BY MIA SALAS
New York Family’s Parent’s Book Club pick for June is Emily Liebert’s Perfectly Famous. As a mother and a famous author, Ward DeFleur has it all. She lives in a beautiful estate in picture-perfect Connecticut, along with her teenage daughter, Stevie, where nothing can go wrong. Until, one night, when Stevie is brutally murdered and Ward’s entire world is shattered. Consumed by panic and grief, Ward vows never to put pen to paper again.
Enter Bree Bennett.
Bree is a recently-divorced, former-journalist-cum-housewife, desperate to fill her days with something other than Pilates classes and grocery shopping. So she decides to start writing for the town newspaper. What begins as Bree’s effort to tell Ward’s tragic narrative turns into a fixation with finding her favorite author. Unfortunately, Ward doesn’t want to be found. Even worse, Stevie’s killer is still on the loose…
This harrowing tale of one woman’s infatuation and another woman’s fear is full of explosive surprises, perfect for fans of The Night Olivia Fell and Then She Was Gone.
Emily Liebert is the USA Today bestselling author of seven books: FACEBOOK FAIRYTALES (2010), YOU KNEW ME WHEN (2013), WHEN WE FALL (2014), THOSE SECRETS WE KEEP (2015), SOME WOMEN (2016), PRETTY REVENGE (2019) and her forthcoming novel PERFECTLY FAMOUS, which Simon & Schuster will publish on June 2, 2020. She’s been featured often in the press, by outlets such as: Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s World, The Washington Post, and People.com. In addition to her novels, Emily writes a travel and books column in each issue of Westport Magazine, for which she’s the Books Correspondent. She also teaches Pure Barre classes and enjoys traveling and cooking. Emily lives with her husband, Lewis, and their two sons, Jax and Hugo, in Westport, CT. You can find her at emilyliebert.com.
Are you caught up with our book club reads? Check out last month’s pick: Mary Kay Andrews’ Hello, Summer!
What initially inspired the idea for writing Perfectly Famous?
I love writing about strong women who are at crossroads in their lives and have to overcome whatever it is that’s impeding in order to move forward. In this case, the two main characters were enduring major, unpleasant life changes, and I wanted to explore how they would ultimately save themselves and each other with little face-to-face interaction.
The novel alternates between two perspectives: Ward and Bree. Eventually, these two women find their lives intertwined. Why did you decide to write from both perspectives?
For me, it’s important to include the perspectives of at least two different characters in my books. I think that when the reader has to see everything through one person’s eyes, the view can be too narrow. Being exposed to situations from multiple angles allows for a degree of layering that I believe is integral to telling the best story possible.
What was it like writing from the perspective of a novelist, Ward? Did you use any of your experiences as a novelist in channeling Ward?
It’s always great to be able to pull from direct experience, which I do often in my books. Since this hit so close to home, I definitely incorporated a lot of my own knowledge into the novel and—at the same time—since her success is so massive, it was fun to imagine what it would be like to achieve that kind of fame. And also to examine how that level of celebrity can ruin your life if you’re not careful.
Can you tell us more about the title of the novel? How did you decide on Perfectly Famous? Were you considering any other titles before you chose this one?
Coming up with a title is challenging! There are so many things to consider, especially since the title and the cover are what attract readers to specific books. On the heels of my last novel, Pretty Revenge, both my publisher and I wanted something that was two words, and we wanted those two words to belie each other in the same way that ‘pretty’ and ‘revenge’ do. Additionally, I was very drawn to the idea that, despite what many people think, being famous isn’t the end all be all; there’s nothing perfect about it. We definitely marinated on a bunch of options until it felt just right.
Perfectly Famous is loaded with twists and turns that keep us turning the pages until we get to the end. I read this book in all one sitting because I couldn’t put it down! How did you plan for Perfectly Famous? Did you know all of these twists and turns before writing or did you figure things out as you wrote?
So, with Pretty Revenge, I made the mistake of not writing an outline, which I’d never done before—with my five previous books. And, let me tell you, that was a big mistake and resulted in a very heavy editing process on the back end. In light of this, when I set out to write Perfectly Famous, I wrote a 30+ page outline with all of the twists and turns mapped out. Well, as they say, the best-laid plans…I did end up keeping most everything I’d plotted, with one major exception—the ending! I altered it as I was writing the last sentence of the book. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
This is now your seventh book. How has your writing changed over the course of your career as a novelist? What have you learned through your experience writing novels that you kept in mind in writing Perfectly Famous?
I hope that my writing has drastically improved over the course of seven books. Along the way, I’ve received a lot of fabulous guidance from my agent and editor, which I now keep in mind whenever I’m fleshing out a story. The first nugget of wisdom I’ll share is that if a scene/conversation/chapter/character doesn’t advance the plot in some way, then it shouldn’t be included. The second piece of advice is to avoid large dumps of backstory. If you feel it’s necessary to share a character’s history, you have to distribute the information throughout.
What do you hope readers take away from reading Perfectly Famous? What should your readers be left to think about?
I hope readers relate to my leading ladies and feel that they’re authentic. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I hope it will leave everyone thinking…about a sequel!
For those who loved reading Perfectly Famous and are looking to add books to their summer reading list, what book recommendations do you have?
This story first appeared on newyorkfamily.com.