Conflict, marriage, family . . . some of the very facets that draw female readers to novels like author Emily Liebert’s You Knew Me When. Released in September 2013 by Penguin Group, Mrs. Liebert weaves a complex story about the raw emotions of a close friendship and the consequences of breaking the threads of loyalty. Do longtime friends deserve a second chance?
Prior to releasing her first fiction novel, she delved into the nonfiction world of Facebook and Catholicism. Her recent interview with You Read It Here First offers a glimpse into her life as a successful writer in the opposite worlds of fiction and nonfiction. And of course, a little bit about family and fashion.
Interviewer: Christy Campbell
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always loved telling stories and elaborating on those stores. I have a vivid imagination, which I believe lends itself to writing fiction. As a child, I’d regale my parents with in depth details about my day at school and my summers at camp—I also like to talk! That said, if I hadn’t pursued writing, I think I would have made a fantastic therapist. I’m a great listener, and I can read people well, which is probably why I enjoy creating characters.
Tell us about your new novel You Knew Me When and how you came up with the concept.
You Knew Me When is about best friends who were like sisters to each other. Katherine Hill left her small New England hometown in pursuit of a dream. Now, twelve years later, she’s a high-powered cosmetics executive in Manhattan and a much glossier version of her former self, unrecognizable to her family and old friends. Laney Marten always swore she’d never get “stuck” in Manchester, Vermont. Instead, she wound up a young wife and a mother. When Katherine receives word of an inheritance from former neighbor Luella Hancock, she reluctantly returns home to the people and places she left behind. Hoping for a second chance, she’s met by an unforgiving Laney, her former best friend. And there’s someone else who’s moved on without her. Someone she once loved. Tethered to their shared inheritance of Luella’s sprawling Victorian mansion, Katherine and Laney are forced to address their longstanding grudges. Through this, they will come to understand that, while life took them in different directions, ultimately the bonds of friendship and sisterhood still bind them together.
I’ve always been interested in the bonds of female friendship. When I was younger, I had a best friend who dumped me when I met my first serious boyfriend. And I’ve had other friends who’ve either been disappointing or quite the opposite—who’ve stuck by me through the best and worst of times. I wanted to explore this. I also wanted to present two women—one with a husband and child, who was unhappy with her job and the other with a big career, but no family to speak of. It raises the age old question—can women really “have it all”?
You forged three very unique marketing partnerships in connection with the book. Can you tell us about those and the story behind them?
These days, writing books is about a lot more than the writing. You have to think like an entrepreneur, as if you’re developing a brand. And, most importantly, you have to find ways to draw attention to your book so that people actually buy it! I thought it would be fun to create a nail polish or lipstick called “You Knew Me When” since the main characters work in the cosmetics industry. When I approached Zoya, a company that makes gorgeous polishes, they suggested doing a limited edition You Knew Me When collection with three polishes named for the three main leading ladies. I’ve been wearing all of them this Fall!
After that, I partnered with designer Alessandra Meskita who created a dress collection named after the book and characters. Alessandra is an extremely talented designer—her flagship store opens in Beverly Hills in November! We met through mutual friends and clicked immediately. We knew we had to work together and this seemed like a very organic partnership, as the characters in the book are all fashionable in their own ways. Alessandra has also dressed me for almost all of my events, which has been a major treat. Look for the “Emily” dress in her new collection!!
Finally, I worked with the international jewelry brand Dodo by Pomellato. They graciously allowed me to name three of their stunning gold charms after my characters. Each charm has a cheeky slogan which corresponds with my character’s personality. Katherine is “I Love My Freedom.” Laney is “Handle With Care.” Luella is “You Work Miracles.”
You are currently busy working on your next book The Love That Lies Ahead. Can you tell us anything about that?
Yes! Right now I’m finishing up edits on The Love That Lies Ahead, which is about a woman, Allison, who lost her husband in an accident eleven years before the book starts. Two weeks after he died, she found out she was pregnant with their son. Now, over a decade later, she’s moving out of New York City and home to the suburban town where she grew up in order to give her son a better life. She ends up running into her dead husband’s best friend, Charlie, from summer camp, where they all met. Unfortunately, he’s in a troubled marriage, so when Allison and Charlie’s wife become fast friends, things begin to spiral out of control.
So it’s not connected to You Knew Me When at all?
Nope, The Love That Lies Ahead is not a sequel, though I’ve been asked that often. I wanted to create new characters for my second novel, to show my audience that I’m not a one-trick pony, so to speak. I think the You Knew Me When characters need a little time to grow and develop in my mind, so maybe we’ll meet back up with them in novel number four…stay tuned…
Novel #4? Is there already a novel #3 in the works?
Why yes there is! I’m currently outlining my third novel (as yet untitled), which I plan to start writing in December. My goal is to deliver a novel every nine months to a year!
What has been your biggest challenge in becoming an author?
My biggest challenge has been developing a thick skin. I’ve always been someone who, with hard work and perseverance, has been able to accomplish anything I put my mind to–as I believe most anyone can. So, when I started having doors slammed in my face or hearing from an editor that my book was good, but not good enough, I was stung (over and over). Eventually, I realized that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, or how fabulous your “product” is, there will always be someone who doesn’t like it or who tries to knock you down.
What are you most proud of?
What I’m most proud of has nothing to do with work–I’m most proud of being a mother to my two delicious little boys–Jax (4) and Hugo (3). I like to say that I’m a full time author and a full time mom, even though I know that’s not really possible. On the work front, I’m most proud of landing a two-book novel deal in what’s considered a very challenging publishing climate.
How do you balance your writing career with family time?
It’s a constant juggling act! I could be on a conference call with a Hollywood producer one minute and wiping a snotty nose the next. At the end of the day, my career is incredibly important to me, but there’s nothing more important to me than my children. I do have a supportive husband and a wonderful nanny who help immensely. I’m very fortunate to be able to work from home and–to some extent–dictate my own schedule. Recently, I told my publicist to try not to schedule any interviews between certain hours, so I can be there to pick my kids up from school.
Which books are currently on your nightstand?
I’m reading All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue and On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall.
Readers can learn more about Emily Liebert at http://www.emilyliebert.com.