"Q&A With Holly Peterson"

"Q&A With Holly Peterson"

Book: It's Hot in the Hamptons

Photos by Eric Striffler

Author: Holly Peterson

Author Bio:

"Holly Peterson is the author of It Happens in the Hamptons, in addition to the New York Times and international bestseller The Manny and The Idea of Him. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and Editor at Large for Talk, as well as an Emmy-award winning Producer for ABC News for over a decade. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Newsweek, Town & Country, Vogue, Departures, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE Decor, and numerous other publications. She lives in New York City and the Hamptons."


1.  You have a great grasp on the pulse of the NYC socialite scene. Where does this knowledge come from? And what is the most fun part about bringing it to life in your books?

I have lived on the same Upper East Side block on Manhattan since middle school. I’ve worked for thirty years as a journalist at ABC News, Newsweek and written for what must be dozens of publications.

I’m a forensic anthropologist on the ways of the wealthy. Why? It’s not that I’m interested in the next Louboutin shoe, (although I am of course!), but I’m interested in the intersection of power and money and how the class warfare is roiling across America.

You may say the rich have nothing to do with the “rest” of America, but they do because their behavior, their exclusive ways, their lack of perspective is what is causing so much tension politically. So looking at people in power has so many facets. It can be funny, chic, festive, or deeply disturbing, or all at once. That tension and “richness” no pun intended is the lifeblood of any writer.

People say they want a “lite” beach read, but I never believe they mean that. People want something fast-paced, but they want to be entertained and informed and challenged along the way. I hope my books are both “lite” and deep at the same time. Funny, but making commentary about human behavior and psychology.


2.  Your ‘Hamptons’ novels are known and beloved for having very strong female leads. Why is it important for you and other writers to showcase these women?

Well, I’m a feminist. I’m a strong woman, and so is every woman I know, all trying their best with what they were given and whatever situation good or bad they find themselves in.

I believe that woman should be in charge of their lives and their choices whether it is to stay at home or work or have kids or be divorced or whatever is best for them. I’ve actually written about strong women having a tough time making a choice or leaving a horrible man and readers don’t seem to like that as much as women who have a ton of agency in life. So, I try to mix the two in “It’s Hot in the Hamptons” … strong women who may waver, but their choices are clear by the end.


3.  What is some relationship advice you can give to women in predicaments similar to Caroline’s? 

Well, a lot of partners cheat. The issue I’ve raised in this book is what does the other partner do about this? Do they shrivel and whine and feel sorry for themselves? Of course a bit. But then what? I feel we live in a world that would prefer to take women’s sexual agency away.

Okay, so I wrote a book where two women are 100% in charge of their sexual choices. Their husbands are both cheating, and they decide to do the same. I’m not at all pro-affair, but I am pro-women taking charge and finding parity. These two women in my book make a pact to have a summer affair as their husbands have done all along. The book is a narrative on what happens next…mayhem, tears, adventure, very sexy situations, and of course fall-out.

If someone is with someone who is having an affair, my advice would be to be careful about the next steps, but don’t hide your feelings or anger. Confront the person, leave them, or stay, but if you stay, be honest with them that you know.


4.  What makes a book a “quintessential beach read”? And why do you feel that your books fall into this category?

Well, people have A.D.D. these days, there’s no getting around that. We are constantly distracted by screens. So, I write books with short chapters, each ending with a cliffhanger of sorts to keep momentum.

I have been told by my editor and publisher that my books have “tremendous energy”. I think they do: they move fast, they are packed with funny situations that again are lite and deep at the same time, and they get readers to think and react.

They are not packed with what I call SAT words, meaning no lofty long phrases, that’s not my style. I’m a “voice-y” writer, meaning I write like I talk and I hope it’s what makes my book breezy…but again, not superficial. They will get you to think about insecurities, anger, human nature, friendships, sex, marriage, etc. in smart and provocative ways.


5.  Aside from location, how does the social scene in the Hamptons differ from Manhattan’s?

Any summer community with rich and locals smashing up against each other in aisles is packed with more tension than a city. The summer people invade and behave horribly and show off their convertibles and fancy clothes more in summer, so the angst is actually higher in summer even though it’s supposed to be a time to relax. 

It also provides a lot of hilarious situations that I love depicting…getting into nightclubs or country clubs, waiting for busy tables, trying to be chic and relaxed… (chic is never something you should be obviously trying to be, it’s a state of natural style) …etc…everything is slightly off-kilter in the Hamptons precisely because everyone is trying too hard to relax and be cool. They aren’t either most of the time and the humor is embedded in that truth.


6.  Do you have any friendships similar to that of Caroline and Annabelle?

I am technically a “summer” person in the Hamptons as I don’t live out here full time. But I surf a ton in the spring, summer, and fall with the local community and have many year-round friends. Annabelle is from Manhattan and Caroline is from East Hampton, but recently moved to Manhattan, so it is a local/summer person relationship. In addition, like all good friends, they tease each other, call each other out, and tolerate redundancy of the same stories many times over!


7.  What does the phrase, “when you marry for money, you work for it every day” mean to you? 

It means that there’s no free lunch in life, literally. Many women and men out there marry people with more money thinking, “oh, I’ll get boats and planes and great clothes”. And…it never turns out that way.

Most rich people are cheap with others, are entitled and feel they need constant attention and service from all and are often a total drag to live with as they aren’t relaxed or generous of often giving. I know that sounds like the most massive generalization, but I think it’s actually true. So people who marry for cash over love have to spend their lives working hard to smile and pretend all is okay when it deeply isn’t.


8.  What was your writing process like for this book?

I write from 4-8am in the dark and during the sunrise when no child, dog, repairperson or travel agent can reach me!


9.  What do you hope readers take away from ‘It’s Hot in the Hamptons’? 

I hope they laugh and think about the power of female friendship and the concept of female sexual agency in a world that would rather take it away.


10.  What’s the best book you have read in 2019?

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner


11.  You are highly decorated and successful in both print and television journalism. What is one of your fondest memories about being a television producer?  

I’m not sure I’m highly decorated, but I did work hard. Fondest memories were 5 am laughing with people who are still my best friends during an all-nighter at work about either the Russian coup, the Gulf War, OJ Trial, or Tonya and Nancy skating saga, and putting our cigarettes out in Chinese food containers. Who didn’t live like that at work in their twenties?


12.  What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?

Take a walk, get some tea, and turn off your internet on your computer for 120 minutes with a program called “mac freedom”.


13.  What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?

Can’t answer that, I’m a misanthrope or totally happy, one or the other usually. I guess I would tell myself calm down and avoid the swings!


14.  What is next for you? Do you plan on writing any more books in the future? 

Yes, the art world is coming next!


Places To Find More From This Author: 

Instagram: @hollypetersonny

Twitter: @hollypetersonny

Facebook: Holly Peterson

Website: hollypeterson.com


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