In the wake of her five New York Times best-selling novels, Emily Giffin's Where We Belong (out today) is one of our must reads of the season. Her success kicked off in 2004 with Something Borrowed, a story brought to the big screen last year with a film starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson. Since that first novel, Emily has gained a large, loyal following — both in bookstores and on Facebook and Twitter, where she keeps in touch with her fans.
Where We Belong follows the story of two women — Marian Caldwell, a 36-year-old TV producer in New York, and 18-year-old Kirby, a high school senior in St. Louis — who are bound by a secret. Emily says she knew early on that the book would be about belonging. Inspired by the power of secrets — when it's justified to keep them and how they change us — she chose to explore those themes through the secretive circumstances of an adoption. I had the opportunity to interview Emily about her new release, upcoming film projects, and her celebrity girl crush.
TrèsSugar: How did you come up with the title Where We Belong?
Emily Giffin: I had a few other titles that would've worked too, so I put them all out there to my friends on Facebook in a poll, and Where We Belong was the favorite. Another choice was Since You've Been Gone, and overwhelmingly, people thought it conjured the Kelly Clarkson song. It's so helpful to have instant feedback from 100,000 people!
TS: This is your first time coming out with a novel that has a teen as one of the main characters. What prompted you to do it?
EG: I've always been drawn to coming-of-age stories and books and movies featuring compelling young characters. My favorite movie of all time is Stand by Me, and I still reread my favorite young-adult books. In fact, the first novel I ever wrote (before Something Borrowed) was a young-adult book, but I was never able to get it published. So writing a young character is something I've wanted to try again for a long time now — and I'd love to do it again.
TS: Kirby was named after our PopSugar TV host, Kirbie! What struck you about her name, and how does it fit the character?
EG: Yes, I met Kirbie at a hair salon in LA during my book tour for Heart of the Matter. She was so cute and bubbly and really seemed like a "Kirbie." I remember telling her I loved her name and wanted to try to work it into a book. When I got home and became more focused on the writing of Where We Belong, I named my character Kirby. I almost changed it because she didn't really seem like a Kirby — but then I thought that contradiction really worked in the story, because Kirby is adopted and deep down, felt that she really didn't belong in her family. Her name was just another example of that disconnect. Bottom line, I love the name!
TS: If Where We Belong heads to the big screen, then who would you like to see cast?
EG: Funny you should ask that, because I just spoke to my film agent, and we're in talks with a wonderful producer now who would be amazing at bringing this story to the big screen in a smart and real way. I haven't yet thought about casting, though. For now, the characters are so vivid in my mind as the "real" people I created, rather than any actor or actress. I'm dying for everyone to read it, though, because I think my readers have always been better at casting than I!
TS: Speaking of the big screen, any updates on Something Blue or Love the One You're With?
EG: Both are looking good, as is Heart of the Matter. It's just such slow process. Getting a script, getting a director, raising the money. It's really hard for movies to get made these days.
TS: Fans know that you adore Jennifer Aniston! Has she ever inspired one of your characters? Which character do you think she'd get along with best?
EG: It would be a dream come true for Jen — I call her Jen so I can feel closer to her — to play a role in one of my movies. I adore her. I think she's a wonderful actress, and I so admire how she constantly hones herself to perfection. I actually felt better about turning 40 this year because of her! She's such a versatile actress that I think she could play a lot of my characters well: Claudia in Baby Proof, Marian in Where We Belong, Valerie in Heart of the Matter. In the casting process, I don't get too hung up on my own physical descriptions. I mean, Kate Hudson looks nothing like the Darcy I wrote about, but I thought she was brilliant in the movie.
Read on for the rest of our interview.
TS: Between Marian and Lynn, we see a couple different versions of motherhood throughout the book. In writing Where We Belong — and as a mother yourself — did you learn anything new about motherhood?
EG: I wouldn't say that I learned anything new, but I think I'm constantly thinking about motherhood and everything I can do to be a better mother. There is obviously nothing in my life that is as important to me as my three children: Edward, George, and Harriet. There were certain themes in the book that resonated with me as a mother. For example, how important it is to encourage your children to follow their hearts and be their own person. Which, as an aside, is why I'm constantly reminding them that "in this family, we are proud to like Justin Bieber and will not hide our Bieber Fever from others!" Apparently he's not so cool with other third-grade boys.
TS: Past loves have definitely had their place in your writing, particularly in Where We Belong and Love the One You're With. Do you think that wistful feeling toward first loves is inevitable?
EG: I think it is universal to wonder about the path not taken or the "one who got away," so to speak. This isn't to say that we aren't perfectly happy with our lives and our choices, though. It's just human nature to wonder "what if."
TS: Between Kirby and Conrad, music plays a major role in this book. Did you do any special research to pick out which songs or bands would be mentioned?
EG: I love a lot of different kinds of music, so I was able to think about Kirby's taste without doing too much research. I did have to research drummers and drumming a little. I'm friends with Adam Duritz (of the Counting Crows) so he was able to read passages that involved drumming and help tweak them.
TS: You recently took your first trip to Vegas. If you could visit Sin City with any of your characters, who would you choose?
EG: Yes, I saved Vegas for my 40th. It was such a blast because I went with 12 of my best friends from all stages of my life — from the third grade through law school to my current "mommy" life. But if we could have tacked on a fictional character, I'd probably add Conrad from Where We Belong — assuming I could get permission from my husband! (Laughs.) Conrad edges out Ethan, my favorite male character before this book. If I had to marry a character, then it would probably go like this, in order: Conrad (Where We Belong), Ethan (Something Blue), Ben (Baby Proof), Leo (Love the One You're With), Dex (Something Borrowed), and then Andy (Love the One You're With). Gosh, I feel so mean toward Andy right now! He's such a good guy.
If you'd like to read Emily's latest book, then order Where We Belong now.