Zibby speaks to author and repeat MDHTTRB guest Lauren Edmondson about Wedding of the Season, an atmospheric, joyous, and witty new novel about a Newport family, their fading riches, and the summer wedding that has the whole town talking, including the local gossip blog. Lauren talks about her fascination with old-money American families and the places they seclude themselves in, and describes her protagonist, Cass, who cannot escape her Vanderbilt-esque name, doesn’t actually have that much money, and is begrudgingly involved in her sister’s high society wedding. She also reveals how challenging it was to write this book with a newborn baby and postpartum anxiety, explaining that it took falling in love with her characters (and taking Lexapro!) to get to the finish line.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Lauren. Thank you so much for coming back on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books,” this time for Wedding of the Season.

Lauren Edmondson: Thank you so much for having me. It’s so good to be back. It’s so good to see you.

Zibby: You too. This is another ad for the Ocean House, though, I have to say, which I love and is one of my favorite places. So beautiful. I love the way you write about it in the book. I hope you’re having an event there for the launch or something. Are you?

Lauren: I hope so too. You and I were supposed to get together at Ocean House along with lots of other authors before the pandemic derailed those plans. I hope that one day we reschedule a retreat there because I was just so looking forward to it.

Zibby: I’m doing two other retreats. I know I have to go back. There were so many logistics involved. I’ll do it differently this time and just make it a little easier on myself versus managing people’s food preferences and roommate requests. I was a travel agent for a month. We will do it. We’ll do it.

Lauren: You don’t need to take that on personally.

Zibby: Tell listeners about Wedding of the Season.

Lauren: Wedding of the Season is set in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s about the descendants of a formerly great Gilded Age family who have fallen from grace, fallen from riches. The middle daughter comes home after a long time away and after having sort written her family and her hometown off. She comes back to Newport to help her older sister get married, basically, but the twist is that her older sister is marrying the son of the family that now owns the great mansion that had once been theirs.

Zibby: The Land? Isn’t that what it’s called?

Lauren: The Land, yes. It’s a story about a homecoming, about families with adult children dealing with aging parents. It’s, as my previous books were, about society and the clash between old money and new. It’s also, I hope, really fun and full of giggles and friendship and sisterhood and beautiful scenery. I really hope that people enjoy it. I really enjoyed writing it.

Zibby: People are totally going to enjoy it. It’s really fun. This is the perfect wedding season gift. I feel like you kind of are writing about old and new money in this book just by writing about Newport. Maybe it’s only old. You had a paragraph in the beginning, this little scene. Let me just read this. “Jack easily steered conversation into banal territory. Ambassador and Mrs. Frederick Sterns just back from a cruise to Antarctica. ‘Too damn cold. Too many penguins.’ Bunny Mills. ‘I design garden benches.’ Suzie. ‘Suzie can show you the look-book.’ Dr. Jennifer Cohen. ‘When was the last time you saw a dentist?’ Her practice was in Middletown, though she only worked on Mondays now. That’s the day the golf course is closed. ‘Now remind us what you do.’ As I explained what I did outside of Rhode Island, I was shortly reminded of this fact. When those who haven’t left the closed loop of Newport, New York, Palm Beach are in the company of one who has, they find themselves earnestly inspecting the curiosity before them as one might an indecipherable gallery installation. I was an oddity, past, present, and future.”

Lauren: Yes, that captures how our main character, Cass, feels. Like I said, she’s the great-great-great-granddaughter of one of these old-money American royalty families. Those days of yacht clubs and jet-setting to Palm Beach and horses and stables and diamonds, those days are over for her. She’s had to work and really find her own way in the world. Coming back into Newport is still sort of like being dropped through the looking glass. She has to readjust to the way rich people move about the world and also react to her as somebody who is really straddling these two spheres of society.

Zibby: Interesting. It’s so fitting that you have her be a photographer with this old-school camera, injury-prone camera or whatever, so that she can be the observer of the whole scene. It is amazing. There are pockets of society still — these places still exist like this. They’re not just in Newport. I’m trying to think of other little communities like this around scattered about that really are frozen in time, like you said. I don’t know how, but it happens.

Lauren: Cass notices it later in the book. It’s deliberately sealed. It’s by choice and by design that they seal themselves off from the rest of the world. I think a lot about Sea Island, Georgia. Have you ever been there?

Zibby: No, but my husband used to teach tennis there.

Lauren: Oh, he did?

Zibby: Yeah.

Lauren: That’s amazing. I want to talk to you more about that later. When we first went to Sea Island — I guess it’s a privately owned island. I commented to my husband that there’s no signs anywhere. There’s no big sign that says, “Sea Island, this way.” The different parts of the island where they have a hotel, a beach club, a lodge, golf course, the signs are five centimeters high and embossed in metal, so you can’t really see them. It’s designed for people who already know where they’re going. It’s not designed for newcomers. This is a deliberate design choice. I just find that so fascinating, the kind of calculation that goes into keeping a place like Newport, or certain parts of Newport, I should say, remote even though it’s part of a bigger community. There are, like you said, parts of the world that like to keep themselves hermetically sealed.

Zibby: I feel like there are still many clubs that have not revised the rules. I feel like the rules do not apply somehow, this old-school society. Cass, she reunites with people from her past right away. All things ensue. By following her through this whole season, if you will — I love the constant Instagram posts as a little —

Lauren: — The Newport gossip.

Zibby: Yes, which is awesome. When you were envisioning writing the book and you thought of Cass as a character, what were you super excited to get across with her view of this world?

Lauren: That’s such a good question. I put her as the middle child because she had this vibe for me of always feeling kind of sandwiched. She has a very talented, beautiful older sister who’s a ballerina. She has a charming, dashing younger brother who is everybody’s absolute favorite. She’s plunked there in the middle. This echoes how she feels about her place within Newport. Like I said before, she’s kind of trapped in this really nebulous place between being in and being out. She’s not completely in because, of course, she doesn’t have the money. Her mother is kind of kooky in a really lovely way. She’s not completely out because she has the name. She has a really famous name that everybody knows. The inspiration was Vanderbilt-esque in that way where you really can’t escape your last name, even though she sort of tries to.

I really thought that would be an interesting place for her to be as this wedding of the season looms large, this big society wedding. Her sister is, as a ballerina, pretty famous within the elite circles of society. She’s marrying, of course, a very new-money rich guy. It has all of those trappings of wealth. The wedding takes place at The Land, this grand mansion set on the cliffs of Newport. Weddings have a way of bringing out our best and our worst, especially within families. The added stress of a wedding that is planned, basically, in three months, you have this compression of time, compression of issues, and compression of place. Cass really has to figure out in a short space of time with all these external pressures, where she is and where she can hold space for herself, where she can function happily in this middle ground. That’s where I plopped her.

Zibby: Amazing. Talk about the writing process of this book, especially after the last book, and the differences. Do you feel like it’s getting much easier? Where do you see all this going?

Lauren: I was thinking about this today. It was almost exactly two years ago where we first chatted.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, was it that long? I felt like it was so recent.

Lauren: I know. Ladies of the House was just about to come out. I was two months postpartum with Shepard. I remember you asking me, “What are you working on now?” I said this book about Newport, but I confessed to you that I really hadn’t been writing very much because of my son being a newborn. You said, “That’s okay. You’ve just grown a human. I think you can take some time.” I don’t know if you noticed this, but I actually borrowed that kind of concept because in — well, I don’t want to ruin it. Cass says something similar to a character in the book. I was thinking about you as I was writing that. I was growing a human and recovering from growing a human. Soon after we talked, so two years ago, I really got back to the page. It was not easier in so many parts. My son was basically home with me as a very young baby. Thankfully, I had help. I had a wonderful babysitter who came a couple hours a week to help me. I had my housekeeper come every other week to help me keep the house clean. I have a very supportive husband and extended family and friend group. I was not without help, but it was very challenging nonetheless to be that exhausted from caregiving and then to, oftentimes at the end of the day when the kids were in bed, to sit down and turn to the creative part of my brain when all I wanted to do was watch Sister Wives on TLC.

It was difficult. I found myself dragging myself a lot to my computer, or I would be really excited to write during the day when I felt really good. What I would often do was write during Shepard, my son’s, nap times. If he skipped a nap or if he wasn’t settling as quickly as I wanted him to, I would get so anxious about, this is my writing time. Why can’t you just sleep? It was challenging logistically to find the hours and the space. Later on into the process, it really ended up doing a lot for me emotionally. About a year after my son was born, I was really struggling with postpartum anxiety. This was, too, at a place where we were going on year two of the pandemic. It was the time where — I can’t remember what variant it was, but everybody was getting it. It was wintertime. It was the depths of January. I felt so cold and so hopeless, almost, feeling like we’re never going to get out of this. My kids are never going to be able to have a normal childhood. The work was also very challenging. There was a lot. My editor was doing a lot for me to get the plot into place. I really felt like I’m letting her down because I’m not getting the book where it needs to be. I really started spiraling into this sad place of anxiety.

What brought me out was two things. Of course, the first being Lexapro. Thank goodness. Then the second being this family, the Coventry-Gilfords, and Newport and this page. They are, for me, so wonderful. They’re a family that I really enjoyed spending time with. I really enjoyed writing them. I loved having them all together in a room. The way that I write my books is toward an ending where families are together. They are happy with each other. They do come together in a unified, loving way. Writing toward that ending for them, for these characters that I grew to love in this place in Newport, which I’ve also grown to just adore, really brought me out of that dark time. The third book that I’m working on, I am hoping it’s not going to be so logistically and emotionally challenging. If the second book is any indication, I’ll have my work cut out for me.

Zibby: Lauren, I honestly don’t even know — that sounds stupid. I don’t know how you did it. The access to creativity and mental energy you need to write fiction is so diametrically opposed to — it uses the same store of energy that you need to raise babies and all of that. It’s not like there’s an ever-flowing — I’m envisioning this fountain. I can’t talk because I’ve gotten no sleep. You used it all for one thing. Then you dip in the well. It’s empty. I’m so sorry. I feel like I still have postpartum anxiety. My kids are fifteen and a half. That was a hard time of life for literally everyone on the planet. Then the little kids and the book, it’s so much. It’s just so much. You did a good job. It’s a really good book. You didn’t just crank out some terrible book, which you could have, but you didn’t.

Lauren: Thank you. Thank you so much for saying that. It really felt, though, I was tipping off the precipice into, am I just going to have to phone this in? I remember tearfully calling my wonderful agent, Sarah Phair, and being like, “I do not know if I can do this.” In her infinite wisdom, she was like, “We will do this together. I will physically drag you across the finish line if I have to. I will carry you on my back.” I had help. I had support, both physical and emotional. Certainly, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this together without them.

Zibby: Did you consider pushing back the release date or anything?

Lauren: Sarah and I had a mention of it. In my anxiety spiral, I just felt like, we’re going to have to change the publication date. It’s going to ruin everything. You know how those little knots of thought just get stuck. You’re tugging. It just makes them tighter. I thought that would be the greatest failure of my life. She reminded me, again in her very calm way, that publication dates get changed all the time, so it would not be the disaster that I envisioned it would be. We didn’t end up having to change the pub date. We worked on it really hard. My editor and I worked on it really hard. It did come together fairly quickly. Once we had gotten the major lumps out, it was like, okay, now we’re going into sentences and starting to edit sentence by sentence. That was different than my previous book. Ladies of the House was really a gradual combing of knotted hair where you just keep running the comb through, and it gets smoother and smoother. This was just a mess for so long until it wasn’t. We were fortunate in that way.

Zibby: Wow. Novel writing as hairstyling, I love it. It’s great. It’s a perfect analogy. So awesome. Hats off to you. I’m impressed. I’m impressed when anybody pulls off writing a novel. It’s hard. Well done.

Lauren: You’ve written two books.

Zibby: No, but it’s different. I’m trying to write a novel now. I mean, I’m not trying. I am. It is so hard. It’s hard. Maybe it’s easier for people who are actually, this is what they want to — I don’t know. It’s hard for me. It’s hard.

Lauren: Do you find it more difficult than writing your memoir?

Zibby: Yeah. I feel like to get in the mental space where I can do it is the hardest part. There’s too much going on. The other kinds of writing — not to talk about me. Other kinds of writing I can do in between a podcast and a meeting downstairs and this and that. I could write an essay for an hour. Boom, it’s done. I feel like fiction, I need the day. I need hours. Maybe I’ll sit there. Then maybe something will come to me. I really want to do it, but then it’s time for dinner or something. I can’t plan it as much, which frustrates me.

Lauren: You do, you spend a lot of time staring off into space thinking. Then when something comes to you, you don’t necessarily have that access because you are in the middle of dinner. I see that. For me, I feel as though it would be the opposite where memoir would be very hard for me because I would feel like I don’t have anything to say about me. This thing happened. How am I going to get it to a place where it’s interesting to anybody else besides my mother? That would trip me up a lot. I would spend a lot more time staring off into space than I do for novel writing. Your memoir so beautiful. It’s so accessible and so true. It’s remarkable that you have been able to do all that you do.

Zibby: Stop. Let’s just compliment each other for the next hour or two.

Lauren: Okay. I love it.

Zibby: We’ll lift each other up. Are you finding any time to read?

Lauren: Yes, I’m reading a lot. I’m reading in anticipation of my next project that I hope to be working on soon, which takes place in the Hamptons, which is another pocket of contradictions and simmering social tensions that I’m really looking forward to exploring. I’m reading some stuff about the Hamptons. I’m also reading a book that my agent recommended to me that I have never read. It’s one of those books where I’m like, oh, my gosh, why haven’t I read this before? I feel sad as I’m reading it that it’s just coming into my life now.

Zibby: What is it?

Lauren: It’s James Salter’s Light Years.

Zibby: I haven’t read it.

Lauren: It’s a rather slim novel that was written probably in the seventies. It follows a couple through a few decades of their marriage. It’s so beautifully and tightly written. Every sentence is a revelation. It’s also so keenly observed, the way he zooms into not just conversations on a random Wednesday night, but snippets of conversation that illuminate the beauty and the absolute mundaneness of marriage and family and raising children and what we’re doing when we say we’re raising children. What are we actually doing? I’m so in love with it. I don’t want it to end. It’s that kind of book.

Zibby: That was a great recommendation. Amazing. Do you have anything fun coming up not writing related?

Lauren: Good question. I’m trying to think of places to go. I like to have stuff on my calendar to look forward to, especially in January when it’s so cold. The holidays are over. My house is not decorated anymore. I like to have stuff on the calendar. We’re planning a few trips, thinking about my kids’ spring break and stuff with family this summer. My husband and I would really like to travel just by ourselves this fall, so finding different places to go. Christopher and I would really like to go to Scotland. That’s been on my bucket list. Have you been there?

Zibby: I have never been there.

Lauren: Neither have I. We’re trying to make that happen. Of course, as you know, it’s all about childcare. What are we going to do with these kids while we’re galivanting around? It’s the added complication.

Zibby: This is the one perk of divorce, built-in babysitting, essentially.

Lauren: The silver lining.

Zibby: Anyway, this is so fun. I love chatting with you.

Lauren: I love chatting with you.

Zibby: I’m so excited for your book. It was great. I love the characters and the setting and the escapism of it. I would like to be sitting on the porch at the open house with the croquet sticks and wandering around The Land and all of that good stuff.

Lauren: Newport is such a fun, beautiful, remarkable place. I feel as though it’s not hyped as it should be. We hear Charleston and New Orleans. We hear these places where everybody is going. At least I haven’t historically heard, let’s take a girls’ weekend to Newport. Let’s take a romantic getaway to Newport. One of these days, the secret is going to get out. It’s going to be overrun by bachelorette parties. I know Newport-ers are already like, no more bachelorettes, no more hotels. It is just so cool. The food scene is great, the bar scene, nightlife, arts, and the hotels, all the way from Ocean House in Westerly up to Castle Hill Inn on the edge of Newport. It’s so great. It’s such a great place to go, especially if you’re on the East Coast, just for a weekend. It’s also really child-friendly. It’s really kid-friendly. I really recommend it.

Zibby: They should put you on the council of travel relations or something, hospitality. What even is that called? Travel bureau or something. Lauren, thank you. Wedding of the Season, very exciting. Congratulations.

Lauren: Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s so good to see you.

Zibby: You too. Bye.

Lauren: Bye, Zibby.


WEDDING OF THE SEASON by Lauren Edmondson

Purchase your copy on Bookshop!

Check out the merch on our new Bonfire shop here.

Subscribe to Zibby’s weekly newsletter here.

You can also listen to this episode on:

Apple Podcasts