Last Updated Jun 19, 2019 1:04 PM EDT
New York Times bestselling authorhas been dubbed "queen of the beach read" for her regular installments of summertime escapism on the picturesque island of Nantucket. While her 23rd book finds itself in familiar stomping grounds, she's trying something a little different this time: historical fiction.
In "Summer of '69" Hilderbrand sets a well-to-do Massachusetts family confronting its difficult past and present against the backdrop of the tumultuous summer of 1969. Fifty years ago, Americans saw some monumental highs and lows. On July 18, 1969, Sen. Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Just two days later, Americans went where no human had ever gone before when Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. Then in August, music fans and hippies descended on upstate New York for the three-day Woodstock music festival.
"I wanted to have the novel be about my characters and not necessarily about the issue. But at the end I felt I was able to weave them together. So we have this family that is involved in the moon landing, that is involved in Chappaquiddick," Hilderbrand told "CBS This Morning."
For Hilderbrand, the book also has personal relevance. She was born the year the book takes place, in fact the same week, of the Apollo 11 moon landing and Chappaquiddick. The story also features a set of twins, Hilderbrand herself is a twin, and a woman with a son the same age as her own.
"The very beginning of the book, my main character Kate drops her son off. He's just been drafted into Vietnam and I have a 19-year-old son ... it was easy to write that scene because I could imagine taking my son and dropping him off, knowing full well I may never see him again," she said. "I haven't been able to read that scene at any of my readings or signings. It's just too difficult."
Hilderbrand said in her time researching the book she found that many of the issues plaguing the country then, are still relevant today.
"My main source of research was asking people their memories, so I went to people who were alive, who were teenagers, who were young adults in 1969. And that was the greatest amount of research. I loved it."
"Summer of '69" is on sale now. You can read the first chapter below: