Read this exclusive interview from Jessica Knoll on the Luckiest Girl Alive book & its film adaptation with Mila Kunis. Don’t miss the scoop on her new book!
I am so excited to share with you today an exclusive interview with New York Times Bestseller, Jessica Knoll, the author of Luckiest Girl Alive!
This addictive thriller was described by Reese Witherspoon as “one of those reads you just can’t put down!” Now a Netflix film starring Mila Kunis, Luckiest Girl Alive follows Ani FaNelli as she strives to create the perfect life. But beneath the expensive wardrobe and blue blood fiancé lies a haunting secret from her past.
An Exclusive Jessica Knoll Interview (Luckiest Girl Alive)
Let’s start with the most exciting news! Luckiest Girl Alive had the movie rights acquired by Lionsgate and Reese Witherspoon. Did YOU feel like the luckiest girl alive when you found out about this film adaptation?
I cracked this joke to Bruna, Reese’s producing partner, and she quickly corrected me by telling me that I’m not lucky—good things come to those who work hard to develop their craft and talent.
I really appreciated that!
There is certainly a degree of luck involved, but I was also very, very calculated in terms of setting myself up for success. I fought tooth and nail to land a job in the magazine world right after I graduated college, knowing that once you get your foot in that door, it’s a great place to develop your voice and improve your writing and storytelling abilities.
Most important, you make a lot of great connections working in magazines, and publishing people like magazine people because you have a whole network of friends who are willing to support the book.
I met my agent years before I ever wrote Luckiest Girl Alive, and I met other people in the industry who had lines into Hollywood.
One of those lines happened to be to Reese and Bruna.
Their involvement has undoubtedly granted the book a certain amount of visibility that any author, let alone a first time author, could only dream of, and I’m so grateful to them for their unwavering support.
The luck part comes into play as I got to know them both, and realized how incredibly collaborative and inclusive they are. I really lucked out in terms of being paired up with two smart, powerful women who are also willing to help a first time writer develop and grow. I have so much to learn from them, and lucky for me, they want to teach me.
The unlikable narrator seems to be a growing trend in fiction. I won’t drop the Gone Girl comparison, but why do you think authors are gravitating towards a different dynamic with the narrators of their story? Do you think Ani is unlikable or just misunderstood thanks to her past?
In my eyes, Ani isn’t unlikable at all.
She’s flawed, yes, but isn’t everyone? That’s what makes her real and honest. And real and honest are two very likable qualities.
That being said, I think we are living in a very exciting time for strong, female driven narratives. I will make the Gone Girl reference here, mostly because it was such an absolute phenomenon that it goes to show you that audiences are interested in the anti-heroine’s story too. There’s a demand for Tony Soprano and Amy Dunne, Don Draper and Ani FaNelli. Let’s give the people what they want!
Ani’s desire to be liked drives the story, even in the face of devastating mistreatment by the popular kids at school. Do you think this struggle to fit in is more common than we realize, even if not to the same extent as in the book? Did you face any similar challenges during your own school years, and were there any personal experiences that inspired the story?
Speaking from personal experience, I think it’s incredibly common.
Kids can be cruel, and up until recently, sexual assault and slut shaming culture was not something we discussed openly.
When I was in high school and college, I didn’t truly understand what rape looked like, and I know a lot of my friends—guys and girls—didn’t either.
How can we expect kids to make the right decisions, and treat each other with dignity and respect, when we don’t give them examples of what that does—and doesn’t—look like?
What happens to Ani in the book isn’t new. It’s a story old as time. But this sudden willingness to talk about bullying, slut shaming, and sexual assault is new, and that’s a good thing.
As an editor for magazines, how did your background prepare you for writing your first novel? What was the process of transitioning from writing/editing article pieces to a book, and how difficult was it for you? Additionally, can you tell us how long it took from the initial idea to complete the book?
It absolutely did. I could not have written this book in my early and mid twenties. That was an important, developmental time for me in terms of discovering my voice, and learning how to find a story’s unique angle.
Once I had that skillset to draw on, I spent a good year or two really thinking hard about what I wanted my book to be about, and high on that list was for it to make some sort of commentary about the world and times we are living in.
Magazines taught me to have that strong perspective. Once I actually sat down to write Luckiest Girl Alive, it was extremely liberating to be able to write in my own voice.
When you write for a magazine, you have to appropriate a ‘house’ voice. But Ani was all me. It was so freeing to tell her story that I churned it out in nine months.
Editor’s Note: Jessica has since disclosed personally traumatic details in an essay she penned for Cosmopolitan.
Luckiest Girl Alive Movie Now Streaming
Luckiest Girl Alive is now available to stream on Netflix. It was directed by Mike Barker and thescreenplay by Jessica Knoll, based on her 2015 novel of the same name.
The cast and roles for the 2021 Netflix adaptation of “Luckiest Girl Alive” are: Mila Kunis as Ani FaNelli, Finn Wittrock as Luke Harrison, Chiara Aurelia as young Ani FaNelli, Connie Britton as Ani’s mother, and Scoot McNairy as Ani’s writing teacher, Mr. Larson.
Readers, please note that Luckiest Girl Alive ending and many plot points are different in the film adaptation. As we discussed in our Celebrity Book Club Deep Dive podcast (on Book Gang), Reese Witherspoon loves a hopeful ending for her films.
Knoll also recognized the cultural shift that has occurred in the last seven years, both in her own life and in society. Her personal story and the #MeToo movement motivated her to create a new film ending where Ani also finds healing by speaking up and sharing her story. (watch the movie trailer)
In Knoll’s debut, Ani FaNelli is a successful magazine writer engaged to a wealthy man, but her perfect facade hides a painful past that she is forced to confront when a documentary about her high school is filmed.
As the story alternates between Ani's traumatic teenage years and her current life, readers will discover the reasons behind her unlikable behavior and explore the pressures that women face to have it all.
With difficult themes like sexual assault and a school shooting, this gripping novel delves into the dark side of ambition and self-reinvention.
Once you finish the book, stream the film to see the adaptation, screenwriting by Knoll.
This gripping tale shares the story of two sisters who join a reality TV show, where only one will survive.
Brett and Kelly have a history of both sibling support and rivalry. While Kelly struggles as a single mom, Brett basks in the glow of success on the show Goal Diggers.
When Kelly finds a way onto the show, Brett's world is turned upside down.
With access to Brett's dark secret, Kelly becomes a threat. As the show nears its conclusion, a shocking revelation leads to murder, leaving the sisters fighting for their lives.
In the soon to be released novel, readers are transported back to 1978 when a serial killer is on the loose in the Pacific Northwest.
As young women across the country live their lives, two in particular are brought together by the tragedy that strikes their communities.
As they investigate the murders and hunt for the killer, they begin to question everything they thought they knew about him and the media's portrayal of the case. (on store shelves October 3rd)
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