In these outtakes from the March/April 2013 WD Interview, bestselling women’s fiction author Emily Giffin talks about relating to her readers, the challenges of writing from different perspectives and what fans can expect from her future books. Learn more about this modern-day Jane Austen in our exclusive extended Q&A.
Though you write women’s fiction, your books have also been categorized as “coming-of-age” stories. Do you agree with that label?
No. When I think of coming-of-age, [I only think of my novel] Where We Belong. It’s interesting that you said that because I love coming-of-age stories. I love young-adult work. My favorite movie of all time is Stand By Me, which I love the novella, too, that it’s based on. So for me, it was a lot of fun to be able to write a work that sort of falls into that purview because it’s something that I’ve always loved, and I love the character of Kirby [from Where We Belong,and] developing her. But since the first book that I wrote that I was never able to get published, I’ve never written a coming-of-age story until this one. And even it has alternating viewpoints. It’s really only half of it. Only half of it is a coming-of-age story.
Where We Belong is the first time you’ve written from the perspective of a teen. How hard was it to write from that viewpoint?
I thought on the onslaught that it would be more difficult than it was, because when I wrote the YA novel [that was never published], I started that when I was 24, so that was sort of closer in time [to being a teen]. And when I started Where We Belong, I was about to turn 40, so I was a little intimidated of writing [from a teen’s perspective]. I felt like my life experiences had changed so much. I’d gotten older. I had children now. But then once I started writing the story, it was a lot easier, because I feel like once I got passed the setup of Kirby’s life, I really felt a connection with her. I felt very connected to her, and it was just easy to tell her story.
With the publishing switch— from St. Martin’s to Random House’s Ballantine Books—do you think all of your books in the foreseeable future will be in the same vein as your existing body of work? Or do you ever think you might try YA again, or another genre?
No, I’ll still be writing women’s fiction. Whenever you change publishers, there’s always an opportunity to have the marketing, and you can recreate yourself from that marketing standpoint. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens with that respect to the stories written, but I don’t let those things enter my head as I’m writing the book. I think you can get very bogged down in that, and become too strategic and lose your sense of voice and story if you think too much about who your audience is, the broader points you’re trying to make, how the books are going to be sold and even what the cover is going to look like.
All of your books deal with very universal themes that relate to everyone, including your readers: love, parenthood, friendship and careers …
Yeah. Just relationships. … When you look at anyone’s life, you learn the most about them through the relationships that they have, and their capacity to love and to forgive and to grow and to change, and all those things sort of define who we are as sisters and mothers and friends. I think the idea of forgiveness is fascinating to me because the capacity for it varies so much from person to person. What one person can forgive, another person can’t in the same situation. I think it says a lot about us.