Late one night time, whereas her husband was away and her youngsters had been asleep, the author Robinne Lee got here throughout one thing that will change the course of her life. The US writer, who now lives in Paris, discovered herself watching a specific boyband on YouTube – she refuses to call which – and felt drawn to certainly one of them. When her husband got here again from his enterprise journey, she advised him: “I discovered this excellent man. I’m going to run off and comply with him and his band around the globe.” He laughed and mentioned: “You’re loopy. However that will make a very good story.”

He was proper. This actually good story grew to become Lee’s debut novel, The Concept of You, which snowballed right into a lockdown hit, attracting legions of obsessed followers around the globe by way of word-of-mouth suggestions. Now, the story of Solène Marchand, a complicated US divorcee on the cusp of 40, and Hayes Campbell, her 21-year-old British pop star boyfriend, has been become a movie starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine.

Lee was born and raised in Westchester County, New York, and attended Yale and Columbia Regulation Faculty. Then she spent twenty years working as an actor in Hollywood earlier than she wrote The Concept of You. “After I was turning 40, I seen all my roles had been altering immediately. The roles I used to be being thought of for had been all staid characters: mothers, legal professionals, medical doctors. And there have been far fewer of them round.”

‘Does Hollywood assume ladies shrivel up and turn into ogres at 40?’ … former actor Robinne Lee.

Earlier in her profession, Lee had taken rather more glamorous components: a sired vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Will Smith’s fiancee in Seven Kilos. “I realised that Hollywood not needed me as a ladies of a sure age. The descriptions would all the time say one thing like, ‘Tracy, 40, as soon as stunning however has seen higher days’ or ‘engaging as soon as, now drained’.”

Lee began questioning what planet the scriptwriters had been on. “Do they assume ladies simply shrivel up and turn into ogres at 40? I knew my husband and I had been having a reasonably energetic intercourse life, and my associates all had been. And I believed, ‘What’s it about Hollywood and our tradition that they shut off and discredit ladies after a sure age as not being precious or fascinating?’”

This, she says, is what drove her to create Solène, a mom who runs an artwork gallery, and Hayes, a a lot youthful man who finds her extraordinarily fascinating. “They hook up in random cities, relying on her schedule, or his band August Moon’s, and it turns into extra of a real love story than one thing informal and subversive.”

As a youngster Lee was obsessive about Duran Duran, and fantasised about “how wonderful it might be” up to now certainly one of them. However when, professionally, she truly obtained to know a member of New Youngsters on the Block, she realised it was “not a life I’d ever need. All that spotlight and screaming is thrilling for a couple of minutes. Then it in a short time turns into one thing oppressive, isolating and inescapable.” Progressively, in e book and movie, Solène’s dreamy love life turns right into a residing nightmare. “It’s not a typical love story,” Lee provides. “It’s darker, extra critical.”

Though revealed in 2017, the e book didn’t actually take off till Covid: Lee thinks it supplied escapism and need fulfilment to readers caught at house. Solène and Hayes have what the writer Curtis Sittenfeld described as “scorching scorching” intercourse in glittering places all around the globe. “I believe I had a captive viewers,” Lee says. “The concept you possibly can journey vicariously by means of this girl’s experiences was interesting.”

To write down the intercourse scenes, she drew on her time as a scholar of psychology at Yale. “I’d learn all these books on human psychology and sexuality, with first-person tales of individuals’s sexual experiences. So it was a mixture of honesty and prepare of thought. As a result of while you’re having intercourse, you’re into it – however generally you get pulled out of it. You concentrate on strolling the canine or getting the groceries. You’ve obtained your personal ideas. Should you do not forget that, it retains it actual.”

Lee additionally ensured that every intercourse scene introduced the characters nearer collectively. “I had this rule that I wasn’t going to make them bare on the web page until they had been bare emotionally. So in each intercourse scene, he reveals one thing of himself to her or she to him – or one thing of herself to herself.”

Earlier than the roles dried up … Lee, second from left, in 2003’s Ship Us from Eva. {Photograph}: Usa Movies/Allstar

At first, Lee needed to metal herself with a stiff drink, make sure that she was utterly alone, and dim the lights earlier than she started a intercourse scene. “I wrote the e book just about chronologically, and the primary few intercourse scenes had been very very like having intercourse with somebody new. It was like there have been three of us bare within the room.” However by the top of the e book, she might write them in Starbucks. “Individuals close to me had no thought what I used to be doing.”

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Shortly after Lee completed writing her e book, she met Erika Mitchell, AKA the Fifty Shades of Gray writer EL James, after taking the position of Christian Gray’s trusted COO Ros Bailey within the Fifty Shades movies. “I obtained to know Erika and that was a deal with. She was somebody who’d been by means of all the pieces I used to be about to undergo, however much more excessive. And she or he was actually good at giving me recommendation. She was like, ‘Have you ever carried out this? Are you on Goodreads? Do you talk along with your followers?’ She was fantastic.”

At first, when The Concept of You began to get seen, Lee felt a “lot of hysteria” concerning the intercourse scenes and the age hole between the characters. “I believed, ‘Everyone’s going to evaluate me now. Everybody’s going to assume I personally have this need to run off with a 20-year-old man in a boy band.’ I keep in mind being terrified about what the dad and mom at my children’ college would assume.”

No, he’s not based mostly on Harry Kinds! … Galitzine as fictional pop star Hayes Campbell. {Photograph}: Alisha Wetherill/Prime

The novel notably appealed to followers of former One Path singer-songwriter Harry Kinds, who has famously dated older ladies. The phrase “one route” is scattered all through the textual content, and the resemblance between Galitzine and Kinds is hanging, proper right down to their earrings, music movies and tattoos.

However once I ask Lee to what extent Hayes is predicated on Kinds, she says: “Little or no.” Whereas the British star “positively had an enchantment”, he’s merely certainly one of 23 individuals who impressed Hayes, a listing that included her husband – movie producer Eric Hayes – in addition to Duran Duran, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. “I’ve all the time been taken with all issues British,” she says. “I needed to do a fancy boy band, as if Prince Harry and his associates from Eton had fashioned one.”

Lee’s favorite scene within the movie is the one during which Hathaway walks into an upmarket New York resort to have intercourse with Galitzine for the primary time, sporting a raincoat over a really revealing costume. “She is aware of what she’s going to do.” And when the writer watched the 41-year-old actor enjoying her character, she felt tears welling up. “Not only for Solène, for making this option to exit and have some enjoyable, but additionally for Anne Hathaway, for being like, ‘Screw everybody who says I can’t be horny. Watch what I’m going to do.’”

The Concept of You is on Amazon Prime Video from 2 Could


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