On a gorgeous, sunny day last month, the Saks Fifth Avenue Michigan Avenue shoe department was filled with scores of fashionable Chicago women. And while some may have been browsing for a pair of Manolos or Jimmy Choos, many were there to enjoy a glass of wine and meet New York Times best-selling author Emily Giffin.
On the fifth stop of her 11-city book tour, the Naperville native spoke about her sixth novel, Where We Belong (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99), and signed copies for attendees. Here, Ms. Giffin gives us a glimpse into her literary world – and beyond!
What was your inspiration for Where We Belong? At its heart, the book is about secrets and what happens to us, and to those closest to us, when we keep them. I’ve always been intrigued by the power of secrets. When is it justifiable to keep them from the ones we love? And does keeping them irrevocably change who we are? Adoption (under the secretive circumstances in Where We Belong) seemed to be a great way to explore some of those broader themes.
Which character do you identify with most? I don’t know if I identify with her the most, but I just love Kirby. She’s probably my favorite character in any of my books. I think she’s so wise for her age – an old soul with a lot of heart. I can relate to her in some ways, but she’s much braver than I was at 18.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book? I think from time to time we all struggle with the question of who we are. Our identity. Where do we come from and where do belong? I hope that, when people read the book, they see the answers to such questions a little more clearly.
You’ve talked about the feedback you’ve already received from readers. How does it feel each time someone sends you a note about how they connect with your writing? It goes beyond encouraging and affirming. It has become, even beyond my passion for writing, the main reason I do what I do.
As a Chicago native, where do you like to shop, eat, hang out, et cetera? I grew up in Naperville and later clerked at the law firm Winston and Strawn. But as an adult, I only spend time here on vacation and book tours. I still consider Chicago home, though, and love the culture, vibe and people. I always stay at the Peninsula, which is one of my favorite hotels (with one of the best bars!) in the world. And at least once during my stay, I will have breakfast at the nearby diner Tempo (best omelets in the world!). As for shopping, it’s tough to beat Chicago. I love the jewelry counter at Barney’s, as well as the many boutiques in the area, including Henry Beguelin, Blake and Ikram. When I bring my children, we go to Sox and Cubs games (a house divided!), the American Girl store, Oak Street Beach and many wonderful museums. Recently, my husband and even talked about moving back from Atlanta. Believe it or not, I even miss the cold. Christmas should not be 50 degrees!
You went from practicing law to becoming a writer. What advice do you have for women who want to make a complete career switch? Picture your life in 10 years if you don’t make the change. Fear of future regret has always motivated me. Remind yourself that nothing has to be permanent. If you don’t like the change, you can always return to what it was you were doing before. Isn’t it worth a try? Finally, don’t listen to the naysayers. I still remember the elevator doors closing at my law firm on my last day of work, and the smirking partner I worked for pointing at me, snidely saying, “Good luck with that book!” Use those moments to motivate you.