unsociable vet who prefers the company of animals to people. Callie will have to find that what she thinks she wants may not be what she really needs.

I love this book! Callie tries so hard to make people happy, and she’s usually so good at it! She just can’t understand A) why her boss and she didn’t work out, and B) what exactly is in that that grouchy vet’s past and why he gets under her skin so easily.

One thing I’ve noticed about your books is that your heroines’ parents are not only living but involved in their lives.  Since this is rare in romance novels, I assume this is a deliberate choice?

Is it rare? I didn’t know! I think most people would say that parents play a huge role in their lives. No one loves you more than your mom and dad (one hopes, anyway), no one knows you better…and no one can home in on that sore spot faster or more effectively. That being said, in The Next Best Thing, Lucy’s father is dead. One of the things Lucy deals with is not only this loss, but her mother’s seeming detachment from Lucy’s struggles to patch her life together.

Additionally, in at least two, possibly three of your books, the heroines’ parents are pretty unhappily married.  Is there a reason you choose to highlight their relationship problems?

Oh, that makes me sound so cruel! As soon as you asked that question, I had to go back and count, and yep, I’m batting .500 in the divorced parents department.

There’s a quote by J.R.R. Tolkien:

“Things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are not much to listen to, but things that are palpitating, uncomfortable and gruesome make a very good tale.”

In other words, it’s more fun to have some trouble brewing…not in life, of course, but definitely in a novel! Often, the parent situations in my books reflect the heroine’s worries…it’s harder to have faith in lasting love if your parents can’t make it work. Certainly, Lucy looks at her mother and sees herself, which can be both comforting and lonely. In my defense, I must point out that all of the parents in my books have ended up happy…not necessarily married, or not necessarily to each other, but happy nonetheless.

How would you classify your books – as contemporary romance or Chick Lit?  Personally, I think they straddle.  Both the humor and the first-person point of view (lack of the hero’s voice) makes the librarian in me want to pick Chick Lit.

When I started writing, I was blessed with a healthy degree of ignorance — I just wrote the type of book I wanted to read. I didn’t realize there were so many subsets within romance. The truth is, I’ve never been completely clear on what chick-lit is…I always picture Sex in the City, and since my most of my heroines can’t hold their liquor and wouldn’t know a Jimmy Choo if it hit them in the head, I guess I’d go with romantic comedy. Contemporary romantic comedy. How’s that?

Do you find humor easy to write?

Yes and no. I see humor everywhere, am the queen of inappropriate laughter, and tend to store funny things in my brain for decades. Writing it down takes some practice, especially scenes that involve physical humor (a scene in Just One of the Guys leaps to mind, in which Chastity gets stuck in a closet at her boyfriend’s parents’ home). I pay attention to timing, clarity, all that good stuff. I always go back and revise. But when I’m in the groove, it flows pretty well indeed.

My sister describes your book, Catch of the Day, as “a romance between a woman and her dog” – which makes me laugh.  I am a dedicated dog person, and I love the animals in your stories.  When in the process of deciding and defining characters do you choose your animal protagonists?  Could you write a book without an animal sidekick?

Tell your sister I love that description! For me, owning and loving a pet is a statement of commitment, love and tolerance, so given that all my heroines want that with people, it makes a lot of sense that they’re pet owners. I’ve always had animals…dogs, cats, horses, fish…so it was very natural to have my heroines do the same.

You’re right…I do make a very careful choice about what pet best matches the story, usually when I’m clear on what my heroine is struggling with. For example, in Too Good to Be True, Grace owned a dog who walked all over her (metaphorically and literally), and she loved him for it. This symbolized Grace’s relationship with her family, too…one of the things she had to overcome during the story. Buttercup in Just One of the Guys had a lot in common with Chastity herself and showed Chastity’s desire to befriend those in need. In The Next Best Thing, Lucy owns Fat Mikey, a cat given to her by Ethan. I know, a cat! Shocking! But for me, cats are more independent, less reliant on human adoration, and more quietly comforting…which was just what Lucy needed. As Ethan well knew.

Could I write a story without an animal sidekick. Sure! I’m working on a story now where the heroine has commitment issues. I think she might need to earn a pet, if you will.

Your heroines seem to be pretty physically active – rowing, running, biking, walking.  Is there a reason for this?

It’s me living vicariously. No, I love to take long walks — I live in a beautiful area of woods and farmland, and I even still run, albeit painfully, slowly and awkwardly (the neighbors are petitioning me to stop). But I love for my heroines to be outside, and I like giving them an activity that gets them moving, both in their thoughts (because a lot of deep thoughts happen during these times), and physically.

Do you read fiction for pleasure?  Do you read romance?

Of course I read romance! And plenty of fiction…in fact, I rarely read nonfiction. I read romance, horror, literary fiction, historical fiction, women’s lit. But all my life, ever since I first swiped Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss off my grandmother’s night table at age 13, I’ve loved romance. In high school and college, I’d reward myself after reading the Iliad or Heart of Darkness with a Johanna Lindsay or Linda Lael Miller. Romance novels have been one of the most constant things in my life, have seen me through some very sad times and some very happy times as well. I can’t tell you what a such a privilege and thrill to write romance for a living.

What authors, if any, have influenced your writing or style?  Whom do you like to read?

Well, in some ways, every author I’ve ever read has influenced me somehow, whether it’s Margaret Mitchell or Stan Lee. I never sat down and said, “I’d like to write a book just like that one,” but I’ve always loved honesty in writing — Elinor Lipman, Monica McInerney and Jonathan Tropper leap to mind as writers who are very honest about their characters’ flaws and feelings, and they’re all very funny, too. I love Sherry Thomas, Deanna Raybourn, Elizabeth Strout, Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Hm. In making this list, I can see that I’m fairly schizophrenic on this front. Maybe that’s a good thing. A rolling stone gathers no moss…or something along those lines.

- Kristan Higgins with Rachel Potter

115 thoughts on “Books with Buzz: Kristan Higgins Interview (Contest Now Closed)

  1. In 2009 I blasted through Kristin’s backlist and am currently staying up too late to finish The Next Best Thing. I have enjoyed every title. One of the best parts of each of her stories is the authentic settings. I am a native NH girl (yup – home of the vanity license plates!!!) and recognized the true Maine and RI (and upstate NY and…). Not many authors have that talent! Keep on writing, please!

  2. I found Kristin Higgins because of AAR and thoroughly enjoyed her last two books. I am eagerly anticipating reading this one and welcome such a fresh voice in contemporary comedy.

  3. Great blog post. Your “hook” for me was that the book has humor. I will read and re-read a book (and recommend it several times to my friends) when I enjoy the verbal interactions between the characters. I like how the book is about a widow (and even though I’m happily married, it is easier to dream about being a widow like the heroine than as a single young woman), and the guy is chasing the girl for a change! Bonus, bonus, bonus! Thanks!

  4. I usually read only historical romances, but this book intrigues me in a way that most contemporary romances don’t.

    Cheers to Kristan for originality and her commitment to writing the kind of stories she likes to read. Thanks so much, Kristan, for this glimpse into your writing craft. I’m looking forward to the book and will spread the word about this one.

  5. Hooray! I can’t tell you, Jill and Dagmar (and everyone else who said such great things) how wonderful that makes me feel. An author never really knows how a book will be received…we know only what we hoped, so it’s just indescribable to hear that you guys felt the same way. Thank you so much!

  6. I also glommed all of Kristan’s books after reading the first one last year. I am really looking forward to the new one as well. I agree with the other comments here, these books have had me laughing out loud as well as sobbing – all within the pages of the same story. Those are the best kinds of books!

  7. Don’t enter me – I’ve already ordered the book. I just want to say that I just love your books Kristan – Just One of the Guys is one of my favorite books – I was in tears and also laughed my butt off reading that book. When I need to get recharged, I read that book.

    I just love the characters in your books – to me they seem so real – the way the talk, the way they act – I can see someone doing what they do. And I love the dogs!

  8. You can’t win if you don’t play, right, Leigh?

    Thanks, Colleen! Hope you like The Next Best Thing…and Elaine, if you give my books a try, you’ll have to let me know what you think.

  9. Kristin Higgins is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her books are so sweet and funny. I can’t wait for Feburary 1st!

  10. Hi. You are a new writer for me. Your new novel sounds interesting.Obviously, you have a lot of readers following your every word.
    Good luck with this new book.

  11. The odds are not looking good to win the book, since so many people are like me, and would love a copy. However, I am going to go with the glass half full scenario and hope that I win one. .

  12. Kristan, I love your books and can’t wait to read The Next Best Thing! I’m also excited to see that we’ll have another book to read later this year.

  13. Hey, everyone! Sorry I wasn’t around and more chatty today…it’s my daughter’s birthday, so it’s a good reason, I think. But thanks to everyone for the nice comments (except Sherry Thomas).

    As for first person or present tense and all that stuff…I chose first person because I think it’s more real to life. We generally don’t get a clear view into another person’s head, and I like my heroines (and readers) to have to watch the other characters’ actions. I had no idea about trends or what was selling and the like…again, ignorance can really be bliss! Point of view doesn’t matter to me as long as the story is great and I like the characters…whether they’re rich or beautiful or talented or just normal. I think that’s what makes a great romance–a character you just fall in love with and relate to. Sorry for ending my sentence with a preposition. My mother will not be pleased. ;-)

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  15. I’m so glad to hear this won’t be her only book of 2010! And that she isn’t quite as athletic as her heroines. :D Great interview!

  16. Great interview! I have read all of Kristan Higgins books and absolutely loved them, I can’t wait until this new book is out! Thanks for the great giveaway.

  17. Those of you who haven’t read Kristan before. I truly hope you check her out. She writes characters that could be sitting in your living room. They are hilarious too!

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  18. Just One of the Guys is my favorite contemporary romance. Love it! Chastity is an original character and who can resist Trevor a/k/a the Vagina Magnet?

    I adore Kristin Higgins books and would love to be entered in the contest to win her next book. :)

    Tammy H.

  19. I know I’m in the minority, but first-person present tense is a difficult style for me to read. The present tense keep jerking me out of the story. I enjoy Ms. Higgins’ books that are first-person past tense more than the others. My mother-in-law (who is an author) tells me first person present is what publishers are asking for, so I guess it’s a trend. I really want more insight into what’s going on the the male leads head, what his motive’s are. I’ve read all Kristan Higgins’ books, and absolutely loved Fools Rush In and Too Good To Be True. Catch of the Day suffered for me because I couldn’t understand Malone’s actions or his turn around.

    My personal preferences aside, I think Ms. Higgins writes better than the majority of contemporary romance authors today.

  20. I’d like a chance to win a copy of the book but mostly I want to say that the interview was a joy to read, really great. Thanks!

  21. I love your books and I’ve turned some of my friends on to your books. I’m so excited to get on a new author and anxiously await new releases. Your blog is hilarious too! My favorite part about your books is the way your incorporate animals. I’m SUPER excited to FINALLY get a cat in TNBT. Thanks for being great and keep it up! :)

  22. Enjoyed reading the interview and comments. I have read a couple of your books and like the way you write. Looking forward to reading this one. I like that you have animals on the covers of your books and in your stories.

  23. “Just One of the Guys” was one of my top reads of last year. Absolutely loved it. And I think KH is one of those authors that proves, for me, that a good author can make you like anything. “Just One of the Guys” had the heroine with a different man than the hero for awhile, which is a hot button for me. But I so loved these characters, loved the journey they were on that the book worked for me and the hot button never got pushed. The “sister situation” in “Too Good To be True” was hilarious (and I was so glad for the fight at the wedding!)

    Looking forward to “The Next Best Thing”. I loved the excerpt I read on KH’s website!

    maggie b.

  24. I’ve never read anything from the author before. This book sounds amazing though and is for sure going on my to read list.

  25. Can’t wait to read this one!! Really enjoyed Kristan’s previous releases….also happy to hear of a 2nd release this year….awesome!

    Thanks for the chance to win=)

  26. Don’t enter me. I’m just here to hate on Kristan. How did you manage to write two books in a year? I thought we were buddies on the can-only-do-one-a-year bottom shelf!

    I seriously need to bribe my muse.

    I will be buying a copy for myself and two to give away.

    • That’s my girl, Sherry! The two releases this year were just a plan to make you look slow…

      Sherry Thomas: Don’t enter me. I’m just here to hate on Kristan. How did you manage to write two books in a year? I thought we were buddies on the can-only-do-one-a-year bottom shelf!I seriously need to bribe my muse.I will be buying a copy for myself and two to give away.

  27. Kristan, I can’t wait to read The Next Best Thing and am so excited to hear that All I Ever Wanted will be coming out later this year. What did your readers do to deserve not one, but two, books by you this year? Awesome! :)

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  29. Love and laughter…it’s a no-fail combination, isn’t it? I love it when a book makes me laugh or smile, so thanks to so many of you who’ve said mine do the same for you. I always figured us real people deserved a great romance…not our faults that we’re maybe not billionaires or immortal or Navy Seals!

    So glad everyone dropped by! I’ll check back later this week.

    Kristan

  30. Please enter me in the contest, would love a chance to read Ms. Higgins’s work. Thanks.

  31. Hey Kristan, I am in the middle of Chas and Trevs story. I love it. I can relate the this one much more than I could to those in Catch of the Day; great book as well. I completely understand Chas’ dilemma. There are some parallels to my story, but unlike her I didn’t get the HEA!!! I love your humorous voice. Your books are definitely pick me up books. When I need to just escape, you are now one of my go to reads. Thanks for doing what you do. Have a great rest of the evening okay.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  32. What I love about your books is not just the romance. It’s that these are real people with real thoughts and real humor and real situations. I have been reading your books and thought “I’ve said that!!!”. I don’t even look at the cover (but they are really cute!) except for the name. If it’s yours I buy it! Thanks for your words!

  33. Thanks for the interview! I enjoy Kristan’s books, and I’m looking forward to THE NEXT BEST THING. It’s already on my “wish list.” :)

  34. I LOVE Kristian Higgins!! She writes the way you would have a conversation with your best friend! I always am sad to see the book come to an end and can’t wait to start another!!

    The pets in the stories are an added bonus as a pet lover myself, it makes the story all the more special!!

    Thank you Kristian!!!

  35. I really enjoy humor with romance. Your new book sounds like a must read, I will be anxious to get my hands on it. I enjoy animals in stories too, I’m a pet lover who can’t have pets where they live.

  36. Thanks for the comments. I’m working on a romance and try to sprinkle in some humor. I love to read romantic comedies but find it difficult to write humor.

  37. I’m working on another ro-co…I try to work on only one at a time, but some ideas percolate while I’m doing the grunt work on another. The pace varies…some books fly out of the old fingertips; some are more of the breech birth variety. Nothing has taken longer than about 8-9 months, though…

    Thanks again for all the nice comments…I really can’t tell you how much it means.

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