Married authors Jason Feifer and Jennifer Miller both brought their own style and insight to their first, and only (so far!) romantic comedy novel, Mr. Nice Guy. Delivering a charming combination of flirty and steamy romance with your real-life romantic partner is no small feat, and we were thrilled the pair offered to give us some insight into their collaboration. Between juggling parenthood, a podcast, and two new novels in the works, the busy couple managed to give us the scoop on their writing process, their latest reads, and their winding career paths.
What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
JASON: It took a long time to figure out what kind of writing I was good at! I first thought of myself as a writer in high school, when I contributed to local music magazines. But as I pursued it professionally, I tried on many different voices and identities. I discovered, for example, that I’m a terrible screenwriter and an excruciating political columnist. I once thought of myself as a contemplative writer who used complicated prose, but ended up finding a groove as a fast-paced, straightforward writer who leans heavily on lessons and takeaways. It’s all been a surprise!
JEN: How hard it is to make a living…actually, I knew it would be pretty damn hard!
When you set out to write a book, how do you begin?
JASON: Jen’s the true novelist between us, so I’ll shut up here.
JEN: I think about the main character in the book and try to imagine where they are and what they’re doing at a critical moment in their lives. In Mr. Nice Guy, that moment has Lucas emerging from the sweaty NYC subway to start his job at the city’s most popular magazine. In my debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, it has my protagonist Iris being swept away to a new (and rather creepy) mountain town by her parents.
Both of you tackled a new genre when you wrote Mr. Nice Guy. What inspired your collaboration? Would you do it again?
JASON: When I was in my 20s, I struck up an e-mail friendship with a sex columnist. That gave me the idea for a novel: What if two people each week slept together and then criticized each other’s performance in a magazine? But I had no idea how to turn this into a novel. I tried many times, over many years. I kept failing. Then… I married a novelist! After Jen sold one of her novels, she was looking for a new project and I suggested that she write something based on my idea. She suggested we do it together. And so the collaboration was born.
JEN: Writing a rom-com was one of the most fun exercises I’ve done. There was something incredibly freeing about being able to lean into satire and romance and cheese all at once. And we were able to play to our strengths. All the sexy, steamy columns are in the book—but I’ve never been much of a columnist, so I made Jason do that part!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
JASON: Just keep experimenting. You may think a particular job, or project, or style of writing is lame—but you’ll learn a surprising amount from everything you do, and each experience will help you become a better storyteller later.
JEN: Stay away from social media. If you simply focus on your own work and what you love to do (and stop worrying about whether you’re successful enough), you’ll be much happier. My anxiety load significantly reduced when I finally quit Twitter! (I’m still there, but I only use it to track people when I can’t find their emails elsewhere and, occasionally, when I want to look up some breaking news.)
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
JASON: I am loving my friend Joe Keohane’s upcoming book, The Power of Strangers. It’s a nonfiction book about our relationships with strangers, and how to talk to them, and why connecting with people you don’t know is so important.
JEN: I’m currently reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. It’s been super fun to compare/contrast the actual historical events with the Lin Manuel Miranda version (which I know by heart, because our 5-year-old is obsessed and demands we listen on every car ride).
What’s next for each of you? Are you working on new projects? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date?
JASON: Yes! We both have book projects—though both are nonfiction and neither of them are anything like Mr. Nice Guy.
I’m currently working on a book called Build For Tomorrow, Not For Yesterday, which will come out in the summer of 2022. It’s about how to become more adaptable and find opportunity in change, with lessons drawn from the history of innovation and the smartest entrepreneurial minds of today. If you want an early taste of it, you can download a free audio course I created on the subject!
JEN: I’m writing a young adult non-fiction book about first-generation college students. It follows three students, all the first in their families to attend college, through their freshmen year. And we’re talking 2019/2020, so it was all quite unexpected and dramatic.