Author Emily Henry discusses ‘book lovers’ and pandemic writing

If Hallmark ever wanted to make a modern, romantic tale of The devil wears Prada, it’s the perfect script for adaptation. Author Emily Henry has captured all of the classic Hallmark tropes in her new rom-com, book lovers, including a small town repair project and a main character who embodies a perfect combination of Miranda Priestley, Andrea Sachs and Nigel – but some of our favorite tropes are subverted, modernized or just tweaked a bit.

In the opening pages, readers meet Nora, a neurotic and ruthless book editor, and her sweet little sister, Libby. When the pair take an extended vacation in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, everyone’s motives are challenged and Nora’s peaceful stay is disrupted when she encounters her equally ruthless work nemesis, Charlie Lastra.

A lot happens next, but just know that romantic banter is next level.

On the surface, book lovers is truly a love story. Not just between Nora and Charlie, but also between Nora and Libby. The novel is also about trauma and healing, and how it can bring like-minded people together (perhaps too much).

book lovers is Henry’s funniest and most heartwarming novel to date; but it wasn’t until the first copies began to find their way into the eyes, hearts and hands of critics that Henry began to believe that she might have struck gold. It also didn’t help that she was sequestered in her writing den for over a year trying to write a witty love story amid the COVID-19 pandemic. where first dates and awkward encounters seemed like relics of the past.

We sat down with Henry to talk about book loversfrom his love of big and small towns to all the nods and nods from the novel to real-life book lovers, as well as discussing his upcoming project.

After: 15 novels that feel like taking a vacation

Scary Mommy: I found it funny how Nora jumps at the end of the books – my mom is the same. But Libby is the opposite, she doesn’t even read the cover. Do you think you look more like Nora or Libby?

Emily Henry: I’m a lot more like Libby actually. I don’t want to know how a book ends. Sometimes I’ll text a friend if I know they’ve read it to say, “This is how I feel, should I read it?” But, I like not knowing. The least I can know is ideal for me as a reader.

As a writer too! I’m not a cartoonist because I like to write for the same reasons I like to read. It feels like a really intense reading experience, where I don’t know what’s going to happen and I need to know. It’s really fun to write a draft this way.

did you know how book lovers was going to end, or do you have a rough idea of ​​where you wanted Nora and Charlie to end up?

I knew from the start that Nora had to go back to New York because that was the whole idea behind the book for me. I really wanted the message to be that she doesn’t need to change. She needs to heal and grow, but she doesn’t need to fundamentally change who she is.

I really try to keep it because it’s a character arc. Thus, a character deciding to give up his life in the city does not necessarily mean that the author says that cities are bad. But when you see this story over and over again, it’s like, “Well, what do we say about people who live in the city?”

Nora is a steadfast and independent woman, but she is seen by her peers as a shark. Was there any awkwardness writing about a shark agent (and future editor) and then handing the draft over to your literary team?

Fortunately, they knew from the start how it was going to be; however, there were a few fun details. My agent actually has a Platoon and is in love with it, as I think most people are obsessed with their Platoon.

The reason I wanted Nora to be an agent is because it’s such a weird job. You’re kind of this advocate and negotiator where you have to be a badass to get what your clients need, but your clients are just a teary mess and so ridiculous and needy. So you have to be gentle with them and get them to do their job. I know this because I am a writer.

All my writer friends, we’re in our group text saying, “Omg, I emailed my agent in the middle of the night because I was freaking out about this. Now I know it doesn’t matter. I think it was fun to write a character who was both badass and really knows how to be there for people. I felt like it was a big thank you to my publisher and agent.

Sort of like “I’m sorry and thank you”.

Yes, it’s like the whole book! And that’s why the book is dedicated to my agents, editors, publicists and marketers. This whole book is like a love letter to them.

Sometimes I read romance because I want a lighter read, but your novels are more than that. book lovers is a romantic comedy, but it also has warm plots. Vulnerability and loss are two big themes, and then you have several characters who are in a phase of self-discovery. How do you balance a sexy-as-hell plot that also tugs at the heartstrings?

First of all, thank you. That’s a huge compliment. It just means a lot. When I started writing my first romance novel in Read on the beach, I really wanted to write this fun, light and sexy romantic comedy. Then immediately I’m like okay, her father died and betrayed her, and instantly my brain goes to it. I don’t really know how to get inside the characters’ heads without understanding the worst thing that’s ever happened to them.

Basically, you reflect on a traumatic event, assign it to the character, and see what happens?

That’s how I understand the characters. In romance, it’s largely about this character arc. You need this person to realize or awaken during this love story to feel like a story in its own right. To understand the arc of the characters, I need to know what changes for them. How did they see the world that wasn’t fair from the start? It usually comes from trauma. There were so many drafts of book lovers I just try to make it funny enough and lighthearted while having those heavier moments.

I love the witty banter between Nora and Charlie. Does it come to you in the first draft or not until the end?

It’s a bit of both. With book lovers, it took a lot of drafts to get it to where it is. I wasn’t sure the book was funny until I completely gave it back and people started reading it. All the time I was writing, I was like, “That’s not funny. I’m not funny anymore,” because we were in the middle of a pandemic. I didn’t see anyone. I don’t know how to talk to people anymore.

Would you say that was your biggest challenge?

You succeeded. I’ve never had this specific issue when writing before where I can’t remember what it’s like to go out and do things. I don’t really remember what it’s like to go and meet someone new. This is the first book I’ve written during the pandemic.

The truth is that I have nothing more to say. I have to go somewhere. I need to be surrounded by friends. I need to take a trip. You must have life experiences or you have nothing to write about.

Within this novel is another novel. Have you ever felt like you were writing two books at once?

book lovers is for readers. Everything in the book is a wink and a nod to people who love books. By not telling the actual story of Nadine Winters, I found it amusing to keep drawing comparisons to other books that many people have read in recent years, such as A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman and A little life by Hanya Yanagihara.

What are you working on now? Will we be entitled to a Bigfoot erotica from Emily Henry?

Haha! My editor would kill me if I returned this – she thinks I’ve been working on something else all this time. But yeah, I’m working on something else that’s supposed to come out next summer. The process is very similar to book lovers in that I just rewrote it, and rewrote it, and rewrote it, and it just keeps getting a little closer. It’s another romantic comedy. I can’t say too much about it, but there’s a friend group that’s really central, so there’s a larger cast, but still a love story. And I have fun with it!

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