11: Juliet & Keith Giglio (co-writing comedy)

Danielle Krage interviews Juliet Giglio and Keith Giglio about their co-writing process. This includes for their delightful rom-com novel, The Summer of Christmas. Plus their next book, The Trouble With Tinsel (out this autumn).

Juliet and Keith also share so many practical tips from their numerous screenwriting projects, taking us behind the scenes into what it takes to write a really great Christmas movie.

They also dig into some of the key concepts from Keith’s craft book, The Comedy Blockbuster, and how they apply them.

It’s a fun conversation, stacked with hard-earned tips and advice for comedy writers.

You can find out more about Juliet and Keith’s work here:

https://jkgiglio.com

https://www.instagram.com/julietagiglio

https://www.instagram.com/keithgig

CLICK HERE FOR TRANSCRIPT

Danielle Krage:

Today, I am very lucky to have Juliet and Keith Giglio with me. I know them from their super funny book, The Summer of Christmas, which I actually read out loud to my husband while we were driving around in the car and both of us loved it. It was so much fun. And also from Keith’s book, Writing the Comedy Blockbuster. We’ll dive into both of those shortly. But before we do, Keith and Juliet, is there anything else that people should know about you and your connections to creating comedy?

Keith:

Oh, wow.

Juliet:

We love to write movies, and we’ve written a lot of comedies. Most recently, a lot of Christmas movies, which are very funny because Christmas is a funny time of year.

Keith:

Yeah, but if you wanna make people laugh, tell them you’re writing with your spouse. And,

Juliet:

There’s usually a long pause there, and then they laugh.

Keith:

I remember I said that to somebody, and someone says, you know, O.J. Simpson’s working on a screenplay with his wife.

Danielle Krage:

Wow.

Juliet:

Too soon.

Danielle Krage:

No not too soon. I am going to ask you about the co-writing process, because it’s super fascinating to me, but just so people can get a bit of a sense of your work, I’d love to know, for The Summer of Christmas – your novel, which I read and thoroughly enjoyed – how did you clarify that central concept. I know a lot of people ask writers where they get there ideas from, but for me it was such a strong concept, there was so much play in it, that I thought, oh my goodness, if I saw that concept, I would want to write it, even though rom-coms are not my genre. So what was your process like to make that central concept so strong? And maybe tell us a little bit about the concept as well, for those who haven’t read it.

Juliet:

Prior to writing The Summer of Christmas, which by the way was our debut novel, but prior to writing that we had written four Christmas movies. And so whenever we have a Christmas movie in production, we always go to the set.

Keith:

So the first time we went up to a set was in the middle of summer and it was in Connecticut. And we’re walking around, we’ve got to report set the next day. We’re just walking around Mystic, Connecticut, and suddenly we’re in this little village and why is there snow on the ground? And then we start following the snow.

Juliet:

And we saw these big sheets of cotton rolled out and we saw the rooftops they were putting cotton on. And one of the fun things that was in that movie was an ice rink and I had falsely assumed that they were going to get a real ice rink and have real ice and in fact it was all completely fake.

Keith:

So we wandered onto our set thinking oh this is cool, look someone’s dressing up for Christmas not realizing it’s our movie.

Juliet:

 And so we started to realize what a fun thing it is – it’s like a circus when these movies come to town – and so many of these Christmas movies are usually filmed in small towns because that’s where the story takes place. And so we thought it’s fun when this happens and what fun to create a story that was all around the making of one of these movies which we’d observed so closely four different times.

Keith:

It’s not fun watching actors melt in a Santa Claus costume. But it’d be a tragedy if I was melting in the chair. That’s the difference, the company happens to someone else. So watching people dress up in winter clothes, and it was like 80 degrees is just… It’s movie magic.

Juliet:

So that’s where the idea came from. And we also knew, we know the world obviously of being a screenwriter and the struggles of trying to break in. And we’ve been to Sundance and a lot of what’s in the book, we’ve actually, most of what’s in the book, we’ve experienced ourselves. And that’s sort of how we came up with the concept. And we pitched it to an agent. She loved it. And then we pitched it to Sourcebooks. And they love the idea as well. Yeah. We got to write the book without, before we actually had to write, but we got to sell the book without having to write it. Well, eventually we wrote it. Yeah.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, which is but that really speaks to the strength of concept. And the juxtaposition of the summer and the Christmas, and the movie set and the real, it’s just so fun. There’s so many fun comedic games packed into that book, and it read extraordinarily well out loud. It was just a pure delight.

I wanted to ask you about the characters in the book too because I think you handle a really big cast superbly. Yes, you’ve got the key players, but I felt like all the periphery characters were so well drawn as well. So I’m very curious as to any tips you have for writers who want to be able to do that.

Keith:

Oh, wow.

Juliet:

Well, we sort of created them the way we would if we were writing a screenplay. And one thing we always do when writing a script is we try to make every character very distinctive and completely different from the other characters so that they’re really set apart. And we try to give them each their own goals. Like they each want something. And then a lot of times they’re diametrically opposed with their goals. So that creates humor and it also makes them all stand out.

Keith:

Right. But their comic personality is kind of born out of what we see in other people, what we see in ourselves. You know, I’m kind of a little bit of a hot head sometimes… and what are you?

Juliet:

Tell me what am I? I don’t know.

Keith:

I’m not getting down that road. The Griffin character was because we’ve spent time around movie stars and when you spend time with movie stars and you see their world, and when people put a camera in their face. And I said, Oh, that’s interesting. What would that be like? And then we saw, I remember being in Sundance and packs of young girls running around the streets because they heard rumors that One Direction was there.

Juliet:

Harry Styles. They were looking for Harry Styles.

Keith:

They were running everywhere. They said, what’s going on? Harry’s here. Oh my God. Boy, he wasn’t there. I looked for hours. He was not there.

Juliet:

Take off your One Direction shirt now.

Keith:

Yeah. Great.

Danielle Krage:

So it sounds like you’ve got super rich material to work with from everything that you’ve observed, which is phenomenal. But you also, as you say, you’ve got that real screenwriter’s eye for how to nail that down really specifically and really quickly, which I really admire. So I can see a lot of the strengths of your screenwriting prowess in the novel. I wondered though, if there’s anything on the flip side, that surprised you or that you found super challenging. I read tons of screenwriting books, but I’m actually writing fiction myself.

Keith:

Okay.

Danielle Krage:

So were there any challenges in writing your first novel that you weren’t expecting or that you bumped up against?

Keith:

Oh, yeah.

Juliet:

There definitely were, you know, there’s a big difference when writing a 100 page screenplay and a 300 page book. So just the sheer…

Keith:

The book is three times as long.

Juliet:

He’s good. You’re really good

Danielle Krage:

Excellent maths.

Juliet:

So just the sheer volume. And one thing we did to cope with was we outlined extensively. And a term that we’ve recently learned from novelists is you’re either a, I think a pantser or a prancer. A plantser or a prancer. We’re the planters. I think that’s the word.

Keith:

I’m hearing this for the first time.

Juliet:

No, no, no, we heard this…We did, we did. There’s the planters, like the people that try to plan out everything in their book. And that’s very much what we do in screenwriting. And then there’s the prancers who just like, well, I’m just going to start writing and see where this goes. So when you’re writing with a partner, you can’t do that unless you want to sit down and write every chapter together,  which we said no thank you. So what we did was outlined heavily and that part was doable.

But then once we got into writing the chapters. This is where we both of us did become a little bit of a prancer because we discovered things. And I remember writing one chapter and suddenly creating a new character. And I had to call Keith over and say like, by the way, we created this new character of the caterer, JB. He’s going to have a love story. And you need to continue that in your chapters, because we figured out what everyone’s writing. And then you did the same thing.

Keith:

Yeah. I can’t remember which characters, but, and then it knew it was going well. We both kind of added the same thing in different chapters. I thought we needed this beat, we needed this beat. And we’ve done this so long together that it was learning new rules and then breaking new rules and then kind of figuring out a different writing style. You know, how to put the…

Juliet:

That was the challenge because in screenwriting, you try to write really leanly. Because you’re the blueprint, you’re the beginning, but then you’re going to have a production designer that’s going to come in, that’s going to figure out what are the textures of the room and the colors, and you don’t have to include that.

And likewise with the actors, so much of the actors, they’re going to do the emotions and you don’t need to put that into the writing. In fact, you would be insulting them if you did. Right. That would be considered overwriting. So those are the things we had to learn how to do, that was a challenge.

Keith:

So to me, the two differences is very simple. You have a father in the backyard and he throws a baseball or any ball to his son. And in a novel, as the ball sails in the air, the father throws a baseball or any ball to his son. He remembered the day his son was born, blah, blah, blah. And that was the day his wife stole all his money, blah, blah, blah. And that was the day his girlfriend left him also, right? And about five pages later, the ball falls and hits the kid in the head, right? That’s what happened. In a movie, throw the ball, hit the kid in the head. All that other stuff is backstory.

Juliet:

Right, because you can only write what you can see in a screenplay, whereas you can’t. In a book, you’ve gotta go way beyond that. So I think that was a challenge for us.

Keith:

I think a lot of characters are their own worst enemies, especially in comedy. And so you can really get into their rants. They’re, uh, I’ll call them mind rants. It used to be comic rants in a movie, but when you get lost inside your own head, which I often do, and it’s hard to get out.

Juliet:

And you can do that in a novel, which is really fun. You can really get into the rant.

Danielle Krage:

I really appreciated that. And I thought you did such a good job of doing that. Like I really felt the characters. I felt their anticipation of things and their reaction to things and what they wanted. And I felt all those things, but it also still continued to be really propulsive. Because when I do read books out loud, which I frequently do when my husband and I are on road trips or whatever… Some novels really, they just can’t stand up to being read out loud. Like you can’t

manage five pages of baseball memories without my husband groaning and yawning.

Whereas your book was such a great balance. I was really caring and rooting for the characters, but also having that propulsion that you’d want in a movie. So I really appreciated that. And I thought you managed both brilliantly.

Juliet:

Well, thank you.

Danielle Krage:

I’d love to ask you about your co-writing process.

Keith:

Are all the weapons away?

Danielle:

Yeah, I’ve only worked collaboratively in groups, but I’ve never written extensively with one person. So I’d love to know how you make it work for you.

Keith:

When the dog walks out of the room, we’re getting too intense.

Danielle Krage:

Okay.

Juliet:

He’s a wimp. He leaves. He’s not even here right now.

Keith:

Wow. How can we do it? It’s…We don’t argue as much as we used to.

Juliet:

Well, you know, what really helps us. It’s Google Docs. That was like the magic tool for us. And we are both on our own laptops. We can both be on the same Google Doc. And when we were breaking the story, that’s where we spent a lot of time together. And it’s always really fun because Keith can write something and then I hit backspace, backspace, backspace and like delete it. He can do the same thing to me. And I think that’s been really helpful for us in terms of just breaking the story and, and going ahead of each other, coming back, catching up.

We also use a giant whiteboard. If we were in our office right now, you could see this huge whiteboard and we’re able to have index cards on it. We have magnet boards. We spend a lot of time breaking the story and talking out loud.

Keith:

So the chapters in Summer were longer than our next book, but that’s where we came from, from carding out movies, writing movies, breaking the story. We always do that together. Scripts we tended to write back and forth together because it’s an easier process and I think you have to dig deeper when writing a novel.

Juliet:

It would be impossible to write together. I mean to write on the same chapter together. Oh yeah. And it’s always really fun when I get to read Keith’s chapters. And then so what we do is we had this Excel document and we outlined who was going to do what chapter. So we had I think 40 chapters, we each did 20 and it was like every other, every other. So I would finish mine, he would finish his. We’d give each other ours, we’d edit each other’s work, and then we would go on to the next chapter. Right. So that was really fun to do that. And our family, they were all joking. They would tell us, I think I know who wrote what chapters. That’s so wrong.

Keith:

And they were so wrong.

Danielle Krage:

They would just assume I couldn’t write the guys stuff and Keith couldn’t write the girls stuff.

Keith:

But having been raised by herds of women, I can write the girls stuff. Once in a while I get it right. Most of the time wrong.

Danielle Krage:

Do you have different writer strengths, do you think? Or have you both been in the business long enough now that you’ve had to kind of round those out and you both have a full skillset?

Juliet:

No, no, Keith is much funnier. I think we have different strengths. So I think you’re, you’re much funnier strength. And I think I’m, I think I’m good with, I don’t know. What am I good at? Setting up the funny. Setting them up. I’m really good at setting up a joke. and then he takes it home. And a lot of times I know I’m doing that because I know he can just slam it home, which is really great. And then I’m-

Keith:

Now the pressure’s on to say something funny.

Juliet:

I’m much more analytical and I like to look through things the whole way through, but Keith’s really good in the moment.

Keith:

I just, yeah, I just have a weird sense of how the world works. And I’ve tried to write other things. I’ve tried to write other genres and- What a mess that turns out to be. It’s really bad. It’s really bad. But I’m decent at…I just love comedy. I love comedy movies. So just have this kind of, not Rolodex, this internet base in my head. It’s like, okay, oh, that’s fine. It’s fine.

Juliet:

He would admit to me that when we would go into meetings, because we lived in LA for 20 years, and we would do a lot of meetings and we would be in meetings and I would be paying attention. I’m a good student. And I’d be paying attention to what we were talking about. And if we were bringing a story or analyzing, they wanted to know what we thought of a certain book… meanwhile, Keith would admit to me later that he was coming up with a joke in his head, that he knew he could check out. I was carrying that part of the meaning. But I also knew that he could bring the big laugh, which made us memorable. So I think that’s why we are a good partnership. And we laugh a lot.

Danielle Krage:

That’s fantastic. And enough that you’re going to, or you’re already part way through or have finished your second book.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Second book’s done. Should I go get it?

Danielle Krage:

Yeah,

Keith:

Go grab it. (playing to camera) I do all the work. She does nothing. I’ve been carrying her ass for so long.

Danielle Krage:

Oh, that’s so hard.

Keith:

We never intended to write together. I was gonna write thrillers. I had one optioned. And Juliet was gonna be a film studio executive. She’d probably be running a studio now, buying my scripts. But no, and then she said I wanted to write a… We wanted to write something together. And I had Disney interested in that idea. And so we wound up writing that together. And then that kind of got us an agent and that got us a career going. And then, yeah,

(Juliet holding book up to screen)

Keith:

There is it is.

Danielle Krage:

Ta-da!

Keith:

That’s me. This was a little autobiographical.

Danielle Krage:

The Trouble With Tinsel,

Juliet

So this is the second book. That’s coming out October 3rd. This is an advanced reader’s copy. I love it because it says, what could be more magical than a Hollywood Christmas? Anyway, so this one’s a lot of fun. And two of the characters migrate over to this book. Yeah. From I wouldn’t call it a sequel, but two characters that we know and love from Summer of Christmas.

Keith:

Yeah, but you know, you have read the first book. You could jump right in. It’s just we got lazy. Didn’t want to invent another character. So we just borrowed one from ourselves.

Juliet:

But the main characters….

Keith:

The main characters are new

Juliet:

…and kind of us.

Keith:

It’s kind of based on a screenwriting team that broke apart and now have to come back together. And at one time after our second daughter was born, we decided to stop writing together.

Juliet:

It got to be a lot to have two kids.

Keith:

So I took an office outside the house. I wound up producing a movie called Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff at that time. And life was good. And then… We had, I had a meeting with Sylvester Stallone talking about this big dramatic bootcamp idea. Again, I’m not good at writing that stuff. And he must have sensed that. He goes, well, I know you. I go, you don’t know me. He goes, yeah, I read one of your scripts. And the script, there’s a script Juliet and I had written together. So next week I come back to the meeting with Stallone…. He’s like, no, I don’t wanna do that bootcamp idea. I wanna do that idea you wrote with Juliet. So, I gotta get Juliet. Where were you at the time?

Juliet:

I think I was out hiking the mountains with like a mom’s group.

Keith:

Yeah. I said, you have a meeting with Stallone tomorrow. So we go have this meeting. He loves the project, but he gets some other job instead. So that never happens. But like most things in my life, when I’m in a room alone, I’m okay. When I’m with Juliet, people like us a lot better. And the studio offers a two-picture deal from that.

Juliet:

So I was pulled back in. There are some things that are loosely based on us, which is a lot of fun. And I think we had the hang of writing a novel too.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah. And was there anything different from a craft’s perspective or that you’d gained from doing the first book that made it easier, or was there conversely, was there anything that just made it trickier? Because sometimes people talk about the second pressure, like the pressure

of a second novel. How did you find the process?

Juliet:

We were writing the second book before the first one had even come out. So we didn’t have to think about what people thought about it. We were just writing along and very happy about that. So I think it was easier to write the second one. But then we did a bigger rewrite on it and we really tried to put in all the extra feelings that you have in the books and more of the colors and the nuance.

Keith:

We like to think like when we were parenting we got better each year.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah.

Keith:

The first five years… what a mess, but they seem to recover.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah. They won’t remember it’s all good. No, I love that. And do you, when you’re writing it, do you have in mind then turning it into a movie or are you just purely thinking of it as a book? For example, did you end up casting it in your head who you’d like to play it?

Keith:

We had an idea of turning Summer of Christmas into a movie, but then when no one wanted to at the moment, we just took it as a book.

Juliet:

You know, to answer your question though, I would say no. When we’re writing the book, we’re purely thinking about the book. And we’re not even thinking about how could this be a movie or who we’d cast in it.

Keith:

It’s kind of more liberating that way because we have such a…we’re still writing, you know, Christmas movies.

Juliet:

We’re still writing screenplays. So when we write the script play, we’re very much thinking about who could be in the movie. Right. Obviously, because it’s a script. But not with the book. And I think that was healthy and it was really good for us.

Keith:

Yeah, that was a nice new recognition because we always start like oh, write a book, sell the IP, write the script. And now it’s like, well, the book’s the book. We like the book for being the book.

Juliet:

And if it sells later in a couple of years… you know, it seems like books either sell right away –  they sell to like a movie company. But even when they do, if they get optioned, they can still languish for years and years and years before it gets made. And very few books go right from coming out to getting made the next year.

Keith:

So it’s no longer our ambition. We like writing the books and we like writing movies.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, I love that. And what do you think people underestimate about the skill it takes to write a Christmas movie or to write a rom-com? Because I have so many different conversations with different people. And sometimes I get the impression that people think… like with pop songs that is easier or it doesn’t take the same level of skill. Whereas my own personal opinion is that whatever genre you’re writing in, whether that’s thriller, horror, rom-com. It all requires the same level of skil. The same as it takes massive skill to write a pop song, massive skill to write a country song. What do you think people underestimate about writing Christmas movies or rom-coms?

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

I think everyone, because they can be kind of fun and light, people assume that they’re not hard to write. But there’s a lot of skill to it and there’s a lot of layering and you’ve got to set your characters up, you’ve got to have plants and payoffs. I think it’s just as hard. In some ways, it’s harder to write a Christmas movie because there are already so many cliches and tropes. And how do you push beyond that? How do you make it fresh? Whereas… I guess thrillers still have tropes too. But I think that is the challenge, and I think people assume it’s easy, but it’s not. Just like any good screenplay, it’s gonna take 10, 15 drafts.

Keith:

Right. It takes a while, you gotta do the work. And then you have your, you know, our role models, like we are writing movies, you know, Nora Ephron, James Brooks, and for novels, I’ve been a Nick Hornby fan since I read my first Nick Hornby novel. So I love Hornby and I love Tom Perrotta and I love Jonathan Tropper.

Juliet:

He’s bringing up a good point though. Whatever you’re writing, you need to read a lot of that genre. So when we’re writing screenplays, especially when we were breaking in, we, and this was pre-internet, we would go to the library and we would just read screenplays.

Keith:

The Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills. Which has all drafts of all screenplays. It’s really fascinating.

Juliet:

Hard copies and we always tell students…. If nothing’s going in, nothing’s coming out. And ever since we started writing novels, we started reading a lot in the genre in which we’re writing. And that’s become very, very helpful.

Keith:

Yeah, trying to figure out how it works.

Juliet:

And if I could recommend to anyone how to become a better writer, I would say to listen to books like what you’re doing. Because I think when you listen to the book, the audio books, you can hear it, and you hear the cadences and you can’t rush it. You can’t jump ahead. You’re forced to listen to every word you start to understand what it is you need to do in terms of how to put words to paper. And I think that’s helped a lot. But definitely with screenplays, I tell students, and I used to do this, I would read 10 pages of a screenplay each day before I would sit down to write, because it gets you in the proper head space. Writing a screenplay is very different from writing a novel. And so that’s important to do. And most people have read novels, but they haven’t read screenplays.

Keith Giglio:

It’s not the form. It’s like reading the back of the book and not reading the book. Yeah. And now we’re just reading. We’re both reading a lot of books.

Danielle Krage:

I love that. And I love that in Writing the Comedy Blockbuster that the first section takes us through that history of comedy, with loads of film recommendations to watch. I really appreciated that. Because I haven’t been lucky enough to study on your courses with you and have that kind of education. So it was really great for me to go on that tour. There were so many movies that I hadn’t seen… because you kind of watch the movies in the era you grew up in, or I watch the things that are streaming now, that I really enjoy. But for giving me that kind of overview of where things came from and how the decades worked and what things linked to, that was super helpful too. So I highly recommend checking it out.

Keith:

Movies are so reflective of the zeitgeist of what’s going on.

Danielle Krage:

I don’t think I realized that quite so much until I read those chapters actually. Looking back, I was like, that makes so much sense why those were the kind of comedies in the 80s, the 90s. I don’t think I’d quite put it together until I read your book that way.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Yeah, my parents got married and went to a movie. They loved movies. They went to Love is a Many Splendid thing. And so growing up, that was it. That was our church, movies. I remember seeing everything. I always loved the comedies. I remember, what was it? Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time. And I’m like, oh, I like that. I like that kind of tone. I’m like, I don’t know. Well, the world, it’s a sad place sometimes. I just, if I can help

make people smile for five minutes, like the one joke, I’d be happy. Yeah.

Juliet:

That’s how we feel about writing the Christmas movies because Christmas is a stressful time of year. Or I should just say the whole holiday season. And these movies help to lighten people’s loads, which is a really nice thing.

Danielle Krage:

It is, oh, I feel all happy and sad at the same time thinking about that kind of feeling. It’s lovely and I think it takes a lot of skill to be able to kind of generate those feelings. And I think it’s such a gift to give to audiences. Like you say, I hadn’t put it together with how stressful Christmas can be and what a pleasure it is. And sometimes that’s the movie that brings people together to watch together as whatever combination of family there might be. So I really love that.

I wanted to ask a couple of things from the book, Keith, and I’m sure Juliet you’ve also incorporated it into the way that you approach the writing as well, which is the inappropriate goal,

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Yeah.

Danielle Krage:

Which I just think is such a great shorthand. It’s so helpful, no matter what I’m writing in comedy, to think about that. So I wondered if you wouldn’t mind letting us into that concept a little bit.

Keith:

Yeah, I remember when I was teaching a lot of comedy and comedy writing in LA, I just kind of came up… You start thinking about every comedy has some inappropriate goal, you know, getting drunk to get girls, doing this, doing that. It’s just… renting out your… Billy Wilder’s apartment, you know, Jack Lemmon renting out the apartment so he can get ahead. It’s just wrong. It’s an inappropriate goal. And kind of always made me laugh.

And I studied a lot of writing…. big Neil Simon fan, so I was reading about that. But just, you know, studying all the books on comedy, the Comic Toolbox and stuff like that, the inappropriate goal always seemed to kind of just stick in my mind. Because you always go to… characters go on journeys. And so it’s the comedic hero’s journey. And it’s just like, we shouldn’t be going for this.

Juliet:

And what I remember when you were working on the book, you were pointing out that it always seemed to happen in R-rated comedies.

Keith:

It happens all over, but mostly R-rated comedies, but it does happen. I’m trying to think of a PG. Daddy’s Home. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Two guys fighting over shared custody, whatever they’re doing. Who could be a better parent? That’s just silly. Yeah, but it’s funny. And funny is money. Yeah.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, I think it’s a great way of putting your finger on something that is specific to comedy and how it differentiates it because again there’s some really fantastic screenplay books out, there but I think a lot are written with a quite a strong drama focus and so when they talk about stakes and talk about the goal often it is like the primal goal of life and death or this and that. Whereas actually in comedy, if you raise the stakes too high in certain areas, it stops being funny. So I love the sense of …what is inappropriate. I think you put your finger on something really smart there. I find it really helpful.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Yeah, you just have to make sure that… it’s hard because the stakes aren’t as high. It’s no bombs going off, no buildings blowing up…But for the people involved, it’s the most important moment of their life.

Danielle Krage:

Exactly.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

And a lot of things we tried together, it’s like what’s relatable? What has everyone been through? And one of our most successful scripts has never got made. was about a guy who got jilted at the altar. And he, it’s called Beer Boy. And he just went out for revenge. And at the end, it doesn’t work. He can’t be angry. You have to let it go. And that was the whole point of that. So we turned out a little kind of message in there in that sense.

Juliet:

Which is why wedding movies work so well, as you were saying, relatable. People aging. Having kids, those things.

Keith:

Just the doubts about getting married, especially now, is this the one? Is this, should I do this? Remember, started marriages were big.

Juliet:

Those were big for a while. The 2000s.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, I love that. And in the book, you also talk about inappropriate behaviour and inappropriate dialogue, as well as other areas to be zooming in on and comedy, which I love. So I wanted to ask you about your approaches to dialogue, and either one of you feel free to take this, because what I also really loved in the book is that it’s not just the, the sort of smart sassy comment that makes things funny. There is like lots of sharp dialogue, but there were so many great approaches to dialogue, which I really appreciated. Because I think also sometimes… I think when people are like, we need to put some comedy in this book…. The first thing that they go to is a sarcastic comment or a witty comeback,

Keith:

Right.

Danielle Krage:

But you’ve got a much broader range of comedic approaches to dialogue. I just wondered if you could speak to any of those, how you think about it.

Keith:

I should have read my book.

Danielle Krage:

Not an easy question, I know.

Juliet:

Well, you know, we tend to read stuff out loud too. When we’re writing, we will take the different parts. And that’s where we can a lot of times hear if it’s not working. And in terms of writing this book, I think it was so fun to be able to write the dialogue back and forth, back and forth. It was very much like a screenplay.

Keith:

Everything comes out of character. And you always have to have unity of opposites. You can’t have the same characters. You have, like any sitcom, you have to have everyone…Abbott Elementary. Friends. …different types of people saying things, different ways, bumping into each other. In terms of dialogue, it’s always tough. Like, do you go for the joke or do you

Juliet:

That’s what she’s saying, that we did well. We didn’t go for the joke always. In the book. Right, we went for the heart. And we try to use a lot of subtext. So we try to have characters not saying what they really think. And that can be funny too. I think that’s what we did.

Keith:

Yeah, that’s fair. It’s hard. But if you- Okay, so here’s how to write funny.

Danielle Krage:

Everyone sit up and listen.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

It’s kind of, what you wanna say, what you wanna say 10 minutes after the bad date ended. It’s the exit line you wish you had thought of. That’s what goes in the script.

Juliet:

And we always outline what’s gonna happen first so we don’t rush to dialogue. I would say that the action comes first and then we figure out what the dialogue is.

What’s that?

(Keith reads index cards)

Used to be one of those guys, lost his edge.

Are you guys not talking?

We’re talking. We’re not listening.

So that was today

Danielle Krage:

Did it?

Keith:

That came out of real life and so I said, oh, that’s a good line. I’ve got to write that down.

Danielle Krage:

It is a good line.

Keith:

Yeah, we have no problem talking, we just have a problem listening.

Danielle Krage:

It makes sense to me that you benefit from figuring out what’s happening first, because then I think the dialogue is doing its best job, in the sense that it’s letting us into that subtext, or letting us into those characters, or creating those moments, but you’re not leaning all over the dialogue to let us know what’s happening. And I think you did a spectacular job visually and physically with the comedy too. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s an amazing karaoke scene that you have to read in the book.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Love that. We love that scene. Love that scene.

Danielle Krage:

Isn’t it so good.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

They

Danielle Krage:

it so good?

Keith:

You can see that scene. That’s a trailer scene.

Juliet:

That’s a visual scene.

Keith:

We had a script, the first script we wrote together, it was filmed like 14 years later. But we handed it to a producer, Gary Foster, who produced Sleepless in Seattle, and Community for the younger people here. And he said, great script, what are the trailer scenes? What’s a trailer scene? He says, don’t you lie in bed and think about your movie trailer playing in the theatre? No. Of course you should. And so that karaoke Christmas scene was our trailer scene for the book that we wanted. That’s so much fun.

Juliet:

And everybody wanted something different and there were such odds.

Keith:

And to find the right song.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah. And what I was really impressed with and really taking notes on is how you managed to convey the physical comedies so well in prose. Because I think that’s tough, honestly, to keep

that balance of being able to visualize a scene with, I mean stating the obvious, but just with so many people on the page where you’re not able to kind of direct the camera and know that someone’s going to shoot that for you. Like you have to do all the work. So it translates to our heads. You did that so well. I was super impressed.

Keith:

Well, thank you. Each paragraph, each sentence, sometimes it’s a different shot. And so that’s what.. our camera directions are subtle. Right.

Juliet:

Again, I think coming out of screenwriting, especially this book, our first one, we were very much writing it like a script in some ways. And especially one thing we like to do at the end of each chapter, too, was we would have not a cliffhanger, but a little button. No, or a little like…where’s it going next? It would be called an Act out if it was a TV show.  You know kind of a twist and then…. oh now we’ve got to go to the next chapter and see what happens next. Almost like we cut the commercial. Yeah, that’s how we saw it.

Danielle Krage:

I really felt that in the pacing. And again, I was super impressed with you, how you handled the pacing, because I don’t think it’s easy to have that sense that… like my husband and I were tearing through it. We had to know what happened next, but it’s also so well grounded. It’s not at the expense of the characters. You still really feel the characters. And there are those quieter scenes too, where you really feel for Ivy and feel for Nick and are rooting for them. So really well done, I loved it.

So I just have a couple more questions before we wrap up. So I got to hear a few sneak peeks from Keith earlier about the kind of things that you’re enjoying reading and watching. Juliet, what are you enjoying at the moment comedically… reading or watching?

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Thank you so much for asking. I’ve been reading a lot of romance. Jasmine Guillory. I love her books. I’m also reading, I’m reading any kind of romance I can get my hands on because I’m fascinated to see how the story plays out without getting to what they call spicy. I’m not going to go there, but I’m really curious to see how people get the feelings across in all the descriptions of exactly what’s going on in their heads and things like that. So what have I listened to? Oh, but then also I’m reading some dark stuff too. I just read Dear Edward, which is about the boy who survived a plane crash alone. And so sometimes I like to take my foot off the pedal and not always read in the genre in which I’m writing, but something completely different. Oh and I just read The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz, which is more drama, but character based and she is brilliant at weaving together all these different characters and and one thing that she does so well is having this big surprise at the end. And I think that’s something that is always a challenge when you’re writing comedy because people assume that they’re going to get together in the end. You assume the problem is going to be solved but how do you add that extra punch, that extra zinger and twist at the ending where people will think, oh my God, I didn’t see that coming. And so I’ve been reading books that do that well to sort of help me think about it. And the thing I love about reading books is as I’m reading them, I’m always thinking… or listening to them, I should say… I’m always thinking about like, oh, how is that going to help me with my current book that I’m working on now?

Keith:

But if it’s a really good book, you just get lost in it.

Juliet:

I do, of course I do. But I’m saying, but I still am always thinking, or I’ll pause and think, okay, there’s a note, that’s how I can fix that chapter.

Danielle Krage:

I love that. And I would say the same of the summer of Christmas as well is because I think some people enjoy rom-coms for the kind of safety of knowing that, of course, it’s that couple and they’re going to get together. But there were so many points in your book, actually, where we paused it, and my husband and I were discussing it and we were like… is it going to turn out like this? Is it going to turn out like this? And I had a secret theory that I didn’t share with him. So to the point being that actually right up until the end, there was still lots of tension and even how you twisted the end too. It really kept my attention more than just like the comfort of knowing that they will get together. Like who knows if they get together? I’m not gonna spoil it for readers, you’ll have to read and find out yourself. So yes.

Keith:

That’s right. Definitely.

Juliet:

We tried to make Drew really viable. The other man. He’s a very viable guy.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, and Griffin for a while as well. I was like, okay…

Juliet:

That could have been a good twist.

Keith:

We were writing that scene and were like…that makes sense, that works for us.

Danielle Krage:

And the last thing I’m about to say about that as well, and again I was chatting to my husband as I was reading it, is that I really loved that all the characters were really three-dimensional. Because yes, we’ve got the main characters, but there was humanity in all of them. So I thought it was great. I didn’t feel like anyone was dismissed as, oh, they’re just the, you know, the… the guy who this, they’re just that like. Actually with all of the characters, there was something in all of them that made me kind of root for them too. So even if it had switched a different way… that’s why I couldn’t write them off…beause I was like, but they’re not all bad. They’ve got this, maybe this. So I thought in making them really three dimensional, you made everyone really viable in terms of different relationships that could happen. Whereas sometimes when it’s drawn so broadly, we don’t get that. Because we’re like, oh no, it’s obvious. She can’t see it yet or he can’t see it yet, but we all know! I didn’t have that sense. I felt everyone was real. like there was humanity to everybody, which I loved.

Juliet:

Oh, that’s great. Thank you.

Keith:

Thank you. And we love it that in movies, shoots are compressed at a time. It’s not like a TV show, everyone meets each week. This is like 25 days. Everyone becomes a family. Relationships happen and then it’s over.

Juliet:

We’ve done a lot of meetings with different book groups and, I want to say book talks and things. And everyone seems to like different characters. It’s not like everyone loves the main character. Some people really like the second chance romance characters.

Keith:

I love movies. And I love books about movies. I Just love movies.

Danielle Krage:

Yeah, I can tell. And that, that comes through in such a lovely way, which I really admire.

So I’d love to just wrap up with advice, whether there’s any advice that you’ve been given at any point that you found helpful or find yourself coming back to and applying.

Keith:

Read. Books or screenplays. Watch. And write. Every day, every day, every day. Even when you don’t want to, because that’s the difference I think. Yeah, you sit down, you don’t want to sit down and this is awful. And then something sparks and suddenly it’s a good day.

Juliet:

And my advice would be that… Rewriting is writing. Writing is rewriting.  And that’s very true in screenwriting but it’s also true in any kind of novel writing. I think sometimes people put pressure on themselves to create perfection when they first start to you know type Fade In, or type you know The Beginning… and that’s not going to happen. Because at the end almost every word is going to be either rewritten or moved around or there nothing’s going to stay exactly the same. And so if you know that it’s really freeing because you’ve just got to get something on the page so that then you can go back and rewrite it. And some writers will say, especially for fiction writers, will say that you will spend an equal amount of time rewriting as you do writing.

Keith:

But I think every new writer has to remember that perfect is the enemy of good. You try to be perfect, you’re not gonna be good. And it’s better to be good and get it down, get the structure, get the characters, find out. Because along the way, even though we’ve carded things out, it’s like taking a road trip. You know you want to get A to B, but along the way you’re going to stop and see C, D, E, and F.

Juliet:

Or something might be closed. And something suddenly, they don’t have room at the end. Or you’ll learn things don’t work once you get into that story itself.

Keith:

It helps the story, and that’s kind of fun.

Danielle Krage:

That’s brilliant.

Juliet:

The other thing…

Danielle Krage:

No, you go ahead…

Juliet:

I think I forgot….

Keith:

You’re on your own here. You set yourself up for this one.

Juliet:

I did. No, I was thinking about the other thing besides rewriting is, is getting in there…. Oh, I know what it is…

Keith:

Drinking and crying.

Juliet:

No, no, no. I got it. I want to tag team to what Keith was saying about make sure that you, you write every day, but to that end, we have a really good trick that we’ve learned from other writers, which is that… sit down and write for one hour a day. Because a lot of times writers think…well, I don’t have eight hours. I don’t have four hours. I’ll just, I won’t do it today. I can’t.

But if you think about it in terms of small compartments, like if you do half hour a day, I think one hour is a great amount. And you sit down and you set a timer for yourself. You clear your slate. You don’t check your email. You don’t get a snack. You got yourself all set up. If you write for one hour. And then when the hour is done, you’ll have something.

And maybe the first 10 minutes of the hour are just crap. You don’t care. Remember, because you’re going to rewrite it anyway. And I think if you do that, you get one hour every day, you will have a book. People say you can write a book in a year if you just sit down and write every day. Yeah. And screenplay, you can do it in six months.

Keith:

Well, we usually card everything out. And it used to be, you know, card a day, and then you can go play. Right. There’s that card.

Juliet:

But the truth is, once you’ve written for an hour, a lot of times you want to keep writing. Because the hardest part was to get there, and once you’re in it’s really fun.

Keith:

The other thing is, if you think you hate your first draft, you’re not alone. Most people, right? Everyone hates their first draft. Everyone, why am I doing this? And then, okay, maybe I like this, maybe I don’t. And then you start getting into it a little more. But in the beginning, it’s just like, you gotta get past that stage.

Danielle Krage:

Wonderful, thank you. That’s really helpful, sage advice from two total pros. So I really appreciate it. For those who aren’t watching the video, Keith is looking behind him.

Juliet:

Where’s the dog? He’s the pro.

Danielle Krage:

And if people want to find out more about you and your work, where should we point them to? And I will also put these links in the show notes.

Juliet Giglio:

We’d love to have you go to our website, which is our initials and our last name, jkgiglio.com. Or if you want to actually reach out to us and chat with us, you could message me on Instagram. And my message is @julietagiglio

Keith:

If you message me on Instagram, you have to kind of put something about the Knicks or the Mets, New York sports, so it’ll grab my attention.

Danielle Krage:

Okay, good. I will do that next time.

Keith:

I just don’t do a lot of social media. I would misspell everything. It would be really bad.

Danielle Krage:

Okay. No problem. You’re too busy doing other things. It’s all good.

Keith:

Okay. What are they?

Juliet:

Danielle, your questions have been wonderful. Thank you. So insightful.

Danielle Krage:

You’re so welcome.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

And we so appreciate that you read the book and that you enjoyed it.

Danielle Krage:

I did. Go read it everybody.

Juliet:

And pre-order this book now.

Danielle Krage:

Juliet’s holding up The Trouble with Tinsel. Which is a great title. I love it. And also read The Summer of Christmas, which is the one that I’ve read. And I’ll be buying the new one when it comes out in October, which I’m thrilled about. So thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

Juliet & Keith Giglio:

Thank you. Thank you. Good luck with your writing. Good luck with the show. It’s great. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Juliet:

Thanks.