Q&A with The Vacationers’ Author Emma Straub

Ever get curious about who’s behind your favorite books? Us too! We got the chance to chat with the author of The Vacationers, the novel we chose for Birchbox’s first-ever book club. Emma Straub shared what she likes to read on long trips, disclosed her not-so-secret Nashville obsession (Emma, we are so with you), and told us what it was like to travel to Mallorca, the Mediterranean island where the book is set. Make sure to join our Twitter chat with her on June 18 for more intel on The Vacationers! Still haven’t picked up the book? Get a copy here!

When figuring out where to set the book, what made you settle on Mallorca?

I started working on a draft of novel about these characters in 2005, and I always knew I wanted to come back to this family. I wanted them to be on an island because that seemed metaphorically golden in terms of “a family marooned.” My mother had just been to Mallorca where some friends of hers have an apartment and I was like, “Oh Mallorca, that could be really perfect!” So I set the book there. My husband and I went when I was pregnant, and I’m so glad that [it] worked out as well as I thought it would.

Was your trip to Mallorca similar at all to the book?

We went in the off-season, at the very end of January-beginning of February. The weather was glorious. We really just walked around and ate. After we went to Palma [the island’s biggest city], we stayed in this really nice hotel about half an hour outside, in the mountains, which is where I set this imaginary house that the characters were living in. This hotel that we were staying in was so beautiful, I think it had been a monastery in the 16th century. There was this gigantic fireplace, and these really comfortable couches and chairs, and we just sat there and read books and I took notes and it was like magic.

What kind of materials kept you inspired you throughout the writing process?

I read a book while I was planning out my book, called Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. It’s about this group of British women who are strangers who all decide to rent a house together for a month in Italy. And, as happens in these books, things don’t go as they planned. And then one of my characters, Sylvia, is an 18-year-old girl who has just graduated from high school and about to go off to college, and I was thinking about this Liv Tyler movie which you may have seen called Stealing Beauty. It’s about all of that coming-of-age stuff and I knew I wanted that for my Sylvia.

Did orchestrating the family dynamics of the Post family bring up any old memories of your own family trips?

This is not at all in the book, but what usually happened on our family vacations was my father and I would go sit by the pool, my mom would go off and actually be doing things, and my brother would always make friends. If we were at some hotel, some resort, anywhere we went my brother would like make a new friend, and then I would fall in love with that friend, and then be very sad when that friend ignored me. That does not happen in The Vacationers, but maybe it should have!

What kind of things do you like to read when you travel?

I always take a lot of notes whenever I go anywhere, and it often ends up in my fiction. On the trip to Mallorca, my husband and I had packed a bunch of books, but we read them all really quickly, and we had to buy more at the airport. We bought The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I read it and just sobbed the entire time. And then we read Gone Girl. It was like being in a little book club of two.

What are your beauty essentials for a trip overseas?

They are very few, but they are important. I always have sunscreen. I am a very pale human being and I turn a very electric shade of pink if I don’t wear sunscreen. Lately I’ve been wearing the sunscreen that I put on my baby called Baby Badger.

If I’m on vacation, I have your basic Great Lash mascara, a little BB cream with some sunscreen (more sunscreen always) and lipstick. That’s my only beauty trick—if you put on really bright lipstick people don’t notice that you don’t know how to put on eye makeup. Right now NARS’s Heat Wave is my favorite red, and their Funny Face is a really good pink.

What are you excited to share with our readers through the book club?

I feel like I have a few different communities like that in my life—like I have the book scene, and then like I write for Rookie magazine, I have like my new mom crew if I want to talk about baby stuff. I think what’s really cool about Birchbox is that it’s this self-selecting community of people who all get excited about the same thing, and I’m so excited that my book is going to be one of those things that hopefully people will like and talk about with each other! I feel like I’ve been granted access to this very cool club.

Finally, you just spent some time in Nashville and you’ve said that you’re a really big fan of the TV show. Is there a country music-themed novel in your future?

Oh my god, that is a great idea! I just got so happy thinking about that. Deacon-Rayna fan fiction by Emma Straub, coming up—I would say—2015? I can get that done pretty quickly.

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