Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis first met in 2010 when they were up against each other for the RITA Award for Contemporary Single Title Romance (Higgins won). The women became fast friends, even though they often release books in the same month, in the same genre. Since then, they have teamed up in a number of ways—from cowriting a monthly column for USA Today to engaging in “man wars” on Facebook (read on—it’s best to let them explain). PW chatted with the authors about their friendship.
How did you become friends?
KH: In 2008 and 2010, we were both nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award, so I guess that was when we first made contact via e-mail. Sort of a “Congratulations”/“You, too” kind of thing. Somehow, we didn’t meet in person those years. Jill, were you avoiding me? Was it the bouquets of flowers I sent to your room? The engagement ring was probably rushing it, wasn’t it?
JS: The ring was gorgeous. It was the fact that you didn’t send cookies. [Romance novelist] Robyn Carr had included us both on a few e-mails, and I can remember that I was mad at you—not that you’d stolen two RITAs from me, but that you were tall. But then you made me laugh, and I forgave you. And we do have a lot in common, starting with writing romance novels, and ending with raising teenagers. Everyone needs a posse to see you through the trenches.
KH: I was newer to the writing world than Jill and didn’t have too many close writer friends at that point. By the time we finally did meet in person it was just a formality. And it was love at first sight.
JS: Not for me. I didn’t love you until you bought me cookies.
What exactly is “man wars” and how did it start?
KH: The first man war came about very organically. I knew Jill posted pictures [on Facebook] of good-looking men occasionally, and so did I, though mine were —and are—a little less... how shall I say this? Risqué? So one day, I posted a photo of Ryan Gosling wearing sunglasses, and the caption said something like, “See how classy this picture of RG is? Not semi-pornographic, like something Jill Shalvis would post.” And Jill immediately took the bait and posted a photo of Ryan taking off his shirt with the caption, “Like this?” Then I posted another photo, this of poor Ryan with his shirt all the way off, and the caption, “I think you were trying for this.” At that point, it’s fair to say that the Facebook universe went a little crazy. A bunch of people started posting stuff like “Kristan and Jill are having a Man War!” and that’s how it got going. And at the end of the day, they begged us to do it again.
JS: Turns out, readers like the visuals. Who knew?
KH: I think what they love the most is the commentary, the back-and-forth between Jill and me. It’s obvious that we both love each other and we both want to win.
JS: They also have no problem showing us the love by sharing our posts, and encouraging us, sending us entirely inappropriate pics of their boyfriends.
Have you seen any changes in sales since you started man wars?
KH: It definitely has affected our “likes,” but I don’t know that Facebook affects sales. It does let us stay in closer touch with our readers, and there’s probably some trickle-down effect from that. When we go away for a weekend of plotting, they love hearing about our misadventures—how I got lost in the lobby wearing my bathrobe, or how Jill’s face had a bad reaction to a mud mask I let her use.
JS: I think what we’ve sold to readers is a genuine chemistry between two authors. Readers love it when we go back and forth, which we do often, not just for man wars. I recently posted a pic of Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates in their mouths from the classic I Love Lucy episode. That’s me and Higgins, a modern day Lucy and Ethel, always looking for a good time and a way to share it with our readers. And they respond to that. I don’t know that it means they run out to buy our books, but maybe when they see us on the shelves, they’ll remember we made them laugh, and they’ll give us a try.
What is it like having another author in your genre as such a point of support? You are, in theory, supposed to be each other’s competition.
KH: I think of Jill as my friend first, and as an author second. I want only great things for her. What makes me happy is that people are embracing contemporary romance set in small towns—something we’ve both always written. The more people who fall in love with the genre, the better. We’re not doing this as a marketing tool. We also talk to each other about our kids and marriages and families. I do think people should be proud and supportive of their friends, in publishing and everywhere else.
JS: In general, the romance community is filled with successful, smart, fun, fantastic women, and there are many, many groups of friends like Kristan and me. We just happen to have no shame and are willing to share our adventures and shenanigans. As for competition, I think it’s fair to say that there’s enough to stress about in this industry. I think we’re far better off having the support of friendship than worrying about competing with each other. Shalvis’s latest book, Always on My Mind, was released on September 24 by Grand Central. Higgins’s next novel, The Perfect Match, is due out October 29 from Harlequin.