As a book blogger, I get to meet some amazing people from the writing community. I am honoured when I receive an invite to a book launch or am asked to read an ARC of a new novel. I started my blog in July 2013 and took slow, tentative steps into this community, as I was aware that I was an unknown and would have to prove myself as a genuine book lover with a desire to spread the word about some great novels and writers. One of my first unsolicited requests for review was from an American self-published author called Jill Knapp, who had contacted me via twitter. I love discovering new authors and knew that the world of self-publishing was beginning to increase. Taking a chance on my gut feeling, I gave her my address for a hard copy to be posted, across the Atlantic, and when it arrived, popped it on my TBR pile.
A number of weeks later, the book reached the top of the pile, and I nervously started it. I was pleasantly surprised and soon found myself engrossed in the YA world of Manhattan. I had honestly thought that I would not be of the right age to enjoy this genre, but I was wrong. The writing was clever, sharp and sassy and reminded me of a modern day Sex and the City. Great characters and locations made for a fun look at single life in NYC and I flew through the book in a matter of hours.
After reviewing the book, Jill and I became firm online friends and despite the miles between us, I know we will stay that way. When I heard the fantastic news that she had been snapped up by Harper Impulse and they had commissioned her for three books, I was delighted for her. This first book, What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan?, is the first in a trilogy, but can be read as a stand- alone novel. I recently posted her cover reveal and am so excited for its launch on 24th July.
We recently caught up to chat about the new release and I asked her how she had landed her deal with Harper Impulse. She explained, “Kimberley Young [editor at Harper Impulse] made the mistake (I mean made the amazing gesture) of following me back on Twitter. I essentially DM’d the heck out of her until she finally read my manuscript. She passed it along to Charlotte Ledger who is now my editor. I think my annoyance, I mean perseverance, really paid off!”
It seems that, as a rule, successful writers are persistent, despite regular knockbacks and should never give up on their dreams. Jill explained to me that she has always been a do-er, wanting to try everything. Piano, singing, figure skating, and a lot more….“When I was a teenager, I was in chorus, I performed in plays, I figure skated competitively for 10 + years, I did a lot of writing for fun, I even took piano lessons.
‘By the time I got to senior year of High School, I was already taking college level courses in psychology. When college came around, everything else stopped. No more skating, I sang for maybe one or two more years until eventually I didn’t have time for that anymore either. And then by the time I was in graduate school, any kind of hobby or (I’m just going to say this) extra-curricular enjoyment had been redacted from my life.
‘When I was younger, I felt like this well rounded person who liked so many different things. I loved music with a burning passion, I would always be singing my lungs out, going to concerts, or even just talking about music with my friends. I loved to write short stories in High School and a teacher of mine even entered my assignments into writing competitions. As I got older, and was completely immersed in psychology, the rest of it faded. My friends and significant others would say to me, ‘Okay so that’s your school work.. or that’s your job. But who are YOU? What do you do for fun?’… And I couldn’t actually answer them. I would laugh it off, or say that it was fun. And there were times when it definitely was. But I don’t think doing only one thing your whole life can define you. So after spending 4 years of college and 3 years of graduate school perusing a career in psychology, and then teaching it at a University for 3 years, I realized that I was not happy, and that only having one thing in my life was never going to make me feel like a whole person. It got to the point where I hardly recognized myself. Where was the girl with the pink streaks in her hair who would talk about Radiohead until night’s end? Where was the girl who would read a novel for fun, instead of trying to memorize and regurgitate a text book word for word.
She was gone.
Finally, I got so fed up with being miserable that I moved out of the NY/NJ area and came down south to North Carolina. I needed to (literally) get a life.
So now I love what I do. I love writing and I swear everyday that I spend doing it is a day that I get to thank the universe that I am allowed to do it. I hope I can do it forever.”
I recognise a lot of this passion and how sometimes we can let life take over, without even realising it is happening. So many wonderful authors had previous careers or callings, but eventually, the love of writing took over and they haven’t looked back. Thankfully, for us readers!
The characters in What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan? are young men and women trying to find their way in the city of New York. Jill tells me a bit about them. “I started with Amalia and Cassandra.. two girls from the same neighborhood who were living very different lifestyles. The men came second, first Michael and then Nicholas. Olivia and Alex were brought in last to round everything out. Cassandra is very loud and opinionated, but Olivia is much more refined. I don’t think they have these qualities in a hyperbolic way, I didn’t want to make them stereotypes. Then we have Amalia who is somewhere in the middle of these two girls. The proverbial, devil and angels on her shoulders”.
Life in NYC seems very exotic and different to us Europeans, so I wanted to see if it really is as it’s portrayed in books, TV shows and movies? “Sometimes, if you have a lot of time it can be. But even the most glamorous moments are met with sweaty subway rides, overly crowded streets, extremely expensive… everything! But then you can have the most amazing day just walking around the West Village and completely feel like it’s all worth it. “ This seems not so unlike a trip to Dublin for a country girl, so is it that people lose themselves once they hit Manhattan? Jill thinks the city makes people change. “Unfortunately, it’s so easy to. one of the things my character says is that living in New York doesn’t make you cultured. Sure, NY makes it easy for you because you have a huge melting pot of people living there. You almost forget that there’s a whole country outside of NY. America is huge! And so many New Yorker’s will never even get to experience what it’s like to life somewhere else.”
Before Jill had to head off to a meeting, I asked her about social media and its importance for today’s writers. She has a great following and I wondered if she finds it a help or a chore? “No it’s not a chore at all! I love talking to everyone and I usually answer everyone who contacts me. I am a very open person, especially on Twitter, I think it’s a great way to connect with people and it makes me so sad when I see other people outwardly ignoring their fans who are tweeting at them.”
The world of publishing is evolving on a daily basis, as is the world of online promotion. Jill is one of many authors who have been ‘discovered’ via social media and use it to their advantage, making regular contact with followers and fans, tweeting and messaging to help promote not only her own book, but other authors’ work too. I may not have even come across Jill Knapp if it wasn’t for her online activity and this can be said for many of my favourite authors. The world is a lot smaller when you can access the internet.
I wish Jill all the best for her launch and for her two upcoming books. The second instalment is finished and ready for release later this year and she is well into writing the third in the trilogy. I am really delighted that she persevered as much as she did and cannot wait for her visit to Ireland next year.
(c) Margaret Bonass-Madden
About What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan?
Life in the city gives 23 year old Amalia Hastings a ride she is not expecting. As she tries to find her way on the little island that never sleeps, she discovers she has a harder time navigating through life then she does the streets of Greenwich Village!
She thought she had everything she wanted – a new apartment in Manhattan, a first-rate education at NYU, a group of trusted friends and Nicholas, a boyfriend who she once believed was her soul-mate. But somehow, it isn’t enough.
Stumbling through her relationships, Amalia encounters Michael. An attractive classmate who quickly moves from being one of her close friends, to an inconsistent friend-with-benefits. After all, the only thing consistent about New York is its beauty.
Amalia is essentially torn between two men, and Michael is torn between two women. Her best friend Cassandra is being strung along by her “boyfriend”, Bryce, and even her friend Olivia is having a secret relationship!
After getting terribly lost searching for love in all the wrong places, Amalia finds herself asking – what happens to men when they move to Manhattan?!
What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan? is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.