Emily Henry, author of Book Lovers, about the allure of travel

Emily Henry, author of Book Lovers, about the allure of travel

Over the past three years, novelist Emily Henry has carved out a solid beach spot on the summer bestseller lists with a series of travel-themed romcoms, starting with Beach Reading in 2020 and following last summer’s People We Meet on. Holidays” and this year’s “Book Lovers”. All three novels currently share a spot on The Times’ combined print and e-book fiction list.

In her books, a young woman — writer or writer-next-door — ventures into new territory at a crisis point in her life, where (to avoid spoilers) she finds her true calling and her true love.

In “Beach Reading,” dueling novelists occupy adjacent lakeside homes in Michigan, sparring until, of course, they stop. In People We Meet on Vacation, travel writer Poppy Wright spends part of each summer traveling with her best friend from college, Alex Nielsen, who, dear reader, is Mr. from the start. how they both hide from the inevitable. In The Book Lovers, hard-working literary agent Nora Stevens travels to the small North Carolina town of Sunshine Falls to confront her nemesis from the Manhattan book scene, editor Charlie Lastra.

Another theme in her books is the pull of family. Henry, 31, grew up in Cincinnati with her two older brothers, and she, her husband and their dog now live there near her parents. She fondly remembers their family trips, even if they sometimes ended up fighting “like too many heads,” she said.

“We all still try to travel together on a semi-regular basis, which obviously can be a total mess, but I’m just so nostalgic about it,” said Ms Henry, who is working on a novel next summer. “I can’t talk about it yet,” she said of the project. “But I can tell it’s about travel.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

The book is already designed to be a kind of vacation—even if it’s not an escapist book, even if it’s a very heavy literary novel, that trip is packaged for you in a very specific way. And I think with travel books you amplify that even more.

There’s a sense of possibility in travel that you don’t always have in your normal life, because you’re going to be with all new people and all new things, and you don’t know what might happen or who you might meet. Everything just seems exciting. From a story point of view, it lends itself to this big transformation because the characters are already on this kind of rough ground. Traveling works like it does for us in real life: to just shake things up.

I think it’s also the reader because we already read trying to go to new places and meet new people. We crave something, some new experience that we want to bring into ourselves.

I think there is something, yes, transformative, and you get to know yourself more deeply in a new environment.

And it’s the things you don’t know about yourself, like the surprises, the risks you take that you didn’t expect, or the new foods you try that you didn’t think you’d like, or something small. in the same way. It is also easy to see your ordinary life with new eyes.

Because I think there are places where you go where you think, oh, I can imagine my life here, and there are other places where you go where you realize you’re excited to come home. That’s also one of the things I really like about traveling because you can get so complacent or underestimate your life, your real life, there’s really nothing like that feeling when you get back home.

I haven’t traveled internationally much yet, but I grew up in a traveling family, so I’ve seen most of the US. It was quite common to take a 14 hour trip to Florida. We would leave in the middle of the night so we wouldn’t have to pay for that one extra night and we would sleep in the back of the minivan and wake up and be there.

Now I find that every few months I get this restlessness and desire to just be somewhere different and see new things and eat food that is not available to me. It’s this rhythm that my family created for me. You have a new experience that will take you through the mundanities of real life.

A lot of it was really just research, and there are Facebook groups for that sort of thing, but I haven’t really used them. I’m a big fan of Airbnb, as is much of my generation. It has just revolutionized travel, especially long distance travel. But I also think it helps to be raised by parents who were very good at these things. They would go on resort tours to get deeply discounted Disney World tickets. That really came into a lot of things when writing Poppy’s approach to travel.

Yes, I’ve had a few. I don’t consider myself the cleanest person, but now I check reviews very carefully about how clean a place is. I’ve definitely had a few that are just gross. There is always artistic photography. One had an extra bedroom listed and we got there and realized it was in an unfinished basement and this other type of storage also had a hole in the wall that looked like a view. It was disturbing.

My favorite trip is to fly to San Francisco and drive through Muir Woods and Muir Beach and then see wine country. And then I have family in Oregon. I love that ride. I love that you can see the ocean, the bay, the mountains, the wine country, the redwoods in that few hours.

Seeing a place as a visitor is so different than being a local, and I think that’s why Elaine Hilderbrand’s books are so good, because she really knows Nantucket and puts you right there. The places I write about I’m only familiar with as a guest and it’s a different experience. It’s a truly magical experience, but not the same things a local would pick up in their own town.

I think if I lived in a place with a lot of holidays, I’d probably commit to working in one place, but I can’t write a bunch of books about Cincinnati. I’m sure I’ll have a clear Cincinnati book, but it’s not innately summery.

Oh my God. Not summer.


Amy Viršupa is the editor of the Travels section.

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