If you haven’t devoured Holly Peterson’s It Happens in the Hamptons yet, head to the closest bookstore immediately and pick up a copy. The juicy-page turner, which is set in the Hamptons, is the perfect beach read. We caught up with Peterson about life in the Hamptons and more.
“Even though it’s satire and humorous and fast paced and it’s fun, I think it’s about some very serious things that are going on in this country, which is different people not getting along and separating from each other and just enormously unfair inequality in income disparities,” Peterson told Hamptons.com. “I think it’s a serious look at it.”
Why did you decide to set your book in the Hamptons?
HP: I have been going to the Hamptons for about 30 years. I have a summer home out there, and I spend a lot of time surfing and writing in the Hamptons. I’m there with my family a lot. Especially in the past 10 years or so, since the big downturn, I’ve paid more attention to the class conflict out there because I think in summer communities the differences between those with means and those not with means is kind of shown in technicolor, especially in the Hamptons with these gargantuan estates and Uber helicopters, and everything. It was something that I thought was actually very current about what’s going on in America and it was the perfect backdrop from which to paint the narrative of a novel.
Your lead character Katie is not from the area. Why did you decide to primarily show this disparity through an outsider’s perspective?
HP: I think that the Hamptons is some kind of crazy financial Land of Oz with money that is so stratospheric that even wealthy people can’t relate to a $40 million second home. So, you have to take an outsider and land them on the planet, otherwise it’s just going to be too hard to get into it. I just think it’s corny and tacky and way too aspirational if you write about rich people in their heels and their parties. It’s facile. And you think, oh women want that. Women don’t want that. Women want to know what people are wearing and see the heels and the parties, but they also want to know that the valet parker is not treated well, the waiter isn’t treated well and completely normal guys who have education degrees or are contractors trying to earn an honest living are being treated like here’s my toothpick stabbed into your palm. Go serve me. I think that’s as interesting, if not more interesting. The rich people are not all evil and the middle class town people are not all saving the day. There’s some twists and turns coming your way.
Do you have a favorite moment from the book?
HP: My favorite scene is Jake and his Defender getting caught in the sand, where he’s trying to be down with the local guys but there’s too much income disparity for him to expect them to relate to him, but then he gets stuck in the sand and he’s like, “How long does it take you to dig me out of here, buddy?” And the next line, I think, was: “It didn’t even occur to him that it wasn’t their job to dig it out.”
What are some of your favorite places in the Hamptons and did they make it into the book?
HP: I didn’t want to use actual places in the Hamptons because I wasn’t sure the local establishments wanted to be in my book or not, because there’s good and bad in my book. I did put the Exhale classes in because I’m friendly with Fred and Elizabeth, who run them. I showed it to them and they thought that scene was very funny – where the moms can’t park their Maseratis. I think in fiction you got to keep it fiction.
Is there anything you hope the reader takes away?
HP: I hope they take away a love of reading, I hope they consider the Hamptons to be almost a character in the book – the beauty and the nature of the Hamptons, and that corn and tomatoes and lobsters and the feel of the sand in your toes and the baptismal rush that one gets when one dunks oneself in the Atlantic. I really worked hard to describe the produce, and the fish, and the oysters, and the wine, and the cheese, and the feel of the sand, and the sound of the cicadas, and the way the light turns in the afternoon through your windows. I hope that I did some justice to the natural beauty of the Hamptons, because I do believe it’s paradise out there, and I do believe a lot of people deserve to be happy out there and treated well.
If you happen to be in the Hamptons on Saturday, August 12, you can meet Holly Peterson and have her sign a copy of It Happens in the Hamptons during East Hampton Library’s Authors Night (authorsnight.org).
For more information about Holly Peterson, visit www.hollypeterson.com.