Taylor Jenkins Reid on her new novel, Carrie Soto Is Back
Not every Taylor Jenkins Reid novel lands in the summer, but it always sort of feels like they should; her books take over so many sandy tote bags, and seem so right for the season, she's become a de facto queen of breezy, enveloping reads.
On the eve of her latest release, the '90s tennis saga Carrie Soto Is Back (out today), the author of nightstand all-stars Daisy Jones & the Six, Malibu Rising, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo sat down with EW to dig into fame, sports metaphors, and what comes next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: People are starving for you on the internet. They seem very ready for this book.
TAYLOR JENKINS REID: That makes me happy. It's tennis, so it's funny because a lot of the reaction's been, "What? I don't want to read about tennis." I promise it's fun! I promise tennis is a very fun world to be in.
Well, I am a tennis person, and I also am very fond of things like the movie Wimbledon starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany.
Oh my gosh, it was the first thing I watched during my research. "Let's just pop on Wimbledon." Who doesn't need a little moment with Paul Bettany?
Your books so far have generally tended to require some kind of specialized research: Golden-age Hollywood, the 1970s rock scene, surfing, swimsuit modeling, whatever it is... Were you coming in more familiar this time, or was that the case again with Carrie?
I don't know what I'm doing. [Laughs] I see something that interests me that I feel like I would enjoy learning about, and then I go and learn about it. I did not know anything about tennis when I started, I just did a lot of research. And honestly, the research period of time is the most fun time, and so picking something that I know a little about just means I get to do more of it. But I love tennis now, and I'm very invested in a couple of storylines in the current tennis world, both in the ATP and the WTA. I've become a tennis person.
People who don't love tennis just haven't met it yet, is how I feel.
I'm not a sports person, but I really think tennis is an exception. I really do. Part of it is that it's man versus man. It's not a team sport. And so it is very much about the psychology of the player and their particular style. And there's a lot more storytelling in tennis, the story of these players' lives and their rivalries.
You've also at this point created a little bit of a TJR metaverse, with characters who show up on the fringes of other books. Mick Riva, a wayward husband from Evelyn Hugo, has almost become your talisman.
Carrie does take place in the world that he lives in, and people are aware of him. His name comes up, but he's not going to come in and mess anything up. It's so funny how many people are like, [mock angrily] "If Mick Riva shows up in this one..." Because I love how much people also dislike him as much as I do. It makes me feel good.
Maybe readers are going to embody him eventually, like Candyman. If you say his name enough times in the mirror, he'll become real.
[Laughs] Yeah, I saw a TikTok that was great of somebody pretending to be me sitting at the computer. It was like "Taylor Jenkins Reid as she writes," and it's Mick Riva looking over my shoulder. But yeah, there's a little Easter egg in [Carrie] for everybody who loves to hate Mick Riva.
Speaking of readers, do you get recognized?
Yeah, occasionally. Which, it's funny because I did not think that happened to authors. So it was not part of my plan for what my life would look like. But occasionally, you can tell somebody knows who you are.
You can't just run to the grocery store with no bra on now.
I literally became an author because I wanted to live in sweatpants! Everybody who's like, "Oh, pandemic, I'm in sweatpants." I'm like, "I'm 10 years ahead of you." I have not put on jeans in a decade. I want to be a dirtbag. And so now it's like, "Oh, you can see me?"
But it is really sweet. I was in line at a Chipotle a couple of years ago, And the woman working at the counter she's like, "Okay, what do you want?" I'm like, "Veggie bowl." And she's like, "Oh my God, you're, you're..." I'm just like, this is not my most glamorous moment, but that's how it happens. [Laughs]
When I was younger and found a book I loved and then realized that author had a whole catalog, I'd always feel like a millionaire. But that familiarity also fosters expectations, and a certain emotional attachment.
Oh yeah, no, I have a real hyper-fixation thing where I get into something, I am going fully down that road until that road ends. I'm not getting off of it. So I feel really fortunate that people that have read Daisy a lot have gone back to read Evelyn, or people that have read Malibu have gone to check out the others. You hope that you write something that people enjoy enough to trust you to go on another journey. That was always my goal, is to earn that trust and then come through.
Are you a fan of looking back at your old stuff, or do you like to leave it?
Until very recently, I absolutely would not do that, because it's deeply embarrassing, and also it's like, I can't fix it. You hope that you grow with every book. And so if that logic holds, then my eighth book should be a lot better written than my first book, which means, oh my gosh, that my first book was so terrible and I'm so embarrassed.
But I recently went back and read them all because all of them are being reissued. And there were parts I cringed, and parts where I could see where I had grown. And then, there was also moments where I was like, "You know what? I got to have a little bit more faith in myself. It's okay. It's okay that these are out here." There's a lot to be proud of in them. If I had it to do over, I'd rewrite every single one, but you got to just be okay with good enough.
Your covers tend to be distinctive, and Carrie Soto, with all that gold, is pretty striking. Was getting to that a big journey?
It was a journey. It was perhaps my biggest journey yet. It was a really hard cover to nail, and I think they've done just a phenomenal job in finding that balance. Part of what was difficult about it is Evelyn Hugo is a very glamorous woman. Daisy Jones is a very glamorous woman. Nina Riva is a very glamorous woman.
I didn't want Carrie to be glamorous in that same way. She is prickly. She's difficult. The way she looks, the way her body is, they challenge our understandings of how a woman should be. And I really wanted that sense of strength to be first. I do write about famous women, and famous women tend to fit into a certain understanding of what women should look like. Carrie does not. And that is very much on purpose.
Her purpose within herself is not to be beautiful. Carrie's purpose, as she says in the book, is that her body was made to wage war. And so I wanted a cover that felt like "This is an incredibly strong woman." And what we landed on, and what I love about the cover is that to me, in some ways, she looks like a bronze bust. She looks like a Greek goddess. But you still want it to be inviting for people, so it took a long time. It took on many, many different iterations. And there were times there where I think everybody on the team was like, "I don't know if we're going to get there."
Do you have to google to see if Carrie Soto exists before you pick these character names?
Yeah, I do. What's tough, though, is... I mean, Daisy Edgar Jones showed up after I had the book Daisy.
[Laughs] Yeah. Well, no, honestly, if anything, I think it just proves my point, which is that people named Daisy Jones are very glamorous. If there's a Carrie Soto out there, I hope she's as cool as some of the real Daisy Joneses.
What's the update on Daisy [which is slated to be a miniseries for Prime Video starring Riley Keogh]. Is there a hard date for that yet?
Well, there were delays [for the pandemic]. But we're supposed to finish filming this summer, and then we should have a release date.
With Malibu, you talked about having found some old article about a debutante party gone wrong, and that gave you the seed of the story. Do you have a drawer full of little idea scraps for what's next?
I do. And I also don't, for the first time in a long time. I have said that Carrie Soto will be the last in this series of books about famous women. And I think I know where I'm going next, but it feels very much like a new frontier. I don't know quite what it's going to look like, and I'm taking my time.
Normally, I would be releasing Carrie Soto, and at least the first or second draft of my next book would be written. I have not written anything. I don't know. I'm taking some time, and I want to make sure that I know exactly what new direction I want to take. Things are percolating, but it's the Wild West in my brain right now.
- Taylor Jenkins Reid: The Books of My Life
- Taylor Jenkins Reid on learning to write like a '70's rock star in Daisy Jones and the Six
- The Conversation: Paula Hawkins and Taylor Jenkins Reid on the business of best-sellers
- Blue Crush: Read the first chapter of Taylor Jenkins Reid's new novel Malibu Rising