Author Interview with Elin Hilderbrand
Mainstream author Elin Hilderbrand is a fan favorites for her Nantucket-set tales, which always make great beach reads. But with this month's Silvergirl Hilderbrand creates a tale that is based in reality but ripe with opportunities of love and self-discovery the way that only a mainstream novel can be. Get a special look at this compelling new novel as we go behind the scenes with the author!
RT BOOK REVIEWS: The beginning of Silver Girl sounds ripped from the headlines as a love struck wife gets what our reviewer calls “the rug pulled out from under her” when the cops take her husband away for fraud. Did the timing of, or developments in the Maddoff story affect this tale?
Elin Hilderbrand: I got the idea for this novel from reading an article in the New York Times Sunday Styles section entitled "The Loneliest Woman in New York." I read about Mrs. Madoff's isolation and exclusion from society, and also about the fact that she still had one remaining friend from pre-school who had stood by her. That, in a nutshell, gave me the basis for this novel.
RT: At the start of Silver Girl, socialite Meredith's husband is convicted for running a Ponzi scheme and as a result her life falls apart as well. What are some details you used to reinforce Meredith's sense of isolation?
EH: Well, she can't leave her apartment, even to get groceries or toiletries, and she can't talk to her sons. More than anything, as we all might imagine, not being able to communicate with her sons, one of whom is also under investigation, is the most difficult thing for Meredith.
RT: Meredith has been married to Freddy for many years, what is a part of her “single self” (as opposed to her "married self") that she had forgotten?
EH: Over the course of the novel, Meredith goes back to examine her life "pre-Freddy," which after thirty years of marriage, ends up being something of a challenge. But she is able to conjure up her love for her parents, especially her father, and the shining star that she was in high school -- National Merit fellow, reader in chapel, championship diver.
RT: After Freddy's fall from grace, Meredith's estranged friend whisks her to the Nantucket shore for some much-needed R&R, or failing that, some privacy from the press. For you, what was the symbolism of the island?
EH: Well, I live on Nantucket and all of my books are set here, so OF COURSE I knew I wanted to have Meredith end up on Nantucket. Nantucket, for me and for many, is a place of healing. It's one of the few authentic places left in America — with the historic downtown and the 50 miles of pristine beach. There's also something about being 30 miles off the coast of America that makes you feel safe.
RT: Meredith and Connie were friends for ages before their relationship was strained by a falling out. What is an adventure the two shared that cemented their relationship?
EH: I do mention one incident the two of them share in high school, however, rather than ruin the surprise of that, I think I'd say that Meredith and Connie are the kind of friends that spent every single day together for years and years and years. They know each other better than sisters, and they can finish one another's sentences.
RT: Connie is also struggling with some big emotional challenges, the death of her husband and her daughter’s emotional distance. What piece of advice is Meredith able to offer her?
EH: Well, I think Connie is strengthened by being able to offer someone else help, even though she, Connie, is hurting so badly. She sees Meredith's strength in the face of some pretty nasty developments, and she's inspired by it to pull herself up out of the emotional dregs.
RT: Both Meredith and Connie get the chance for new romances on Nantucket, what are three qualities these two men have that make them so attractive to Meredith and Connie?
EH: Dan Flynn and Toby O'Brien are the men in question. They are both men of the outdoors, they are both extroverted and like connecting with other people, and they are both devoted to each of the women. Toby was Meredith's first love who broke up with her and now has returned.
RT: What is the significance of the title Silver Girl to you and do you think Meredith would title her story the same thing?
EH: “Silver Girl” is the name of a Simon & Garfunkel song that Meredith's father used to play for her. The lyrics offer her hope, even decades later, even under such dire circumstances. I love this title for the book, because it has multiple meanings.
RT: What are three locations on Nantucket that Meredith would recommend someone summering on the island be sure to visit?
EH: Great Point, which is the tip of the island, where Great Point Light is found. Bartlett Farm, which is the largest family-owned farm on the island. On approach, you pass through fields of flowers. And Company of the Cauldron, which is a romantic restaurant on India Street on a cobblestone street in the heart of town.
RT: You live on Nantucket, how has your relationship to the island changed since you started setting your stories there?
EH: Let me say this: I am not fully comfortable unless I am on Nantucket. To paraphrase John Denver, when I was 23, I came home to a place I'd never been before. That place was Nantucket. Through writing my novels, I have only communed more deeply with the island itself, its secrets and treasures, and the wonderful people who live here.
RT: Your stories are frequently referred to as "beach reads", so we have to ask, what book are you looking forward to reading on the beach this summer?
EH: Faith by Jennifer Haigh.
RT BOOK REVIEWS: And can you share a detail from your 2012 novel, Home and Away that RT Readers can look for?
Elin Hilderbrand: I'm calling it "The Castaways" with teenagers...it's about four high school students who are in a tragic accident, and the connections, both acknowledged and hidden, between themselves and their parents. Part of the novel is set in Australia of all places — I should have called it "The Other Island"!