Colleen Hoover, REMINDERS OF HIM

Colleen Hoover, REMINDERS OF HIM

“Every single time I sit down and write a book, I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.” Colleen Hoover, the New York Times-bestselling author of twenty-two novels, joins Zibby to discuss her latest book, Reminders of Him. Colleen shares how she’s adopted her sense imposter as part of the writing process, her reaction to the renewal of interest in her backlist, and what she’s done to make sure writing has never felt like a job.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Colleen. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Reminders of Him.

Colleen Hoover: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Zibby: I absolutely loved this book. I read it over the Christmas holidays. It was so immersive and amazing and emotional. I couldn’t wait to see what happens. Colleen, tell listeners what this book is about. What inspired you to write it?

Colleen: Reminders of Him is about a woman named Kenna. She has had a really difficult past, not a lot of people or support in her life. She made a mistake. While she was paying for that mistake in prison, other family members, not her family members, but they were raising her daughter. When she gets out, she wants to reconnect with that child. It’s not as easy as she was hoping it would be. The book is about her journey there. I honestly don’t remember what inspired it. 2020 was such a year that I kind of feel like I wrote this book from the emotions of 2020. It’s a sad book. It’s not very humorous at all. It is definitely kind of a dark journey to get to the happy ending.

Zibby: Wow. I have to say, the — this is such a mom-life podcast, essentially. Sorry for the slamming doors. The physical relationship with Kenna — can I even say this? Does this give anything away?

Colleen: I don’t think there’s a lot of spoilers in this book. There’s not really any twists.

Zibby: Her relationship with Ledger, which starts early, is so hot and heavy. The way you write about the physical emotions and all of it, tell me about writing about all of that. Do you get embarrassed? What does that feel like? How do you create that sense of tension on the page?

Colleen: I really don’t enjoy writing the hot-and-heavy scenes. They’re probably the scenes that I go over the least as I edit. I like angst. I like the connection between characters. The actual act itself is my least-favorite part to write. With Ledger and Kenna, I wanted them to meet without knowledge of their past or anything that’s going on so they could form that connection without the judgm. I think that helped create the angst throughout the book.

Zibby: The same way you did that so well, you also handled loss so beautifully. Everybody is coming at this loss from a different perspective, Kenna mourning the person she had been in love with at the time, and the parents and the family friends. Loss affects everybody in so many ways. Was there a place that you tapped into for yourself to go through all of that pain, especially from such a traumatic loss?

Colleen: I’m not a very emotional person. Surprisingly, knock on wood, I haven’t lost a lot of people that I’m close to in this life. When I do write about those things, I kind of have to invent those feelings. I think what helps me write such emotional scenes and pasts is the fact that I’m not so much of an emotional person, so I have to push really hard until I feel it myself. I kind of think that takes my books to a little bit of a darker place than I probably would otherwise.

Zibby: The home that Ledger was renovating, do you have an actual home? Could we see what that place is looking like? I’m still fascinated.

Colleen: I need to do that. I have an idea of it. I don’t Pinterest a whole lot, but I see authors Pinterest the places that are in their books, and the people. My issue is that when I write people and sometimes locations, it’s more of a blur. I’m not so into the physical descriptions of anything as I am what’s going on between the characters. I would have to really sit down and do that. That sounds like a good idea.

Zibby: In case you didn’t have enough to do this afternoon, you can add this to the list. You’ve written twenty-two novels. Right now, you have five New York Times best-sellers, or something, on the — I haven’t checked this week, but every week, there’s more and more best-sellers. You’ve also benefited from this resurgence on Booktalk and all of that. What has that been like for you?

Colleen: Surreal, to say the least. My husband and I wake up every day and we’re like, is this really happening? Why? It’s been insane. When these books released, the ones that are on The New York Times right now, it’s been years. I feel like I’ve already celebrated them. They hit The New York Times when they released. I thought was as good as it was going to get. I was very happy with that. To have this resurgence is just mind-blowing and very surreal.

Zibby: Do you feel any more pressure to come up with new ideas? Does it affect you when you sit down and open a new Word doc or whatever you do to write your next book?

Colleen: Not so much the recent stuff because I’m already affected. I’ve been writing books for ten years. It’s never easy. Every single time I sit down and write a book, I feel like I’m not going to be able to finish it. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I feel like I forgot how to write books. I don’t know that any pressure has been added because that pressure’s always been there.

Zibby: Wow. What will it take to get you to have confidence that you have this thing down?

Colleen: Retirement. I don’t know. I don’t know that I want to have that confidence. I feel like just having that imposter syndrome and second-guessing myself, I’ve realized, is part of my writing process. That’s what pushes me to try to do my best. I’m okay with it now. I’ve accepted it. It’s always going to be this way. It’s just part of the process.

Zibby: What is it like when you sit down to write when you think of a new idea or you decide you’re ready for the next one? Is this your desk that I’m looking at now? Is this where you sit and write? Take me through it visually.

Colleen: I really write anywhere. Sometimes I write at home in bed. Sometimes I write here. Sometimes I put my headphones on and write at the kitchen table. It really just depends on where I’m at when creativity strikes. I cannot keep a schedule for anything. I can’t schedule myself to sit down and write so many words a day. It’s just very chaotic, to say the least. I could write sixteen hours a day for one to two weeks straight and then not write for three months. I don’t have a process. I think that’s my process, is not having a process.

Zibby: It’s hard to plan inspiration. I totally get it. Are there any projects that you started and you got pretty far along with and then you were like, no, actually, this isn’t going to be a book?

Colleen: I actually started about six different things back in 2020 before Reminders of Him finally stuck and became the book that I wrote. I have quite a few, for the first time ever, loose outlines and ideas that I may go back to. That doesn’t happen very often. Usually when I start a book, that’s the book that I stick with and finish. I do have some loose ideas. I’m kind of waiting just to see what happens with this release. There’s a character in Reminders of Him I would like to write a book about, but I want to just see what the reception is.

Zibby: Which character?

Colleen: Roman.

Zibby: Oh, yeah, interesting. I feel like you do such a good job of making your characters just completely come to life. I know that sounds hokey. I’m sure you hear that all the time. It’s a real art to figuring out how to get the essence of a person. Does it all just happen and you don’t really know how? Your characters seem so real to me, flawed and real and multidimensional. How do you do that?

Colleen: I don’t know. I feel like I want to be able to relate to characters that I read about and write about. I love to read about billionaires and people that I don’t interact with every day, but when I sit down to write, I just never can go there. I tend to write people that you would just run into in everyday life. That’s what I enjoy writing. I don’t know that there’s any kind of process I go through to create the characters.

Zibby: Do you do any research? I know, for instance, working at — maybe this sounds like a silly question. Working at the supermarket, for Kenna’s job, and the breakroom and just that whole little piece of her life, it’s all —

Colleen: — I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. I do pull from things that I’ve done, but not always. It really depends on the subject, whether or not I put a lot of research into it. Because I write about normal, everyday people, I don’t really have to do a lot of research. I know that I did with Maybe Someday, with one of the characters. With It Ends with Us, I just had to talk to my mom a lot about Lily’s character. It really depends on the book. With Reminders of Him, I talked to my little sister about Kenna’s past. My little sister is very into prison reform and is focusing on that. She was working on her master’s degree for a nonprofit. She helped me a lot in that area. It really just depends on the book.

Zibby: Is this what you thought you would do when you were a little girl?

Colleen: This is what I hoped I would do, but I don’t know that I ever thought I would actually make a career out of it. I didn’t start writing my first book until I was thirty-one. That was just a fluke. I was just writing a fun story. Never imagined this in a million years, never. It was my dream to hopefully, someday, write or finish a book, but I never even dreamed that I could hit The New York Times. That was just so far out there. That wasn’t even on my list of dreams. It’s been insane.

Zibby: What opportunity has opened up that you’re like, thank god I wrote the books because this happened?

Colleen: Being able to buy groceries without having to make my checking account go negative. Just little things like that. Not worrying about how I’m going to pay for my kid’s college. Our whole lives have just changed in that regard. Career-wise or anything, I don’t know that I want more doors to open up because I am extremely happy with what I do and where I’m at.

Zibby: What are you working on now?

Colleen: I can’t really say because I haven’t announced it yet. I’m working on a book that I signed with a publisher but refused payment for it because I wasn’t sure if I could complete it or make it exactly what I wanted it to be. I’m waiting to see if I get there and if I’m happy with it before I announce it or accept payment for it.

Zibby: That’s one way to take off the pressure.

Colleen: Yes, yes. This one is tricky. It’s a book that I have said I wasn’t going to write. Then I got an idea for it. I just don’t want to get people’s hopes up.

Zibby: Now my wheels are turning trying to figure out what you’re talking about, but that’s okay. Have you benefited from the author community? How do you feel about being an author? What has that been like?

Colleen: Oh, my gosh, have I benefitted? I don’t think I’d be where I am without the author community. All of my best friends are authors that I’ve met in this industry. It’s just been so amazing, so supportive, and the reader community. I just look at the charity we started a few years ago and the things that people have done to help the charity, the donations we’ve received. It’s been incredible.

Zibby: Tell me more about that.

Colleen: About the charity?

Zibby: Yeah.

Colleen: My sisters and I — I have two sisters. We started a charity back in 2015 called The Bookworm Box. It’s a subscription box. We also have a brick-and-mortar store in Sulphur Springs, Texas, where all of the books in the store are signed by the author and donated. All of the money goes to charity. We also have a book signing every year called Book Bonanza. We host it in Texas every summer. We had to postpone the last two because of COVID. Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to do it again this year.

Zibby: That’s amazing. What types of charities do you support?

Colleen: We donate it to hundreds. We try to send out donations every month. I know with Book Bonanza, with the income this year, we donated over $100,000 to different food banks across America. Also with Book Bonanza, we were able to build a school in Malawi.

Zibby: Wow, amazing. What do you do when you want to forget your job?

Colleen: I watch TV. I love watching TV. I’m very easy to please. Movies, oh, my gosh. Me and the boys will just sit down and try to find something we can all agree on, which is a challenge. That’s probably my favorite pastime. I get inspiration from watching movies. Sometimes I don’t even make it through the movie because something someone says on the TV will spark an idea. That idea will spark something else. I’ll be like, I have to go write. Bye. The whole family is used to it.

Zibby: What about when you’re super stressed out? Do you get stressed out about deadlines and writing and all that, or are you more chill about everything?

Colleen: I’m pretty chill. I’m going to be honest. I’m not too hard on myself. I try to arrange my life and my schedule to where I don’t have a lot of deadlines. Luckily, that’s been my goal since I started, is to never make this feel like a job. I want it to feel like a hobby. In order for it to feel like a hobby for me, I don’t like to owe people things. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m trying to write what I want to write first and then figure out what I want to do with it, whether that’s go with a publisher or self-publish or put it on Wattpad for free. I’ve done that before. It just depends. That’s my main goal in my life, is to keep my life as stress-free as possible. It’s been working out pretty well.

Zibby: Wow, I need to take a dose of that. That sounds good. What advice would you have for aspiring authors?

Colleen: Oh, gosh, that’s a good one. I’ve been in this industry a long time. I think the thing that I see the most with authors is, they compare themselves and their success or lack of success to other authors. To actually make it in this industry is like winning the lottery. It is hard. There are a lot of books out there. My advice is to go into it and write the book that you want to read. Write the book that’s in your heart. Don’t write to try to sell books. Don’t write to trend because whatever is trending now is not going to be trending when you finish your book. Be happy that you completed a book. That’s the biggest accomplishment, whether people read it or not. I know that’s easy to say. I know people want to make a career and pay their bills with their art, but it’s very difficult. I hate it when I see people give up and walk away when they don’t see the success that they hoped to see because they should be so proud that they wrote this book. That’s amazing.

Zibby: If you were going to change a couple things or one thing or anything about the publishing industry as a whole, what would you do if you were going to start your own publishing company?

Colleen: That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I think that the thing that I would’ve changed ten years ago has kind of been changing. That’s the gatekeeping. The indie book world has really blown that up. So many authors have been able to get their books out there that I don’t think, myself included, would have been able to get their books anywhere if it weren’t for indie publishing. I think it’s going in the right direction. I would absolutely change piracy if there’s a way you could stop that.

Zibby: Awesome. Any books you’ve read lately that you’re obsessed with?

Colleen: I’m on an Emily Henry kick. I got her ARC, Book Lovers. I absolutely loved it. I’ve read it twice already. I’ve read pretty much her entire backlist this year.

Zibby: That’s awesome. She’s great. Thank you, Colleen. Thanks for coming on.

Colleen: Thank you for having me.

Zibby: Thanks a lot. Take care.

Colleen: Bye. Have a great day.

Zibby: You too. Buh-bye.

Colleen Hoover, REMINDERS OF HIM

REMINDERS OF HIM by Colleen Hoover

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