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Interview with Jess Riley, author of All The Lonely People

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Tell us about All the Lonely People

After her beloved mother dies, thirty-seven-year-old Jaime Collins decides to ‘divorce’ her estranged siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family with whom to share Christmas dinner.  Essentially, All the Lonely People is about forgiveness, taking responsibility for our relationships, and family: those you make, and those you make peace with.

What genre is it?
It’s got the quirky soul of an indie comedy; kind of a mash-up of women’s fiction, dark comedy, chick lit, and literary fiction.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?
Anyone who feels they’d have fit in better on the Island of Misfit Toys. People who have warped senses of humor, grew up in the eighties, have difficult relationships with their own siblings … or anyone who would want to read about those things.

Complete this sentence for us: If you like_______________, then you’ll love All The Lonely People.
Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down

One of the best compliments I ever got came from an Amazon reviewer who said that if Tina Fey lived in Wisconsin and wrote a novel, she might come up with All the Lonely People. The same reviewer compared me to Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby, and I’ve been trying not to let it go to my head ever since.

We’ve all got family members we wish we never had to ever see again. But what’s so wrong with Jaime Collins’ family? And what is Jaime like?
Jaime has one of the most difficult, bullying older brothers ever—the polar opposite of her in terms of temperament, political and religious persuasion, and outlook. He’s angry, bitter, and sarcastic almost all the time.

Her sister Gwen is a highly successful, Type A ice queen, distant both physically and emotionally.

Jaime’s more of a quiet people pleaser—she’s afraid to confront her brother and sister, harboring old resentments and insecurities, and emotionally adrift after the loss of her mother. Still, she feels the pull of DNA and yearns for a better relationship with her siblings; but she’s at a loss as to how to achieve that, so she funnels these feelings into her little experiment.

Tell us a little about some of the people who respond to Jaime’s ad.
Paul Stanley was fun to write—owner of two adorable doxies, member of the KISS army … Zack Galifianakis would easily play him in the movie.

Some of the other characters include a kind and maternal widow (Evelyn), a grieving grad student (Alyssa), and transgender woman named Chris who is struggling with both her sexual identity and an abusive relationship.

Now tell us a bit about you.
I’ve been a grant writer for the last 15 years, mainly for public schools around the nation. My first novel, Driving Sideways , was released by Ballantine Books in 2008 and went back to press three times (All the Lonely People is my second).  I’ve been a waitress, retail sales clerk, blue cheese packager, and a teaching assistant in a medium-security men’s prison. 

I live in a 128-year-old farmhouse which my husband and I are constantly remodelling, and I have a Cairn Terrier who despises the theme music for certain public radio programs. I am deeply addicted to gardening, which introduced me to one of my stranger hobbies, Monarch ranching. Every summer I raise and release about 50 butterflies from my postage stamp city lot, which is great fun. Takes some of the guilt out of it when I hit one with my car.

Have you got a blog where readers can keep up with your work? How can we follow you on Facebook and / or Twitter?
I’ve been blogging at http://jessriley.blogspot.com since 2005 (egads!), and I’m also on Twitter (@jessrileywrites) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jessrileywrites or my author page, https://www.facebook.com/JessRileyAuthor).

Where can we buy All the Lonely People?
It’s available to order online at Amazon ( US, UK) , Barnes & Noble, and beginning in February, Kobo, iTunes, and via your favorite bookstore by request.

What’s next?
I’ve got a fun little novella on-deck for February: a sweet love story about two people who see one another at the same stoplight during their morning commutes. It’s a tender hug of a story, plus some fun extra surprises. After that, I’ve got a darker, sexier novel waiting in the wings (Mandatory Release), about two broken people who work in a prison. It’s got unrequited love, ugly secrets, bad decisions, and danger. It feels more like a punch than a hug, but in a good way.

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Already read All The Lonely People? Then check out our conversation with Jon Rance.

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