Her highly anticipated seventh book is set in the small college town of Walker, Texas, where life revolves around football and the legendary Coach Clive Carr. After tragedy strikes this tight-knit community, 33-year-old Shea Rigsby is forced to reexamine her relationship and career, as well as her choice to stay in small-town Walker instead of following her dreams of becoming a sports journalist.
In “The One & Only,” which hits shelves May 20, Giffin explores the ideas of unconventional love and following your passion. Can true love really conquer all in the face of judgment? And how much should we let our passions dictate life’s most important decisions?
Giffin dished with Make it Better about her love for college sports, North Shore ties, and the possible “Something Borrowed” movie sequel starring Kate Hudson and John Krasinski.
Make It Better: Congrats on the upcoming release of “The One & Only!” Why did you want to write a book about college football?
Emily Giffin: I have been passionate about college athletics, specifically college basketball, since I was a little girl. When it came time to apply to colleges, I wrote to head coaches, asking if I could work with their team, and ended up choosing Wake Forest where I was the manager for four years, overlapping with Tim Duncan. My love of sports has been a huge, integral part of my friendships and life and I’ve always wanted to write a book with sports as a backdrop. I decided to write about football, rather than basketball, because I think there are few arenas more colorful than Texas football and many of the same dynamics are in play. I actually had several coaches, including Syracuse’s legendary head coach Jim Boeheim, read early drafts to make sure that Coach Clive Carr felt authentic.
What’s your favorite part about this book compared to ones you’ve written in the past?
As I said, I loved writing about the colorful world of sports. Beyond that, I will tell you that my best friend from high school, who happened to play college football at Stanford and is now a writer, said that the main character, Shea Rigsby, reminded him of me more than any other protagonist I’ve created. That thought never occurred to me as I wrote the book, but I think perhaps he is right. I did grow up wanting to be a sports journalist, so there was something satisfying about giving Shea this profession.
Do you have a favorite of all the books you’ve written?
Writers always like to think that their most recent book is their best, and I’m certainly no different. I’m really proud of “The One & Only” and am excited to finally share it with my readers. That said, I do hold a very special place in my heart for “Something Blue.” In that book, Darcy (the main character) is pregnant with twin boys for much of the story, and I actually wrote the book while on bed rest with my own twin sons. I will always associate that book with that special time in my life, so it’s probably my sentimental favorite. Beyond that, Darcy is one of my favorite characters I’ve created—right up there with Kirby from “Where We Belong” and Shea from “The One & Only.”
In “Where We Belong” you make a lot of references to the North Shore (i.e. Gillson Park, Kenilworth, Winnetka). Why did you choose to incorporate this area in the book?
I’m from Chicago, but I thought Marian and her family seemed more North Shore than my hometown of Naperville. I think there are few residential areas of the country that are as beautiful as the North Shore—and I’ve always been obsessed with John Hughes’ films!
What was it like growing up in Naperville? Where are your favorite spots in town?
I love Naperville and am so proud of my hometown (go Naperville North Huskies!). But since clerking at the law firm Winston & Strawn after my first year at the University of Virginia, I’ve never actually lived in Chicago and only spend time there on vacation and book tours. I still consider it home, though, and love the culture, vibe and people of the city.
I always stay at the Peninsula—which is one of my favorite hotels in the world—and at least once during my stay, I will have breakfast at the nearby diner Tempo (best omelets in the world!). Other favorite restaurants include: Avec, Uncle Julio’s, Lula Cafe, La Scarola and Grace.
When I bring my three children, we go to Cubs games, the American Girl Place, Oak Street Beach, and Chicago’s many wonderful museums. Recently, my husband and I talked about moving back (from Atlanta). Believe it or not, I even miss the cold and snow. It should not be 50 degrees at Christmastime!
We’re so excited for the upcoming “Something Blue” movie! What can you tell us about it so far?
You can’t be more excited than I am! I’ve been passionate about this book and movie from the beginning—even more so than my first book-to-film, “Something Borrowed.” I recently went to LA to work on a breakdown of the adaptation with the producers, and I’m writing the script as we speak. I hope to get a draft done before my tour begins for “The One & Only” and am hopeful that the project goes into production early next year. The best part is that Kate Hudson and John Krasinski are excited about the sequel. I think they are brilliant actors and I absolutely love their on-screen chemistry.
Want to meet Emily Giffin in Chicago? She’ll be in Naperville Tuesday, May 27 at 7 p.m. for a talk and signing at Anderson’s Bookshop (123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, 630-355-2665), and in Chicago Wednesday, May 28 at 5:30 p.m. for a talk and signing at Bloomingdale’s (900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-440-4460).
Photo by Emmanuelle Chouss