By Maureen Lee Lenker
May 26, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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Virgin River

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Fans are going to get to return to Virgin River in more ways than one.

Based on the series of books by Robyn Carr, Virgin River launched on Netflix in late 2019, and it's already been picked up for a second season. But fans will soon have another way to get their Virgin River fix. EW can reveal that after almost a decade Carr is returning to the best-selling series with her 21st novel in the Virgin River universe, fittingly titled Return to Virgin River.

This will mark the first Virgin River novel since 2012's My Kind of Christmas, which Carr had long believed would remain her final entry in the series. Now, EW can exclusively debut the cover for the new title below, the latest in a series that has sold over 13 million books worldwide.

Return to Virgin River will hit shelves October 12, ahead of the still to be announced release date for season 2 the Netflix series. Details on who exactly the novel might center on are scarce, but Carr promises a synopsis is coming soon. It will take readers back to Carr's fictional Northern California town of Virgin River, and she promises readers will encounter plenty of familiar faces.

The series began with the first novel, aptly titled Virgin River, which follows nurse practitioner Melinda Monroe (played by This Is Us' Alexandra Breckenridge on the series) as she relocates to the quiet mountain town in an attempt to break through her grief. But when a tiny baby is abandoned on her front porch and she meets local bar owner Jack Sheridan (Grey's Anatomy's Martin Henderson on the show), her attempts to find some peace are thrown into upheaval as she tries to make a new home for herself. Over the course of her previous 20 novels, Carr has not only continued the story of Mel and Jack, but introduced plenty of new love stories to her sleepy mountain town.

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We called up Carr to talk about what convinced her to return to her beloved small town, whether this will be the last, and how the coronavirus has impacted Virgin River season 2.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is your first Virgin River book in almost a decade. Why the long break and what prompted the return?

ROBYN CARR: The series felt complete to me by the twentieth book. When you think about it, 20 is a lot. Also, I was not going to get new readers with that many books, because they would look at the number of books in the series, and think, "Well, what if I like it? What if I read one and like it? Then I have to read 20?" It's a little bit daunting. But the Virgin River series on Netflix was so beloved, and it did so well. My fans had been saying for years, "Please write one more book," so I thought well maybe one more to celebrate the Netflix series. It satisfies the readers, who have been begging and begging and begging, hopefully. And it also gives me an opportunity to celebrate that Netflix series; they did such an awesome job.

Would you say then that this will be your swan song for Virgin River?

I never say that. It's gonna be what's it gonna be. I really am in a fantastic position because I have four series and a lot of standalone books. So, I can do a lot of different things.

Can you tell us who your story focuses on – is it characters we’ve met on the series?

Some. Most of the series characters will be in this new book, like Mel and Jack. I'm trying to keep it simple. I'm not involving the entire town in this drama. So it's a couple of new characters, which is standard fare for a Virgin River book. You get a couple of new characters falling in love and you get some members of the town, not all, but the anchor characters Mel and Jack and Preacher are all there. I can't give you a synopsis because I'm being still about it for now. It'll be out soon. I'm a tease. 

Did writing it require you to find your sea legs again at all?

Oh yeah. I mean I couldn't remember details. I had to go back and do a lot of re-reading, and check out the character sketches and see where I was at. But then, it's such a comfortable place. With a series this long, the good news is you've already done the whole background and it's there and you can slip into it. But the hard part is you've already done the whole background and you have to remember every detail again and not make any mistakes. My readers will call me on it. If I make one mistake. If one brown-eyed character has blue eyes it's over for me. A real trick for authors like me is when I can't remember I ask the readers on Facebook. They remember. They forget nothing. And they also forgive nothing.

This cover is so beautiful, and it really reminds me of the opening credits and setting of the series as well. How much of a role did that play in the design of it?

I don't know. The art department did that, and we were so excited when we saw it, because it really is stunning isn't it? Those red buildings! I just love it. It's perfect.

Have you heard from a lot of people that are discovering your series through the TV show?

I'm hearing all the time. Tons of emails and people are writing me through my newsletter, through my website, through Facebook through Pinterest, all the social media outlets. I'm getting letters every day from people who are just now discovering it. They have dual opportunity. If they see the Netflix series, they get some extra stuff in there they didn't get in the books, and if they read the books, they get some extra stuff in there that they didn't get in the television series.

Virgin River is a small town that often lives by their own code sometimes, so what do you think they’d make of our current moment?

There's no question in my mind they would be absolutely divided. There would be outbreaks in the bar. Some people would say, "Oh, it's been overdone and it's a hoax," and other people saying, "Oh my god, this is the most serious thing we've ever been through."

Can you tease anything about season 2 and whether the Hollywood shutdown might impact it?

I don't know if it's been disrupted. I think they finished season 2, and now are doing the work that has to be done -- editing, dubbing, all of that, marketing, that kind of stuff. I still don't have a day of its release, but that they do promise it will be out in 2020.

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