Kimberly McCreight, FRIENDS LIKE THESE

Kimberly McCreight, FRIENDS LIKE THESE

Kimberly McCreight joined Zibby for an IG Live to talk about her latest novel, Friends Like These, which was inspired in part by her own tight-knit group of college friends. The two talked about Kimberly’s writing process (which she doesn’t necessarily recommend), what it has been like to adapt this book for a television series with Steven Spielberg’s production company, and, of course, what roles they watch played in their respective friend groups.


Kimberly McCreight: How are you? It’s great to see you.

Zibby Owens: It’s great to see you too. Congratulations.

Kimberly: Congratulations on Zibby Books. Good news. Yay, good for you.

Zibby: Thank you. I’m really excited. I’m excited. It’s a really fun team. We’re going to have a lot of fun and make a difference, I hope. I just can’t wait. It’s so fun.

Kimberly: Awesome. Congratulations.

Zibby: Thank you. Your new book, tell everybody what it’s about and how you came up with this idea and the ten friends and the whole thing. Let’s get into it.

Kimberly: Friends Like These is about a tight-knit group of college friends who reunite ten years after graduation to stage an intervention for one of their group. It’s an intervention that quickly goes terribly wrong. When the book opens, a car has been found in the woods. One of the friends is dead inside. Another one is missing. When the local detective shows up to investigate, it’s clear that the rest of the friends are hiding something. The truth about what happened in the car is a complicated mix of conflicts with the locals and also secrets that the friends have buried. The book is very much, I hope, an edge-of-your-seat page-turner. It is also a commentary on friendship, and particularly group dynamics and old friendships and the way friendships evolve over time and the complications of groupthink and the dangerous side of loyalty and things like that. Much in the way I did, or I hoped I did, in A Good Marriage, looking at the gray zone of marriage, this looks at the gray zone of those close friendships.

Zibby: Awesome. I loved A Good Marriage, as you know. We talked all about it at the time. It’s funny, I just interviewed today, this man named Billy Baker. If you haven’t read his book, it’s called We Need to Hang Out. It’s this very funny referendum on male friendship and how we’re all so busy that we don’t make enough time for our friends and the importance of friendship. Now here, this is also about friendship and how the bonds can linger for so many years. It sounds like sometimes, due to something traumatic happening to unite a group or all other reasons, you can sort of jump back into it at a moment’s notice, which is really crazy when you think about it, no matter how much time has gone by.

Kimberly: Absolutely. The book was definitely inspired by my own tight-knit group of college friends who are still like my family. They are the most present, consistent aspect of my life. I talk to them multiple times a week. It’s an interesting thing. As much as that creates this great sense of comfort and security, when it’s a group, I think you can get assigned a role in your group. You’re the fixer. You’re the upbeat one. You’re whatever. I think that that can be complicated.

Zibby: Who are you in the group?

Kimberly: I was the responsible one.

Zibby: Really? Okay.

Kimberly: Which is funny because now my friends — I hope my friends are not listening because and saying, no, she wasn’t. There’s a character in the book, Stephanie, who’s the one that always is espousing reasonable opinions. Again, she’s very flawed herself and makes a lot of bad choices. That’s really her assigned role, is to be the one who is there. I was the one in college who was in the library, you could find me studying late at night, things like that, that people came to for advice. Just to declare, I’m not saying I had good advice to offer or I didn’t have problems myself, but that’s definitely the role I played, for sure.

Zibby: Would you rather have another slot? You said they should change over time. What slot would you like today?

Kimberly: You know, I kind of like that slot because it lets you feel morally superior. I’m comfortable with my slot. I’m more talking about other people who might not want any more to be the screwup or a role like that. Mine gives me some of the moral high ground, so I’m perfectly happy with it.

Zibby: I’m thinking now about my college girlfriends, who I adore.

Kimberly: What’s your role in your group of friends? You have a tight-knit group from college too, don’t you?

Zibby: I do. Although, we lost my friend Stacey who was the glue to the group and united so many of us. She died on 9/11. That through line has kept us close because we all went through that, but we’re in a different form than we were. I don’t know what they would say about my role. I don’t know, actually.

Kimberly: You’ll have to email them after the show. Maybe you’ll find out you’re the fixer too.

Zibby: I don’t think so because I’m pretty sure I know who that was in my group. It wasn’t me.

Kimberly: You are cheerful. Maybe you were the upbeat one. You do have a really good vibe about you, so maybe that was you.

Zibby: Maybe. I don’t know. I feel like I was always stressed and studying and in the library really late. I mean, we all were studying. I also didn’t used to like to drink during the day, and so that was not the coolest. I just never have really liked doing that.

Kimberly: I love that that’s the standard, day drinking. If you weren’t day drinking, really, what was the point?

Zibby: That’s what made me really studious.

Kimberly: Just not excessive day drinking.

Zibby: I was most restrained. I wasn’t, though. It’s funny. I went to my reunion a couple years ago, two years ago. Some of them just went out and got sloshed at some party. I was like, we’re forty-five at this point. This is crazy. What’s going on? It’s like coming home. You act like your old self a lot of the time.

Kimberly: That’s right, which is a lot in the book. People revert to those roles with that group of people.

Zibby: Sorry, were we talking about a book?

Kimberly: I know. You and I, it’s just like we’re chatting. We just forgot.

Zibby: Let’s go back to the book. I’m sorry. Tell me about writing this book and how long it took and what the whole process was like and all that good stuff.

Kimberly: I didn’t write it quickly. It’s probably the same time it takes me to write most books. It was eighteen months between this book being published and A Good Marriage, which is pretty typical for me. I do the first drafts rather quickly, like three months. Then it’s about nine months or so of revising. It’s not easy to keep that schedule. I just want to be clear.

Zibby: I was like, oh, my gosh, three months. That’s fast.

Kimberly: It’s not like I just sit down, and it comes out. I was talking to some — I forget who it was. Some author was like, “I sit down, and it just comes out.” I’m like, that, no. I’m making this sound easy. None of it’s easy, as you know. That is the process for me. I don’t work from an outline. I start with my characters first. I really write my way into the story. That is a terrible method, but it is the only method I have. Meaning, you waste time to some extent. I do think, with an outline, you probably also waste time because you sit there and try to figure everything out. Then you realize once you go to write it that that’s not going to work anyway. I think that no matter what your approach, part of it’s going to get thrown out. That’s the reality of writing a book. That’s about how long it took me. It’s definitely a complex narrative structure. It’s got multiple narrators, but they really function as two narrators. There’s the group of friends. Then there’s the detective. Those are your two timeframes. It alternates between those two. You get the different perspectives of the friends, but their timeline just moves forward. It’s a way to keep it more clear that way. The big thing about this book is I really wanted to deliver a twist at the end, a really big twist. All my books have twists to some extent, but this one has one at the end, a really big one. I’m very excited about that because I very much wanted to do that.

Zibby: Amazing. I never see the ends coming. I’m the worst reader in that regard, or maybe the most gullible.

Kimberly: You’re the best reader. Are you kidding me? I’m always going to surprise you then. That’s the best.

Zibby: That’s true. I’m like a cheap date when it comes to . It’s true. That’s awesome. By the way, I don’t think it’s wasted. It just takes a lot of time to write a book. All of that is part of it. I think people beat themselves up thinking it’s not. Every single person I talk to is like, then I had to throw away these pages. I tried this. Then I wrote this new draft. I had to do this first. That’s just what it is.

Kimberly: I think you’re right. For aspiring writers, the more that you can just consider that a piece of the process, that’s actually part of the book even if it’s thrown out, the less — I think people panic sometimes thinking what they’re doing isn’t any good, but you have to do the non-good before you can make it great. That is genuinely, as you said, part of the process, for sure.

Zibby: The advice is, just keep on doing not-great stuff.

Kimberly: Yes. My biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers is, lower your standards. Really write like crap. Just don’t worry about it. That’s the advice a lot of people give. Just get it done because you can’t make it great if it’s not there in the first place.

Zibby: You heard it here first. Do a bad job, and you will be successful.

Kimberly: Let yourself be totally crappy. That is my advice.

Zibby: Are you already working on your next book?

Kimberly: I’ve actually been working, in part, on an adaptation of Friends Like These. It’s been optioned by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television for a series. I’m working on the adaptation, so I’ve been spending some time doing that. I am working on my next book, about a hundred pages of it. I’ve been calling it a reverse Reconstructing Amelia, which was my first book. In this case, a college-age daughter comes back home from NYU to Park Slope for dinner, and her mother is missing. She has to piece together the truth of who her mother was. Reconstructing Amelia was a mother reconstructing her daughter’s life. It’s really interesting to look at it that way. My kids were so young when I wrote Reconstructing Amelia. Now they are much older. I’m very excited about that.

Zibby: Is this called Deconstructing Amelia?

Kimberly: No. My first one was Reconstructing Amelia. This doesn’t have a title yet. I’m still working on a title.

Zibby: You take that one if you want.

Kimberly: I can. I think there might be a little confusion, but maybe it’ll be good.

Zibby: Part two. They do that with movies all the time, Back to the Future II.

Kimberly: Yeah, I’ll just call it a sequel.

Zibby: There you go. What are you most looking forward to on your tour at this time? Are you doing live events? Are you doing all virtual events? What are you excited about?

Kimberly: I’m excited about this, Zibby.

Zibby: Of course, right.

Kimberly: This was the top. I do really love this. I talked to Adriana Trigiani last night. I love talking to her.

Zibby: I love her.

Kimberly: I did some incredible events with some amazing authors this time. I got to talk to Lucy Foley and Greer Hendricks and Cristina Alger. Getting to talk to them was for Barnes & Noble and Amazon Live and then my launch. What’s fun when you’re on a virtual event with an author like that, it’s like no one else is there. For you and I right now, it’s just the two of us. It feels like just the two of us. That was really fun because it’s just like talking shop with a bunch of authors who I hadn’t known before or hadn’t had a chance to meet. That was a really great experience. I have a couple of in-person events. I did one at a library in Connecticut, which was the first I had done. I didn’t get to do any with A Good Marriage. I got to do my first in-person since whatever my last book was before A Good Marriage. That was incredible to get to see readers again and talk in front of them and hear them laugh and get to do that all in person. That was really special to go do that. Then I have one event at Litchfield Books in South Carolina, another live, in-person event. That’s fun to get to do those also.

Zibby: You should do a little care package with A Good Marriage just because it was during the pandemic. That book was so good. You should bring it out again. You always push the newest one, but it was really great.

Kimberly: Yeah, it was really great. The series is forthcoming. Hopefully, that will give it a chance to see the world in a different way.

Zibby: Awesome. I didn’t mean to say this book was not also great. I just meant if you could bundle it up.

Kimberly: Right, do a two-for-one.

Zibby: Exactly, something like that. Especially authors like you who can turn books quickly, it’s good to keep them in the rotation. That’s all.

Kimberly: Absolutely. It’s like your children. You don’t want your other children being forgotten, definitely.

Zibby: It’s true. Although, some days, I want to forget some of my children depending on what they do that morning.

Kimberly: That’s a good point. That is also true.

Zibby: Congratulations on the book, really exciting, and the adaptation and all of that. That’s so cool. Really excited to keep talking to you about all your great stuff.

Kimberly: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. Good luck with all your crazy — you have so much stuff going on. Good luck with all of it. Good to have you back. I know you were in LA, so it’s good to have you back. Looks like you’re back in New York, though. It looks like you’re in your New York apartment.

Zibby: I am, yes. It’s so crowed. Are you in New York?

Kimberly: Yeah.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, it’s never been so crowed. Maybe I’m just sensory overload. I can’t deal with the street. It’s people everywhere, and traffic.

Kimberly: We’re not used to it.

Zibby: Last year was so quiet here. There was no one here.

Kimberly: I know, because there was no one here. They’re all back.

Zibby: It was so nice. We’ll forge on.

Kimberly: Great to see you.

Zibby: Great to see you. I’ll talk to you later.

Kimberly: Thanks so much for having me. Bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

FRIENDS LIKE THESE by Kimberly McCreight

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