Book Club

7 takeaways from Book Club’s author discussion with Elin Hilderbrand

"I would say the average person that I've known for 30 years does not...think of me as a writer. They certainly do not think of me as famous…and that I take as a great compliment."

Author Elin Hilderbrand at Nantucket's Old Mill (1746) Rob Benchley

Even after writing 28 novels, Elin Hilderbrand has learned that it doesn’t get any easier to start a new project. “The Hotel Nantucket,” Hilderbrand’s latest release, kept her up at night in the early stages of writing, worrying that she couldn’t get the story done.

As with her other books, it was diving into what she knows and loves about Nantucket that got her through those early feelings of doubt.

“What I learned from ‘The Hotel Nantucket’ is that…I took a situation that I thought was doomed and I turned it around. ‘The Hotel Nantucket’ is a good book and it’s an engrossing book. I created a world and I’m very, very proud of that,” the author told


The novel centers on a fictionalized version of the Nantucket Hotel, where protagonist Lizbet finds a fresh start after a devastating breakup as the hotel’s general manager. As she deals with the cast of characters on staff and visitors at the hotel, she also has to face the supernatural being haunting the halls of the hotel. recently hosted a discussion with Hilderbrand and her work husband, Tim Ehrenberg of Nantucket Book Partner, about her latest novel. The two talked about Hilderbrand’s writing process, why Nantucket makes the perfect backdrop for a summer story, and what’s next for the “queen of beach reads.”

Read on for takeaways from their discussion or view the recording below, and sign up for more Book Club updates.

Writing ‘The Hotel Nantucket’ took exhaustive research.

Hilderbrand’s first novel, “The Beach Club” was set in a fictionalized version of the Cliffside Beach Club in Nantucket. The hotel at the center of the novel is based on the real-life Nantucket Hotel and Resort, and while she’d already written a hotel novel, she wanted to make sure she got the feel of a grand hotel just right. In order to write this book, Hilderbrand spent a lot of time doing research on five-star hotels and interior design. 


“I wanted it to feel like a place that people wanted to go to,” she said. “I probably read reviews of 100 hotel bars because I wanted the Blue Bar in the Hotel Nantucket to be really special. And then you just go out and you create this world. I had to restart ‘The Hotel Nantucket’ six times to get it right.”

It sometimes takes months for Hilderbrand to know her characters.

Hilderbrand said she thinks of creating new characters like moving in with a roommate. She learns who they are and what their motivations are the longer she spends time with them. It wasn’t until four or five months into writing “The Hotel Nantucket” that she realized what her main characters’ big motivations were. Some characters she didn’t even discover until she was two-thirds of the way done. 

“It takes time to figure out a novel,” she said. “I’ve basically been these people’s roommate for three weeks and it will feel very different at the end of September when we’ve gone through the entire summer and I’ve spent every single day with these characters and they’ve grown and developed in my head. But you definitely do not know who they are three weeks in.”

Boston serves as a backdrop for a key part of her writing process.

For the last twelve years, Hilderbrand has spent every fall in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood editing her books. 


“It is charming. It has little cute streetlights and lots of brownstones. Charles Street, near where I live, is this cute street with all the shops and restaurants…My time in Boston is incredibly special. Every year is different but it’s October, November, and  December so it’s chilly and it’s a great time to be in the city,” she said. 

The change of scenery from Nantucket helps her get into the weeds of her work. 

“The revising is very difficult,” the writer shared. “It’s more like math. I have the characters, I have the plot. I have to change it around, make it all make sense, make it better.”

Social media plays a role in her novels and her writing career.

Hilderbrand only recently started incorporating social media into her novels as it has become such a big part of how people connect in the real world. She’s also leaned into using social media as a way to connect with readers. 

“I choose to look at the bright side and love that I’m able to connect with my readers in a way that I couldn’t 10 years ago,” she said. “I’ve made friends like I have friends that started out as readers, people I cherish and love and I’m grateful for social media for that because how else would I ever have met these people?”

One of the ways she uses social media to connect with readers is through her Cringe Cooking Instagram series where she walks her followers through recipes she loves. 

Hilderbrand has a tailor-made itinerary for your next trip to Nantucket.

Hilderbrand wrote her first book set in Nantucket in 2000 and will soon release her 24th book set on the island. With this novel, she created a companion guide to the local businesses she loves so readers who visit the island can see Nantucket through her eyes. In doing so, she was reminded of why she’s loved being a Nantucketer for three decades. The guide, called the Blue Book, has brought more Hilderbrand fans to the island.


“I would say the average person that I’ve known for 30 years does not…think of me as a writer. They certainly do not think of me as famous…and that I take as a great compliment because I’m just really just a regular person,” she said. “I think that with this book, being able to spotlight the businesses in the Blue Book, I became part of a community that was lifting everybody else up and I felt like okay, I can actually do some good here.”

If you’re on the island for 24 hours without a budget, Hilderbrand recommends taking a drive to Sconset and walking over the drawbridge to the market. Also on the list would be Sesachacha Pond and a meal at Galley Beach Restaurant.

Two decades in, Hilderbrand is ready to end her Nantucket books.

Hilderbrand is currently working on writing the last book set in Nantucket. The prolific author has written 28 novels and intended to have her 2021 novel “Golden Girl” be her last book but agreed to a three-book deal from her publisher just before it was released. 

Her next release, “Five Star Weekend” will be out in the summer and her last novel titled, “Swan Song,” is in the early stages of the writing process. 

“One of the fun things I can say about my last book is that a lot of characters from past novels show up in this book. So if you’re a diehard Elin Hildebrand fan, and you’ve read them all, there will be people that you even forgot about and they will show up,” she said. 

A Hilderbrand story is finally coming to the small screen.

Netflix recently greenlit Hilderbrand’s novel “The Perfect Couple” for a six-episode limited series. Filming starts in Chatham in early April and the series will star Nicole Kidman, Liev Schiber, Dakota Fanning, Eve Hewson, Megan Fahey, and Omar Epps, among others. Hilderbrand is an executive producer of the show and is determined to make sure Nantucket is portrayed honestly. 


“It is going to be a very high-end, very well-done, and very beautifully acted series and so I feel so excited. If I had to wait this long, I would have happily done it if I’d known how gorgeously it was going to come together,” she said. 

Join our next virtual event

Join us April 25 at 6 p.m. for’s Book Club with Vermont Book Shop‘s Becky Dayton and author Rebecca Makkai on her latest book, “I Have Some Questions For You.”