Zibby Owens: Welcome to day three of my second week of my July Book Blast. I guess technically this day eight of my July Book Blast. Today is Beach Reads Wednesday. I love beach reads. I wish I had more time to just sit on the beach and read, as I’m sure we all do. Instead of that, I’m offering up all these amazing beach read books which you should definitely check out this summer and beyond.

Julie Pennell was born and raised in Louisiana. After graduating from college, she headed to New York to work at Seventeen magazine. She currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and young son and is a regular contributor to today.com. Her writing has appeared in The Knot, InStyle, and Refinery29. She is the author of The Young Wives Club and most recently, Louisiana Lucky.

Welcome, Julie. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Julie Pennell: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to chat with you. Big fan.

Zibby: Yay, that’s so nice. I feel like I toil in my little room here by myself all day, so it’s nice to hear. Louisiana Lucky, tell us about this novel. What’s it about?

Julie: Louisiana Lucky is about three sisters in small-town Louisiana who play — they have a monthly girls’ night. They play the lottery. They drink cheap wine and fantasize about how different their lives would be if they won the jackpot. Spoiler alert, they do. They win $204 million that they get to split between them. It follows the story of how they spend their money. Lexi is the youngest. She’s just recently engaged, so she decides to plan a Hollywood-style wedding. Callie is a local newspaper reporter. The money gives her the confidence to go after her career dreams and also love. Then Hanna is our oldest. She’s a mom of two young kids. She wants to give them everything that she possibly can to make their lives better. It follows that. Obviously, the story is fantasy. It’s got your fun shopping sprees and makeovers. It’s also got some realistic things of disaster and heartbreak. In between those things, there’s also love and family and hopefully feel-good feelings. I’ve read this book a million times during my editing process. Every time, I come out with a fuzzy feeling at the end. I really hope that readers feel that as well. Especially in this time, I feel like we all need a feel-good story.

Zibby: It’s like you knit yourself your own sweater or something. You wrote your own book to make you feel better. Then it makes you feel better. It’s perfect.

Julie: This is why we write. You want to write the book that you want to read. This is a book that I thought would be really fun to read.

Zibby: There you go. It’s perfect. Then now you make it fun for the rest of us to read. I love how you jump around and do alternating viewpoints of the different sisters and how you just keep the story moving along and interweave everything. It’s very cool. How did you come up with this idea?

Julie: Who hasn’t fantasized about winning millions of dollars and just changing your life? I just thought that would be a really fun backdrop for the story, just to have fun with it. Also, it could be a self-discovery story for the women in the story, but also for the readers. I hope that they come away with some kind of feeling about money. Is it tied to happiness, or do we already have everything that we possibly need? Especially right now with the pandemic and being sheltered in place and not spending money, I feel like we’re all kind of looking at that within our own selves. I’m hoping that is also something that readers take away from it.

Zibby: What was your conclusion after going through the exercise of seeing what happens and the impact of the lottery win on all these women? I know I’ve read studies that it turns out that money doesn’t actually buy you happiness. The lottery winners, sometimes they get depressed because their expectations are so high or they change their lives so rapidly that they lose touch with things that had given meaning to their lives before. Just curious if at this point, winning the lottery, good thing? Bad thing? What do you think?

Julie: What I didn’t want to do — I know I’ve heard horror stories of lottery winners. Their lives are ruined forever. I just felt like that was super depressing. I think that having money would be fun because you could do things with it. You could give it to charity, things like that. I didn’t want these girls to have the worst lives ever after they won. You’ll see in the end that they do realize that it’s not about the money itself. It’s about the people that are with them and what they can give to others and what others can give to them. I think that that’s what makes you rich. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re the richest man because you have friends and because you have family and things like that. Also, money would be fun too. and stuff, but I don’t think that you need billions of dollars. I would hope that if someone had billions of dollars they would give it away to people who need it.

Zibby: How did you end up writing a book at all? Tell me about your whole writing journey. When did you realize you liked to write? I’m assuming you like to write, but that is a big assumption. Maybe you don’t like to write.

Julie: I hate writing.

Zibby: How did you become a writer?

Julie: I’ve actually been writing my entire life. I was writing little stories when I was a little girl. My mom still has all of them. Then when I was fourteen, I just randomly walked up to the local newspaper and asked them if there were any writing opportunities for teenagers. They randomly let me come in and intern for them. Then I wrote a weekly teen column for them for seven years, way past when I was not a teen anymore. It was really fun. I’ve always wanted to write for magazines, and stories. I worked at Seventeen magazine. Then I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I’ve tried so many times. I think a lot of authors have done this where you get in, you get really excited. I wrote twenty thousand words for a couple books. Then I just had no idea where I was going. Then I finally came up with my debut novel idea, The Young Wives Club, and plotted it out. I think that that made all the difference in the world. Then it sold. They’re letting me do another one. I feel so lucky. I feel Louisiana Lucky right now.

Zibby: Aw. Are you from Louisiana? How did you place it there? You are?

Julie: Yep, I was born and raised there. I lived there through college. I went to Louisiana Tech for college. Then I ended up moving to New York to work in magazines after. There’s always a special place in my heart for the state. I just feel that it’s so magical and so special. I kind of just wanted to be transported back there when I was writing this book. I hope that it transports readers to this magical place with the wonderful culture and the smells and sights and sounds of one of my favorite places in the world.

Zibby: What are you going to write next? Are you already at work on your next novel? I’m sure you are.

Julie: I’m mulling over some ideas. I haven’t put pen to paper yet. I just had a baby.

Zibby: Congratulations.

Julie: I’m just taking a little pause. I find that this is the time when I need to be thinking about it. I don’t know, but we’ll do it. I’ll do it.

Zibby: You’re going to have a whole new world of material now. Just wait. How old is your baby?

Julie: He’s two months old. Then I have a two-and-a-half-year-old as well. I actually wrote Louisiana Lucky his first year. It’s funny. I feel like I have a baby every single year I have a new book. I was a stay-at-home mom for the first year and just wrote it during his naps and after he went to bed at night. I was really thankful that he was a good sleeper for that. I’m hoping this new one is going to be a good sleeper too. Then I’ll be able to get another book out.

Zibby: That could be Louisiana Really, Really, Lucky. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Julie: Going back on the plotting, I definitely think that that’s something that everyone should try if they’re struggling like I was struggling. I feel like knowing where you’re supposed to go in the plot is definitely going to help you get to the end. Of course, things change because these characters are crazy. They’re actually real people. They have minds of their own. Things might change, but at least you have an end goal. Then my other piece of advice always is just to find time to write. It’s so cliché, but like they always say, you can’t edit a blank page. It’s so true. You just have to — like doing it during your kid’s naps. On Twitter, there’s a five AM writers’ club where people get up at five AM and do it before their full-time jobs. Even if it’s a page a day, sometimes it takes a while to write a book, but at least you’ve done it. If I hadn’t done it during the naps, then I wouldn’t be talking about it right now with you. You’ve just got to do it. Everybody has a story. I think that everybody should try.

Zibby: I’m glad your first child napped so that you could write this book and we could chat. It all worked out. Thank you so much for coming on my podcast. Congratulations on this book. Good luck with your baby. It was great chatting with you.

Julie: Thank you so much. It was great chatting with you as well.

Zibby: My pleasure. Bye.

Julie: Bye.

Zibby: I hope you’ve enjoyed this beach read on Beach Reads Wednesday, part of my July Book Blast.