fbpx

"The Summer Place" with Jennifer Weiner

Contributed By Kayla Douglas

As voracious readers, we’re always on the hunt for the next page-turner, but no time of year calls for a good book quite like summertime.

If you too are seeking your next read – ideally one that’ll pair perfectly with vacation – look no further than The Summer Place by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner. We had the chance to chat with Jennifer about her latest hit. We loved discussing everything from her love for Provincetown’s inclusive vibe to how she was made to embrace the Coastal Grandmother aura that her characters so flawlessly embody.

SmartFlyer: “The Summer Place” is your third consecutive novel set on Cape Cod. What about this special destination draws you back time and time again?

Jennifer Weiner: The outer Cape is where I spent summers when I was a girl. My parents would rent a cottage and me and my four siblings would spend days on the beach, braving dips in the icy ocean water, walking on the dunes, and then spending nights in Provincetown, eating seafood and watching the drag queens work the crowds on Commercial Street before their shows. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and I wanted to bring readers there, if only in their imaginations.

SF: Your style of storytelling embraces places – in this case, a family home on the Outer Cape – as characters in their own right. How has your personal journey developed this connection to the places that we love acting almost like people?

JW: When I was growing up, home was the place that I couldn’t wait to leave. But I can remember so many details about the houses I grew up in – the color of the wallpaper in the kitchen; the feel of the velvet-upholstered sofa in the living room, the smell of the tomato plants in the garden. I’ve spent more than twenty-five years in Philadelphia, where I’ve lived in an apartment and two houses, all on the same block. I definitely feel like my neighborhood has a character, and it wasn’t too hard to imagine a house having a character, too. A house is the structure you buy, but a home goes beyond the physical. It’s an idea that you construct, in layers, over time, made of conversations and memories, the books and objects on the shelves, the art that hangs on the walls. Giving voice to a house was one of my favorite parts of writing THE SUMMER PLACE, and I hope it will make readers think about the ‘characters’ of their own homes.

SF: One of your characters uses the playground of P-Town to dip a toe into its robust LGBTQ+ friendly offerings. What is your favorite aspect of Provincetown’s inclusive daytime and nightlight scene?

…everyone feels welcome, from the straight married couples with toddlers wearing sunhats and sunscreen to the single men wearing Speedos and glitter.

JW: I LOVE Provincetown. I love how wild and free of a place it is, how it feels isolated and special and other-than, and how it invites people to be any version of themselves that they want to be in that moment. When you walk around, you can see every type of family and every kind of love (and if you’re in Provincetown for Pride or Carnivale, you’ll see some delightfully raucous parades in town). What I love the most is how everyone feels welcome, from the straight married couples with toddlers wearing sunhats and sunscreen to the single men in line for the tea dance, wearing Speedos and glitter.

SF: “The Summer Place” was serving Coastal Grandmother before it was even a trend! Tell us more about the CG promise that your best days are still ahead of you.

…the CG holds out the promise that you can still be the main character in your own life, that getting older hasn’t reduced you to playing the smaller supporting roles.

JW: Most trends are completely unattainable for the vast majority of women – especially women who’ve passed through their teens and twenties. The Coastal Grandmother is that rarest of aesthetics: she’s an attainable ideal who offers the promise of comfort – in your clothes, in your home, in your own skin. And, just like Diane Keaton in a Nancy Meyers movie, the CG holds out the promise that you can still be the main character in your own life, that getting older hasn’t reduced you to playing the smaller supporting roles.

I loved writing Veronica, the matriarch and Coastal Grandmother of THE SUMMER PLACE. In my own life, I feel like I’ve been prepping to be a Coastal Grandmother for years. I love linen, I love to garden, I’ve cooked a million Ina Garten recipes and I’m never happier than when I’m settling down for an early bedtime with a good book. I never thought I’d live to see the day when those things were the signifiers of a hip, hot lifestyle, but I’m overjoyed that it’s here!

SF: You’ve been proclaimed the boss of the beach read by the New York Times; what elements do you think are integral for a story that readers don’t want to put down – beach or not?

JW: There’s nothing more important than your characters. You have to write about people your readers care about. Once you’ve got your person, you can decide what her journey will be, and where that journey will take place, and who will be making that journey with her. You can layer in your gorgeous, beach-y setting, add romance or intrigue or a corpse on a kitchen floor. But every good story starts with a compelling protagonist, who’s got some kind of flaw or need or empty place inside of her that she’s figuring out how to fill. Once readers are on board with your main character, you can do almost anything — but it all starts with writing someone readers care about.

SF: Whether by bike or traveling on a book tour, you’re often on the road. What are your must-pack items when you’re away?

I am a proselytizer for packing cubes, which help me keep my clothes organized, and I try to remember to bring cash, especially smaller bills, for tipping.

JW: You’re going to laugh – God knows my husband and my bike-trip friends do – but I will not leave home without a scented candle. In these days of COVID, hotel rooms can smell aggressively of bleach or industrial-strength cleaners, or just funky, and a scented candle makes any place smell like home (my winter favorite is Maison Margiela’s By the Fireplace, and in the warmer months I like Linnea’s mint-scented candle). I am a proselytizer for packing cubes, which help me keep my clothes organized, and I try to remember to bring cash, especially smaller bills, for tipping. Finally and most essentially, I always have a backup battery for my phone, which is especially important when I’m cycling alone.

Order Your Copy of The Summer Place on Bookshop!

You May Also Like

Travel Culture

Timeless Train Travel: How to Make the Most of Slow Travel

We believe that it’s not just about where you go to escape the day-to-day hustle, it’s equally about how...

Travel Culture

Your Guide to the Essentials of an Art-Filled Vacation

The best art vacations are ones that are filled with sparks of inspiration that come from transformative places. Those...

Travel Culture

Your Inside Guide to Punta Mita

Being considered one of the best hotels in Punta de Mita is no small feat. To meet the challenge,...