‘The Idea of ​​You’ Author Robinne Lee Talks About Her Novel Inspiration (Exclusive)

  • Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel, The idea of ​​youwas wildly successful during the pandemic and was adapted into a new film starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine.
  • Speaking to PEOPLE, the author says the novel was inspired by a conversation she had with her husband, as well as her love of the pop rock band Duran Duran when she was a teenager.
  • Lee also drew inspiration from her experiences as an actress in Hollywood when writing the book.

According to Robinne Lee, author of the much-talked-about romance novel The idea of ​​youthe book practically wrote itself.

“I knew everything,” the author tells PEOPLE. “I knew how it was going to end. I knew how it was going to start. I could see my characters very clearly. I had all these experiences in my life until this moment where I said, “Oh, I could write this book, and I could do it really, really well.” »

This novel, originally published in 2017 and becoming a runaway success for helping readers emerge from isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, follows gallery owner Solène, who begins a relationship with favorite boy band singer Hayes Campbell of his daughter. The film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine is now streaming on Prime Video.

The inspiration for The idea of ​​youLee said, came to see her in an unlikely place: a political fundraiser interrupted by an earthquake.

The cover of the film “The Idea of ​​​​You”.

Saint-Martin Press

“I had joked with my husband and told him I was going to run away and leave him and our two kids for a guy in a band who was half my age,” Lee says. “He laughed at me and said, ‘You’re crazy…but it would make a good book.’ And like he said, everything fell into place.

Less than a month after that conversation, the author — who is also an actress and producer — already had a chapter of the book ready to share with her writing group.

“I felt like these characters were speaking to me the whole time I was writing,” she says. “They were in my head, they lived, they breathed.” It also helped that Lee was able to relate to many of her characters’ experiences: like in the film version of Solène, she was 40 years old, a young girl, and understood the woes of loving a musician.

“When I was about 13, I was obsessed with Duran Duran, so I knew what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl, obsessed with a band and thinking that if they could just see me, “Someday they’ll marry me,” Lee says. She also experienced music fandom up close while in college: Lee and a friend started a singing group management business, and a member of New. Kids on the Block signed on to produce with them.

Robinne Lee in 2020.

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

“They were still at the height of their fame,” Lee recalled of the “Step by Step” singers. “And so I knew what it was like to be with a boy band surrounded by this hysteria and chaos.”

Lee, whose acting credits include Coupling, Fifty Shades Freed and the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also drawn from his experience in Hollywood for the book. Although she says the two professions are different, acting gave her the gift of writing dialogue and helped her interact with Solène on topics such as aging within the industry.

“I saw that my roles, the opportunities to play certain roles, were fewer and fewer,” she says. “In my 20s and 30s, I had tons of auditions. And at 40…there was a lot less…there weren’t these layered, juicy roles.

“I wanted to denounce this, the idea that we are less desirable as women and less valued as women at a certain age because Hollywood assumes that,” the author adds. “I wanted to write stories for us because I knew what my friends were doing in their 40s and how busy their lives were… your body doesn’t shut down and die just because you had kids, or you have got married. You are still this living, dynamic, fulfilled human being.

Anne Hathaway (left) and Robinne Lee.

Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty

Hayes’ inspiration is also a hotly debated topic. Although many fans assume that the fictional rocker is based on Harry Styles, Lee has previously stated that the character was inspired by various people, including Prince Harry and Tom Hiddleston. She tells PEOPLE that the novel is also rooted in love – both fandom and romance.

“I knew what it was like to be that 13-year-old girl,” she says. “But I was also an adult and I know what it’s like to be in love…I kind of started building them both at the same time.”

Lee remained invested in her characters in various ways. She wrote the novel while listening to a playlist of 74 songs, inspired by music she thought Hayes and Solène would listen to (“There’s a lot of Ed Sheeran in there. There’s a lot of The Fray. “) The author also says that she “I cried about Hayes Campbell for months” after finishing the book, and that finally seeing the couple come to life on the big screen led to complicated feelings.

“I’m trying to understand this,” she said. “But I’ve been in Hollywood for so long – I’ve been acting for 30 years – and I’ve learned not to get my hopes up too much for anything… because that stuff can disappear very quickly.

Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in “The Idea of ​​You.”

Courtesy of Premier

As for learning more about Hayes and Solène’s world, Lee says she still doesn’t know if she’ll write a sequel. She recently finished writing her next book, but admits that after The idea of ​​you had its challenges.

“Part of me didn’t want to get involved again because it was so global,” Lee says. “But at the same time, I realize why people react to (The idea of ​​you), I think, it’s because a big part of me is in there. And it was so real to me.

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The Idea of ​​You is now streaming on Prime Video.