Zibby discusses BLANK with Kyle Owens

Zibby discusses BLANK with Kyle Owens

In honor of Zibby's pub day tomorrow (WOO-HOO!), we have a very special episode lined up: Zibby's husband, Kyle Owens, interviews her about BLANK! First, they reveal where the book's unique premise came from (they owe it to Zibby’s youngest son!), and then they delve into Zibby’s creative process. They also talk about character development in the novel, navigating reviews–both good and bad, the absolute joy of owning a bookstore and creating a beloved community hub in Santa Monica, and the experience of hosting this podcast!


Kyle Owens: Welcome to "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" with Kyle Owens this week interviewing Zibby Owens about her new book, Blank. Honey, how are you? Welcome to the show.

Zibby Owens: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Kyle: Familiar territory that you're in here. Maybe we should've actually switched seats.

Zibby: That's okay.

Kyle: I'm in the guest seat still, even though I'm the host. I think we're going to just dive right in and do some questions about Blank. It's all very exciting. Usually, I wing it. Today, I took a minute, and I wrote down a few questions and things I thought might be --

Zibby: -- That is so sweet.

Kyle: Just putting in the time, love. Putting in the work. Here we go. In no particular order. At what moment did --

Zibby: -- Now I'm like, are these even about Blank? Kyle has a track record of not reading books that he discusses.

Kyle: I did read this book. Well, to be fair --

Zibby: -- I read you an early draft.

Kyle: You read me an early draft of this book. I was thoroughly impressed. I remember where I was pretty much in every scene that we read or that you read to me. Most of it was in LA, I remember. Most of it was in our living room there. What's not to love? By this point, I would hope that many of you have read it or are about to start reading it and pretty much know the premise, so you know. It's genius. I love it so much.

Zibby: Thank you. You do take credit for the idea.

Kyle: That was going to be one of my questions. How did you come up with the idea? I already knew.

Zibby: But it really was not you. It was really the young lad in the house.

Kyle: It's hard to say that it wasn't me. I have a really great memory.

Zibby: You say that, but do you?

Kyle: I like to think I do.

Zibby: I know you like to think you do.

Kyle: A lot of people out there are like, he's got a pretty good memory. He remembers stuff. I remember birthdays. You know who you are out there, if you get a birthday text from me.

Zibby: Wait, why don't you tell how you think you came up with the idea for this book?

Kyle: I said something like, what if --

Zibby: -- In what context? Where were we?

Kyle: It's so outrageous. We were in New York. We were in a room where they say the magic happens.

Zibby: Which area?

Kyle: The bedroom. That's the bedroom. You've never seen Cribs, I guess. You were fishing around for some ideas. What if this? What if that? I just thought, what's really outrageous? What's an idea that would make you laugh and that you would just be like, ha ha, no? I said, "Why doesn't she just hand it in blank?" You were like, "Oh, my god, honey, that's genius."

Zibby: This is literally not what happened.

Kyle: This is exactly what happened.

Zibby: No. I was with at the dining room table.

Kyle: Okay. What did say?

Zibby: He said, "Why doesn't she just hand it in blank?"

Kyle: I love the idea of giving the credit for this. is going to be this incredible actor, producer, director, singer.

Zibby: We weren’t even supposed to say his name.

Kyle: We weren’t even supposed to say his name. We can edit his name out.

Zibby: We'll beep his name out.

Kyle: We'll beep his name out. Just give him the credit. He deserves it.

Zibby: Okay. We'll agree to disagree.

Kyle: This is all going so well. This is exactly how to do an interview. This should be a course on interviewing. Now this almost negates this question, but not really. Try to be serious about this, okay? These are really good questions that I think your fans are going to want to know the answers to. At what moment did you say to yourself, "This is the idea. This is the concept. These are the characters"?

Zibby: I think we've established when, perhaps, the two different versions of when I realized that this idea would be a great book. The characters, that was a harder one. I just started writing this woman, Pippa. I just tried to imagine what her life would be like. I thought it would be fun if she lived in LA because I'd like to be in LA all the time, even though I'm not. What would her house look like? What would her friends be like? I just went from there.

Kyle: That brings me to the next question. Which character in the book do you most identify with? Which character was the most challenging for you to connect with?

Zibby: I most identify with Pippa. It was the hardest for me to connect with...

Kyle: When you were writing it, you were like, it's a little difficult for me to write about this character or to get into the head of this character. Who was a challenging character for you?

Zibby: Maybe Ethan because I couldn't totally understand all his motivations all the time.

Kyle: That's interesting. That's cool. I always like to say there's a little truth in every joke. Would you say the same about novels in general? Is there any truth in this novel as well?

Zibby: I think there are emotional truths that pervade all novels because what connects us to other people and to readers are the shared feelings that we all have. Those can be true, how you feel when you're happy, when you're nervous, when you're with your camp crush, something like that.

Kyle: Camp crushes?

Zibby: Camp crushes.

Kyle: I think I've heard about a couple of your camp crushes before.

Zibby: Now is the time.

Kyle: I didn't even ask about them. Still not. Your podcast, which we're on, "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books," how has the success of that show changed your life?

Zibby: It has changed my life completely. The show has led to everything else. Without the show, I wouldn't have started the in-person events in the living room, which led to book fairs and salons, which ultimately led to Zibby's Bookshop because that's basically what goes on there every day. If it weren't for the podcast, I never would've met all these authors. I never would've learned so much about writing and the process. I knew nothing about it. I would've missed out on reading so many of these books. I would read a lot even if I was not doing a podcast, but here, I read competitively, essentially. I've had access to the best books. That's helped me become a better writer. It's led me to meet amazing people and start new businesses and start my own publishing company. It's led to everything.

Kyle: Absolutely, it has. Your life has definitely taken some major leaps.

Zibby: I might say our lives.

Kyle: Our lives, for sure, but this is a show about you here. With that being said -- I love that people say that. Your life has taken some incredible turns in the past few years, as we just mentioned. How has it been for you to adjust to working with and becoming friends with some of your idols?

Zibby: That has been one of the best parts. I just interviewed Anna Quindlen again this week on Monday or something. Maybe it was last week. Whatever. It doesn't matter. We have become such buddies at this point that she got on, and she was like, "You know, the first time, I didn't know who you were. I did this interview with you. We had a nice time. Now I feel like I'm hopping on the Zoom with an old friend." I was like, "I feel the same way." She sends me shoe suggestions. We forward each other stuff all the time. It's the craziest thing because I used to read her columns from early in her career and think, oh, my gosh, I relate to this woman, whoever she is, so much. I love what she's writing and the way that she's writing it. I kind of want to be this person. I love what she does. Then I loved her fiction and have just been following her career for so long. It is just as great as I had imagined. She's really awesome. It's great. Sometimes when you read their books and you're like, oh, we would totally be friends, turns out you actually would. You probably would be friends. A lot of people come up to me, and they're like, I feel like we're friends. We probably would be friends. We have a special cameo, actually, an interruption from the scheduled episode.

Kyle: This was the brilliant actor we were talking about.

Zibby: My younger son is here. Kyle thinks he came up with this idea. You think you came up with it. Tell us the story of when you came up with this idea.

Kyle: We need to set the record straight.

Child: I know I did it because I have a memory of doing it.

Zibby: Whose memory do you think is better, yours or Kyle's?

Child: Definitely, mine. It's mine. Since mine is better, I have a perfect story. This was two years ago, three years ago, maybe. We were on the rug on my floor. We had a carpet. Then we were sitting on it. We were talking about books. I said a really good idea. You said it was amazing. Then you changed basically everything.

Zibby: So we were just sitting there on the carpet, and all of a sudden, you said, you should write a book about a blank book?

Child: No, no, no. We were just talking about book ideas and book stuff. I said stuff.

Zibby: What did you say?

Child: I forgot, but my memory is really good. I remember it. My case is that I have a memory for it, and I can remember things better than Kyle.

Zibby: You think we were sitting on the carpet, and all of a sudden, you said something, and I said --

Child: -- No, we were talking about books.

Zibby: We were talking about books.

Child: Then I said an idea, and you loved it. Then you changed it.

Zibby: I changed it to Blank.

Child: No, it had something about blank.

Zibby: What was the original idea you had?

Child: I don't know.

Zibby: You don't know?

Child: I know I had one. I knew I had one.

Zibby: I thought we were at the dining room table.

Child: No.

Kyle: I feel like the truth is coming out here.

Child: No, no, no. I wrote it. I mean, I didn't write it. I came up with the idea.

Zibby: Okay. Goodbye.

Kyle: We love you. You're amazing.

Child: Thank you.

Zibby: That did not support my case.

Kyle: That did not support your case, no. We were talking about how your life has taken some incredible turns. You're now working with and friends with these authors that you've idolized for so long. I know you mentioned Anna Quindlen, but the list really goes on. It's really incredible and beautiful to watch, for sure. Getting back into writing, as a young writer -- I don't know if a lot of people know, but you actually published your first book when you were nine years old. Your grandfather had a mini press, book publishing company and published one of your books when you were nine. You've been writing forever. I know it's had its ups and downs and whatnot. I was just wondering, as a young writer, as so many are who listen to your show, was there ever a time when you thought about walking away or giving up that dream? It's hard to sell a book. Was there ever a time when you thought about walking away from it?

Zibby: After Off Balance was rejected when I was twenty-eight or something, it took me a really long time to get back to it. I did not try writing another novel for at least a decade. I wasn't sure I would be able to do it again. My heart was broken, but then I did. Then it got rejected again.

Kyle: We're glad you did. Speaking of the rejections and whatnot, once you became a published author, what has it been like? Obviously, you're doing so much more that people are commenting on. What has it been like for you to start reading reviews of your work or your art, for that matter? How has it affected you positively and/or negatively?

Zibby: The good reviews make my day. Really exciting. Make me very happy, elated. A lot of reviews come in through email because in the book, at the end, I leave an email address for me.

Kyle: You did that in Bookends. Are you doing that as well in Blank?

Zibby: Yeah. It's actually the same email from Bookends, but don't tell anybody.

Kyle: I won't tell anyone.

Zibby: A lot of people who read Bookends just used it again. They're like, I'm back, I've read Blank now, which is great. It's really fun. I get to hear from them directly, which is amazing.

Kyle: They're in the Zibby-verse now.

Zibby: They are. They're now in the Zibby-verse.

Kyle: They didn't even know it.

Zibby: They didn't even know it. The bad reviews are not fun to read. I'm really sensitive, so I try now not to read anything other than five-star or four-star review comments. I remember with you when we were sitting out by the pool --

Kyle: -- That's actually what I was just thinking.

Zibby: You read all the comments out loud to me about Bookends. They were so bad.

Kyle: They were so bad. It was funny, though.

Zibby: It was funny the way you read them.

Kyle: It was funny the way I read them.

Zibby: It was actually very depressing.

Kyle: It was depressing. Obviously, the way I read them was funny. They were just comical. People taking the time to write these horrible reviews, it was just crazy. It was a lesson.

Zibby: In not reading your own reviews.

Kyle: In not reading your own reviews and really just going for it and not letting that dictate. I know better than everyone -- I was going to say almost everyone, but I really do wholeheartedly know better than everyone how much work you put into this, into all your different companies that you have because I see the off-the-record hours that you're logging. I just want to know what motivates you to show up day after day after day and put in the tremendous amount of work that it takes to keep up the Zibby-verse, if you will, or Zibby Media or Zibby Books, Zibby Publishing, Zibby's Bookshop, "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books," your own books. What gets you up and gets you to show up every day?

Zibby: That's a great question, Kyle. I'll have to think on that.

Kyle: That's all I wanted out of it. We could just stop now.

Zibby: What motivates me? I think it's a lot of different things. One, I just happen to be a very driven, motivated person. It's part of my personality. It always has been. Two, I, like you, have had a lot of loss, and I realized in my twenties that life is short. It's not just something people say, but that at any moment, we could drop dead. You and I both had dreams last night -- I hate to even say it out loud to jinx anything. We both had dreams last night --

Kyle: -- Both knocking on wood here.

Zibby: Both knocking on wood. We both had dreams last night that we each individually died. I was convinced all day today -- I didn't tell you this -- that something terrible was going to happen.

Kyle: So was I. I was literally walking to that random soap store, and I was thinking to myself you were going to be like, I don't even know why he was going to that soap store. Then I was thinking, I'm the only one who really knows why I was going to that soap store. It was for soap, obviously. I guess people could've figured that out. They would've put that together.

Zibby: I'm like, okay, turns out we might die today. You know what? I didn't change my behavior at all. I did all my emails. I confirmed all my tour events. I went to the event with the kids at temple. I did all the stuff that I would've done. Basically, I live every day --

Kyle: -- We were at your bookstore in Santa Monica last weekend. You were interviewing Joan Collins. She said something that really stuck with me, which is, live every day like it's your last, which people say all the time, but how she ended that was, because someday, it will be. I've been thinking about that lately. Someday, it will be. Just go for it. Say yes to everything. Just enjoy every minute, which brings me to my last question. It's almost sad because this has been so fun.

Zibby: But it's almost sad, you said.

Kyle: Well, there are sadder things.

Zibby: You mean, we could just keep talking and turn the microphone off.

Kyle: We will, I would imagine. I would hope so.

Zibby: We might.

Kyle: It would be sad if we turned the microphone off --

Zibby: -- And that was it.

Kyle: And we didn't talk for the rest of the night, which is also a possibility. I just wanted to know a little bit -- it is now February 2024, so it has been one year since you've opened Zibby's Bookshop in Santa Monica, California. Take your fans through a year of a dream come true of owning your own independent bookstore and how cool it is. Take us through the year real quick.

Zibby: It's almost good that it's in LA because I don't totally believe it.

Kyle: We're in New York most of the time.

Zibby: We're in New York most of the time. Then I go out there, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, this is so amazing. No, I'm kidding. I do a lot of work on email and calls and all of that to help run the store and everything else I need to do for it. It's such a dream come true. It's just crazy. I remember one time we went straight from the airport to the store and didn't even get to the house until eleven. You said something like, "We haven't even been home all day." I'm like, "I feel like I have been home all day." When we get there and I go to the store, I feel just as at home, almost. I try not to wear a bathrobe or something, but I feel just as at home at the store. I love it. I love being surrounded by books. I love having so many amazing authors come to the store. I love when readers come in. We recommend books. Then they read the books, love the books, come back for more books. It's just amazing. It's also just an honor being part of this whole ecosystem of writers and publishers and bookstore owners and this whole little mini universe out there that keeps stories pumping out and keeps books being printed and being lovingly wrapped up in tissue paper and taken home and unwrapped like the gifts that they are. I am just honored to play even a tiny role in all of that.

Kyle: I do love that you wrap the books in brown paper bag wrapping paper.

Zibby: It's called craft paper.

Kyle: Is that what it's called?

Zibby: Craft paper and twine.

Kyle: It's super nostalgic. It gives it this small-town bookstore vibe. It's just so wholesome.

Zibby: What is it like for you with our lives changing so much? When we got together, we had time for SoulCycle.

Kyle: I think it's really about just evolving and embracing and enjoying it. Change is the only constant in life. Our lives are ever-changing, but what's nice is we're together. We're changing together. We're evolving together.

Zibby: You have your own company that you've built up at the exact same time.

Kyle: Not at warp speed like you. We're both at the same goal of just trying to share stories with the world. For those of you who don't know or who are not on Instagram or have been to Zibby's store, there's a mural on the side of the building that you had custom painted. It says at the top of it, "Stories are best when shared." I firmly believe that. My goal is to, obviously, be sharing stories through film and TV. Yours are through books, whether it's your own books or the books that you're publishing. It's really beautiful. I'm really, really proud of you. I'm your biggest fan, even though there's all these fans out there listening. I'm your biggest fan. I love you. I just can't wait to see where it goes from here.

Zibby: Buckle our seat belts. Who knows what's coming next?

Kyle: Buckle up.

Zibby: Buckle up.

Kyle: You can get Blank at Zibby's Bookshop.

Zibby: You can. You can get signed copies of Blank at Zibby's Bookshop.

Kyle: Wow. I'm sure you'll be doing an event there at some point soon.

Zibby: You're going to be there, I'm hoping.

Kyle: God willing.

Zibby: March 21st. I hope it's in your calendar.

Kyle: I will be there. Come down and see me. We'll take a selfie.

Zibby: I'll be doing lots of events all over the place. You can go to any city, pretty much.

Kyle: All over. Come to any city at any time and find me. Thank you so much for letting me guest host. Thank you for being such an incredible guest here on "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books" with Kyle Owens filling in for the Zibby Owens.

Zibby: Thanks, honey.

Kyle: Thank you.

Zibby Owens, BLANK

BLANK by Zibby Owens

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