A Journey through Books: An Interview with Kristan Higgins

Exploring Inspiration, Emotions, and the Power of Reading

PHOTO: Bestselling author Kristan Higgins opens up about her reading habits, emotional connections, and literary inspirations. Get ready for a captivating journey into the world of books with a touch of humor and heartfelt moments. Kristan Higgins, photo by Declan Keenan

Join us for an insightful conversation with bestselling author Kristan Higgins as she shares her reading habits, emotional connections, and literary adventures. Discover the books that move her and the stories that have shaped her writing journey.

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her books have sold millions of copies around the world and are translated into two dozen languages. Kristan has been praised for her mix of “laugh-out-loud humor and tear-jerking pathos,” which the author attributes to a diet high in desserts and sugar-based mood swings.

Kristan’s books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, Kirkus, the New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, National Public Radioand Booklist.

Kristan is the mother of two ridiculously good-looking grown children and the grandmother of the world’s cutest baby. She lives in Connecticut and Cape Cod with her heroic firefighter husband, a rescue mutt and indifferent cat. In her spare time, the author enjoys gardening, easy yoga classes, mixology and pasta.

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

I tend to read dark, domestic thrillers…the type where the wife is plotting to murder her husband, and then he turns up dead, but she’s not actually the killer. Does this say anything about my own marital state of mind when writing? Let’s not look too hard at that.

I generally avoid reading my own genre while writing a book because I tend to have “plot envy” and curse myself for not coming up with the idea the other author has so beautifully created. Once I’m done with my first draft, however, I throw myself into a pile of all those books I’ve been avoiding and read till my eyes cross.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

I want the full human emotional experience. If at all possible, I like to curl up into fetal position at least once during a book, laugh till I cry and scream out in frustration. That’s not too much to ask, is it? But that’s why we read—to experience another life with its full range, and hopefully, to be inspired by that character as they struggle and triumph.

What kind of reader were you as a child? 

Voracious. When things were difficult at home, I would climb a tree with a book. When things were happy, I’d curl up in our seldom-used living room and read (and hide from my chores). I’d read in the car, even though it made me carsick, and I’d read while sitting on my horse. At one school, I read every book in the library before the end of the year. I was an awkward, shy kid, and reading was a portal to another way of being. It’s fair to say that without books, I wouldn’t be the person I am.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Sometimes I’m quite proud not to have read a Great Work of Literature, simply because the author has offended me (Ernest Hemingway, for example, and his propensity to write about men raping women without consequence). I never read On the Road by Jack Kerouac because I thought the premise was self-indulgent and boring. I think Moby-Dick could’ve lost a couple hundred pages, but that being said, if I ever have to slaughter a whale, I’ll know exactly how to do it.

The book I’m most embarrassed not to have read in its entirety is the Qur’an. The only things I know about Islam is second-hand. I’ve read parts of it, but not the whole thing, and given how influential a religion it is, I feel like I should know more.

What do you plan to read next?

The Starfish Sisters by the great Barbara O’Neal. She has never written a book I haven’t loved.

Cape Cod Sunset: Several of my books are set on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a 60 mile peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic and is famous for its seafood, pristine beaches and fantastic views. Though I’ve spent much of my life there, the beauty of the area never fails to move me. I take thousands of pictures of sunsets, sunrises, the ocean and the sky. I then send those photos to my children, who are, I’m quite sure, thrilled to get very single one.

Kristan at Bryce National Park, Utah. My husband and I love to travel, especially to national parks (truly the best thing about being an American). The stone towers of Bryce Canyon are called hoodoos, which means “to bewitch,” which they certainly do.

Shark attack: Being serious in public is not one of my character traits. Lauren and Josh spend a summer on Cape Cod in PACK UP THE MOON, and which is the setting for several of my other books, including Fools Rush In, Out of the Clear Blue Sky and A Little Ray of Sunshine. The Cape is noted for having a healthy population of great white sharks, and there’s a special thrill in seeing the purple shark warning flag go up at the beach. Not to worry…only two people have ever been killed by a shark on Cape Cod in all of recorded time. Which doesn’t mean I’m not always on the lookout.

Reviews for PACK UP THE MOON…

“Moving and life-affirming.” Starred review, Booklist

“Higgins is a master.” Starred review, Kirkus

“Outstanding.” Starred review, Publishers Weekly

“This isn’t just a book. It’s an experience.” Goodreads review


A scene in which Joshua Park, newly widowed, goes to the mall to buy some new clothes, as instructed in a letter from his late wife.

“What are you looking for, Joshua?” 

He had no idea how to answer the question. “Just…everything, I guess.” 

“No problem! What do you like? This is quite…cheerful.” He gestured at Josh’s shirt, garish with red and yellow swirls. Cargo pants. Birkenstock sandals with socks. 

Somewhere, Lauren was laughing. It almost made him smile.

“Whatever you think,” Josh said. “I don’t have the best taste in clothes.”

“Thank God you said that so I didn’t have to pretend.” Radley grinned. “Okay, let’s get started.” He began plucking things off the racks, a few shirts here, a sweater there. “These pants are really on trend,” he said. “You can cuff them to be extra hipster, if you must. I’d French-tuck this shirt, maybe add a grandpa sweater. Here, why don’t you start trying things on, and I’ll grab some more stuff.” 

Josh closed the dressing room door behind him and looked at the mirror. Lauren had coached him in dressing once they’d been dating a little while, but he’d reverted to his old clothes since her death. They predated her, and somehow it was easier to wear things that weren’t attached to her memory. 

He pulled on a pair of cotton pants in a shade of orange—coral, Lauren would’ve said—a blue t-shirt, a blue- and yellow- printed button down.  

With his haircut, and the new outfit, he didn’t look like the hermit genius workaholic with no life, as he used to be, or the stunned-stupid mouthbreathing widower he’d become.

He looked like the guy who’d married Lauren Carlisle. He looked like her husband.

The pain hit him in the stomach, and he bent over. A keening sound came out of his mouth, and he tried to cover it. Tears rained out of his eyes, and his chest was crushed by the grief.

“Joshua? Are you okay?” came the salesperson’s voice. The door handle jiggled. 

How was he supposed to live without her for the rest of his life? Josh’s knees gave out, and he sank to the floor, clamping his arms over his head.

The door opened, and Radley stood there, a key in his hand. “Oh, God, you are so not okay. What can I do? Should I call 911?” 

“My…my…” He could barely choke the words out. “My wife…died.”

“Holy Mary. Oh, man.” Radley sat on the little bench and put his hand on Josh’s shoulder. “How horrible.”

It was so embarrassing, crying here, almost funny if it weren’t so utterly, wretchedly awful. He was full-on sobbing now, his arm across his face, tears soaking into the unpurchased shirt. He didn’t want to look like Lauren’s husband. He wasn’t anymore. He had no right to look like Lauren’s husband. He didn’t deserve to, not when he’d failed her. 

Don’t be a loser.

Her voice was so clear his head jerked up to see if she was there.

Of course, she wasn’t. He choked on another sob. He was a loser. That was the problem.

“Can I try this on?” asked a bearded guy, holding up a shirt.

“Can’t you see he’s having a crisis?” the salesperson snapped. “Some compassion, please? Come back tomorrow, and I’ll give you forty percent off.”

“I’m sorry,” Josh managed. 

“Don’t apologize. Here.” Radley—Ripley?— handed Josh a bandana. “Wipe your face, you poor thing. I’ll lock up.” 

Not cool, breaking down like this. His hands shook, and his ribs hurt from crying. He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and when Radley came back, he was under control again.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t see that coming.”

“It’s totally fine,” Radley said. “How long has it been?”

“Three months.” 

Radley nodded. “Listen. Do you want to get a drink or something? The mall closes in ten minutes.”

“That’s…that’s really nice of you, but you don’t have to..” 

“I know.” He smiled. “I’m sure you have tons of friends to lean on, but sometimes a stranger is easier.” 

“Your hair is really cool,” Josh said. Why? Why say that? (But it was.)

“It takes forever, but it’s worth it, right?” Radley said, waving his hand over his head. “Come on. Let’s go get a mangotini or a scotch or something.”

It beat going home to a lifeless apartment and grieving dog.

“Okay,” Josh said. “I’ll take everything, by the way.”

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