J.S.: Because my name is very, very common, a lot of
emails intended for me end up going astray. The biggest mistake people
tend to make is forgetting to include my middle initial, and so I started to
wonder about this other Jennifer Smith, who has gotten so many of my emails
over the years, and what might happen if she actually wrote back to one of
them. It seemed like an interesting way to start a love story, and I was
intrigued by the idea that the completely wrong person could actually turn out
to be exactly the right person.
J.S.: Yes, I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of fate.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I’ve had a
lot of fun exploring that in my books. Some of the biggest moments in
life are often hinged upon some of the smallest, and I’m intrigued by the idea
that something as seemingly inconsequential as missing your flight by four
minutes or forgetting a letter in an email address can send everything spinning
off in an entirely different direction.
Amazon.com: Why did you decide Graham should be a famous
J.S.: Every book starts differently for me, and this
one began with the general concept, rather than the characters. I wanted
to explore what would happen if two very different people accidentally
connected over email, where there’s a sense of anonymity to the relationship.
I think there’s something really liberating in that for anyone, but
especially for someone in the limelight, who isn’t normally able to be himself,
and I was intrigued by how a character like Graham would deal with that.
So I kind of backed into the movie star aspect of this, but I really
enjoyed writing it, and it was a lot of fun to see the world through Graham’s
eyes for a little while.
Amazon.com: Both Ellie and Graham have people close to them
who they're not totally open with. Did you set out to create two main
characters who were forced to hide parts of themselves?
J.S.: Yes, I think some of the most interesting
characters are those with something to hide, and if they’re being really
honest, I suspect Ellie and Graham would both feel that way too. Very
early on, Ellie asks if he’s any good at keeping secrets, and Graham admits
that he is. When he asks her, she says the same thing, and then they
leave it at that. There’s something very telling about that exchange;
those secrets are a big part of each of their identities. They’re both
fairly closed-off people at the beginning of the book, and as the story unfolds
and they get to know each other better, they begin to break down some of those
Amazon.com: The setting is a big part of the story. What made
you want to set this story in a small town in Maine?
J.S.: I wanted the story to be set in a small coastal
town, and I liked the fact that Maine is about as far away from Graham’s home
in L.A. as you can possibly get, both geographically and metaphorically.
As a kid, I’d visited Marblehead and Camden, and they both left a big
impression on me, so the town of Henley is loosely based on those places, but I
also spent some time out in Montauk while I was writing this, which made its
mark as well. So I guess it’s kind of a mash-up of a few different towns,
but I mostly just wanted to create a place that felt like summer in every
possible way, and it was a lot of fun to let it come to life, especially since
I wrote a so much of it during the winter.
Amazon.com: If you were to accidentally receive an email from
any celebrity, who would you want it to would be?
J.S.: There are so many to choose from, but the first
one that popped into my head is Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live, who I
absolutely adore. I feel like he’d provide some great email banter.
And I suspect he’d share my aversion to emoticons!