Writing a book is an incredible undertaking on its own. But writing a book with your partner? NEXT. LEVEL. Throw in themes of sex and office politics, and you've got Mr. Nice Guy, the brand new book by Jennifer Miller and Jason Feifer. We talk to them about the book on the eve of its release.
How did the idea for the book come up?
JASON: When I was in my 20s, a young sex columnist emailed me asking for writing advice. We traded emails for maybe a year—totally professional, never sexy. But being in touch with this woman gave me an idea for a novel: What would happen if two people slept together each week, and then critically reviewed each other’s performance in a magazine?
JEN: Jason told me the idea when we were dating, and I encouraged him to write it himself. He tried but just couldn’t get anywhere. Then many years later, after I sold my second novel, he suggested that I write a new book based on his idea about the sex columnists. “Let’s do it together,” I said. A book about two people who sleep together, by two people who sleep together—it seemed perfect.
(credit Karim Mustafa)
What did you learn about your partner while working on this book together?
JEN: I learned that my husband is really good at writing about sex!
JASON: Ha, that surprised me too. And I learned just how much of real life Jen puts in her novels! But I will neither confirm nor deny specific details from the book…
The book really centers on brutal honesty & feedback in the bedroom. What advice do you have for those who don't have a magazine column but want to communicate hard (no pun) feedback?
JASON AND JEN: Soften it! (Maybe pun?) Good, constructive sexual feedback should never put a person on the defensive. Feeling inadequate is never sexy. Instead, frame the feedback as what you need, not what they do. It’s the difference between “you’re not doing that right” and “I really like X; can you do more of that instead?” I mean, everyone wants to please their partner but nobody’s 100% sure what the other person wants. So, explain it! The more you reveal about what you want, the more you’ll get it.
The characters in our book do the exact opposite of this. It doesn’t work out well for them. Be glad you don’t have a magazine column where you publicly blast your sexual partners.
What book on your nightstand will you never finish?
JASON: But What If We’re Wrong by Chuck Klosterman. I love the premise, which is about how we can never predict the future. But it’s too dense to get through.
JEN: Wolf Hall. [Cue the gasps of millions.] I know, I know.
Print or ebook?
JASON AND JEN: Print, in theory. But let’s admit it—we both look at devices a lot more than we look at print. (And Jen has a Kindle.)
Night owl or early bird?
JASON AND JEN: Left to our own schedule, night owl. But we have a three-year-old, which has forced us to face the morning.
Best book you've read this year?
JASON: The Saboteur by Paul Kix, about a French resistance fighter in World War II. It’s riveting and real and a great insight into how people become heroes. JEN: May Cause Love by Kassi Underwood, a compelling and beautifully written memoir about a young woman reckoning with (and ultimately embracing) the aftermath of her abortion.
If you could get Mr. Nice Guy into the hands of one person, who would it be?
JASON AND JEN: Sarah Jessica Parker. No question. We’ve heard a billion times that Mr. Nice Guy is like Sex and the City for 2018, so any association with her would be magic. Also: Mr. Big vs. Mr. Nice Guy!!!