Taylor Jenkins Reid On Casting ‘Evelyn Hugo’ & Making Readers Cry Their Hearts Out

“I take a sort of perverse glee in making readers cry," she tells marie claire.

She’s the undisputed queen of BookTok and the bestselling author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six. Her latest novel, Carrie Soto is Back is out today and to celebrate, marie claire’s features editor Bree Player spoke to Taylor Jenkins Reid about casting Evelyn Hugo, becoming TikTok famous and why she cheered when Ash Barty resigned from professional tennis this year.  

marie claire: I am a massive fan of yours, which really doesn’t make me special. Everyone who reads books loves you. Do you know what the number of views the hashtag of your name has on TikTok? 

Taylor Jenkins Reid: No, what is it? I have not looked. 

MC: It is 135 million. 

TJR: [sits in a shocked silence for a moment and then gasps] On just my name?  

MC: On just your name.  

TJR: No, it can’t be. That’s very disturbing. I’m just going to let that information pass through me. I can’t comprehend that. That’s… wow. I’m a little floored by that.  

MC: It’s well deserved, your books are just so damn good. Speaking of which, I was a lucky early recipient of Carrie Soto is Back, which I literally did not put down until I read it cover to cover. Before it, I didn’t care about tennis at all. By the time I finished, I was wondering if I’m too late to start a tennis career.  

TJR: If Carrie can teach us anything, it’s that you’re definitely not too late! 

MC: What was your relationship with tennis, prior to writing Carrie?   

TJR: It was much like yours to be honest. I am not a sports person, but what I am interested in is public image narratives. What is the story that we’re being told about this famous person – whether it’s an athlete, or a movie star? We curate the story of what we think they want and who we think they are. And I was really interested in the idea that was tennis. It’s one of those sports where it’s just that woman on the court and whether she wins, or whether she loses, is about can she show up today? Can she figure out a way to beat her opponent? And there was something really kind of delicious to me about the idea of she either does it or she doesn’t? That’s it.

So I really threw myself into learning about tennis. And that’s when I started to feel a little bit more confident, like, Okay, I could do this. I know this world. I had known who Carrie Soto was, in terms of the sort of rough sketch that is there in Malibu Rising, but it was only once I really taught myself about tennis that I started understand who she was as a player. 

Carrie Soto is Back

MC: As you say, Carrie did appear in your last novel Malibu Rising. And that’s something that you’ve done since The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – placed an easter egg of who your next novel will be about. So, I read Carrie with one eye open for a character that your next book could be linked to. Then I received an email from your book publicist that said this is the last book in the series. So, I was totally on a fool’s errand… and it makes sense as to why no character stood out as a possibility.  

TJR: You know, now that you say that I’m like, well, wait, should I go write a book about Nikki Chan? 

MC: Well Nikki was the only person who stood out to me as someone who has a fascinating story I’d love to hear more about… but then it would be another book about tennis, which…  

TJR: That’s exactly it, you get it! I wouldn’t do another tennis book. I think that is what’s been really fun about Carrie Soto and the lead up to its release is that this is the last time I’m doing this particular way. It feels a little bit – in a really good way – like senior year, all the work is behind me and I don’t know what lies ahead. But I’m excited to find out. But yes, I can confirm that Carrie Soto is the last of the four famous women.  

Taylor Jenkins Reid

MC: What I love about your books is that they’re not always the most likeable of women. Why is that important to you? 

TJR: It’s not that it’s important to me, although it is, it’s more about the fact that that’s all I know how to do. I know how to write a woman who also kind of feels like your best friend, but when I look at my four famous women and what they are accomplishing at such a high level and the scale of that, I don’t think that women can’t be your best friend. She’s got to make sacrifices that that you might not make.

I don’t know any other way to write these women. I wasn’t thinking, ‘is Evelyn Hugo likeable?’, I was too busy thinking, ‘what is it going to take for Evelyn Hugo to get to the top?’ And that was just a much more interesting question to me. And I guess I’ve just followed on from that.  

MC: It’s proven that people don’t need a character to be completely likeable to still fall in love with them.  

TJR: Right? I think it’s so interesting when you’re not even sure if you like a character, but you find yourself wanting to see them get what they want. Like when you watch Don Draper or Tony Soprano and you find yourself on some level, the tension in your body is there because you want them to be able to go do the terrible thing. And I think that’s so fun. 

MC: That’s how I feel watching Succession. The entire family is awful, but I’m so here for all of them. 

TJR: Exactly! I mean, do I like Shiv? No. But that’s beside the point. Do I want to know what she’s gonna do next? Totally. And that’s what makes her so interesting.  

MC: Speaking of tv and film, let’s talk about some of the adaptations that are in the works you’re your books. Starting with Daisy Jones and the Six, which has been adapted into a yet to be released television series starring Riley Keogh and Sam Claflin. What was that experience like?  

TJR: I got to do all the fun stuff and have none of the responsibility, which was kind of great. I picked an incredible team to hand it over to and they had to do all the hard work. And then it was time to celebrate that everybody did such a beautiful job.  

MC: As a fan of the book, Riley Keogh is a dream casting. I imagine it was the same for you…  

TJR: I remember getting an email back in what would have been either 2018 or 2019. And it just said, ‘Riley Keogh as Daisy Jones???’. And I just immediately wrote back ‘FUCK YES’.  

MC: There’s a lot of debate on the internet about the casting of Evelyn Hugo, and who people want it to be. Do you keep up with much of that? And do you have your own thoughts about who you think it should be? 

TJR: Well, let me say this. Nobody is going to figure out who’s playing Evelyn Hugo, by who I am following on Instagram. And I think they think that they will, but I’m sorry to break it to you… I am friends with people. That’s why I follow them. It does not mean I am working with them. People think that they have got the whole cast figured out, but I can tell you that at this point, we have not cast a single person.  

(Credit: Getty)

MC: Do you feel pressure?  

TJR; You know, I try not to look, because there’s a fervor that I think is well intended, but sometimes is so intense that it gets overwhelming. I start to feel like, ‘Oh, God, if I don’t do what you want me to do, you’re going to be mad at me’. So, I try not to look at it, but I look enough so that I’m taking the temperature at any given time.  And look, the reason why people are talking is because people care. I am so lucky and that’s what I take from it. There’s really nothing more you can ask of an audience than that. 

MC: You know I, along with millions of others who have read your books have shed many, many tears because of you.  

TJR: Yes, and I take a sort of perverse glee in that. And the idea that it might be it might be many, many tears.  

MC: I can attest your books have given me moments of box-of-tissues, crying-headache, full-body sobbing.  

TJR: [Laughs] I take it as the greatest compliment. My favourite books are the books that have made me cry. I also believe there are times in your life where you can’t cry for yourself. You just can’t access it. There’s sadness, there’s stress, whatever it is, but it’s not coming out, but if, months later, weeks later, or days later, you come across a book that makes you bawl your eyes out. You’re not just crying over their story, but also crying for your own. It really does make me happy that people are so moved by my stories, they can start crying. There have been books that have given me that experience, and I feel so grateful. I feel like they’ve given me more than just a good story. They have given me a way to heal, and I’m really honoured to be able to do that for others.  

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid is out now. Buy your copy via Amazon here

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