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Summer Love Stories from Nantucket Island

Writer Elin Hilderbrand

Photo by Kelly Cronin Bicknell

But these magical seasons came to an abrupt end in 1985. That year, when Elin was 16, her father was killed in a plane crash while returning home from a business trip. “He was an attorney and was doing a bond closing in Troy, Pennsylvania,” Hilderbrand recalls. “It was a two-person plane. It crashed due to the fog and darkness over Chester County Airport.” Both Robert Hilderbrand and the pilot were killed.

“My father was a magical parent,” Hilderbrand says. “None of us ever misbehaved because all we wanted was to please him. His sense of humor, his sense of fun, his all-encompassing love, and his deep emotional reservoir made him a role model for me and my siblings. He is our forever hero.” With her father’s death, Hilderbrand’s summers in the sun were over.
When she was 17, Hilderbrand worked for the summer at a factory in Pennsylvania that manufactured Halloween costumes. “That summer, I vowed that somehow, some way, I would create a life where I spent every summer at the beach,” she says. Hilderbrand also wanted to be able to support this lifestyle, and felt that writing for her profession would be an ideal fit. She went on to graduate from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and then attended the prestigious graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa. Following that, she worked for two years as a middle-school English teacher in New York, teaching at public schools in Queens and Westchester County.

Teaching would not be her calling forever, though. “Before I started teaching, I spent the summer on Nantucket,” Hilderbrand says, “and when I left I vowed I would come back as soon as possible.” In the summer of 1994, she made this dream come true. Hilderbrand moved to Nantucket, taking a job as a classified advertisement representative at a local newspaper. Soon she started writing, and her first novel, The Beach Club, was released in 2000 to positive reviews.

Hilderbrand says her stories are simply about people and their relationships, but they have become popular with romance readers who cannot get enough of them. “I don’t write romance on purpose,” she says. “I write about people. The ideas just come to me and usually fall into two categories: thematic, which are centered around a hotel, a bistro, a wedding, et cetera; or situational, such as something I saw on the news or on television; or centered around a relationship.”

The author says her influences include the late American author, Laurie Colwin. “She wrote a book called Family Happiness (1982) that I loved,” Hilderbrand says. “Her main character is a woman named Polly who is the most lovable woman in the world. She had a husband—and a lover. When I read that, I fell in love with all the characters. It influenced me by teaching me that when writing is done correctly, anything is possible. A character can do an awful thing, but you can still love the character. If you really love your characters, people will go with it.”

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