Author Jessica Knoll Hated Ted Bundy's Story, So She Turned It Into Her Next Bestseller

Why Mila Kunis Feels Like the Luckiest Girl Alive

Do you know how many movies have been made about Ted Bundy?

The answer is nine, with a slew of easy-on-the-eyes actors including Billy Campbell, James Marsters, Chad Michelle Murray and even Zac Efron playing the notorious serial killer who was responsible for murdering at least 31 women in the 1970s. And that's not including the endless stream of TV specials and podcast episodes that recount Bundy's crimes.

Now, can you guess the number of those projects that were centered on any of the women who were victimized by Bundy? 

Which is why the idea for Jessica Knoll's third novel, Bright Young Women (out Sept. 19), came to the Luckiest Girl Alive author in a deeply relatable way: She watched Netflix's 2019 documentary Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

"I was fascinated by it, but I also had my ear to the ground of all the discourse around it," Knoll told E! News in an exclusive interview. "Part of that was this question of did we learn anything new from this? Not really. What about the women whose lives he interrupted? We don't know anything about them."

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So, Knoll set out to do just that, diving deep into the stories of Bundy's victims to see if there was an idea for a book waiting for her.

However, the 40-year-old was frustrated when she found shockingly little-to-no information about any of the slain, despite Bundy confessing to murdering at least 30 women before he died in the electric chair at 42 years old.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

What was rampant, Knoll discovered, was the ongoing myth that proclaimed Bundy was this "brilliant, charismatic, handsome" man who had the potential to be an outstanding lawyer, she noted. The author also unearthed "a lot of evidence" that completely debunked that idea, including that Bundy falsified his records to get into the University of Utah's School of Law, where he was a "notoriously poor student" during his seven-month tenure. 


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"This was all really available information and I thought it was just so interesting that this lore around him stood the test of time when it's a house of cards," explained Knoll. "It's very easy to crumble and there's a lot of evidence that he really wasn't any of these things."

What was true was the havoc Bundy wreaked on a sorority at Florida State University in 1978, when he murdered two sisters and attacked two others, as well as another student in a nearby apartment. (Bundy was later convicted and sentenced to death for the two murders.)

"When I really started thinking about it, that's wild. This man came into this sorority house and did this to these girls and then they were expected to just keep living in that house?" Knoll questioned. "What would that have been like? For me, to imagine your reality to be shaken like that, that's a story I feel compelled to tell."

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The side effect of choosing to focus on the largely ignored women for Knoll was to "make a commentary of the history of the true crime genre and the stories that often get to be told."

In Bright Young Women, Knoll shares the fictionalized perspective of two women whose lives are forever forged together as they fervently pursue justice in the wake of Bundy's crimes. Her choice of title serves as a direct reference to Judge Edward Cowart describing Bundy as "a bright, young man" at his sentencing in 1980.

Yes reader, that's right: Bundy was served a compliment along with his death sentence.คำพูดจาก สล็อตเว็บตรง

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Knoll had always had the title in mind, but her film agent expressed concern when Promising Young WomanEmerald Fennell's provocative movie about a woman seeking vengeance after a tragic event derails her life—was released in 2020. But for the author, it didn't feel like a coincidence, it felt like a sign. คำพูดจาก สล็อตเว็บตรง

'What it said is we're moving into this time period where we we're sick of everyone worrying about the squandered potential of the men who have committed these crimes against women," Knoll said. "There was something in the ether with that. To me, it was almost market validation."

While Knoll felt passionately about the subject matter, Bright Young Women challenged her as a writer, given the level of research involved. Not to mention it's the first novel Knoll has written that's not been set in a contemporary time period. "How do you capture this in a way that feels realistic but not hokey?"

But the success of Luckiest Girl Alive—her bestselling debut novel that she adapted into a Netflix movie starring Mila Kunis last year—had taught Knoll she is "capable" of more than she thought after she fought to be the screenwriter despite her relative inexperience in the film industry.

"Once I sat down to write it, I was like, 'This is actually hard. Can I do this?'" Knoll recalled. "But I did do it and it was a good lesson for me to learn about myself because I had those same thoughts when I was working on this book. I think knowing that I've challenged myself before and pulled it off was really key to remind myself, 'I can do this.'"

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And she will keep on doing it, with Knoll revealing she recently finished the first draft of her next novel.

She also teamed with Kunis once again, staging a mini-writer's room to adapt The Favorite Sister—her "naughty middle child" of a novel about the behind-the-scenes drama and murder of a Real Housewives-esque reality show—into a TV series. Though that project, along with a potential adaptation of Bright, Young Women, have been impacted by the ongoing WGA strike. 

Good thing she views adaptations of her novels is a bonus, not the end goal.

"The focus really should be doing what is best for the book," said Knoll. "And If anything comes after that, it's gravy."

In the need for a spooky season? Here are 13 books to cozy up with this fall:

Bright Young Women is available on Sept. 19.

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