Q: What inspired you to write Summer Love, and how did you create your cast of characters?
A: I’ll start with numbers. Nantucket’s year-round population is 20,000. Every summer, 30,000 visitors come to the island and leave in September. I’ve lived on Nantucket for 38 years.
I’ve watched my children and their friends work summer jobs and meet summer people.
Now, and for the past 15 years, my two grown children and their families and friends return to the island for vacations and reunions. I reflected on the changes that have taken place in all of us, and on the island, and I thought about dreams coming true, and how people and our dreams change over time.
People fall in love every summer on Nantucket, and sometimes it lasts, and often it doesn’t. I wanted four very different people, and I imagined them running into the ocean on the day they arrived, young, excited, hopeful, as if they were running full-tilt into their future.
Ariel came to me first. Blond, willowy, classy—we have lots of Ariels on the island, and I wanted her to have an ambition that’s not easily achieved—Ariel wants to be a writer. All her loveliness cannot guarantee that, and suddenly, in my mind, Will showed up.
Will is the strong silent type who has a powerful father who expects him to follow in his footsteps. He falls hard for Ariel but doesn’t know what to do about it.
I laughed out loud when I thought of Nick. He’s the charmer, handsome, quick-witted, and sociable. He’s always gotten any woman he wanted, but he finds someone who is way out of his league.
Finally, Sheila, the pretty, sweet girl who, like me, is from the Midwest. Sheila ends up taking the biggest chance of all.
Q: The novel alternates between the summer of 1995 and the summer of 2020. Did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one timeline before turning to the other?
A: I wrote alternating timelines from the start, because I wanted the four original people to have a reunion on the island so they could see how time had changed them. Also, I wanted secrets from the summer of 1995 revealed in 2020.
Q: What do you think the novel says about friendship?
A: Summer friendships, like summer love, form quickly, intensely, under the glow of the full moon and the warm sun. Often, they last, but as people grow older, they move away, in distance and in feelings. Sometimes, in a group, one person ends up being the odd one out.
Friendship can be fickle, especially summer friendships. But they can also be surprisingly long lasting, and sharing memories brings back the wonderful warmth of a love that was almost forgotten.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I like to think of my readers finishing the last page of Summer Love and sitting back to reflect on what they were like when they were young. Who did they love? Did they do anything careless, dangerous, foolish? (I know I did.) I hope they feel a small nugget of warmth deep in their hearts full of love for the young, naïve, hopeful person they once were.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m deep into my 2023 novel, All the Days of Summer, about a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law who don’t mesh in the beginning, and the changes during one summer that brings them together.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m grateful to everyone who reads my books. Ever since I started writing, I knew my subject was what we call “normal life,” with “ordinary people” like me. We all have our dreams, and no matter what, we all have difficult times in our lives. I always write books with happy endings, because that is what I hope for myself and for everyone.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Nancy Thayer.