‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ Author Jessica Knoll Encourages Aspiring Adapters to ‘Be the Squeaky Wheel’ in Let’s Get LITerary: Authors Roundtable

As part of TheWrap’s Power Women Summit 2022 on Dec. 13, panelists Vasquez-Lavado, Lo Bosworth, Tembi Locke and Jessica Knoll discussed their experiences with doubters on their journeys to become published authors as well as adapters, during the “Let’s Get LITerary: Authors Roundtable.”

For Lo Bosworth, whose book “ Love Yourself Well: An Empowering Wellness Guide to Supporting Your Gut, Brain and Vagina,” comes out December 27, the hurdles stemmed from her early childhood career on reality television. 

“It’s like Pandora’s box. It’s open and it can never be closed again. And so for me a really long time ago I had to decide ‘okay, Lauren, you know, what is the life that you want to live? How do you want to leave your mark on this earth?’” she said. “When I first started the company, the press that came out was very like ‘wink wink,’ you know, ‘Oh, this girl who was on TV is starting this company, and this category isn’t real and you know, what is she doing?’ Seven years later, we have completely changed what it means to be a woman and consume wellness products.”

Bosworth’s book is more scientific than the rest of those of the authors participating in the panel, with two memoirs and a fictional thriller inspired by true life events. Tembi Locke felt challenged both in the process of writing her book “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home” as well as helming the Hello Sunshine limited series television adaptation of the Reese’s Book Club April 2019 selection for Netflix.

“I was very nervous as an actor switching gears and people not taking me seriously. I was at a non famous actress who was an unpublished writer, like who’s gonna take a bet on that. And in fact, people said, I don’t think she can write this. They said that at the book stage. I’m sure there were questions about it at the screenwriting stage. What I will say is if you know something that no one else knows, and you know it inside out, and you put the work and the time and the craft and the learning and you ask the questions, you can do this. I knew unequivocably that there was no one who could adapt my story. I will say that again. No one could adapt my story better than I could. I had things I could offer that no one else could. It didn’t mean I knew everything. Didn’t mean I didn’t need a bang up team behind me who could help me but I think if you want to break in that belief in oneself is going to be very critical and then you have to back it up with the work and being willing to show up again and again. Make mistakes as questions show up. Again, make mistakes as questions show up. Again. It can be done. I’m proof.”

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Jessica Knoll, who wrote “Luckiest Girl Alive” based on her own life experiences jumped off of Locke’s conviction, echoing the need for passion as well as persistence in participating in adapting a narrative one created oneself. 

“If you have passion for something, it’s that is a big, big, big ingredient that you need in a project in a movie in a TV show and a book, Passion. Passion counts for a lot. But it’s not enough. And you might have to go out of your comfort zone in terms of letting people know that you have this passion and you want to do it. I think that I thought if I raised my hand and say I want to be the one to adapt this even though I’ve never written a movie before a TV show. I’ve only written books and for magazines. If I just say that then I can sit back and then they know and I’ve done my job. No you have to be the squeaky wheel. You have to any it is for most writers. I would assume the writers I know how I am I think for a lot of women as well. It’s very uncomfortable to be the squeaky wheel. So I would say even though it might feel awful to keep putting yourself out there and keep insisting to people that you can do this. That’s what has to be done.”

The two writers also discussed the phantom need for permission to write their books within their own lived experiences and — in Locke’s case — pivoting to a different form of storytelling. 

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“I really, I really have to thank my sister [Attica Locke] for really sort of giving me — and I think I needed permission —to sort of switch gears and sort of professionally say, let me endeavor to do this. I think a lot of writers need permission. I don’t think I’m alone in that. “I wish I was like, Jessica who was like, ‘Oh my God, I know I want to be a writer my whole life’ like I knew I was a storyteller and I have that in my my craft as an actor, but to sort of take up the computer take the pen to page was a new, bold, brave endeavor.”

Knoll jumped in to affirm Locke, detailing her own experiences talking herself into giving herself permission.

“That feeling of permission is universal I’ll have you know, even for those of us who knew from the start, they wanted to be writers,” she said. “With every new thing I write, I still have to find permission and I have to remind myself like, you don’t need it. You can give yourself the permission.”

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Knoll also discussed the importance of her fighting for her story to be told in filmic form past the boundaries of genre, which “Luckiest Girl Alive” transcends, combining thriller aspects, dramatic elements and hard-hitting reality.

“In the book world, I always felt that I had a ton of support, a lot of interest in writing this book, you know, then a lot of interest from the readers, and so on. When it came to adaptation, that was a different story, and I think it’s just because to make a movie or to make a TV show, it’s so incredibly expensive, time consuming. There are so many moving parts. So much has to align to get it to work and you have to convince so many more people, that yours is the thing that’s going to be worth all of that effort and all of that money,” she said. “I recently learned that my project my story was something that was referred to on the executive side of things as what’s known as a feathered fish, which means they don’t know how to categorize it. They don’t know what genre luckiest girl alive this story falls into Is it a dramatic character movie? Is it a mystery? Is it a thriller? And so people don’t like that because when they can’t put it into a box, they don’t know how to market it. They don’t know how to get a return on the product and so it becomes a very risky thing. I always felt confident that if you just gave us a shot, we would prove to you that we were worth it all.”

And the shot paid off with “Luckiest Girl Alive” netting big numbers for Netflix in October when it released on the streamer.

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“We’re up there competing with some of the real big ones, you know, the action movies, the big money ones. And so what’s crazy is I don’t know if this changes things for me going forward because I still think people are scared and I understand that and I don’t judge it I do get it, but it’s still a pretty good feeling to know that you can trust that inner gut feeling,” she added. “And I think trusting that is key because then you show people with your confidence: ‘you can trust me because I know this is going to be okay.’ And I did always try to project that, and I had to project it for many years until we got to the point where it was finally a movie that was being made. But yeah, I mean, I think that would be my advice to anyone is, you you know in your gut better than anyone and listen to that voice. It won’t ever steal steer you wrong.”

Speaking of guts, Bosworth likened her experience writing her book to climbing a mountain, metaphorically of course, with which Vasquez-Lavado agreed — the biggest inner mountain (find quote). The mountaineer who wrote “In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage,” shared her experience surmounting obstacles like the male-dominated fields of climbing and her tech industry background.

“I picked out the two areas that still we have a lot of work to do. Yet, I would say I think I’ve been fighting against the odds ever since I left Peru. As a mountaineer, I’m not I’m not here to break any speed records, but the one beautiful thing we all have as women is endurance,” Vasquez-Lavado, whose memoir will be adapted into a film in which Selena Gomez will portray the mountaineer climbing Mt. Everest, said. “That helped me tremendously to let go of all the naysayers and to keep going against the odds, and the beautiful — one of the things that I love sharing with women is you know, as a climber, I literally have broken through ice barriers. I have to climb through ice there’s, I have to break the ice ceilings. Even in my own experience climbing Everest, I was the only one with seven guys who were taller than me, who thought that I would be the first one out and I ended up being one with three more ofl the guys because the four other stronger ones were unable to continue. So it’s about women being able to embrace our endurance to pursue it on anything that we want to do and to keep proving people wrong.”

The Power Women Summit (PWS) is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The event aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s PWS provides two days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe – to promote this year’s theme, “A Time to Unite.” Learn more here: thewrap.com/pws.