Sure to fill the Succession-shaped void in our lives this summer, Emma Rosenblum’s debut book Bad Summer People delivers an equally eyebrow-raising insight into the charmed but prickly personal lives of privileged New Yorkers. The story focuses on Manhattanites Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker who decamp to the posh enclave of Salcombe on Fire Island every year with their families. Amongst the gossiping, keeping up with the Joneses, secret shacking up, and tennis lessons filled with temptation, a dead body turns up and sends shock waves through the community. It’s safe to say that it’s got all the makings of a riveting beach read. Before her whirlwind book tour kicks off, we stole a moment of Rosenblum’s time, keen to hear how on earth she managed to write not one, but soon-to-be two novels, considering her day job is overseeing editorial strategy as Bustle Digital Group’s chief content officer. Here’s how she gets it done!
How are you feeling now that the book has launched?
I am thrilled it’s finally out in the world and that we are seeing such good momentum! For me, it’s been really exciting to see people actually reading the book, as opposed to me just talking about it.
Did you always think you’d write a book?
Yes, I thought I might write a book, but I always imagined it would be non-fiction. But with my full-time job, the idea of writing something non-fiction, that involved research, was daunting. So I decided to try fiction instead. As soon as I started, I realized I could do it—it was really fun to make stuff up (and not have to fact check anything)!
What initially sowed the seed for Bad Summer People? Do you remember where and when the idea came to you?
When I was initially thinking about writing a book, someone said to me, ‘You should write a beach read; in fiction you can be really mean and funny.’ And that sparked something in my mind. I did some research by reading a few bestsellers in that genre, and I thought, there’s certainly room for a different kind of book here.
Without giving too much away, what can you tell our readers about the plot?
Bad Summer People is about infidelity, backstabbing, and murderous intrigue, set against an exclusive summer haven on Fire Island. I’d call it a beach read-murder mystery-social satire.
The detail in the book implies that you’re a Fire Island regular…is that the case?
Yes, I’ve been going out to Fire Island my entire life, and I know it intimately. The setting was definitely drawn from personal experiences during my summers there.
What was your writing process like?
I wrote Bad Summer People over the Summer of 2021, while juggling my role as chief content officer at Bustle Digital Group. This meant that I was squeezing in all the writing I could as pockets of time came up—I wrote a lot in the mornings. All in all, it took me about four months to complete the draft.
What’s something that surprised you about the experience of writing a book?
I was surprised by how enjoyable the process was for me. I had always heard that writing a book was a super painful process. People would often compare it to having a baby. Having now written a book and also having had two children, I can say that writing a book is a much easier thing to do!
How did you motivate yourself to keep going on days or weeks where you had writer’s block?
I luckily never really had writer’s block. I set my process early on, which was that I would make a decision in terms of plot and just go with it. I never went back and completely redid anything, more than fixing some writing itself. I thought it was important to make the decision and continue down that path, and it served me well with this one. I also gave myself fake deadlines and held myself to them! I envisioned an annoyed editor, wanting me to send the draft to her. That kept me motivated to meet those deadlines…whether they were fake or not!
What, who, and where will always inspire you as a writer?
I am always inspired by people who are prolific, who’ve produced a ton of high-quality work. Authors like Nora Ephron, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and even Jane Austen. I’m so impressed with women who are able to seemingly effortlessly churn out amazing book after book. I will try to hold myself to that standard! Wish me luck.
Back to your day job as chief content officer at Bustle! Tell us what an average day looks like for you?
My work day entails lots of meetings with my teams. I oversee our editorial, creative, fashion, and operations, so I am making sure everything is running smoothly across all our sites. While the day-to-day certainly varies, I am fielding questions, making decisions about stories, headlines, photoshoots, and working with our C-Suite on our business operations. In between, I am writing, if I can, which is not possible all the time.
As well as a good book, what’s always in your beach bag?
I have children, so my beach bag definitely reflects that. Some things that are always in my beach bag are sunblock, a tennis ball, lip balm, a water bottle, a bucket and a shovel, shells my sons have collected and, of course, a lot of sand.
What other types of content are you obsessing over at the moment?
I am definitely watching Succession with the rest of the world (I can’t wait to see how it ends). I recently watched the Brooke Shields documentary, which I very much enjoyed. I listen to The Daily every day. When I want to relax, I listen to Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend. Lastly, I read The New Yorker when I’m commuting.
What’s keeping you hopeful about the future of media and digital content?
I have always believed that people love good stories. I know that there will always be a future in which people seek out great writing, visuals, and storytelling. Of course, I have seen the mediums change over the course of my career, but regardless, that North Star remains. There will be a way forward on the platforms that exist now, and on the ones still to come.
What advice would you give to young creative journalists trying to get their start in media right now?
My advice would be to study great stories, profiles, and features in magazines like The New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, and Texas Monthly. It might feel like that’s a dwindling artform, but it’s not. Great writing, reporting, and editing will always be valuable, and if you can learn how to write well, you will always find work. These skills will always be valuable.
Agreed! Now that Bad Summer People has launched, what will the next few weeks look like for you?
There is certainly a lot happening! I have a reading on June 2 at BookHampton in the Hamptons, which is the perfect place and the perfect audience for a book like Bad Summer People. In mid-June, I am also traveling to London for the UK launch on Bad Summer People, which comes out in England on June 8. A lot of exciting things are coming up.
Do you plan to write another book?
Yes! I have another book that is coming out next summer. It will also be published by Flatiron, which published Bad Summer People. My second book is set in Miami, and is centered on the executive team of a buzzy tech company that’s on the verge of being sold…(SPOILER: one of them mysteriously disappears!).
Interesting! There’s no doubt you’re very busy—how do you switch off and relax?!
I cook dinner every night, which is really relaxing to me. I have a glass of wine. I watch 30 minutes of TV. Then I go to bed and do it all over again the next morning!
Order Bad Summer People here.