Welcome to Greenwich, Connecticut, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.
Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. After leaving her post as Miranda Priestly’s assistant, she’s been working as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels, so she needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.
When Karolina Hartwell, a gorgeous former supermodel, is arrested for a DUI, her fall from grace is merciless. Her senator-husband leaves her, her Beltway friends disappear, and the tabloids pounce. In Karolina, Emily finds her comeback opportunity. But she quickly learns Greenwich is a world apart, and this comeback needs a team approach.
So it is that Emily, the scorned Karolina, and their mutual friend Miriam—a powerful attorney turned stay-at-home mom—band together to navigate the social land-mines of suburban Greenwich and win back the hearts of the American public. Along the way, an indispensable ally emerges in one Miranda Priestly.
Recently, Lauren spoke with Read It Forward’s Abbe Wright, touching on the pleasures of writing a character as strong-willed and loyal as Emily, what it was like to tap into the evergreen well of celebrity scandal, and how she integrated a bit of suspense to her narrative.
Read It Forward: Lauren, I’m so excited about this book. Congratulations! What made you choose to tell When Life Gives You Lululemons from Emily’s point of view?
Lauren Weisberger: Thank you. Truthfully, it’s as simple as she’s my favorite character. I mean, she says what we all think. She’s this strong woman with very strong opinions, and she offers them in an incredibly blunt fashion. She makes no apologies, she feels no guilt, and yet she still manages to be likable. I think we still understand that underneath that bravado, she’s a good person with a good heart and is a very loyal friend. And I love exploring that whole idea of where life in her mid-30s is taking her.
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RIF: Exactly. We see that she’s still super career-driven. But she’s now an image consultant, so she’s left the fashion world. Why did you feel this was a natural progression for Emily’s career?
LW: It’s not leaving fashion so much as it is focusing on a different side, if you will. I like the idea of her heading to L.A. I feel like a lot of people do that—they go back and forth between the two, especially in their 20s and early 30s. I thought it was a different skill-set, and a very Emily one, to go that route instead of the more traditional path of moving up at the magazine.
RIF: Were you inspired at all by the public shamings and downfalls we’ve seen in the news lately, in terms of Emily doing damage control for these celebrities? It felt akin, what with poor Karolina being cast out in the public court of opinion.
LW: We’re certainly seeing a lot of that now—things being excavated from the past—and every day it feels like there’s more and more coming out. But that’s certainly not new. Thankfully, it’s happening, in a great way and more frequently, but the whole idea of celebrity and scandal isn’t a new one. I feel like I’ve always been fascinated by the role of the people behind the scenes, picking up the pieces of these antics that the rich and famous are guilty of.
RIF: Speaking of behind the scenes, whereas Andy Sachs and Emily weren’t always friends when they worked with Miranda, When Life Gives You Lululemons is actually a story with female friendship at its heart. Why did you want to explore the positive and supportive relationships between Karolina, Emily, and Miriam?
LW: You know, that was something I felt was missing in The Devil Wears Prada, and it was missing deliberately, because that’s not what that story was about, per se.
LW: It was telling a different story at a different time. But this was really a story about female friendship, and it was important to me that it also wasn’t going to be Andy. Not to give anything away—she makes a very brief cameo, just so we know she’s alive and well—but she’s so far from the focus of the book. I thought it would be very interesting to see what Emily’s relationships look like, 10 years out from where she used to be. She’s clearly grown up, and things have changed, and her female friendships are of utmost importance to her now.
RIF: When I told someone I was reading this, they literally grabbed it out of my hands and started flipping through to see if Miranda makes an appearance. I won’t say how or why, but I’m happy to say she does make an appearance. How was it revisiting the character of Miranda in this book?
LW: It was scary how easily it came, is the short answer. A lot has changed since The Devil Wears Prada—a lot of change in these characters’ lives, and a lot has changed in this particular author’s life. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is Miranda Priestly, and that was really fun to write. It was easy to snap right back into it and conjure up her voice again. And I really enjoyed those few small places where we meet her again.
RIF: There’s an element of suspense to this novel that really kept me turning the pages. Did you intend to write that little bit of mystery in the story, or did it just find its way in on its own?
LW: A little bit of both. It felt, in a weird way, when I started writing it, that I was starting to write a bit of this thriller aspect. For Karolina’s storyline, not Miriam’s or Emily’s, obviously. I wanted to see what it feels like—not just to be betrayed, and very, very publicly—but by the person you trust most in the world. It’s almost unfathomable, which is what made it really interesting for me, to see what that was like. I wasn’t entirely sure how that was going to play out.
RIF: It definitely had that pacing of a suspense novel—just flipping the pages to see what was going to happen to all of these characters that I became really invested in.
LW: I’m happy to hear that. Very, very happy to hear that.
RIF: As you know, a book’s setting can be so defining, and Greenwich, Connecticut definitely does that for this book. Of all the wealthy enclaves around the country, why Greenwich? Why did you choose to set the book there?
LW: It’s a good question. And the total truth of it is that it’s a bit of a shortcut because of how recognizable it is. Like you said, there are so many affluent suburban towns that could fit this exact description; you could drop this story anywhere. But I don’t think there’s as many with the name recognition as Greenwich, certainly within the United States and especially abroad. I don’t know if it’s the concentration of hedge funds, or the proximity to New York, but Greenwich does seem to be very recognizable. I don’t mean to pick on them, but I did take advantage of the fact that it was a shortcut to readers, recognizing immediately in their minds what kind of town I’m talking about.
RIF: So, how has life for you changed since the crazy runaway success of The Devil Wears Prada?
LW: I mean, every possible way that it could, I imagine. It’s been so lucky, but it’s been crazy. That book came out when I was 25, and I’m 41 now. It feels like a whole lifetime. That paved the way and allowed me to make a career as a writer, which is something I’m so tremendously grateful for. I’m married, I have two kids, I left the city after 16 years and live in the suburbs now. As anyone who picks up this book will be able to tell, I’m writing from firsthand experience. It’s a totally different perspective.
But that was one of the best parts of writing this book, for me: the fact that I feel like my readers have grown up with me. And I’m now letting the characters grow up, too. Not to say that it’s not fun, interesting, and exciting to write about the single life in the city in your 20s, but I feel like I’ve been there, I’ve done that. That’s certainly not where I am personally right now. It was freeing, in a way, to let the characters grow up alongside me.
Author Photo: Mike Cohen