Elin Hilderbrand is a New York Times Bestselling Author and the mastermind behind your favorite books, selling over 10 million copies in her 23-year writing career to date. Whether you’ve read Hilderbrand’s best of her bestsellers, Summer of 69′ or one of Hilderbrand’s other 32 other fantastical creations, The Hotel Nantucket, Silver Girl, or the newest novel The Five-Star Weekend, you’ll know she is an expert on magnetic storylines and all things Nantucket- the setting of almost every Hilderbrand novel.
Hilderbrand’s summer read of 2018, The Perfect Couple, is slated to release as a Netflix adaptation in July 2024.
While Hilderbrand has made Nantucket home for the last 25 years since moving there permanently after a brief visit in 1993, Hilderbrand is Boston-born and visits the city frequently.
For the last 12 years, she spends eight precious weeks every autumn on Beacon Hill completing novel revisions, and has discovered quite a few favorite things about Boston. Here, Elin Hilderbrand shares them all.
BU: What is your relationship with Boston? When did you first visit the city?
EH: I was born in Boston! 54 years ago, summer of 69. I was born at what was called then, Boston Women’s Hospital. My dad was at BC Law and my mom an elementary school teacher at Mason-Rice (in Newton).
I was a twin, so after we were born my family moved to Washington. I returned to Boston the summer I was in college (at John Hopkins University). I worked at UMASS Boston the summer of 1989. I was 20!
BU: What is your favorite neighborhood in Boston?
EH: I come to Boston 8 weeks every year from the middle of October to the middle of December, and I rent on Beacon Hill. The main time I am in Boston is in the fall-there is no place more charming than Beacon Hill! Absolutely a fantasy land, and I love being there!
I love Back Bay, North End, Cambridge, but Beacon Hill is my favorite! It is so incredibly charming, and Tatte Bakery is 35 seconds from my apartment.
BU: What is a hidden gem you’ve uncovered in the city?
EH: Charles Street has really come alive since the pandemic ended. Beacon Hill Books & Cafe is there, the nut company on the corner is really great. The Cobblestones cafe is great, I go there all the time!
The Cobblestones cafe does soups, cold sandwiches, hot sandwiches. I have been thinking about it. It is so delicious! The sandwiches are outstanding!
BU: What about on Nantucket?
EH: I’m having a new love relationship with Lola (Lola 41 Restaurant). That has been one of my favorites of the summer. There are no real secrets on Nantucket, but the Petrichor Wine Bar is mid-island and absolutely fantastic.
I say this in the Blue Book but I love Island Kitchen. The ice cream is so good! The lunch counter downtown at the pharmacy, that is a hidden gem! It is amazing and they have the Island Kitchen ice cream there.
BU: Speaking of The Blue Book, if you were to make a Boston Blue Book, what 5 things would definitely be in it?
- Running paths! Probably my favorite thing about Boston! I used to be a runner, now I jog. I call it my “yogging” after Anchor Man. I hop on at the Charles Street overpass and run every single day along the river, absolutely love it.
- Boston Public Garden, especially in the fall
- The King & I Thai food on Charles St.
- Cutty’s Sandwich Shop in Brookline! I make a pilgrimage there, every.single.year. On Sundays they have their fried chicken sandwiches aka Super Cluckin’ Sunday!
- Handlebar Spin classes. I started spinning in 2019 and go to the one in North Station.
BU: What are your top 5 Boston restaurants?
- Mooo at 15 Beacon St.
- Parish Cafe (they need to name a sandwich after Elin!)
- Island Creek Oyster Bar
- Nautilus (which is a Nantucket transplant)
BU: When you’re not at your Beacon Hill apartment, what is your favorite hotel in Boston?
EH: I love 15 Beacon and the Boston Harbor Hotel! Love, love, love them both! Those are my go-tos when I have a shorter trip. And I also like the Lenox. I stay at the Lenox in Back Bay quite a lot!”
BU: Food is a huge part of your novels. You talk about Bluefish pate or butter with such detail readers can almost taste it or want to go cook immediately. Can we expect an Elin Hilderbrand cookbook?
EH: Never say never! On my Instagram I have something called “Cringe Cooking” which is this fake cooking show that I do. I do the recipes I make for my kids, I film them, and I put them on my Instagram. I borrow them from other people so it’s hard to say I can do a cookbook. But there are a lot of recipes in my novels so I can maybe do a compilation…we shall see.
BU: You can turn anyone into a die-hard Nantucket fan and frequently highlight the magic of the island, however is there anything you wish was on Nantucket that isn’t?
EH: I would love a Tatte Bakery and a Pain D’Avignon. I also miss Target and fast-food like Chick-fil-A. Sometimes my son just needs men’s athletic socks, and you can’t find those on Nantucket!
BU: Is there anything you can share about the last Nantucket novel for summer 2024 in the works?
EH: The title is Swan Song, very intentionally because it’s my swan song, it’s also my characters’ swan song. Chief Kapenash is retiring, he’s had some health issues. At his retirement dinner he gets a call that there has been a fire and a girl is missing.
He has one last problem to solve before he retires and he finds out he is involved in it, his daughter is sort of involved, the house that burned down belongs to friends of theirs. So, then we go back to the beginning of the summer and find out what unfolded.
BU: With the launch of your new podcast, Books, Beach, & Beyond, you discuss other amazing talents like yourself. Do you have any favorite authors from Boston or books set in Massachusetts?
EH: I love the author Dennis Lehane, he is super talented and Boston-based, and he’s had very good luck having his work adapted into films. I also loved the book The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley which is set on Cape Cod. Loved, loved, loved! And Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was one of my first favorite books when I was a child.
BU: Your book The Perfect Couple is being adapted into a miniseries and was filmed on Cape Cod and Nantucket. What is that process like for you and how involved are you with realizing the adaptation?
EH: This is my first adaptation that has actually gone to screen. I’ve had books in development for 6 years, nothing has made it to the screen. It is super-duper hard and there are so many steps.
You have to find a producer who wants to do it. Then they have to get a writer, then the producer and writer have to pitch the network. Then the network has to say “yes.”
This finally happened last year in 2022. We found out that The Perfect Couple was going to be a show. Then we found out in December 2022 Susanne Bier would direct. Then when Susanne Bier signed on, Nicole Kidman signed on, then when Nicole signed on Liev Schreiber signed on, then Dakota Fanning, Meghann Fahy-all these amazing talents signed on.
I feel super excited about it! The scripts are brilliant, we’re in talks about a possible season two. I met Nicole Kidman; she is the loveliest and smartest. It’s been surreal and I am really looking forward to it.
*Netflix filmed in The Perfect Couple in Chatham and there are still a few days left of filming. The show is slated to premiere on Netflix the week of July 4, 2024, but it all depends on the current SAG-AFTRA strike which has periodically halted filming this summer.
BU: Where does one get dinner with Nicole Kidman when on Nantcuket?
EH: We went to The Galley (Galley Beach), and it was amazing. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous.
BU: You have a daughter who you’ll be publishing 2 books with, and she has the best mentor on earth. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers or creatives/entrepreneurs in general?
EH: For the last 23 years I’ve written one Nantucket book every summer. That is coming to an end with Swan Song. I’ve signed a two-book deal with my daughter, she goes to St George’s School in Newport, RI.
The stories are so scandalous! I said to her, “we have to write a novel!”
I pitched my publisher a boarding school book. And they said we don’t want one book, we want two! I’m changing the setting to the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, near Northfield. It’s going to have all the scandal! The first book, The Academy, will come out October of 2024.
As far as aspiring writers, Emerson has a great GrubStreet program. My advice is this. First of all, you have to get some great life experience under your belt. That is super important! Whatever it is- travel or taking a job. Even if it seems like it is a dead-end job, it teaches you so much.
Every job has it’s own particular world and gives you its own environment to write about. Then when you sit down to write, and you have some experience, the most important thing is that you stick to it. Start at the beginning, move to the end.
I was not the most talented person in my writing class, ever. But I was always the person that could finish. I would always get the work done, and it takes disciple, and persistence, and hard work. What matters is butt in chair, get it done, finish.