Over the past three years, the novelist Emily Henry has established a solid beachhead on summertime best seller lists with a series of travel-related rom-coms, starting with “Beach Read” in 2020, and followed by last summer’s “People We Meet on Vacation” and this 12 months’s “Book Lovers.” All three novels currently share space on The Times’s combined Print and E-book fiction list.
In her books, a youngish woman — a author or writer-adjacent — at a crisis point in her life, lights out for brand spanking new territory where (not to present any spoilers), she finds her true calling — and her true love.
In “Beach Read,” dueling novelists occupy neighboring houses on a lake in Michigan, sparring until, in fact, they stop. In “People We Meet on Vacation,” the travel author Poppy Wright spends a part of each summer taking a visit together with her best friend from college, Alex Nilsen, who, dear reader, from the get-go is Mr. Right, at the same time as the 2 of them hide from the inevitable. In “Book Lovers,” it’s the hard-driving literary agent Nora Stephens who travels to the small North Carolina town of Sunshine Falls, only to come across her nemesis from the Manhattan book scene, the editor Charlie Lastra.
One other theme in her books is the pull of family. Ms. Henry, 31, grew up in Cincinnati with two older brothers, and she or he, her husband and their dog live there now, near her parents. She fondly remembers their family trips, even in the event that they did sometimes find yourself fighting “like a too-many-headed beast,” she said.
“All of us still attempt to semi-regularly take trips together, which obviously may be complete chaos, but I just have a lot nostalgia for that,” said Ms. Henry, who’s at work on next summer’s novel. “I can’t speak about that yet,” she said of the project. “But I can say that it’s travel-related.”
Exploring America’s National Parks
The glories of the U.S. national park system draw tons of of tens of millions of holiday makers every year.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What’s it about travel that makes for an excellent novel?
A book is already built to be a type of vacation — even when it’s not an escapist book, even when it’s a really heavy literary novel, it’s still this trip that’s packaged for you in a really specific way. And I believe with travel-focused books you’re just amping that up much more.
On a visit there’s this sense of possibility that you just don’t necessarily have in your normal life since you’re going to be around all recent people and all recent things, and also you don’t know what could occur and who you would possibly meet. Every thing just feels exciting. From a story perspective, it lends itself to this big transformation because characters are already on this type of uneven ground. Travel works the identical way that it really works for us in real life: to only shake things up.
I believe as a reader, it lends itself to that as well, because we’re already attempting to go recent places and meet recent people after we’re reading. We’re craving something, some recent experience that we wish to bring into ourselves.
The irony, especially with a title like “People We Meet on Vacation,” is that probably the most significant people your characters meet are themselves. Do you “meet” yourself whenever you’re traveling?
I do think that there’s something, yeah, transformative and also you get to know yourself more deeply in a recent environment.
And it’s the things that you just don’t find out about yourself, just like the surprises, the risks that you just take, that you just wouldn’t expect, or the brand new foods you are trying, that you just didn’t think that you want to or anything small like that. It’s also just seeing your regular life through recent eyes.
Because I believe there are places you go where you’re thinking that like, oh, I can imagine my life here, and there are other places you go where you realize you’re just excited to get home. That’s one in all the things I like a lot about travel, too, is that you could get so complacent or unappreciative of your life, your real life, there really is nothing like that feeling of getting home.
Has travel all the time been an element of your life?
I haven’t done a number of international travel yet, but I grew up in a family that took road trips and in order that is how I’ve seen most of the US. It was pretty common to take a 14-hour road trip to Florida. We’d leave in the course of the night so we wouldn’t must pay for that one extra night and we’d sleep at the back of the minivan and get up and be there.
Now I find that each few months I feel this restlessness and urge to only be somewhere different and see recent things and eat food that isn’t available to me. That is that this rhythm that my family arrange for me. You could have recent experiences to hold you thru the mundanity of real life.
Poppy, in “People We Meet,” has some pretty good advice on budget travel, like getting a automobile through a Facebook group. Are those stuff you’ve done?
A number of that basically was just research and there are Facebook groups for that type of thing, but I haven’t really used those. I’m an enormous fan of Airbnb, like much of my generation is. It’s just been such a game changer for travel, especially for prolonged travel. But in addition I believe being raised by parents who were really good at that type of thing helps. They’d take the tours of resorts to get steeply discounted Disney World tickets. That actually got here into a number of the writing of Poppy’s approach to travel.
There are also some Airbnb mishaps in your fiction. Have you ever had any?
Yeah, I’ve had a number of. I don’t consider myself because the cleanest person, but now I’m very thorough about checking the reviews for a way clean the place is. I’ve definitely had some which can be just type of gross. There’s all the time artful photography. There was one which listed an extra bedroom and we got there and realized it was in an unfinished basement, and there also was like a hole within the wall to this other type of storage room that appeared like a peephole. That was unsettling.
Is there a spot you come to over and another time?
My favorite trip is to fly into San Francisco and drive up through Muir Woods and Muir Beach after which to see wine country. After which I actually have family up in Oregon. I like that drive. I like that you could see the ocean, the bay, the mountains, wine country, the redwoods, all inside just this few hour span.
Unlike the author Elin Hilderbrand, who bases her summer books on Nantucket, your characters move around.
Seeing a spot as a visitor is so different than being an area and I believe that’s why Elin Hilderbrand’s books are so good, because she really knows Nantucket and she or he puts you right there. The places I’m writing about I’m only aware of as a guest and it’s a distinct experience. It’s a extremely magical experience, nevertheless it’s not the identical things that an area would pick about their town.
I believe if I lived in a more vacationy spot, I might probably commit to 1 place too, but I can’t see writing a bunch of books about Cincinnati. I’m sure I’ll have an outright Cincinnati book, but that’s not innately summery.
If I were going to go to Cincinnati, when should I am going? Not during summer?
Oh my gosh. Not summer.
Amy Virshup is the editor of the Travel section.