Surprise! Emma Straub wrote a new novel about time travel
Emma Straub knows how to keep a secret. The author, who is considerably Online, shares plenty with her huge fan base, including her favorite books (she owns the beloved shop Books Are Magic in Brooklyn), snippets from her life in New York City, and projects she's working on. But amid the chaos of the last 18 months, she found time to write a brand-new novel without anyone knowing. Now EW can exclusively reveal that This Time Tomorrow will publish May 17, 2022, just in time for all the summer vacationing we've been longing to do (because who does a beach read better than Straub?).
The novel, which her publishers describe as a mix of 13 Going on 30, Big, and Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, with plenty of Stranger Things-esque pop culture references thrown in for good measure, follows narrator Alice between her life as a 16-year-old girl and a 40-year-old woman. Here's the official synopsis:
Get a first look at the cover of This Time Tomorrow below. EW also spoke to Straub about the inspiration behind the novel, how she managed to keep it a secret, and her favorite elements of the '90s timeline.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How and when did the idea for this book come to you? What was the inspiration?
EMMA STRAUB: During the summer and fall of 2020, my father was in the hospital for several months — despite the timing, it wasn't COVID, it was his heart. My dad [Peter Straub] is a novelist, of course, and when I visited him we would spend a lot of time talking about writing. I'd been working on a novel that I'd had to put aside at the start of lockdown — I was home alone with my two small children while my husband was at our bookstore — and we joked about it, me writing a book about a woman and her dad. I started writing that October, a year ago. I haven't written a novel this quickly since before I had children.
How did the writing of this book help you through the pandemic?
I wasn't able to write a word for the first six or seven months of the pandemic, probably the longest break from writing I've had since I was in my 20s. When I finally had childcare and some in-person school, I was ready. Beyond ready! I have never been more happy to work in my life. In fact, the idea of writing this novel as work doesn't begin to cover it — writing was an escape, a rescue, a joy. This novel helped me process it all — my fear of losing my dad, my fear of losing the whole world. It was sort of like my therapist, only the book didn't charge me by the hour.
What can you tell us about the meaning of the book's title?
Well, I don't want to spoil anything, but "This Time Tomorrow" is a great song by the Kinks that asks the question, "This time tomorrow, where will we be?" It was a question that had a really concrete, solid answer for most of us over the course of 2020-2021 — we would be at home. The book is about a woman looking at her choices and wondering what could have been different. Where would you be, if you could be somewhere else, this time tomorrow? At the bookstore, we talk about books as both mirrors and windows, but sometimes what you need is a combination — something that shows you how you used to be, and where you are now.
How did you manage to keep the book a secret?
This book is so personal that it felt necessary to keep things a bit close. I certainly talked to my friends and co-workers about the book, but even that felt private. Really, I just kept it off the internet as much as I could. I guess I wanted to keep it just mine for as long as I could. There is also the fact that the last few years have been really destabilizing, for all of us, and because this book is in some big ways a departure for me, I wanted to protect myself, and it.
What's your favorite '90s pop culture reference in the book?
That is an impossible choice. Alice is my age, the class of '98, and much of the book takes place in the fall of 1996. When I think about my high school bedroom, it's just a beautiful mess — you've got Biggie; you've got Reality Bites; you've got Keanu Reeves; you've got Hot 97 and Z100, my favorite radio stations; and the little pink boombox I used to make mixtapes for my friends. The Caboodles, the landline, the cigarettes. It's all there. The stores and restaurants in my neighborhood that are gone. Writing the book made me feel like I had all those things back. I hope other people will find something familiar, too, in the love and the longing and those small moments that pile up to make the big ones. That and hot dogs.