Author Q&A:
Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Carrie Soto is Back
(Hutchinson Heinemann)

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Carrie Soto was the best player in the world when she retired from her tennis career but six years later, at the 1994 US Open, she watches on as her record is taken by British newcomer Nicki Chan. At 37 years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Carrie Soto is Back and so is Taylor Jenkins Reid, the author of glamorous, inter-connected, absorbing and original novels including Daisy Jones & the Six and Malibu Rising. 

What made you write about the glamorous Hollywood life? What is it about fame, power and beauty that you are drawn to? 
Well, first of all, when you put it like that how could anyone resist?I suppose I’m drawn to power and beauty as much as anyone. But I’m drawn to writing about fame because I think the mechanics of fame are often under-analysed. Writing about famous women allows me to talk about the way all of us have to form two selves: who we really are and who we present to the world.

You have presented different facets of fame in your books: film (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), music (Daisy Jones & the Six), and sports (Carrie Soto is Back), to name a few. How do you decide on a theme to write about? 
I just go where my interest takes me. One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the course of writing these four books about fame is that I can and should trust that little part of my brain that lights up when I think about various settings in the world. When I listen to a duet and get an idea for a book about rock singers, when I’m on the shores of Malibu and get an idea for a party, when I’m watching Serena Williams at the US Open, I get this little flutter of an idea. And I’ve learned how to tell myself: “OK, see if there’s anything there. Why not?”

Did your degree in film and television from Emerson College affect how you are as a storyteller? 
I took writing classes when I studied media at Emerson, but I did not know that I wanted to be a writer. I was just more interested in those classes than the other production classes. (Perhaps that should have told me something?) When I moved out to LA, I did it with the intention of working in Hollywood. And it was a big surprise to me when I found my voice in novels instead. But I absolutely think my training – both my schooling and my on-the-job experiences in Hollywood – have contributed to how I tell a story.

Forever Interrupted, your debut novel, is a contemporary romance book. You then released three novels that revolved around the similar genre before you departed and switched to fictional biographies and explored more eras in your next novels. How has your creative process changed throughout the years?
I think my faith in myself to take on bigger and bigger things has expanded. I remember around the time of writing my second or third book that I thought about writing a historical novel and felt immediately overwhelmed and intimidated by the research. “Oh, I could never,” was basically what I kept telling myself. But that was a mistake. Because it turned out that I love research, I love losing myself in a time and place, and there was a lot of joy and inspiration on the other side of that.

Social media now plays an integral role in the book industry. How do you feel about your books trending online and has it changed how readers respond to your work? 
I don’t know that I can speak to how readers respond to my work because that’s hard for me to comprehend. What I can tell you is that social media, in a lot of ways, is just old-fashioned word of mouth dialled up to 10. People like talking about things they like. And I will always and forever be grateful when I make that list for somebody, regardless of what medium it comes in.

Since you have a dedicated fan base all around the world, do you feel any pressure when writing or releasing a new book? If yes, how do you overcome it? 
I don’t feel pressure when writing a book – probably because I’m very good at compartmentalising. But once the book is about to be released, I always find myself nervous. I take my relationship with my readers very seriously. People that have read more than one book of mine, or who are willing to pick up a book just because I wrote it – I take that honour to heart. I would never want to squander it. So I work to do my very, very best each time – to tell a story that I believe in and hope I can entertain them.

Some of your novels are being adapted for the screen. What are you most excited about seeing on the screen? 
It’s such a wonderful, trippy, delicious experience to get to see your work adapted. For now, Daisy Jones & The Six appears to be the first one that will come out. And I couldn’t be happier to say that because it is absolutely, positively fantastic.

It is intriguing that your novels have a connection with one another – the Taylor Jenkins Reid universe. Was this intentional or did it happen by chance? 
It was intentional but it has definitely grown far bigger than I ever intended. I wrote a lot of fictional celebrities and magazines and movies in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and so when it came time to write Daisy Jones & The Six I found myself thinking it was silly to create more, when I already had good ones I could use. But then that opened up quite a can of worms. And now I can’t stop. Mick Riva is everywhere.

Some of your novels are heavily character-driven. Do you have real-life inspirations for your characters? How did they come to life on the page? 
I do a lot of research before I start writing. I want to know who really existed in this space before I go creating my own person. And then I start taking details from many different people and places, adding in contradictions, and putting them at the centre of my particular story to see what happens. It’s embarrassing to admit but after hours and hours of writing these characters, I do start to hear them in my head. And they sometimes stick around for quite a while.

In a New York Times piece, you shared that you “wanted to be a bigger name”. Now, that seems to have become a reality. What is your message for aspiring writers who look up to you? 
I suppose I’d say that if you can learn one thing from me, I hope it is to be willing to go for it on the page. For a long time, I was afraid I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t know what I was doing. But the thing is, the first step is always just trying. And writing is low stakes. If you try and you hate what you see, then just never show anybody. I’ve done that plenty of times! But at least try. Let yourself see what you’re capable of. We have to, if nothing else, be willing to see what we can do.

What’s next on your writing agenda?
I have a few things I have to tie up and then, for the first time in over ten years, I do not know what I’ll be writing next. It’s scary and thrilling all at once. I’m just as curious as you what lies ahead.

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