Zibby is joined for a second time by Laura Hankin, the author of ONE-STAR ROMANCE, a wickedly smart rom-com about a struggling writer who has to walk down the aisle at her best friend’s wedding with the man who gave her book a very public one-star rating—which, by the way, happened to Laura! Laura delves into the novel’s deeper themes of evolving friendships and the challenges of creative pursuits and then talks about the highs and lows of her own career. She and Zibby also discuss anxiety-inducing Goodreads reviews, Laura’s writing journey during pregnancy (and morning sickness), and the viral TikTok video that inspired this novel.


Zibby: Welcome, Laura.

Thanks so much for coming back on Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books to discuss one star romance. Congratulations. 

Laura: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me back. 

Zibby: Listeners, you can't see this, but we're basically wearing the same exact sweater, but in a different color. And we look really funny with our books behind us and our brown hair and our sweaters and like books about writers and all this stuff.

So it's pretty awesome. Yes. Anyway, twins. I was just saying before we started how much I'm loving this. It's so smart and funny, which is no surprise because I've read your other books and this is just what you do. But, you know, this is hitting more close to home because of all the writing stuff and all of that.

Um, although the mom playgroup thing was also hitting close to home. I think you'll just have to, you're just like going to follow my life. I'll tell you what I'm doing like in five years or something.

Laura: I was going to say, am I just like lurking behind every corner writing down the thoughts that are going through your brain?

Zibby: Yeah. Yeah. You left some sort of camera last time you were here or something like that. 

Laura: It's all a long game. 

Zibby: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Picking off now with One Star Romance. Tell listeners what your book is about and where you came up with the idea. 

Laura: Yeah. So One Star Romance is about a struggling writer who has to walk down the aisle at her best friend's wedding with a guy who's given her book one star on Goodreads.

And, you know, although this maid of honor and best man would rather never see each other again, they are then forced back into contact over the next decade through their 20s and 30s as, like, each time that these best friends of theirs celebrate a new life milestone event. And I came up with the idea because I had to walk down the aisle at my friend's wedding with a guy who'd given my book one star on Goodreads.

Zibby: No, stop. 

Laura: Yes, it's true. It's true. Although we did not fall in love. And my husband has been like, please tell people that that's not me. And I would never do that to you. How did you realize that? Like, how did that, how did you? Well, because it was my first book ever and it was a small printing. And so I think at the time my Goodreads page was mostly full of like friends and family writing nice reviews.

And so I hadn't yet realized that like, For your own mental health, perhaps you should not go on your own Goodreads, because you could just come across the most, like, devastating thing ever that will Rookie move. Rookie move. Yeah, yeah, exactly. I was a rookie, and I was stalking my Goodreads page, and I saw this one star come in, and the name attached to it, I was like, wait a minute.

Isn't this, you know, the guy that I'm going to be like, made of honor, best man? I guess he had just, he had bought the book to like support me and then didn't like it and didn't really realize that his Goodreads profile was public and was just trying to like keep track for himself. So it was not malicious at all.

But of course, at the time, being a young writer, I was like, how dare he? 

Zibby: Well, that's really bad. That's bad. So, did you find out Give me the real life story now. When did you find out that he did this and did you confront him about it? 

Laura: I found out before the wedding. I think it was like, you know, months before the wedding.

It wasn't like the day of. And I was like, I'm just gonna be So pleasant to him when we hang out at this wedding because I'm going to rise above it. So I didn't say anything to him about it until 

Zibby: Okay, good. Here we go. 

Laura: The reception, obviously, there had been some drinking. I'd like done my little toast and on the dance floor, I think some of the other bridesmaids were like, do it.

Do it. Say something. And so on the dance floor, I was like, Hey, what would you rate my speech? But I don't actually think that he heard me in the dancing sweaty crowd because he was sort of like, what? And then I was too cowardly to say anything else and just kind of danced away.

Zibby: I mean, is he still like good friends with the friend of yours who got married?

Like, is he now reading this book? I don't know. 

Laura: Uh, I have not like stayed in contact. You know, this was years ago. But still, this is one of your friends, right? You got married. It's true. It's true. I'm not sure what this guy is up to. And, you know, like this character in this book is not based on him at all.

I know. I'm sorry. I know. I know. And he's like, oh, I'm sure a wonderful guy who I barely know. No, I know. this guy in the book is now is a romantic hero. 

Zibby: That's right. I was like, this guy is actually quite likable in the book. So yeah, he's really funny. And you know, their banter from the first interaction, like, I love that.

And I was actually being like, wow, this is so good. Like, sometimes I pause and just think, Someone is writing both sides of this conversation, you know, because both sides are like really witty, like when you watch two people talk, but like in a book, I mean, it's just, it's like a magic, magic trick. Really?

Anyway, and I almost wish I, you didn't have to like market books and put the copy and all that stuff because it doesn't come right away that this is what's going to happen. And it does come as a surprise, even though it's because it's like, it's not in the first couple of pages. Like you don't get to it till like, I don't know.

Yeah. page 70 or something, you know what I mean? Like, and then, wait, it couldn't be, right? It's not really him. 

Uh, because you already like are rooting for them to get together at the beginning. 

Laura: I know that it is the funny thing about having to market a book, like you've got to put your fun stuff right up front, but also in a book you like build things up a little bit.

Yeah, I'm sure you've brought for this yourself. 

Zibby: Oh, but I mean, I could still suspend just at one point. I actually like flipped over the back and I was like, maybe it isn't about the one star read, you know, because this is just like a fabulous book about writers and, you know, creatives and academics. I have to just read some of these hilarious passages.

And oh, I mean, is that okay? Could I just read? Of course, yes. I'll sit here while you read my words. Funny things about writing and all that. Okay, well, first of all, this is like a heartfelt, really awesome thing about writing when Natalie is describing sort of why she writes. And she was saying part of it is, For recognition, not prizes, she says, but she said there have been moments when I've read something in a book that feels like it was written just for me, like the author reached inside my brain, took all the thoughts I didn't know how to express and put them into a perfect paragraph.

And in those moments, I felt so utterly connected to a person I didn't know that it made me think, yes, the world can be hard and people can be awful to each other, but there is also such beauty in the fact that we can recognize each other like that. I want to be able to give that feeling to other people.

And then he says, Well, then screw any MFA program that wouldn't want to give you the chance. Wow, that's good. Who wrote that? It's really good. It's really good. And I feel like so many writers will relate to that. And readers will relate to that. I mean, it's It's the best feeling. It's the best part of when you read something and you feel so seen, or you write something and someone else feels seen.

It's like the greatest. It's the greatest part. 

Laura: Yeah. Oh my gosh. I, yeah, I have books on my bookshelf right here that are just like underlined, you know, with like, I can't believe that this author, and some of them are so old too. You know, it's like, I can't believe that this author a hundred years ago, or a hundred years before I was even born, like, knew how to say this thing that I'm feeling right now.

Zibby: Totally. I was just, I did this event with the Irma Bombeck writers workshop or whatever. She was writing, like, So long ago, and it's all the same stuff, you know? It's like, yeah. We don't change that much over time. Not as much as we like to think.

Laura: Right. 

Zibby: Like, oh, well, arranged marriage in the, you know, 1800, or like, I don't know, I'm sure it was different back then.

No, it wasn't different. Nobody wants to be married to somebody they don't like. 

Laura: Yeah, still the same feelings. Oh, yeah. Even if all the conventions are different. 

Zibby: Not to say there aren't. You know, arranged marriages today, but anyway, but this book not only does all of the inside writing stuff, but also the, the humiliation, not humiliation, but the having to go through being a maid of honor and all of the stuff that comes with it and the competition among other people.

And like just the humor and all of the pain is basically this book, right? 

Laura: Yeah. Well, one thing that felt really important to me with this book is that I wanted to write a romance, but I also wanted to write about This friendship and how it changes over the course of a decade when you know one person is like moving along this track of getting married and getting the job promotions and having a baby and buying a house and the other one is trying to do this creative career and it's not immediately working out for her and she just feels very lost and so you know how do these people who love each other so deeply and have been so connected how do they like maintain that same level of love and care for each other as their paths just start to diverge and diverge and diverge, starting with the maid of honor.

Zibby: Especially as you mentioned, the friendships in younger life, right? You're like common law married to your roommates and everything. I mean, it's, it is a very intense bond when you're that age and living with someone. Like we don't do that now. We don't just like live with our friends. Like we go on a retreat and it's like, Oh my gosh, that was a lot of time.

Laura: Yeah. Yeah. But when you're 24, which is, you know, how old Natalie is at the start of this book. And then it goes till when she's 34, it feels like inconceivable that suddenly your friend could be like, Oh, I, I don't want to live with you anymore. I'm actually going to go live with this guy instead. 

Zibby: My gosh.

I remember being in a wedding in Costa Rica. One of my girlfriends was getting married. One of the first ones, although not that early, but still we were so close. And I remember just like crying in my bridesmaid's dress in the bathroom because I just felt like I was losing her. Like that, that would be it.

And I, it was devastating and of course she's not lost and we still like we live across the country we text all the time but you know there's just something like some some sense of loss when a close friend gets married. 

Laura: Yeah and it i mean it does change your relationship even if you are able to still be there for each other like it it's not going to be the same as it was when you, you know, shared a crappy apartment and like, could just fall asleep in each other's beds all the time.

But it also feels like it's selfish or immature to like express that sense of loss, and so you do have to go cry in the bathroom and not let anybody see you. 

Zibby: Otherwise it's just selfish and terrible, and I really did want her to be happy, and I'm delighted she is happy, you know. 

Laura: Yeah, yeah. But then also I think sometimes there's the panic too, if, if they are moving faster than you are, there's this panic of like, what if I never find somebody?

And then like all my friends one by one leave me in this way, and then I'm just alone. And how do I learn how to be okay with that? And I think. You know natalie has to kind of Learn how to be okay with that before she's able to be ready for this love that maybe has been there all along. 

Zibby: Maybe, don't give it away. Let me just read this part like Connor took her this is her the boy she was dating man Whatever, manchild, I don't know, whatever.

She was dating at the beginning of the book, but not for that long. And she described it like this, Connor took her to literary salons with his friends from his writing program. Natalie tried to network, but Connor's friends were terrifying. If they found someone, particularly a writer, lacking, they immediately knew the perfect devastating sentence to expose that person's deeply uncool core.

God, there were so many ways to like all the wrong things in this world, weren't there? Was there anything more pathetic than than having bad taste. Oh my gosh, you're so funny. Thank you. Oh, this was good, too. I'm mad. Sorry. No, you're making me feel great. Thank you. No, just when you publish a novel and you're talking about people's reactions to it, and of course, all the stuff with Goodreads and all of that, and how she had found the novel.

She said her novel was real. She'd found it in a bookstore on publication day and burst into noisy tears. But then you said, so it's kind of anguish to let people know, Nat replied, he and Gabby had come to her book launch and sat in the front row whooping. As far as Nat could tell, though, neither one of them had gotten a chance to read the book yet.

Gabby had started it. She'd texted Nat after the first page that she was madly in love with it already. But then she'd fallen off. Well, she'd had a wedding to plan. Maybe she was saving the book for her honeymoon. Natalie was learning that you couldn't force anyone to read your novel. The people you thought would be the first to read might drag their feet, while your mother's friend's aunt, who you'd met once, would email you a week after it came out with a detailed recap of her thoughts.

So funny. It's almost like in grief, it's like you just don't know who's gonna come out in support and who's gonna disappoint. It's like any big milestone, in a way. 

Laura: Yeah, yeah. And it's kind of, it's a beautiful thing sometimes when you're like, Oh my God, this person who I never, Thought would have connected with it this way totally did and like I had such a strong response.

That's lovely Even then sometimes as your anxiety be like, why didn't this person read it? Do they hate it? And does that mean or you know, did they start it and hate it? And does that mean that they hate me too now? 

Zibby: Yes, I mean you can't be a writer without constantly running into your monologue or else you wouldn't be able to write anything, right?

Therefore you are most susceptible to the, all of those, you know, all of the self doubt and, and the rest of it. So, and the observation.

Laura: Yeah. That's why Goodreads can, you know, is such a fascinating thing, right? Because it's like you, have all these writerly anxieties and you want so deeply to connect with people, um, or you know, make readers feel something.

And there is this like magical website on the internet where you could go and you could see like just how much your work is touching other people. But the price that you have to pay is that you could also read like the most casually devastating review that will like ingrain itself inside your body forever.

Zibby: So true. I read like a podcast review once And I like cried. I cried like all night because most of the podcast, I mean, what are you gonna say? It's like a conversation. Do you know what I mean? Like, I mean, it's not, you know, it's not like a book. It's like, anyway, I was like, how could someone be that mean?

And I just like cried and cried. And I'm like, I'm not supposed to cry. It's just one person and you don't know what they're thinking and feeling. You know, but, like, Natalie, it's like, you don't feel like that. 

Laura: Yeah, in the moment, you're like, this is ridiculous that I am having this response, but also I can't help it.

Because in real life, like, you know, nobody's going to walk up to you and be like, I find you stunningly boring and pedestrian, which is, you know, not coincidentally, the first one star review that I ever got on this team, word for word, but yeah, like, it's just, we don't say these things to each other. In real life, but we say them on the internet.

Zibby: Yeah, it's like, I know it's a, I know books are a product, but they are a person's innermost thoughts and art and working in any way. Yeah. 

Laura: Oh, but then, you know, it's like, The, the small price that we pay for getting to like, do this amazing job and readers of the course should be able to say whatever they want about the book and like, that's great too.

And so we have to just be like, okay, maybe this is not for me and I just need to remove myself from this. Did you make sense? But it, it takes time to, one, learn that, and two, have the self control to do that. 

Zibby: What if people think it's, what if people ironically, like, give this book one star? Do you know what I mean?

Like, maybe there's, like, you can't let that happen. People think they're being funny like one star romance. Here's the one star. 

Laura: One star. I know. The hope is that there'll be like one star more like five. Yeah. Like, yeah, of course there's the possibility that it'll go the other way too. 

Zibby: Like I should have listened to the title.

Have you talked to anybody at Goodreads? Like are you, cause you're You give them a lot of airtime, you know, it's a marketing thing for them. 

Laura: I think my publicist is like reaching out to them, but we'll see. Obviously, they have a lot of books to feature.

Zibby: I know, but still, not a lot. Okay, well. 

Laura: Look, Goodreads, if you're listening, if anybody on Goodreads is listening to this podcast, would love to work with you.

Zibby: Yes, you should do a thing. They should like sponsor an event for you or something, you know? 

Laura: Oh my God, that would be great. 

Zibby: It would be hilarious. What, what is your launch event? What are your touring plans and all that? 

Laura: Yeah. So I am doing my launch event in Washington DC where I live at East City Bookshop, which I just love.

It's my neighborhood shop. And like every single person who works there is just the most wonderful, passionate bookseller. And so I'm really excited for that. And then I'm coming to New York and I'm going to do the Rift Bodice on June 21st. So I can't wait for that too. And then, you know, I. I have a baby now, so I'm like, maybe, yeah, surprise.

I have a baby. So I perhaps am going to go to fewer places than I might otherwise, you know, last time I went out to LA this time, it feels a little bit harder to coordinate that kind of thing. So I think for the moment, those are my two events, but I might, I might add on a couple more. We'll see. 

Zibby: Well, if you want to do an event ever at Zippy's Bookshop in Santa Monica, please feel free.

We would love it. It's so fun. I love this book. 

Laura: Thank you. I loved visiting it when I was out there last time. 

Zibby: Thank you. 

Laura: It's a great store. 

Zibby: Yeah. Amazing. So, how long did this take to write? Did you just whip this out or, like, tell me about it? 

Laura: I would say that, like, the first half of it, well, first of all, the outline came quite naturally to me.

Well, okay, let's rewind a little bit. I, you know, had told this real life anecdote for a while without ever thinking that it could be a book, just as, like, a funny thing to bring up at parties and stuff. And then I actually made like a TikTok where I told the anecdote and it blew up a little bit in the comments.

Everybody was like, where's the rom com? Get on it. So I knew that I wanted to write from this general premise, but I couldn't figure out Like, okay, so they, you know, have this interaction at this wedding over this book, but what then? Um, and it took me a little while to realize, oh, actually, it's going to be all the life events that their friends are going through over this decade.

But then from there, the outline came quite naturally to me because it's like, we've all been to all of those life events, right? So it was like, okay, here. Engagement, wedding, you know, job promotion, prisoning, et cetera. And the first half of the book poured out of me pretty naturally. It was just like so fun and joyful to write.

And I think I, I've never written a romantic comedy before, but I've always wanted to. And I've always snuck little romantic comedies into previous books as subplots. And then I got pregnant and. Was having like severe morning sickness and fatigue, and it was right around when I was getting into the slightly more challenging sections of the book to write, like when things get more serious, and then I was trying to, you know, write a love scene, and I was like, be careful guys, you know, this could happen to you, you could get really sick, so the end took a little bit longer, but, uh, I ultimately finished it and sent off the final edit and about a week before giving birth.

Yeah, that was the process. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. Well, that's really awesome. Do you have another book in the pipeline? 

Laura: I've mostly been on maternity leave, but I am, I'm coming back now and like figuring that out and working with my editor, who I love, but nothing to share yet. 

Zibby: How old is your baby now? 

Laura: She is eight months.

Aww. Yeah. She's amazing. 

Zibby: Congratulations. It's amazing. Thank you. Yeah. So great. Well, what advice do you have for aspiring authors? 

Laura: I think my biggest piece of advice is recognize that nothing is going to be perfect immediately. You know, like don't think that just because your first draft isn't good means that you are like doomed because perfect is the enemy of done.

And like, you can fix a bad first draft, but you can't fix nothing and you're gonna have to fail like as in this book. You know, you're going to have to fail before you can succeed, and it'll probably make you a stronger writer if you fail. Oh. Embrace that. 

Zibby: Yeah. 

Laura: Oh well. 

Zibby: And maybe just, you know, make sure not to give people mean reviews.

Laura: Yes. Not to everybody, but you know, people that you know. 

Zibby: People that you know. People that you might walk down the aisle with. Perhaps. Yes. Amazing. Well, Laura, congratulations. Really awesome. A lot of fun. 

Laura: Thank you so much. 

Zibby: Yeah. Congrats. Awesome. 

Laura: Thank you. 

Zibby: All right. Take care. Bye.


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