Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the New York Center for Art & Media Studies and now spends most of her time in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the part of Kentucky just beneath it. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.
In this post, Henry describes the ups and downs of writing your second book, using her experiences writing her latest release, People We Meet on Vacation, and much more!
Name: Emily Henry
Literary agent: Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary
Book title: People We Meet on Vacation
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Release date: May 11, 2021
Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: One Day meets When Harry Met Sally in this romantic comedy about two longtime friends who take an annual summer vacation together—until one trip goes south, and they fall out. Now, two years later, travel writer Poppy is determined to win back her ex-best friend, Alex, over the course of one last trip to Palm Springs.
Previous titles by the author: Beach Read
What prompted you to write this book?
The structure of this book came to me before any other piece of it. I was excited by the idea of chronicling a long-term relationship in a variety of settings, and especially how different places bring out different versions of a person. I’m also a huge fan of When Harry Met Sally and wanted to pay a bit of homage to the movie.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
It took just under two years from initial idea to publication. I had sold my debut, Beach Read, in a two-book deal, so when we finished edits on that, my agent, editor, and I began to brainstorm the perfect book to follow it up. We honesty probably had between 50 and 100 vague starting points, but nothing felt quite right.
When I had the idea for People, I warned my agent that it felt like it might be the very last idea I ever had. Luckily, not true, but it turned out my agent and editor both loved the premise as much as I did. We hadn’t formally accepted the idea, though, or pitched it to anyone else at Berkley, so I took a few weeks and wrote a quick draft to see if the book felt as good as the idea did. I ended up really loving the first draft and used it to write a more formal pitch. When that had been accepted, I used the next six-ish months to rework it on my own before turning it in to my editor.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Well, when I wrote a book about 12 years of traveling, I definitely had no idea it’d be releasing in the second year of a global pandemic, so that was surprising! But I guess pretty much everything in the last year has been a surprise.
Publishing-wise, I couldn’t ever have anticipated the level of popularity Beach Read would reach, and I’m extremely grateful that I’d written People before its predecessor actually came out, because working within those expectations on my next book is definitely a challenge. You want the people who loved your last to be just as taken with your next, but you also want to feel like you’re bringing something new to the table. It’s been a good reminder that keeping your head down and focusing on the next thing is always the best approach.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Absolutely! I’m not a big outliner. I’m actually so thoroughly not an outliner that I hadn’t even decided which vacations Poppy and Alex would take, or the order in which they’d take them. I wrote both the past timeline and the present timeline simultaneously, more or less in the order they’ve wound up in, so everything about how their relationship developed was, essentially, a surprise.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Well, given the complexities and dangers of traveling right now, I’m mostly just hoping this book will feel like an amazing vacation. It’s hard to imagine what my hopes would have been if things were different, but this is how they are, and this is exactly the book I want to be putting into the world right now.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
The biggest piece of advice I give is always, always: fail hard and fast. Rejection can be so terrifying that it can knock us down for long stretches of time while we rebuild the confidence to put ourselves and our work out there again. But you’re looking for the right fit for your work, and it really is like everyone says: It only takes one ‘yes.’ So as much as you’re able to shorten those moments of imposter syndrome and discouragement to get back out there faster, do so. That’s my advice.