Emily Giffin finds inspiration in her past for novel ‘The One & Only’

One of Naperville North High School’s former North Star newspaper editors-in-chief is now a New York Times best-selling author.

Emily Giffin‘s  seventh novel, “The One & Only,” was released May 20. A week later, fans and familiar faces from high school filled Anderson’s Bookshop, leaving standing room only to listen to Giffin discuss and sign her book.

College football is an integral part of the book’s plot. Shea Rigsby knows all there is to know about Walker University’s football team, more than most people, except maybe her best friend’s father and Walker head coach, Clive Carr.

With a fan following of mainly women, Giffin’s sports-centric book may surprise some readers.

“I have been passionate about college athletics since I was a little girl and have always wanted to write a story with sports as a backdrop,” Giffin said. “There’s a sense of intense loyalty, commitment to a common goal, belief in something bigger than yourself that ties people from different backgrounds together.”

While studying English and History at Wake Forest University, Giffin served as manager of the basketball team.

In order to get a realistic take on college football, Giffin’s research included visiting Southern Methodist University football practices in Dallas and, of course, eating a lot of guacamole.

“Hall-of-Famers Pat Dye and Jim Boeheim both endorsed ‘The One & Only,’ which was a huge honor for me,” Giffin said. “Another classmate of mine, Naperville North’s athletic director and now head soccer coach, Jim Konrad, also read the book and was very helpful in working through one of the plot twists involving leadership in sports.”

Throughout her writing process, Giffin attempts to outline her books ahead of time. But it often doesn’t quite work out the way she originally plans.

“As I get to know my characters and they form relationships with one another, the plot inevitably changes course,” she said. “I like being surprised by the turns a story takes. Maybe because when I was a lawyer, all the writing I did involved a very disciplined, linear approach.”

The inspiration for “The One & Only” involves the idea of unconventional love.

“I think too often we think that our lives and relationships should look and be a certain way,” Giffin said.

At the book’s start, Shea is living an average life. She has a boyfriend who she gets along with and a job that she’s comfortable with. However, Shea begins to question whether this is the life she’s meant to live and what her real destiny may be.

Giffin had a similar “A-ha moment.” She had wanted to be a writer, but ultimately chose to study law at the University of Virginia after completing her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University.

After graduating, Giffin sent her first novel, “Lily Holding True,” to every publisher she knew, but the book was rejected. Rather than giving up, she used the rejection to fuel her need to keep writing. Giffin began a second novel, “Rolling the Dice,” which was eventually published as “Something Borrowed” in 2005. It became a New York Times best-seller and was adapted into a film in 2011.

“That’s one of the themes that I think recurs in my books,” Giffin said. ”This idea of taking a risk and really following your heart, whether that means going after the relationship that you want in ‘Something Borrowed’ or going after that job you want in ‘The One & Only.’”

To order a copy of Giffin’s latest book, “The One & Only,” call Anderson’s Bookshop at 630-355-2665.

Danielle Spence is the editor-in-chief of the The Chronicle, the student newspaper of North Central College. Follow her at Chic Dreams.

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