Zibby reads the first chapter of BLANK!

Zibby reads the first chapter of BLANK!

As we anxiously wait for Zibby’s debut novel BLANK to hit the shelves this Friday, March 1st… we’re bringing you an exclusive preview! Tune in to hear Zibby read the first chapter of her book and fall in love with Pippa as she navigates family, friendship, success, and exhilarating self-(re)discovery! Oh, and don’t forget to order your copy!


Zibby Owens: Hi, listeners. Oh, my gosh, today’s episode is about Blank. In fact, this week is going to be a little bit self-serving because I am so excited to finally have a novel out into the world. I am hoping that the collection of episodes coming next will be exciting to you as well. I have different people interviewing me and talking about books and all of that. I thought that I would start this week off by reading you the first chapter of Blank. If you have not read it on Amazon First Reads and you are waiting to get your copy this Friday, March 1st, I will give you a little preview so you can get a little bit ahead. Also, if you haven’t signed up, I have book events all around the country, which I know is crazy, but I’m going to try and do it anyway. It kicks off this Thursday night at the Bedford Playhouse at seven PM with Annabel Monaghan. If you live anywhere near Bedford, New York, there are still some tickets left. Come and do that. Also, in New York City on Friday I’ll be with Arianna Huffington at Girls Write Now, which is a nonprofit and is amazing. It helps encourage literacy in younger girls from underprivileged backgrounds. That is Friday. Then Sunday, I will be at Newtonville Books right across the street from the store at a place called Thistle & Leek where I will be in conversation with Hanna Halperin. I am going to be signing books all over town. Then on Tuesday, I will be at P&T Knitwear downtown in New York City. Those are my first few events. If you can, come to one of those. I will keep you updated. Here’s a little preview of Blank. Ready? Chapter one.

“Mom, look!”

“Zoe? Are you okay?”

It was the middle of the night and I’d just woken up to a cell phone being shoved in front of my face. Great. Now I’d never fall back asleep. Well, at least I could start writing early.

“I told you they were getting together! See? I knew he didn’t like me.”

“What time is it?” I struggled to sit up in the dark.

“Look! See his hand on her back?”

“Whose hand?”

“Just look!”

I fumbled for and grabbed my reading glasses off the stack of books on my bedside table, slid them on, and looked at the Instagram post of two canoodling teens. When the kids were little, I was sure my sleepless nights would soon be over for good. Not a chance. At age fifteen, Zoe still seemed to have no grasp of the distinction between night and day and the fact that other people needed to sleep. Or maybe she just didn’t care? Plus, now that they could sleep, I couldn’t. Aging is so much fun.

“Okay, fine. Yes. It looks like they’re together.”

She gasped.

“It looks like they’re together?”

“Yes. Isn’t that what you wanted me to say?”

“NO! I wanted you to tell me I was being crazy, that Todd was still into me.”

I sighed, tossed my glasses on the books, and fell back on my pillow.

“I can’t win. Why even ask me? I think I told my mother about literally one boy I liked at your age.”

“Well, I wouldn’t tell Gee-Gee anything either.”

My mother, Joan, was a character, deeply consumed with her own mishigas. She was perpetually clad in Palm Springs mid-century-modern caftans, ice clinking in a lowball glass as she wandered from room to room. Her two chihuahuas were always scampering after her, my stepfather, Seymour, not too far behind.

“Could the two of you just be quiet?” Ethan groaned. “Zoe, no one’s ever going to like you and you’ll die alone. Is that what you want us to say?”

I pretend-smacked Ethan. Perhaps a little too hard.



“Zoe, he’s kidding. But go back to bed. Please. Get some rest, sweetie. You have school tomorrow.”

“Fine, but I’m commenting on this post so the two of them know I know.”

“Look, if this guy isn’t into you, he’s a moron,” Ethan said. “You should just move on. His loss.”

Now that my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I could see Zoe stomping out in her favorite tie-dye T-shirt and influencer-famous joggers, twisting her long, stick-straight light-brown hair into a messy bun. Usually, she wore giant sweatshirts (all styles were inexplicably referred to as “hoodies”) to hide her petite, athletic body. The swooshing sounds of outgoing text messages trailed her down the hallway.

“We should take that phone away,” Ethan mumbled.

“Mmm,” I said, pulling the covers back up. “You’re right.”

Ethan rolled over and was snoring again within seconds. How is that even physically possible? I glanced over and saw the top of his familiar, faded blue-and-white-striped jammies, worn almost translucent over the years. He refused to replace them. Why waste money?

His formerly thick, wavy brown hair was now infused with a few shocks of gray and was thinning, not that we could ever acknowledge it to each other. I just kept sweeping the hairs off the bathroom floor, the pillows, even the toilet seat. After seventeen years together, I knew which “buttons” of his to avoid pushing. His blue eyes, now closed, were paired with seriously long and highly enviable eyelashes that our son, Max, had inherited — along with his dimples. Not that Ethan had smiled much lately.

I sighed deeply, my eyes open like a cat in the nighttime even though I knew I should be sleeping. I knew it; I was wide awake and it was only 3:14 a.m. I scanned the ceiling for cracks as I went back to worrying about my book.

My novel was three years overdue. Years! How could I possibly follow up Poppies with something I was proud of? Poppies, my debut novel about an heiress forced to navigate the 2008 housing crisis by selling all her Hermès purses and uniting a tribe of underutilized women, had been an unexpected bestseller. And then it was made into a film and won an Academy Award. For best sound mixing, yes, but whatever. Poppies had become a cult hit among a certain social set, and in Hollywood currency, I’d made it.

“A slam dunk from a debut author,” claimed Vanity Fair. “Pippa Jones is the voice of a generation!”

Sales sped along, women toting their Birkins to readings, tittering about the plot in their book clubs for which they each bought two copies because why not? It was enough for my book to earn out its admittedly meager advance and start paying me “royalties,” a few cents for every book sold, which really added up. It added up enough, that is, for me to finally pay for highlights instead of dipping into Ethan’s savings from his career as a child actor, a rapidly draining pot. (Ethan had told me long ago that “his wife going gray” wasn’t something he’d be “cool” with, despite the dwindling strands atop his head.)

My longtime literary agent, LeeLee, had been thrilled by the success of Poppies. At least, I think she was thrilled. Her face didn’t move that much with all the fillers. When she smiled, she looked like some sort of frozen fish trying to escape from a net. A blonde net. Not that it mattered, because I almost never saw her in person. She definitely sounded happy when she called from her vintage Saab to tell me Poppies had hit The New York Times bestseller list, called (“the list”). But my bespeckled, tattooed New York editor, Sidonie, had been truly over the moon from day one. She’d dreamed of it being optioned and made into a movie starring one-name celebrities I’d never heard of.

“Sireneuse! Mayhew! Persephone!”

May-who?! When did everyone get so young and famous? Sidonie and her wife, the Australian guitarist Jade, had sat in the front row of the premiere.


But now the dust had settled. After the movie left theaters, my publisher, Driftwood, basically forgot about me. One of their other titles had been chosen as a big book club pick, and the third book from one of their beloved thriller authors was coming out. Yes, my hit was great. But it was a single. I hadn’t proven myself with a home run yet. And, apparently, it wasn’t enough to keep their eyes on me.

But that’s what happens in publishing. Today’s darling quickly becomes tomorrow’s doorstop. And those authors whose books came out and barely sold, forget it. Of course, many of those overlooked books are amazing. Spectacular, even. Like a lost child at a crowded festival, a debut novelist could simply disappear, blending in with the background. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that talent didn’t equate success, that some wildly popular authors weren’t the best at their craft, whereas some gifted novelists sold, like, two copies of their book. To their parents.

Poppies disappeared from the list like a one-night stand slinking out the door the next morning, still buckling his belt. The fireworks had dissolved into mere clouds of smoke. All the excited emails from Brittany, my publicist, had stopped coming in, except for a few errant newbie podcasters throwing their hats in the PR ring.

“Never say no!” Brittany advised.

Nobody cared about Poppies, or me, anymore. They were on to the next big thing. Hot summer reads! Lily Opum’s new novel! The film adaptation of The Grasshopper! I was yesterday’s news. Not even. Like, last decade’s news. Unless I could write myself back into the narrative, I was destined to be a one-hit wonder. I wouldn’t have minded as much if we had, well, everlasting financial security. But with Ethan’s theater producer job not exactly bringing in the big bucks — there are, like, three plays a year in LA — and with my writing stalling, it was tough paying two private-school tuitions and everything else. I mean, I guess I didn’t have to send them to private school. The advance on my new book from years ago? Poof. I’d used it to turn the kitchen pantry into my writing office.

Thanks to Ethan’s residual income, we could lead our very privileged upper-middle-class life, but we were toeing the line constantly, spending heavily on all the trappings seemingly required of it (Summer camp! School auction! Vacations!) that hit us hard. We didn’t have endless reserves like many of our peers, and despite how fortunate we were, there was always an undercurrent of tension. My writing income helped, but one book wouldn’t cut it to maintain this lifestyle forever. When would it run out? And what then?

I turned onto my side and curled into a ball, my arms hugging my knees to my chest. My eyes were wide open like I’d just had a jolt of epinephrine. Should I read? And, wait, what was that on Ethan’s pillow? I inched closer to his side, propped myself up on my elbow and examined the many hairs that had taken up residence on his pillow. The hair loss must be killing him. And yet he was plenty happy weighing in on my hair color. Really. The nerve! Honestly, I didn’t care. I just didn’t love the whole double standard thing. And yes. Those were his hair alright. He looked so sweet when he was asleep. If only it would stay that way.

Tossing and turning wasn’t helping anything. I was just getting more anxious.

Okay, time for a quick Instagram check. What was everyone else up to? And how was my account doing? Or rather, accounts. I imagined throngs of women my age underneath the covers in the dead of night, scrolling mindlessly. Many of us used to be up at this hour nursing, comforting crying kids, depositing errant dollar bills as tooth fairies. Now we were all awake, our kids out cold in messy rooms down the hall, our minds spinning, hormones toying with us. “Oh, yeah, you think you can sleep now?” they taunted.

I’d started doing something else, something secret, salacious, and totally time-consuming. I’d launched an underground Instagram account documenting the hidden parts of luxurious houses on the market in LA. That kind of writing I could do easily. Captions! Pithy! Fun!

Like Ruth Reichl was for restaurants — anonymously dining in disguise to review the latest hot spots — I was the undercover real estate whisperer. If there was an open house in the LA area, I was there. Taking pictures. Posting. Adding funny comments. Real estate brokers often joked about “me.” I’d even been called out on the hit reality show Brentwood Brokers. One real estate agent said to other, “I hope @openhousebandit doesn’t strike again. I need people to love my new listing!”

I’d watched that episode on the couch next to Ethan, who was busy on his phone the whole time, and exclaimed, “No WAY!” pitching forward to get closer to the screen.

“What?” Ethan had asked, not looking up.

“Nothing, nothing,” I had said, sinking back. But it was amazing. I just smiled to myself and kept watching, pulling the cozy cream chenille blanket on top of me. If only I could monetize that without revealing my identity.

For whatever reason, I loved sneaking into stranger’s homes, trying to figure out their stories. My old therapist would’ve had a field day with that: searching for a home given my own fractured family.

But boy, was I a sucker for wallpaper. Turned out I wasn’t the only one obsessed. My 710K followers watched my every move. I didn’t tell anyone it was me. Not Ethan, not my kids. Not even Kelly, Gabriela, and Josie, my three best friends from college. We still talked all the time and got together once a month for virtual book club. It was the only thing that made me feel like me when every other part of me was wrapped up in being a wife, mom, daughter, nonwriting author, and former big deal. Who else was I? Apparently, a witty, luxury-home connoisseur who could spot a four-bedroom with space for a powder room from a mile away.

That was the first chapter. What do you think? Did it make you want to keep reading? I hope that you will all preorder — well, now order Blank because it’s coming out on Friday. I hope you will go to your local independent bookstore and ask them to get some copies so you can buy one and go pick it up. It is worth the wait. When we authors sell books at independent bookstores, it helps for so many reasons, including giving us better relationships with those indies and having more faith in us. Go to your local indies. Request the book. You can also order it online from wherever. Get ready for a fun week of Blank episodes. Only a few days left until launch. I am freaking out.

Zibby Owens, BLANK

BLANK by Zibby Owens

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