Taylor Jenkins Reid writes her own Hollywood success story
“I'm jealous you get to meet her,” an employee working behind the scenes at a recent press opportunity for “Daisy Jones & the Six” told some journalists.
The “her” in question was not Riley Keough, the star of the Amazon limited series, or any of the show's other female stars. It was Taylor Jenkins Reid, the bestselling author behind a celebrity-infused, decades-spanning literary universe suffused with glitz and grit: “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” “Daisy Jones,” “Malibu Rising” and “Carrie Soto is Back.”
“Daisy Jones,” debuting Friday on Prime Video, is the first Reid adaptation to hit the screen and others are in the works.
Reid and her husband, Alex, adapted an early book, “One True Loves,” which stars Phillipa Soo and Simu Liu and opens April 7. She's also written a screenplay with her best friend, which Kay Cannon ("Pitch Perfect") is slated to direct.
Reid says she always knew she wanted to work in Hollywood and calls writing books “a happy accident.” She originally moved out to Los Angeles to work in casting but when she wrote her first novel, “Forever Interrupted," she knew that was what she was meant to do.
“I found this piece of myself I never anticipated,” she says. Now, to have Hollywood come calling for her work, Reid says, is “really fun.”
Reid spoke with The Associated Press about the future of her book series, the intertwining threads and the status of that “Evelyn Hugo” adaptation. The transcript has been condensed for brevity.
AP: You've said that your most recent novel, “Carrie Soto is Back,” is the last in your series of books about celebrities. Is that true?
It’s not something that I come to easily. I ache to return to this world. I ache to return to each one of these books. I miss them when I’m done with them. And they never feel like they never feel over for me. It always feels like an opportunity to go back to them is so welcome.
But I have likened it a little bit to, you know, it’s senior year of high school and .. it’s important that we go expand and do other things and find new challenges. That is what I am planning to do. It is not because I’m ready to go as much as I just know it’s time.
AP: The character of Mick Riva, a playboy, smooth-talking crooner shows up in each of those books. Why?
First and foremost, I write about women and I’m interested in women, but women are very affected by the decisions of men and a lot of time women are left holding the bag. When men make the decisions that they do, that they sort of escape unscathed. There are a lot of men in our culture who keep making pretty big mistakes, and it doesn’t stick to them, but there are women behind those men dealing with the consequences of those men’s actions.
While I do write about women, I wanted to put forth a man who gets away with it. I know people hate him. And I know when they see his name in books, they get mad. But I want you to be mad because there are many, many, many Mick Rivas in the world. I think we would all do well to look out and see if we can spot any of them, because they’re getting away with a lot and they’re allowing the women around them to be the one to pick up the pieces, whether it’s whether it’s Nina Riva or it’s Evelyn Hugo or it’s Daisy Jones at a party or it’s Javier Soto finally being the person who calls them out.
Not every man is Mick Riva, but there are a lot of Mick Rivas in the world.
AP: Do you agree that there was a change in tone to your writing from “Evelyn Hugo” on? If so, was it intentional?
Absolutely. I’m not sure it was intentional as much as it was honestly not too similar to how I feel now with the end of “Carrie Soto.” It was just time. I want to tackle new and different things, and it’s really wonderful when you find this pocket of creativity where you feel like, “Oh, I can live in this space for a little while and I can tell a lot of stories here,” but I never want to stay at the party too long.
AP: “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” blew up, in large part due to readers on TikTok posting about it. What was that experience like for you?
You probably heard about it before me, because what happened to me was I’m sitting at my computer. I get an email from my agent with the New York Times list, and she’s like, "'Evelyn Hugo' just made The New York Times.” I yelled in my office and my husband comes rushing in ... and I’m like, “I must be misunderstanding this, right? Can you read this?”
The book had come out many, many years before and had not hit the list when it first came out. My husband read it and he’s like, “Nope, I think this is real. I think you’re understanding this.” It took us probably two weeks to figure out how it had happened. Everyone kept going, “What led to this bump?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” Then my manager, Brad, he goes, “I think it was something called BookTok.” I was like, "What’s that?" And he started showing me that there were all these young women talking about “Evelyn Hugo” on TikTok. I felt very seen because I’m very, very proud of that book and to have it take off with readers, especially young women, just felt really good.
AP: Netflix is adapting “Evelyn Hugo” into a film. Did you ever wonder how they're going to fit a story of a woman who had seven husbands into a movie?
I did. Then I read the script and I’m not concerned, but I get it. I understand. It’s not dissimilar to the experience on “Daisy Jones.” You have to pick the right people and trust them. Liz Tigelaar, who wrote the script, is a phenomenal talent, and I said, “I don’t know how you’re going to do this. I think you need to condense the story.” And she said, “No, I don’t.” ... And then she turns in the script and I was like, “I was wrong. You were right. You got it.”
AP: Can you share where the casting process is at for “Evelyn Hugo”?
There is no news but I will say that who is going to play Evelyn Hugo and who might play Celia St. James are always on the forefront of my mind. There is no definitive answer (but) there’s just a short list of women that I am incredibly, incredibly excited about.
AP: During the height of the pandemic you also wrote a screenplay with your best friend Ashley — who was not a writer prior to this — sold it, and Kay Cannon will direct. Not everyone would take a chance like that.
I grew up with very little, and I have so much more than I ever dreamed. I never thought people would read my books at this rate. I never thought that Hollywood would come calling. I have been so blessed that if all I’m doing is taking that in and I’m not using that light to bounce it on others, I’m not sure why I’m doing this.
Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press