About a year after relocating to Atlanta, author Emily Giffin saw her debut novel hit shelves. Something Borrowed told the story of a complicated relationship between two best friends.
That novel would go on to become a Hollywood movie in 2011, all while Griffin continued cranking out stories.
This summer, her eighth novel, First Comes Love (Ballantine,$28), deals with another complex relationship between two women.
This time, two sisters — Josie and Meredith — who live in Atlanta, take seemingly different paths after a tragic family event. But as the story unfolds, they begin to discover that even years after the event they are both still struggling to overcome the past and the grief that has had a significant impact on their adult lives.
As always, Giffin fans will be entertained by the author’s humor and satisfied by her storytelling.
Here’s is she had to say about her latest novel and what is coming in the future:
Q: First Comes Love centers around a tragic family incident. How did you come up with the details of this event?
A: There was no real inspiration for the tragedy in the prologue of this story. In many ways, it was really just a way in which to explore two sisters and the dynamic of one family. Although their reaction to grief is a theme in the book, I would say an even greater theme is the notion of finding the courage to live life on your own terms. I think we all have seminal moments and choices that come to define us, in both good and bad ways. This book explores the consequences of those choices and how they can touch everything from your relationship with your family to your career path to your love life.
Q: How is this book different from the other ones you’ve written?
A: The central relationship in the book is between sisters—which is a first for me. Although Josie and Meredith are both dealing with romantic relationships, the story is less about finding love and more about family and finding your way in life.
A: No, I wouldn’t say the story is at all autobiographical, but I did draw on my own relationship with my sister. We are extremely close and supportive of one another, but are no strangers to the turbulent sisterhood undercurrent. Oh, and like Meredith, my sister doesn’t allow shoes in her house! Ever!
Q: Tell us about your decision to set the book in Atlanta? Does it make you at all nervous to set a story in the city you live?
A: I have now lived in Atlanta longer than I’ve lived anywhere else and really feel that it is home for my family and me. So although this story could have taken place anywhere, I wanted to pay homage to the city I have come to love. I do understand that there are risks that come with setting a story in your own community, but I have learned that as a novelist, you really have to close the door, so to speak, and write the story you want to write. There will always be readers who will find a way to be offended by fiction, or have delusions that the book is about them. But you simply can’t please everyone if you want to write a compelling emotional story.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in writing/delivering this story?
A: You mean other than actually having to put words onto a blank page? Ha! Aside from the usual terrifying bouts of writer’s block, I found it challenging and draining to write about grief and the aftermath of loss. I wanted to make sure I did justice to those emotions, but also create a story that didn’t feel overly heavy or morbid. That balance was difficult at times.
Q: How has your writing process changed?
A: It’s actually no different now than when I wrote my first book, which is to say that it’s still a very organic, character-driven process. Other than a vague sense of beginning, middle and end, I generally have no idea where the story is going when I start writing a book. As I get to know the characters and the relationships between them form, the plot evolves accordingly. It can be a frustrating and inefficient process at times–and sometimes I do wish I had a more outlined, organized approach to writing–but I enjoy being surprised along the way.
Q: What sort of research did you have to do for First Comes Love?
A: I never do much research when it comes to underlying emotions—perhaps because I consider myself very naturally empathetic. In other words, I didn’t talk to people about losing a sibling or child. But I did have to do some research for Josie’s reproductive storyline. I talked to women who conceived with sperm donors and read a lot about the topic. Incidentally, I think I would have chosen this route if I had found myself unmarried at thirty-eight or thirty-nine—so again I didn’t have to research those emotions—just the mechanics of that path.
Q: When can we expect to see Something Blue at the movies?
A: Very soon! The script is in great shape—and we’re getting close to production. I can’t wait to see more of John Krasinski and Kate Hudson. Their chemistry is pretty much exactly what I imagined when I wrote the book a decade ago.
Q: How do you feel your characters have evolved since you wrote your first novel?
A: I think they’ve grown up as I’ve grown up. The stakes are certainly greater than they were in Something Borrowed, when Rachel and I were both twenty-nine. But at heart, I still write the same relationship-driven stories and my characters are as flawed as ever. I mean—aren’t we all?
You can catch Giffin later this month at talk and book signing hosted by the Book Festival of the MJCCA (Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta). Details as follows:
Author Talk, Q & A, and Book Signing with Emily Giffin in conversation with Mara Davis
$28-$33 (ticket price includes a first edition copy of First Comes Love) June 30, 7:30 p.m., MJCCA , 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody.
For information, visit www.atlantajcc.org/bookfestival or call 678-812-4002.