Burning questions with chick-lit author Emily Giffin
By By Catherine Mallette and The Baltimore Sun
Sep 08, 2012 | 3:00 AM
Marian Caldwell has it all. Kind of. At 36, she's the executive producer of a scripted TV show. She's dating the handsome CEO of her network. And she has an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
But Marian also has problems. Among them: The girl she gave up for adoption 18 years ago has just walked back into her life, and she has some questions — questions that will bring up secrets buried deep in Marian's past.
So begins "Where We Belong," Emily Giffin's sixth novel, which debuted in late July and zoomed to the best-seller lists, just like her five previous works. Her first two books made her a force on the chick-lit scene. "Something Borrowed" (2004) told the story of good-girl Rachel, a New York lawyer who suddenly finds herself sleeping with her best friend's fiance. The follow-up, "Something Blue" (2006), picked up where that book left off, this time from the viewpoint of the best friend, a party girl named Darcy. Last year, "Something Borrowed" was released as a feature film starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson and John Krasinski.
Giffin is the inaugural author in the new Baltimore Sun Book Club. (See accompanying box.) We asked the 40-year-old busy mother of three — who also seems to have it all — to take a break from her book tour and answer some of our burning questions about this new novel and her life as a successful author. Here, excerpts from the email interview.
What was the inspiration for this book, which is essentially about a relationship between a mom and her estranged daughter?
At its heart, the book is about secrets and what happens to us and those closest to us when we keep them. I've always been intrigued by the power of secrets. When is it justifiable to keep them from the ones we love? And does keeping them irrevocably change who we are?
To get into the mindset of teenage Kirby, you reread all of your own diaries. What was it like?
I did read all my old diaries and was quite surprised by the overwhelming melancholic tone. I remember things being rosier than they really were. Reading the entries really helped me connect with Kirby.
Elements from your life work themselves into your books. Can you give some examples?
I try to have something in common with my protagonists, especially when I'm writing in the first person. Rachel, in "Something Borrowed," hated her job as a lawyer. Ellen, in "Love the One You're With," moved to Atlanta from New York and had a difficult adjustment. ... Sharing some basic life experience helps me bond with a character and understand her, even as she experiences things that I haven't.
If you had to make a Sophie's Choice: Rachel or Darcy?
Well, "Sophie's Choice" is about saving a life! Please don't make me kill Rachel or Darcy! I will say this, though, I'm probably more similar to Rachel, but Darcy, at the end of "Something Blue," is my favorite.
You had a cameo in the movie version of "Something Borrowed." Did you have much involvement in the film? Is Kate Hudson worthy of my own Darcy-like celebrity obsession?
I was very fortunate to be involved in the whole process, from casting to revising the script to editing discussions. ... As for Kate Hudson, absolutely! I really like her and found her to be endlessly entertaining. She is very Darcy-esque in the best sense.
What is the coolest thing about being a best-selling author?
The best thing about being an author is writing stories and having people — strangers all over the world — connect with them. That still feels surreal to me at times.
What's the oddest reader reaction you've had to your work?
I had about a dozen redheads who took offense to Darcy's comments about "gingers" in "Something Blue." ... I remember having a "copy and paste" answer ready: "Darcy is a fictional character with her own likes and dislikes. I do not share her feelings on guys with red hair. In fact, I had a boyfriend in law school with red hair, and I'm a big Prince Harry fan." I think when you're writing in the first person, people sometimes forget that it's not really the author talking.
Do you think women can have it all — do you have it all?
I think the notion of "having it all" is a dangerous one for women because I don't think such a thing is possible. We must always give something up to get something else. I have an exciting career, but I miss certain things with my children because of it. Life — and parenthood — is about compromise.
Have you ever been to Baltimore?
I was actually born in Baltimore! Although I moved away when I was quite young, and consider Chicago to be my hometown, Baltimore is sentimental to me and I still keep in touch with family friends I knew as a little girl.
The Sun is launching a reader book club with Emily Giffin's "Where We Belong" (St. Martin's Press, $27.99). Participation is easy:
1. Read the book
2. Go to the Baltimore Sun's Read Street Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/readstreet) and start chatting with us as we ask questions about the book. We'll be chatting right up until Sept. 29.
3. Come hear Giffin when she discusses her new novel Sept. 29 at the Baltimore Book Festival.
The Sun is sponsoring her festival appearance, at noon at the Bank of America Literary Salon. No tickets required, but crowd is expected and seating is limited. After the session, you can buy one of her books and have her sign it.