Author Emily Henry (photo by Devyn Glista St. Blanc Studios)
Ohio Life

Author Emily Henry on Finding Her Happy Place

The bestselling author and Cincinnati resident shares why she writes romance and what inspires her much-loved novels.

Emily Henry knows all about finding her happy place. The author, known for setting her bestselling rom-com novels in cozy fictional towns, finds inspiration not only when traveling to Ohio spots like Hocking Hills or Yellow Springs, but also when she’s at home in Cincinnati. And while she’s a self-described homebody, one of her local favorites — indie bookstore Joseph-Beth Booksellers — provides a getaway from the real world.

“It has that really cozy, magical feeling that I feel like a lot of bookstores have lost,” she says. “It just feels like a little preserved piece of magic.”

Henry’s latest page-turner, Happy Place, was released April 25, 2023, and is full of relatable characters, witty banter and plenty of heart. We talked with Henry about her love of books, changing directions and developing layered characters. 

What inspired you to become a writer?
Honestly, just that I loved reading so much. It’s the thing that I wanted to spend all of my time doing. Growing up, I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy, and I really felt that’s the space I’d be writing in. When I started writing romance, I got deep into reading romance to make sure I understood the community. I also pulled from rom-com films. My biggest influence is Nora Ephron. The coziness of her worlds is what I try to emulate.

You decided to pivot from writing young adult to adult fiction. What did you learn?
I was feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in the world. I just wanted to be working on something that felt warm and safe. I basically wrote Beach Read on a whim in between projects. Eventually, I realized Beach Read was ultimately a coming-of-age story. And that’s what I loved about writing books for teens. You’re writing about this pivotal time in life where you’re reassessing your identity. And that was what I was experiencing. I was feeling a similar sort of recalibration in my life, looking at my priorities, what mattered to me and where I wanted to go next.

How do you develop a cast of characters who are so multidimensional?
When I’m writing about characters falling in love, I can’t write those characters as islands. I can’t create main characters without really understanding them and understanding their roles in their families and their friendships. To create characters, I feel like banter is one of the very few things that comes easily to me. It’s my favorite part of the writing process. 

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