We talk about slow burns, book tour, puppies, the inspiration for the lead character, Nora, and the Icy City Ex Girlfriend Trope.
Thank you to Ann_Knee, Clairatrix, and the enthusiastic members of the Culture Study Discord’s romance channel who were very excited about this interview alongside me. And thank you to publicist Heather Mill who set the interview up.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find Emily Henry on her website, EmilyHenryBooks.com.
We also mentioned:
- The Culture Study Substack newsletter (and Discord group)
- This Q&A with Emily Henry by Courtney Wallace on the ABA BookWeb.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there! How are you today? I hope everything with you is well. Welcome to Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and my guest today in episode 510 is Emily Henry! Her new book Book Lovers is out this week, and we are going to talk about slow burns, book tour, puppies, and the icy city ex-girlfriend trope, which if you watch Hallmark movies you’re very familiar with her.
I want to thank Ann_Knee, Clairatrix, and the very enthusiastic members of the Culture Study Discord’s romance channel, who were very excited about this interview alongside me. This is one of those interviews where my inner thirteen-year-old is not chill? I also want to say a very special thank-you to publicist Heather Mill, who set up this interview.
I will have links to all of the books that we talk about and some articles and Q&As with Emily Henry that I used to develop some of my questions in the show notes. And guess! Guess where they are! Smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
Hello and a very big thank-you to our Patreon community. You keep the show going; you help me make sure that every episode has a fantastic transcript, hand-compiled by garlicknitter; and I want to thank you very, very much for your support. If you like the show and you want to support us, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
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All right, are you ready? Ready for a podcast? I’m ready for a podcast! I was so excited to do this interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. On with my conversation with best-selling author Emily Henry.
Emily Henry: Hi! I am Emily Henry. I am a writer. I used to write books for teens, and now I write romance novels, including Beach Read, People We Meet on Vacation, and my new book Book Lovers.
Sarah: It must be so hard to be a new and undiscovered author –
Sarah: – and, and to just have no one recognize your book titles at all.
Emily: Yeah, yeah!
Emily: You know what? It’s really, I’m so happy that I started out in YA and was not a recognized author, ‘cause I feel like this would have just totally ruined me. Like, I would have, like, a green room rider that’d be like, I can’t do anything without a bowl of blue M&Ms! So I’m, like, really glad that that’s not how I started.
Sarah: So now I want to know what’s going to be, when you go on tour, like in person, in-person tour, and you have a rider ‘cause you’re selling out –
Sarah: – you’re selling out, you know, arenas –
Emily: Arenas, yeah!
Sarah: – right, for your book tour, what is, what is the thing on your rider that you’re going to be like, nope, I need it?
Emily: I mean, I, this is – do I get to be horrible in this scenario?
Emily: I think I would love, I would love if there could be, like, a therapy dog or a pup- – that’s not horrible, but you know, I don’t, I don’t need that, but I would love to have, like, puppies, basically.
Sarah: Ooh, that’s a good one!
Emily: I’d love to have puppies to just kind of de-stress. I, I’m trying to think what else. I mean, I would love to have, like, a really fancy Prosecco.
Emily: I don’t know; I mean, like, the blue M&Ms I think I would want to do just to say I’d done it.
Emily: I don’t really care about M&Ms, but maybe.
Sarah: Right. Yeah. I think puppies is a great rider, and I, I mean –
Sarah: – you can bring ‘em out on stage with you and every, everyone would be like, this is the best book talk ever. Puppies!
Emily: [Laughs] Right! Right! The whole arena goes wild –
Emily: – for the puppy on stage three miles away. Yeah.
Sarah: Yes! And now Emily Henry and some puppies! Oh my gosh!
Emily: Yes! Just like a giant, you know, like, garage door opening, and then a stampede of puppies.
Sarah: Yes! Okay, so we’ve planned your next book tour.
Emily: All done.
Sarah: Somewhere, somewhere your publicist is now very anxious and doesn’t know why.
Emily: [Laughs] I know, I know! She felt the little tingle go down her spine.
Emily: She’s like, Emily’s asking for puppies again.
Sarah: Oh no!
So congratulations, in all seriousness –
Emily: Thank you!
Sarah: – on Book Lovers. I try very hard to do interviews that are not spoiler-y, but I have to say –
Sarah: – I read this whole thing in one day, and I –
Sarah: – really enjoyed it. I, I think if this book were a person and it were wearing a T-shirt, it would say, Hello, Sarah! I contain a lot of your catnip, and I’m very romance-friendly. Like, this book was like a hug for romance readers. Was that part of your goal here?
Emily: One hundred percent.
Emily: You know, it’s kind of funny because I feel like Beach Read was, was my attempt to trick a bunch of people who hadn’t read romance before into starting to read romance –
Emily: – and now that I kind of have them on the line I’m like, okay, now I can just, like, write a straight-up romance novel.
Sarah: Just lean in. Yeah.
Emily: Yeah, lean in! And you know what? They’re going there. They’re, they’re willing to, and I feel like it is the time. Like, if you have not read romance yet, 2022 is the year that, like, what are you waiting for?
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. There’s so much good options now, too.
Emily: Yeah, there are.
Sarah: So what is one of your favorite parts of this book, and why is it making up adorable names for coffee shops?
Emily: That was one of my favorite parts.
Sarah: Yeah. [Laughs]
Emily: I have a whole, like, I have multiple pages of a notebook – actually, I think it might be right here. This is never before seen content!
Emily: Yeah, yeah! This is really rare. Let’s see if I, if this actually is the right one. Yeah, I love doing that so much, and I think the thing is, like, I, the worse they are, the more I love it, and –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Emily: – I’m like – I will say, so there’s one, there’s one shop in the book that was, there is a real hair salon near where I live that has the name Curl Up and Dye –
Emily – like D-Y-E, and, and then when I googled it, it was like, this is really ridiculous! I googled it, and plenty of other people have also made this decision –
Emily: – to open a salon called Curl Up and Dye, so that one’s real, and the rest I was just like, how bad of a pun can I pun? And this might not be the right notebook; I’m sorry. The only one I remember off the top of my head was another option for the spa, was Ziggy Spadust.
Emily: That’s kind of like the level that – [laughs] – that I was working at. It was like –
Sarah: I am all about that one.
Emily: Yeah. I thought – oh, and I remember See Spa Run? I just – [laughs] – nonsense.
Sarah: So that really is the best part about being a romance author: make up a small town, populate the businesses with incredible pun names, right?
Emily: Yeah! I mean, I think the thing, like you were saying, like, this was your catnip, and I really did try and stuff this book with everything that I think is cozy? And I think, you know, a lot of us love that quirky small town, and it’s like, you know, I live outside of, I live in a city but, like, in my own little neighborhood it has, like, a very distinct personality –
Emily: – and I love it so much, and it, like, you know, I feel like real life is weirder than fiction, and so when you’re seeing those, like, quirky, weird small towns –
Emily: – in books, you’re like, this is a real thing. This –
Emily: – this is what I love is that, like, you can’t just find this place on a map. You have to know someone who’s like, I live in this really weird place; come to it; and I definitely –
Emily: – wanted to make a town that you, like, wanted to go to, even though you’re like, what will I do once I’m there? [Laughs]
Sarah: Yeah! Like, what, what is, what are my options? Are there any? Do I have two? Like, what?
Emily: Yeah! Yeah, that’s basically it, but I think that’s part of the charm, because when there are only two options, everybody in town is using those two options –
Emily: – and that’s why you’re like, oh, the same, you know, the same, the guy who delivers my mail, buy also is technically the mayor? Or something.
Sarah: Yeah? Yeah.
Emily: You know, and he’s at the coffee shop ordering his, like, green smoothie that is not even on the menu.
Sarah: Oh, for sure! Now, I have questions from other readers. I am in a Discord server – this is such a, such a convoluted thing, but I am –
Sarah: – I am subscribed to a newsletter by a journalist named Anne Helen Petersen, who writes a newsletter called “Culture Study,” and when you pay for a subscription you also get access to a Discord, and there is a whole channel in all caps that is called ROMANCES ARE GOOD, ALL RIGHT? And so we all hang out in there and talk about romance novels, which is great fun. And I happened to mention that I was going to get to interview with you, and my inner thirteen-year-old was super not cool about it, and I had people go, oh my gosh, that’s so exciting! And so they have questions for me to ask you, so there’s many people who are so excited for this book, first of all.
Emily: I love that!
Sarah: I know!
Emily: Thank you! That’s so exciting!
Sarah: And it really is exciting to be like, oh my gosh, I love that book, oh my gosh, me too! Okay.
So Ann_Knee has a couple of questions, and the first question is that your dialogue and your pacing seem very cinematic, like a movie or a TV show, and I know from a Q&A that you did about Book Lovers that the genesis of Nora is the ice-cold city business chick in the movies –
Sarah: – who always gets dumped, and you only see her, as you said, running on the treadmill and –
Emily: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: – yelling at the hero, and I was like, I know exactly who you’re talking about in every movie that I’ve seen her in. Now, do you take notes from film and TV or from life or from other books? It, Ann_Knee would like me to tell you that you make it seem effortless to have this pacing and this cinematic –
Sarah: – dialogue, and obviously it is not, so well done.
Emily: Thank you! Yeah. Well, thank you so much. I will say, I think the dialogue comes pretty naturally to me; the pacing does not. I, I was just doing another interview a while back and somebody asked a question about the dialogue, and I was like, no, dialogue is, happens for me. It’s just then, like, how do I turn this conversation into a plot?
Emily: That’s what’s way harder for me, and, like, I could write twenty-five pages of people talking –
Emily: – but, like, where is this going? Um… But I do think, you know, I, I was a huge reader growing up, but then I feel like I did become more of a movie and TV person for a while there, and it really probably did shape my sensibilities a lot?
Emily: I do not actively take notes, but I think I am a sponge. Like, I think I really absorb the things I love and even, like, I, I’m totally the person who accidentally picks up on people’s mannerisms or, like –
Emily: – find myself speaking with their accent and like, I’m so sorry; I don’t know what’s happening! [Laughs]
Emily: And yeah, so I think it just, you know, I absorb it; I, I take in a lot of media. I love story in all of its forms, so I think, you know, like, the more you read, the more prepared you are to write, and –
Emily: – that’s, like, a big part of it? But I also think I am part of, like, the sub-generation that was, like, truly raised by Nora Ephron and Gilmore Girls and, like, that, my, my entire sense of identity, yeah, talking, exactly.
Sarah: Talking. Lots of dialogue.
Emily: Talking! Yeah!
Sarah: Lots of dialogue, yep.
Emily: Yeah, and you know, I was, because I was, I, I did recently read the When Harry Met Sally screenplay for the first time. I’ve seen it, but I’d never read it, and it was, reading it was the first time I realized, like, it is a movie where pretty much nothing happens, and it’s just this conversation that spans years, and I was like, that’s why I love this so much! It’s just two people talking through life.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. One of the things that I love about podcasting is the idea – and I think this comes from the Blinkist podcast – that you’re being given permission to eavesdrop on people’s conversations.
Sarah: And really good dialogue is the same thing! You’re being given permission to eavesdrop on everybody’s, especially the intimate conversations.
Emily: Right! Yeah!
Sarah: And there are so many in this book, too! You have texting and email and out loud and all of these different ways of communicating that just feed into one another, ‘cause that’s how we talk now, right?
Emily: Oh, for sure! I mean, and you know, it’s funny because when I started Book Lovers I knew that some things about it were specifically going to be kind of a nod to You’ve Got Mail. I, looking back and like, oh, I did sort of like – [laughs] – a reverse You’ve Got Mail where, like, in real life they’re, like, cordial and polite; over email they’re, like, viciously, they’re bantering viciously.
Emily: And that was sort of like, yeah, the opposite of You’ve Got Mail. But I think that kind of seeped in; again, it wasn’t intentional, but I’m a sponge.
Sarah: Yep! Now, Ann_Knee also wanted me to ask about the slow burn. A lot of your books, even in the YA, some, some of them got a lot of slow burn, which, by the way, is my number one style. So how do you toe the line, Ann_Knee says, between characters and when to finally cross the line?
Sarah: And how conscious are you of the buildup as you’re writing it? Do you have, like, a mental diagram that helps you construct a slow burn? Like, what are some of your elements there?
Emily: Yeah! Sort of, I think, you know, I’m lucky to have an editor who is really, really good at that sort of thing, and so sometimes she’ll be like, I think that this is – you know, like, Beach Read is a good example; my agent was the one who caught it: the initial draft of Beach Read, there were like three interrupted kisses.
Emily: My agent was like, you know what? We’ve got to, we’ve got to pull back a little bit. So I will say there are some people who have a really strong grasp on plotting who are helping me and kind of like being my bumpers that knock me back in the right direction, but I am conscious of that buildup, and I do tend to draft very quickly when I write a first draft, and so I am, like, feeling it for the characters.
Emily: It’s like, it’s happening, not quite in real time, but it’s like, my first drafts normally do take about like forty days, and then I rewrite the whole thing, but with that first forty days, I’m trying to keep that momentum and that feeling –
Emily: – of this building connection and, yeah, like, the tension growing and growing, and I think that makes it really, it’s really helpful for me to write quickly. Whenever I take breaks and come back to it, it’s like, okay, how do I –
Emily: – find my way back into these characters’ headspace?
Sarah: Yeah. Because those are very present and active emotions that are –
Sarah: – much more vibrant when you’re actually feeling them. When you think about them –
Sarah: – after the fact, it’s different.
Emily: Right! You’re like, that was weird! [Laughs]
Emily: What happened?
Sarah: What the heck happened?
Emily: Yeah! [Laughs] Yeah!
Sarah: So Clairatrix also has a question, and Clairatrix wrote, I would be interested in hearing thoughts and feedback that you’ve gotten because many of your characters are in publishing. It’s very niche, and it’s something that a lot of people dream about getting into. What, what draws you to writing about publishing folks, and is this a world that you know, or is it because people aspire to it, or both? What leads you into that particular arena?
Emily: Well, what leads me into it is definitely my familiarity with it. I think like now I’ve been in this world long enough to know what’s, like, funny – [laughs] –
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Emily: – about it? What’s really weird about it.
Sarah: Yes! Oh, many things!
Emily: Yeah, so many things! And, like –
Sarah: [Sings] So many things!
Emily: – I wouldn’t have known that right up front; I would have just seen, like, the glossy, like, Hollywood version of publishing, which is very different.
Sarah: Oh –
Emily: Yeah. Like, everyone is so much weirder. Like, you need to understand, everyone is so much weirder than, than, you know, Hollywood, Hollywood publishing.
Sarah: Or television versions of publishing.
Emily: Yes, where, like, we bought the book! Print it! Get it on, get it on stands! I love the timeline.
Sarah: Tomorrow! Yeah.
Emily: Yeah, right. The timeline –
Sarah: You sign the contract, and a truck of money shows up. Like –
Sarah: – wow! Is that really how it works?
Emily: Like, well, yes, that is! [Laughs]
Emily: Yeah. So I think that it, it started with just familiarity, but then I realized with Beach Read people actually did care and were –
Emily: You know, it is niche, but at the same time, like, we’re seeing, like, of course readers are curious; readers from outside of that world want to know, like, how this happens, how it gets from being this idea to this, like, book in their hands that –
Emily: – they’re reading and seeing and all that, so it makes sense to me that there’s curiosity there. And you know what, like, since I am trying to write these, like, summery romances, there is, like, now some thought going to, like, what is, like, the aspirational quality of this that will make people feel like they’re kind of like on a vacation?
Emily: And you know, like, that glossy version of publishing in Hollywood I think is trying to scratch that itch? It’s like, here, look; everything’s shiny! Everybody’s really well dressed! Whatever. And so I think, you know, there is, that is factoring into it as I go along too now, trying to think like, what do readers want? And so it’s, like, always that balance of what am I curious about, and what do I think readers want that I, like, am equipped to give them?
Sarah: And it’s a hard balance, right, to both maintain this allure and also demystify it enough? One thing I appreciate about Nora – no spoilers here – is that she loves her work! She loves being an agent –
Sarah: – she loves working on books and then improving them and figuring out who to sell them to and knowing that it’s going to be a book that will sell. But also loving it so much that she experiences that sort of boundary-less crossover of, I do this work because I love it, but that also means I work all the time.
Emily: Exactly! Yeah, exactly. I’m really happy that you, like, keyed into that specific piece of it, because that, you know, when I was trying to take this, this villain character, this ice queen –
Sarah: ‘Cause she is a villain in all the movies, right?
Emily: Yeah! Right, in the movies she is, and I was like, okay, but why? Like, why does she care about her job to this extent? You can’t just say this person is, you know, like, all work and no play and not explain to me, does she love her job? Is she afraid of running out of money? Like, what is, what is the basis of her having this flimsy work-life balance?
Emily: And in publishing, again, like, I knew to go there right away, because if I was like, oh, I’m going to write about an investment banker, frankly I do not know what an investment banker is still.
Emily: I probably will die without learning what an investment banker is, so that would have required a lot of research I would not have understood, probably some math, and then on top of that, I don’t know if I could just get into the headspace of does this person love investment banking? Whatever. With being an agent, it was just so natural because I know it’s this job that has really weird, intense hours.
Emily: You’re doing all this hard business stuff, but you’re also dealing with, like, needy, delicate baby authors like myself, and so, like, passion has to play a part in it, and –
Emily: – it’s not the, the high-paying thing that I think people think it is and that maybe it should be? Wink, wink to anyone listening who has that power? So yeah, I, I, I just knew that it would have to be, like, that, that was the appeal of making her an agent is, like, she loves her job. I knew that about the character, and so then when I figured she was going to be an agent, like I figured that all out, it made perfect sense because –
Emily: – that is a job that requires so much love, time, and energy.
Sarah: Yes, and it’s also a job that you don’t have specific hours for?
Emily: Right. Yeah!
Sarah: And you have to do the, the, the technical aspects of knowing how to read and negotiate a contract –
Sarah: – which is a whole language, but then you also, like you said, you have to do the emotional caretaking –
Sarah: – and –
Emily: And be creative!
Emily: Like, good with books; like, understand what makes a book work and –
Emily: – have notes for your authors.
Sarah: Yeah. And, and understanding structure, but also the creativity within that structure.
Sarah: That’s a very unique mindset that –
Sarah: – agents and a lot of editors have in common. But like you said, if it’s a work that you love doing and the emotional caretaking part of any job is very rarely valued by outside –
Sarah: – the, the idea that she’s just going to work and work and work and work until it’s her whole thing is, is an easy, like, it’s an easy hole to fall into.
Sarah: With Nora, she actually loves what she does! Like, she really –
Sarah: – enjoys it, and it’s hard to say –
Sarah: – wait a minute, I’m tired of the thing that I love for a minute.
Emily: Yeah! Yeah, and I think, I mean – [laughs] – I feel like anybody in books can relate to that. It’s like, yeah, right, I mean –
Sarah: Yeah, for sure.
Emily: – for – like, that’s, that is the life. It’s like your favorite thing has become your job – [laughs] – and you’re like –
Sarah: Yes! That is exactly what happened to me. Yeah.
Emily: Yeah! And you’re like, it’s the dream, and it’s still a job, and you have to hold space for both of those where you’re like, it is the dream, and I recognize what an honor it is to be here, but I also have to honor the other parts of myself by, by admitting this is a job and there is work, and there are days you just don’t want to do it!
Sarah: Yep. And publishing is full of that mystique –
Sarah: – too. It’s full of that, you know, oh, this world is so magical; you make books happen. Well –
Sarah: – I mean, it’s, there’s a conference room!
Emily: Right? [Laughs] Right! Yeah!
Sarah: And we have meetings.
Emily: I mean, and, like, writing, you know, with Beach Read it was funny because it was like, okay, I’m writing about the drafting process, and I think it probably does sound a little bit more fun on the page, but in my head I was like, who wants to read about people in, like, dirty sweatpants –
Emily: – that they haven’t changed out of for four days, eating the same yogurt every single day just so they don’t have to make choices –
Emily: – and, like, breaking out horribly ‘cause you’re just not taking care of yourself in any way? But it’s like, I’m not sitting down with a typewriter and, like, a glass of scotch. [Laughs] I’m, like, lying on my office floor groaning like, I don’t have any words!
Sarah: [Laughs] And the, and the portrayal of that process as well in popular media is so very different!
Emily: It’s so romantic –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Emily: – and it’s like, that’s fun, that’s fun, but, mm, that’s not –
Sarah: No, no.
Emily: – I mean, maybe it is. Honestly, it probably is that way for someone. I always think about Stephen King saying he doesn’t believe in writer’s block and then, like, putting out multiple books a year just – and, like, maybe, you know what, maybe Stephen King does sit down with a typewriter still and, like, a glass of coffee and is just like – not a glass, a mug of coffee –
Emily: – and just, you know, the words flow, and then the day is over, and do it again tomorrow.
Emily: Not me. [Laughs]
Sarah: Nope. And there’s, and you have to take into account varying energy levels? Like, there are some days –
Sarah: – where the creativity is not happening!
Sarah: – nope!
Emily: Because you’re a whole person, and it’s so weird, ‘cause I feel like so much of life as, like, a creative person is trying to get okay first, like, identifying as an artist.
Emily: Like, you feel weird about that and, like, it’s –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Emily: Yeah, and it’s like, it’s such a struggle to, like, get your, to take yourself seriously enough and then to ask the world to take you seriously. But then you do that long enough, and suddenly you have to be like, oh wait, like, my whole identity now is on being an artist, and I am a human.
Emily: I’m a whole human who has other needs other than writing my stories.
Emily: So then you kind of have to walk it back a little bit and be like, I’m a human who makes art! [Laughs]
Sarah: Yep! Yep.
Emily: And that’s okay!
Sarah: Yep. And then it’s, and it’s always, it’s always a weird conversation when you meet someone, right, when you try to explain what it is that you do?
Emily: Yeah. Like –
Sarah: That’s, that’s always fun.
Emily: Well, and it’s so funny, because I think there are so many people who hate their jobs and they hate that conversation too, because they’re like, I don’t want to, I don’t want to talk about my job as who I am when I’m first meeting someone. And then they feel like the people who, like, do love their jobs also sort of are like, I can’t talk about this. [Laughs]
Emily: I can’t! Let’s, let’s, like, go to hobbies. Let’s –
Emily: – skip that and go to hobbies.
Sarah: Let’s skip that, and let’s talk about what you made for dinner, ‘cause I’m actually –
Sarah: Let’s talk about that. Yeah, absolutely.
Sarah: So Ann also wanted to know, what do you pack in your bag on vacation? I’m guessing –
Emily: Oh my gosh. Well, I am the person – oh, go –
Sarah: I’m guessing you’ve been asked that question before.
Emily: I don’t think I actually have.
Sarah: Ooh, well done, Ann!
Emily: Yeah, way to go, Ann! So I am, I – years ago for Christmas, my dad got me a Kindle, and I think he thought, like, this’ll be the perfect gift! And I opened it and was just sort of like, ah. [Laughs] Like, I don’t, I don’t want an e-reader. I finally am using my e-reader, so that has changed my packing game, because I definitely was that person who was, like, stuffing a suitcase with books that were not going to get read. Like –
Sarah: I did that. Oh yeah.
Emily: Yeah. But, like –
Sarah: I went on a cruise with two suitcases; one of them was just books, and I read most of them, ‘cause I’m a very fast reader! Oh yeah!
Emily: And I do think if you’re going on a cruise, like, that’s, like, the place to take books. If you’re, like, going to Disney World, where are you going to be reading?
Sarah: Not going to be reading.
Emily: Like – [laughs] – that’s not happening! So now I’m, now I’m using my e-reader a lot more, which is great, and that saves a lot of room. I do pack way too many shoes. It’s so weird ‘cause I, like, love buying shoes, but I think I ultimately only wear like two pairs –
Emily: – and so when I’m packing it’s like, well, maybe I’ll need, like, these neon, like, high heels. It’s like, no, you’re going to wear the ugly white tennis shoes that have arch support. Like –
Emily: – you’re going on a hike!
Emily: So I’m trying to think if there’s, like, anything that is really specific to me that I pack that, like, no one else – I, I think I’m ultimately a fairly boring person. Like, I think I’m just –
Emily: – pretty regular. [Laughs] Just pretty normal. Lots of books, lots of shoes. I do overpack, and I also do the neurotic thing of thinking, like, so many times I forgot my medicine, like every single trip –
Emily: – and the last time I went on a trip it was a driving trip, luckily. We got, like, forty minutes outside of town and it was like, I’m sure this is just me being obsessive, but do you mind if we stop and check if my pills are, like, in the back of the car? And they were not.
Sarah: Oh nooo!
Emily: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. So like forty minutes back, and now we’re on the road!
Sarah: I have, I, I am so retentive that I – and I have a bad memory.
Emily: Me too.
Sarah: I have a spreadsheet that I keep –
Sarah: – and then I just make copies of it based on the length of the trip –
Sarah: – or the season, and some, some, some spreadsheets I use repeatedly and I just keep them in Google Drive.
Sarah: But the –
Emily: That’s genius, ‘cause I just have a little Notes, like an app on my notes –
Emily: – or a note on my app – you know what I’m saying.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Emily: Whatever. And I’ll have one packing list, and at the front, at the top it’ll say what the trip is, and then I’ll reopen that whenever I have another trip coming up, and I’ll change the top, and I’ll go through and be like, okay, what’s going to be different here? So I just am, like, constantly editing this Notes app note.
Sarah: Yep. Yep, that’s kind of how I roll, the same thing.
Sarah: So we mentioned earlier, we were talking about the inspiration for Nora coming from a lot of Hallmark movies.
Sarah: What are your favorite slow burns that you absolutely love?
Emily: Oooh! Oh my gosh, let me think about this, because now it’s, like, you know, in my, in my head, my, my memory of a book might not be accurate.
Emily: I feel like, ‘cause, like, Christina Lauren novels, like, I love them so much, and I’m trying to think if they’re actually slow burns or if it just felt like slow burns ‘cause they’re so good at tension? But I do think about Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating –
Emily: – which is, like, a friends-to-lovers, roommates-to-lovers, and it’s so cute and funny and fun. So that was really good, and Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is like a good slow burn –
Emily: – a little bit older, but, like, I feel like it paved the way for, like, a lot of more modern – I mean, it’s still a modern rom-com –
Emily: – it’s not, like, from the ‘40s. [Laughs]
Emily: You know what I’m saying.
Emily: I’m looking over at my shelves; that’s why my, my gaze is wandering as I’m trying to figure out what other slow burns I have loved lately.
Sarah: And Bet Me is a good one because it subverts a very old trope.
Emily: Yeah! It’s really fun, and I also just love how thorny – I don’t remember the lead’s name, but I love how thorny the main character is? I love a thorny woman lead. I think that’s –
Sarah: I think it was Min; I think her name was Min.
Emily: – really fun. That’s –
Sarah: Min or Minnie.
Emily: Yeah, you’re right!
Sarah: It’s like Min.
Emily: It is Min, ‘cause I think it’s short for Minerva, which is also, like –
Sarah: Yes! Well done!
Emily: – amazing!
Sarah: Well done!
Emily: I’m, yeah, I’m, like, looking over at my shelves and I’m like, are these slow burns, or is this just like immediately stuff is happening? And I frankly can’t be sure.
Sarah: [Laughs] But it’s tricky, too, because internal conflict often reads as slow burn because you have to work out –
Sarah: – all of that stuff while learning –
Sarah: – to be intimate with someone else and trusting them with your squishy, gooey feelings.
Emily: Yeah! And I think, so for, in historical romance, I feel like Sherry Thomas does that really, really well, where she sets up this couple who maybe immediately have tension and attraction or maybe not, but, like, she is going to really torture both of them, and you’re so deep in their psyches that you’re like, this is going to be a shit show.
Emily: Like, I love these people; they belong together; their trauma is, like, perfectly crafted to make them, like, have to fight really hard to work this out, which I love.
Sarah: Oh yeah. It’s very messy. Emotional mess.
Emily: Yeah. I love it.
Sarah: Super emotional mess.
Sarah: If you could go back to your pre-published self, what, what advice would you give yourself?
Emily: I, I really, I mean, this is, like, the standard advice for life, I think? I really wish I had enjoyed it more. Like, you know, when you’re writing before you’ve ever published, it really does feel different –
Emily: – than every book after that, because you just are, you really, you know, you’re dreaming like, maybe someone will read this someday, and that’s really exciting, but you’re also just like, you don’t have a million voices in your head or over your shoulder; you’re just like, I’m writing what I want to write, and –
Emily: – I was so eager to get to publication that I don’t feel like I was really present in those feelings and that enjoyment, and now that I know how different writing feels – like, I still love writing, but it is different –
Emily: – and I really wish I had just, like, relished that more, and I think in general that’s just, like, good, like, life advice is just, like, always try to enjoy, like, whatever you’re doing. Like –
Emily: – if you’re washing the dishes, try to be like, this soap feels really good, or –
Emily: – whatever! So that, I think, is the big thing, is I wish I could have just been like, this, this is what this time is for –
Emily: – and it is precious, and I think, you know, as an aspiring writer you’re, you’re always so scared you’re not going to get there that it’s hard to enjoy, like –
Emily: – what comes before. But if you, if you knew for a fact, like, I’m going to publish someday, then you would just have so much more fun, I think –
Sarah: It would be more play.
Emily: – if you just, like, just enjoy it! Yeah, exactly!
Sarah: Yeah, it’d be more play. Mm-hmm!
Sarah: I always ask, are there any books that you want to tell people about?
Emily: Oh gosh, always! [Laughs]
Sarah: It’s the worst; it’s the worst question.
Emily: Yeah! I’m like, I’m like, there’s, like, stacks around me in every direction. Okay, so Julia Whelan, my audiobook narrator and just, like, a phenomenal audiobook narrator and author in her own right has a new book –
Sarah: She’s amazing.
Emily: She’s amazing! On every conceivable level. She has a very meta book coming out, I think in August, called Thank You for Listening about audiobook narrators, and it’s sexy and it’s angsty and it’s lovely and, and sweet, and I, I highly recommend it. She is just, like, I thought her first book was phenomenal, and this one, it’s just like a book that I read and was like, maybe I should quit!
Emily: Like, maybe, maybe I need to find a new, a new little career for myself. That one is great.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas, if you like Gothics, is like a sexy Gothic, and it just came out yesterday, I believe?
Sarah: I think ninety percent of the books this year came out yesterday.
Emily: Yeah! I agree, and I’m like, this is good, but also I’m stressed –
Emily: – for everyone?
Sarah: I know! It’s very stressful!
Emily: Yeah. And then I was actually on a phone call yesterday, and someone was like, oh, I just realized it’s Mother’s Day weekend this weekend, and that’s apparently like one of the best weekends for bookstores?
Emily: And, and we were all, like, blown away, and then we were like, oh wait, sale, the sales team probably knew that. [Laughs]
Emily: It’s, like, probably why –
Emily: – everybody put their books out yesterday –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Emily: – because they’re smart, so.
Sarah: Yeah, I learned that this week: Mother’s Day and also Easter is a big book-buying holiday.
Emily: I didn’t know that!
Sarah: I didn’t know Easter was a big book day, but Easter –
Emily: Me either!
Sarah: – is a big book day!
Emily: Good to know!
Sarah: Yeah, right?
Emily: So now I’m like, what books came out then? I’m, I’m not sure; probably lots of good ones.
Another book that comes out next week – it is not a romance, but there is, you know, a lot of love in it – is Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow.
Emily: Is that what it’s called? This Time Tomorrow? I believe that’s what it’s called. It is so good! It’s mostly like a father-daughter love story kind of, and it’s about this woman Alice, about to turn forty, and she’s like, did I make the right decisions? And then she gets transported back into her sixteen-year-old body, New York in the ‘90s, and she’s like, wait, my dad’s here and he’s young again, and I actually didn’t realize my dad was ever this young; he always seemed ancient to me.
Emily: And her high school boyfriend is there and her best friend, and it’s, yeah, it’s, it really, like, it got to my heart –
Emily: – and I’m excited for everyone to read it.
Sarah: That’s awesome! Thank you so very, very much for your time. We are one minute over, and I apologize.
Emily: That is fine! Thank you so much for a lovely interview!
Sarah: I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed Book Lovers, and thank you for writing it.
Emily: Thank you.
Sarah: And thank you for your time today! Have an excellent, easy book tour.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you again to Ann_Knee, Clairatrix, and the members of the Culture Study Discord romance channel, and thank you again to Heather Mill for setting this up. Thanks most of all to Emily Henry, who is on a very busy book tour, and I am very appreciative of her time to do this interview.
I will have links to all of the books that we talked about in this episode, and there were many, because, I mean, it’s, it’s an interview about a book called Book Lovers, so that was clearly destined to happen.
I am curious: have you read Emily Henry’s books? Have you got a favorite? You can email me at [email protected]. You can leave me a message at 201-371-3272. I love hearing from you, and I love bad jokes! You can keep sending them to me!
And of course I’m going to end this episode with an absolutely dreadful joke, because that’s how I roll, and listen? Listen. This joke is so bad. Like, I need you to prepare, like, brace yourself, whatever you’re doing. If you’re holding something breakable, maybe put it down. This one’s really, really bad – and of course I love it so much. This is from BrianWilson76 on Reddit, and it was so wonderfully terrible I screenshotted it, and I have told everyone who is standing still this terrible joke, and now I get to tell it to you! I love, I love having a podcast; have I mentioned? Okay. All right, are you ready? You’ve braced yourself, you put the breakables down. If you’re cleaning something, you know, get ready for some vigorous scrubbing in anger? Okay.
Did you know that Jar Jar Binks has a brother who is a famous author?
It’s true! Did you know Jar Jar Binks has a brother who is a famous author?
It’s Jor Jor Well.
[Laughs] It’s so bad! I love this so much! I hope you tell people this joke, and then I hope you tell me what noise they made when you told them. In fact, you can tell me what noise you made just right now!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very, very best of reading. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
George Orwell! [Laughs]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.