Just before Authors Night (authorsnight.org), bestselling author Holly Peterson shared how the East End inspired her latest scandalous novel, It’s Hot in the Hamptons ($12, HarperCollins).
Author Holly Peterson in her Water Mill home
This is now your second Hamptons-based novel. Why do you set your stories in the East End?
I’ve come out to the Hamptons for decades. (I won’t say how many because I can’t count that high.) We first had a house near Main Beach in East Hampton, and I vividly remember flirting with the lifeguards down there. Now, I have a home in Water Mill, and I can be found surfing or making pizza in my pizza oven. I don’t do much else out there!
What about the Hamptons makes a good page-turner?
I call my novels ‘Downton Abbey in bikinis.’ There is such a juicy mix of high and low in the Hamptons. Of course, many of the summer residents who invade this gorgeous and vibrant community don’t realize there are actual families who live here year-round. Watching summer people mix with the locals is endlessly interesting to me. I surf with many of them, and I see the dichotomy of classes and cultures clashing not so much in the waves but certainly on shore; that tension always provides great fodder.
What role do Hamptons haunts play in your latest plot?
I placed my book at Duryea’s in Montauk; Navy Beach in Montauk; during an Exhale class with Fred [DeVito] and Elisabeth [Halfpapp] in Bridgehampton; along Indian Wells Beach in East Hampton; the shell stores and the pier in Sag Harbor, among others. I thought it would be fun to write about local spots that people recognize. The book starts with characters on a bench eating fried clams from The Dock House on the pier in Sag Harbor.
What's your writing routine?
I always write at 4am with my tea and special support cushion for my spine and heating pad against my back. I feel warm and cozy and ready to explore all the different themes the Hamptons inspire. In the late afternoon, I tend to sit on my deck and write with a glass of wine. Midday, I’m usually eating 4,000-calorie lunches of lobsters, clams, corn and too much beautiful, bountiful produce and shellfish of every kind. Everyone knows that the Hamptons’ food is so good you gain weight in summer—not the best time!
If there was a true-life tale about your East End escapes, where would it be based?
My favorite activity in the Hamptons is dinner on the beach at sunset. I even rented a trailer for a week once at the Shinnecock East County Park and spent four nights living on the sand with my family. People from all over spend a week with their families surfing, cooking dinner in the sand, making s’mores over campfires. I surf all summer near this park—the rough ocean and the tides and currents are great equalizers—and I adore the mix of different communities and backgrounds.
Photography by: HarperCollins; portrait by Eric Striffler