An Interview with Emma Straub, by Celia Johnson

Fall is here. Some people love the cooler weather, but if you’re like me, as you walk along the sidewalk, leaves crunching beneath your feet, you’re yearning for those blissful, balmy summer months. Picking up a copy of The Vacationers is one way to escape. Emma Straub’s latest novel has everything you’d expect from a summer getaway in a far-off, exotic location — sunshine, beaches, museums, clubs. Add to that romance, fights, and laughter. The story follows the New York-based Post family and their friends during a two-week vacation in Mallorca. And on this trip, for better or worse, they’re forced to deal with many of their problems. I spoke with Straub about her characters, her creative process, and how she handles rejection.

The VacationersThe Post family and their friends are a wild bunch beneath that quiet uptown veneer. They are outlandish, hilarious, and at turns quite moving, as they deal with their mistakes, regrets, and desires. Are any of these characters based on people you know? Or did something in particular inspire you to create the Post family?

Ha! Well, thank you. I guess I grew up in a similarly funny uptown scene, so in that way, the Posts are like people I know, but they really aren’t anything like my actual family. It’s more fun this way, I think, to create fictional people out of a milieu you know well, because then you don’t feel beholden to anyone.

There are quite a few surprise twists in this book. Did you know form the outset what the outcome would be for each character?

Are there surprise twists? I wonder what you think the surprises were! The story was never about surprises for me–it was about how this family was going to weather their various crises, and seeing if they’d make it out whole on the other side of the trip. It was important to me that all the major problems be resolved at the end of the book, because that’s something that I find really satisfying in novels. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, write novels we would want to read?

Was there any unconventional research you had to conduct for this novel? Trying the supplement sports powders, the kind that Bobby ends up selling, for example? Or perhaps booking a trip to Mallorca?

Ha, yes–the latter. My husband and I went for a very quick two weeks. It was the off season, and it was heavenly. I keep waiting for the Mallorcan tourism board to ask me back!

The Vacationers is your second novel, third book of fiction. How has your creative process evolved from one book to the next?

The first three books came very quickly, and so I don’t know how much time I had to evolve in between. We’ll see how the next one goes–I was pregnant while writing The Vacationers, and now have a one year old son, so everything in my life is very different now. I’m sure that will shift things up for my new book.
As a new mom, has your writing routine changed?
Well, for a solid ten and half months, it simply didn’t exist. I wrote very short things during my son’s naps. Now I have childcare 20 hours a week, and am done promoting the book, so we shall see! I very much look forward to getting back to work.
You’ve spoken candidly about rejection in your early days as a writer. What advice would you give to aspiring writers navigating that harsh world of rejection?
Get rejected early and often. The thicker your skin, the better. I still get rejected all the time, and I couldn’t care less. It’s part of the job–I think every writer should have at least one novel in the drawer.

Author photo by Jennifer Bastian.

Celia Johnson is the Creative Director of Slice and author of two books, most recently Odd Type Writers.

Emma Straub is from New York City. She is the author of the novels The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Vogue, New York magazine, Tin House, the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and the Paris Review Daily. She is a staff writer for Rookie. Straub lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn.