‘I put a little bit of myself into every character’ – Emily Henry chats about her new novel Happy Place
More about the book!
Set over one sizzling summer, Happy Place is the new chemistry-filled ‘second chance love’ romcom from Tiktok sensation, Emily Henry.
Tell us about Happy Place.
Happy Place is the story of Harriet and Wyn, a couple who have been together for the better part of a decade, but broke up fairly recently. For a handful of reasons, they decided to put off telling their friends about the break-up until their annual group trip to Maine, which Harriet is supposed to go on alone. But when she gets there, she finds out the Maine house has been sold, and this is the last-ever trip the friends will have. So she and Wyn decide to fake it for one more week, so their friends can have a perfect last coastal vacation together.
What inspired this idea?
I started with the concept of a couples trip, something that can either be so fun or a little bit torturous, depending on how everyone’s quirks feed into or push up against one another. I thought that idea had a lot of potential for both comedy and stress, and I had a few different ideas of how to amp up both, but I’ve always loved comedies of remarriage, so I decided to try my hand at making one.
Why is it so important to Harriet and Wyn to pretend to still be together for this trip?
Harriet is a chronic people-pleaser. Nothing scares her more than causing discord among the people she loves. There’s a lot more going on than that, but that’s the most obvious reason for the farce: she needs the people around her to be happy, and she’s terrified of being the reason they’re not.
Each of the characters in Happy Place is so distinct. How did you juggle writing all of their personalities while keeping focus on Harriet and Wyn?
This was a real challenge after writing three books with smaller central casts. Even though I felt like I knew all of these characters well, it was a struggle figuring out how to actually get that on the page without relying too heavily on telling the audience about them.
On a very practical level, I made sure that Harriet had one-on-one scenes with everyone, where we could see a bit more of their history and dynamic together. The one exception is, I’m not sure if she has a scene that’s just her and Kimmy, but Kimmy is a scene-stealer, in my opinion, so I wasn’t as worried about readers not knowing her. She is unapologetically herself, and a true weirdo, in the best way.
What character in Happy Place do you relate to most?
I put a little bit of myself into every character, but I find Harriet’s issues painfully relatable. I also relate to some of Sabrina’s more … challenging traits. When she’s hosting, she gets into Cruise Director mode, in which she has a very specific idea of how things are supposed to go, and it’s really hard for her to let go of that idea when circumstances force her to shift gears.
What do you hope readers take away from reading Happy Place?
It’s so easy to feel stuck on a track in your life. And it’s easy to keep putting your happiness just beyond an imaginary finish line on that track, instead of hopping the rails. I hope this book can be a reminder to someone that there’s no one right path, that they’re allowed to change their mind about what they want, and that they deserve to be happy, even if that looks different for them than it does for other people.
Happy Place is out now from Penguin Random House.
This article was originally published in The Penguin Post, a magazine from Penguin Random House South Africa.