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June 26, 2018 at 09:00 AM EDT

Emily Giffin is the queen of the rom-com. She’s basically the Nancy Meyers of books. The best-selling author has become notorious for tear-jerking beach reads that captivate literal millions of readers, covering topics best friends falling for each other’s husbands — which became the popular flick Something Borrowed, of course.

But now, the prolific author is wading into altogether more serious territory. Her newest novel, All We Ever Wanted, out Tuesday, hinges on a social media scandal at an elite private high school in Nashville. It raises all sorts of hot-button issues like privilege and entitlement, and what it means to raise children in today’s society, which is fixated on not only image but a perfectly crafted image at that. Giffin is the mother of three children, including two in high school, so the story is perhaps her most personal.

Ahead, Giffin lets EW in on her writing process, her favorite books, and when she uses whiskey to fuel her beloved storytelling.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
EMILY GIFFIN:
A self-published and self-bound book from 1978 called “The Funny Pandas and the Messy Room.”

What is the last book that made you cry?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

What is your favorite part of All We Ever Wanted?
The epilogue — which I almost didn’t write.

Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?
There are so many! But the one on my nightstand that’s really been calling my name is How to Love a Jamaican, a collection of short stories by Alexia Arthurs.

Where do you write?
That has changed as my children have grown older. I used to write in my attic office. Then I moved out to our pool house. Now, I have an office several miles from my home. At some point, when my now-11-year-old daughter grows completely indifferent to what I’m doing, I’ll be able to return to the pool house and write in peace! I also love to write in coffee shops (Dancing Goats and Octane are my two faves in Atlanta) and my local Barnes & Noble.

Which book made you a forever reader?
Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona. I was obsessed.

What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
I want to say almonds or fruit, but if I’m being honest — I always have a box of Cheez-Its nearby. And when I get up to write in the middle of the night, my go-to is Frosted Mini-Wheats. Or whiskey.

What was the hardest thing to write in All We Ever Wanted?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the single father or the teenaged daughter — the two characters to whom I should, on paper, have more trouble relating. I had more difficulty writing about Nina, a married mother, perhaps because it tapped into more of my own personal fears. It was an emotional story for me, for sure.

If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
The title of my third novel, Baby Proof. The book is not about babies. I know, right?

If All We Ever Wanted had a movie poster tagline it would be:
Sometimes having it all isn’t everything. Or maybe: How do we remain true to the people we love . . . even if it means lying to ourselves?

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