Taylor Jenkins Reid, a Read With Jenna and New York Times bestselling author, is back with a new book — but it may seem familiar to fans of her novels.
"Carrie Soto Is Back," out August 30, turns a side character from Read With Jenna pick "Malibu Rising" into a protagonist.
The novel centers on Carrie Soto, a tenacious, world-famous tennis player who, for many years, held the record for having the most Grand Slam wins of any female tennis athlete.
Six years post-retirement, Carrie is 37-years-old, has an injured knee — and is raring to get back on the court to reclaim her status in one epic, final season against fellow seasoned pro Nicki Chan.
Reid, 38, told TODAY that Carrie Soto was a "very fun character to write."
"Carrie does and says all sorts of things I would never say and do. She’s harsher, more intense, more black and white in her thinking," she said.
This biting attitude Carrie possesses, although refreshing and inspiring in its bluntness, does not bode well for her in terms of cultivating a fan base ... or friends.
But, for the most part, she couldn't care less.
"She doesn’t have the softness most women are told they need to cultivate. It was a breath of fresh air to spend time in her mind," Reid told TODAY.
Fans of the author's novels may have done a double take when the title of this novel was revealed, as Carrie Soto was, in fact, also a minor character in Reid's 2021 novel "Malibu Rising." Readers may recall her throwing a temper tantrum on Nina Riva's lawn.
Below, the author talks about her interconnected literary universe and why it may be coming to an end, for now.
How Taylor Jenkins Reid started her 'literary universe'
As it pans out, Reid is no stranger to interweaving plots and characters from her novels into new stories. Fans who pay close attention to the Taylor Jenkins Reid literary universe know that Reid is somewhat a master of reintroducing familiar characters in a fresh way.
Reid's last four novels, the fourth of which happens to be "Carrie Soto is Back," comprise what she calls the "Famous Four." They all explore the lives of women on her rise to fame — and the hills and valleys that accompany that status.
Since all of the novels roughly take place somewhere between the years 1960 to 1990, and all take place in the Los Angeles area, Reid was able to seamlessly overlap characters and plots.
"Malibu Rising" introduces the Riva family, consisting of four kids (Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit) who essentially live as orphans in Malibu after their mom dies. Their father Mick Riva, a world-famous singer, is not in the picture, despite his money and close proximity to his children.
While Mick shows up in "Malibu Rising" as an absent, careless father and husband, he makes other appearances in Reid's literary universe — he appears in the 2017 novel "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" as one of movie star Evelyn Hugo's aforementioned seven husbands. Fans may recall Mick marrying Evelyn solely on the basis of wanting to sleep with her.
And, in one of Reid's other hit novels, "Daisy Jones and the Six," out in 2019, Mick appears again, hanging out at a party and egging everyone on to drink.
To Reid, Mick Riva symbolizes much of what she (and many other women) find frustrating about the world.
"I like that Mick Riva can be a stand-in for much of what I find frustrating with the way the world works. If I want to talk about the way society will allow men to continue to get away with things at the expense of the women around them, Mick is a great way to do that," she told TODAY.
Even in "Carrie Soto," Carrie sits down to read and finds herself fascinated with the story of "Daisy Jones and the Six" — but if you don't read closely enough, you could miss it.
With all of these overlaps and coy additions of past characters to new stories, one wonders whether Reid was planning for this level of interconnectivity all along.
Reid told TODAY that creating somewhat of a "universe" felt like a natural progression after writing "Evelyn Hugo."
"After 'Evelyn Hugo,' I never thought I would write a famous person again," she told TODAY. "Then I had the idea for 'Daisy Jones' and felt like I had so much more to say. But as I started populating another book with fictional famous people, I realized the books could exist in the same universe. And that started to feel really fun."
She said she didn't have "Carrie Soto" planned until the end stages of editing "Malibu Rising."
"I’m always very focused when I’m working on a novel — I’m only thinking of that book at that time. But then, when I am done, I come up for air and start to see all these new ideas I can take on. It’s a nice way to work but it also means I don’t have the advantage of planning far in advance," she said.
After deciding she would take "Carrie Soto" on as her next project, she spent a handful of weeks dedicated to learning, which Reid says is the "most fun part of (her) job."
"She doesn’t have the softness most women are told they need to cultivate. It was a breath of fresh air to spend time in her mind."
Taylor Jenkins Reid on carrie soto
For "Carrie Soto," this included deeply studying tennis — as well as pondering how the 1983 Carrie we know as a minor character in "Malibu Rising," compares to a more complex, whole version of Carrie we see in "Carrie Soto is Back."
"I had to take what we knew of Carrie in ("Malibu Rising") and make sure the Carrie of ("Carrie Soto is Back") was consistent in details and demeanor," she told TODAY.
She called "Carrie Soto is Back" a more obvious spinoff than past books, a "wink to the reader to say, 'Hey, remember this?'"
Taylor Jenkins Reid tells us what's next for her
"Carrie Soto" has, according to Reid, completed the set of the Famous Four. "I can feel, with Carrie, that I’ve said everything I have to say. And it’s time to move on," she said.
But it's not the last you'll see of the characters. The first three novels of the Famous Four, which all tackle issues of fame, womanhood, race and sexuality (among other themes), were all tapped for screen adaptations.
"Daisy Jones" is set to release as a limited series on Amazon Prime starring Riley Keough and Sam Claflin. "Malibu Rising" is poised to be a limited series on Hulu and "Evelyn Hugo" is being adapted into a movie for Netflix.
But what comes after "Carrie Soto"?
"I’ve put out these Famous Four and they feel like a set to me. They feel like a quartet, working in conversation with each other. And I’m very proud of it. And ready to go tackle something new," Reid told TODAY.