Set in the splendid summer days of the 1960s, Wellesley scholarship student Heddy Winsome leaves her hardscrabble Brooklyn upbringing to nanny for one of the wealthiest families on Martha's Vineyard. But no one she meets on the summer island -- socialite, starlet or housekeeper -- is as picture-perfect as they seem, and she quickly learns that the right last name and a house in a tony zip code may guarantee privilege, but that rarely equals happiness.
I've been a journalist for over twenty years, and I've always dreamed of writing a novel. I spend time in bookstores the way athletic people live at gyms. I've always wanted to write a summer book, too -- the kind of novel that people devour while on vacation, probably on a beach, because it transports them to a glamorous setting and thrusts them into the lives of fascinating characters. Those are the kinds of books I love. A few summers ago, while I was on vacation on Martha's Vineyard, where we spend two weeks every August, I read about these two mansions on a narrow spit of land in Vineyard Haven; in between the houses was a rustic fishing cottage, at least back in the 1950s. Today, that "rustic" fishing cottage rents for $14,000 a week. I immediately began to visualize a WASPY family in one mansion, a movie star in another, and a handsome surfer in between. I knew right away that a young woman would arrive, an outsider, a scholarship student, and she'd nanny for the WASPY family but develop a friendship with the movie star and a crush on the surfer. I knew that the longer she was on the island she would begin to peel back the curtain on the people she met and she'd be forced to reckon with the dark underbelly of privilege.
I figured the idea would fade once I got home from the vacation, but then the characters voices began to emerge. I looked at my husband one night and said: "I have to write this story." I just had to write Summer Darlings; I couldn't rest until I was finished.
There are so many summer books I'm dying to read next: @Jamiebrennerwrites Summer Longing, Nathalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society, and Susie Orman Schnall's We Came Here to Shine -- and if I can make it to Martha's Vineyard this summer, I'll pick them up at Bunch of Grapes bookshop in Vineyard Haven.