'Where We Belong': Emily Giffin discusses new book
Emily Giffin fans rejoice! Where We Belong, Giffin’s newest novel, is finally available. Earlier this summer, EW dubbed it “another pastel-colored surefire hit,” and the perfect summer read. Belong certainly lives up to both of those claims. The book follows Marian Caldwell, a successful TV producer, who gets a shock when (minor spoiler alert!) Kirby, the daughter she gave up for adoption 18 years ago, arrives at her door. Giffin uses alternate point of views to tell the heartfelt story of Marian and Kirby, and how they both cope with their newfound relationship. Here, Giffin chats about her inspiration for Where We Belong, shares what’s on her personal Must List, and tells us how she really feels about Justin Bieber.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the inspiration for Where We Belong?
EMILY GIFFIN: At its heart, the book is about secrets and what happens to us and to those closest to us when we keep them. I’ve always been intrigued by the power of secrets. When is it justifiable to keep them from the ones we love? And does keeping them irrevocably change who we are? Adoption seemed to be a great way to explore some of the broader themes. In addition, I have always been interested in adoption. There are so many perspectives to explore—such rich, emotional terrain.
It’s a little different from your other books in that you tell part of the story from Kirby’s point of view. How was it different to write from a teenager’s viewpoint?
I have 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 re-read my favorite young adult books often. 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. As for Kirby’s voice, I was nervous in the beginning—worried that I couldn’t make her authentic. So I read old journals from high school to try to get back in the mindset of a teenager. But after I got started, her voice came very naturally to me. In some ways, I found her easier to relate to than the adults in the book, even though we aren’t much alike on paper.
I love how so many of your characters show up as peripheral characters in your other books. For example, Claudia and Ben from Baby Proof make a brief cameo in Where We Belong. Your books aren’t true spin-offs or sequels, so why the decision to have them all relate like that? Is that just a fun nod to your faithful readers?
Yes. Mostly I do it because I know my readers enjoy the updates on characters they’ve read about in other books—and other than Something Blue, I haven’t wanted to commit to a sequel. But I also like the subtle message it conveys–how interconnected we all are. After all, don’t we often discover those overlaps and few degrees of separation in our real lives? Why not in fiction, too?
Something Borrowed has already made the jump to the big screen. Any news on whether any of your other titles will get the movie treatment?
With respect to Where We Belong, we’re in talks with a wonderful producer committed to making smart romantic comedies. So few movies are made these days that don’t involve animation or things getting blown up, but I really love this story for the big screen. Love the One You’re With is getting close to production (the script is written, a director has been selected, and a wonderful actress is attached)—and Heart of the Matter and Something Blue have also been optioned. I wrote the script for Baby Proof with my close friend from high school—and we’re still trying to find the right home for it. So I’ve been pretty lucky so far. Hollywood is just icing on the cake, though. I really try to focus on my books and readers.
I know you’re gearing up for all the press for Where We Belong, but what’s next on the agenda? Any new books in the works?
Yes, I will begin my next book in earnest when I return home from my tour in late August. The early seeds have already been planted, but it still feels so daunting. As Stephen King says: “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.” So true! (Speaking of Stephen King, I love his new book 11/22/63).
In last week’s EW, you shared the books of your life—the ones that have shaped you as a writer and a person. But what’s on your list of current favorites? Any good recommendations for our readers? Four fabulous debut novels: Alys, Always by Harriet Lane; Can I Get an Amen? by Sarah Healy; Overseas by Beatriz Williams; and Groundswell by Katie Lee. For an interesting nonfiction read, I really enjoyed Quiet by Susan Cain. I read it with my husband who is a true introvert whereas I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert.
What’s on your personal Must List right now?
Like the rest of the planet, I’m absolutely dying to see Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and am thrilled that Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in it—he’s perfect.
I can’t wait for season 2 of ABC’s Revenge—I heard Jennifer Jason Leigh is going to play Amanda Clark’s mother and I love her.
As for music, I recently discovered a new band I love, If Birds Could Fly. Their new album Ghosts has this retro, country-meets-gospel feel, making me wish I could listen to them on vinyl.
I think Counting Crows are at the top of their game—love their latest album Underwater Sunshine.
And as an R&B fan, I am also digging Usher’s and Ne-Yo’s latest.
Anything else you want to add?
Yes. I have unabashed Bieber Fever and routinely Google “Justin and Selena.” They are so cute together. (Happy 20th, Selena!).