When Emily Giffin first laid her fingers on a keyboard, there was no telling where it would lead her. But a change in direction can sometimes be the best thing to happen to a person. Whether it’s a change in career, a move to a new place or a chance meeting with the right person – things are set in motion and all you can do is go along for the ride.
Giffin went from spending countless hours a week working in the litigation department of New York law firm,
Winston & Strawn to writing several best-selling novels. Her road from law to literature was filled with ups and downs, but she says she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Although she selected a career in law at first, Giffin never gave up on her writing and continued to pen stories in her spare time. “I’m not sure exactly what happened during college, as I never lost my desire to become a writer. But looking back, I think I had the sense that I had to get a “real” job first,” recalls Giffin on her decision to go to law school.
Giffin admits that although she enjoyed law school, she did not in fact “enjoy the actual practice of law or the big firm culture.” Motivated by her unhappiness as well as her love for the written word, she eventually gave up her legal career and began pursuing a job as a full-time writer. “I had pretty much nothing but concerns (and a lot of hope); that’s part of what made it so exciting,” Giffin explains about her initial choice to switch careers. “It was the first major risk I ever took and the best thing I ever did. As Mark Twain says in my all-time favorite quote, ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’”
However, the dream was a bit further away than she first realized. After finishing her first novel, it was promptly rejected by several publishers. Undaunted, Giffin decided to pack up and move to London and began writing what would later be her first best-seller, Something Borrowed. “I hate to lose and I love to write,” says Giffin. It was that passion that kept her going and eventually all her determination paid off. In 2004, Something Borrowed hit the New York Times bestseller list, an accomplishment that came as quite a shock. “I was feeding my five-month old twin sons, two bottles in hand,” says Giffin of the moment she heard she had made the list, “I was sure I hadn’t heard my editor correctly and was embarrassed. What followed was a moment of pure joy and gratitude.”
The jury is definitely in on Giffin’s books. Her stories have been dubbed by critics as “instantly relatable” and “fun and thought-provoking,” while Giffin herself has been compared by critics to “a modern day Jane Austen” and called a “masterful storyteller.” Her fans couldn’t agree more. Giffin shows no sign of slowing down and says she will continue to write about the themes that her readers have come to know and love. “I will always write about love and relationships,” says Giffin, “To me, that’s what is important in life.”
Five novels, one husband and three children later, Giffin is still writing and still enjoying every minute of it. On May 6, Something Borrowed will hit the big screen in the film adaptation of the same name starring Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin. When asked what the biggest surprise has been on this journey from unpublished writer to best-selling author, Giffin responds, “How incredible it is to have characters I created in my head mean so much to people I’ve never even met.”
What you may not know about Emily Giffin
How do you balance your time?
Not sure how balanced it is, more of a controlled chaos.
What is the best piece of advice you could offer a working mom who is juggling a burgeoning career and a family?
Don’t sweat the small stuff and learn to delegate.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Follow your heart” or more to the point, “If you hate it so much, quit!”
What inspired your latest novel Heart of the Matter?
I was at a charity function for a local hospital I support, listening to a young mother talk of her newborn’s facial deformity. She spoke so passionately and poignantly of her experience, particularly of the surgeon who first came to talk to her and her husband when their child was just a few hours old. She described the confidence he instilled in her, and how he was the first person to tell her that her son was beautiful. The story was so moving that I came to imagine the attachment one must feel to a doctor who is saving your child. This became the genesis for Valerie’s story. From there, the novel grew organically, in a very character and relationship driven way that my books always develop.
Of all your books to date,
Which one is closest to your heart?
Something Blue, perhaps because I was writing it when I was pregnant with my twin sons. It was a very emotional, special time in my life. I think it’s also because Ethan and Darcy are my two favorite characters.
You’ve lived in many different places, why did you make the decision to come to Atlanta?
Initially, it was because of my husband’s career, but I’ve grown to love it, mainly because of the people.
How has becoming a mother changed your outlook on success and life in general?
I want my children to always be true to their hearts and dreams. I know that sounds really idealistic and cheesy, but it’s true. I would far rather they be happy doing something they love than chasing the next accomplishment. Wanting this for them has given me a sense of balance, too. There is so much more to life than the brass ring.
Where will you be watching the first screening of Something Borrowed?
I’ve already seen the movie with the cast, and of course will attend the worldwide premiere in LA, but I look forward to watching it in a real audience on May 6 somewhere in Atlanta. Probably more than once!
What book are you currently reading?
I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass. I love it so far. I’m also rereading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, one of my literary heroes who I just had the good fortune of meeting at a literary conference.
What are you most looking forward to doing after you’ve finished doing press for the movie?
Spending time with my three children and finishing my sixth novel. It’s called Where We Belong and it’s about the power of a secret and what happens when it finally comes to light.