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Will Robinne Lee ever write an ‘Idea of You’ sequel? She told us

Lee discusses her 2017 novel "The Idea of You," its movie adaptation and why she ‘cried every night’ after writing the ending.
/ Source: TODAY

Warning: This post contains spoilers for “The Idea of You.”

"The Idea of You", published in 2017, has become a cult favorite for readers across generations.

But actor-turned-author Robinne Lee says she wrote the book for people like her: Approaching the middle of their lives and realizing their lives were just starting.

"This was written for women who are coming into their own in their mid-to-late 30s, approaching 40 and thinking of it as this huge milestone that like changes everything — only to realize it doesn't have to change everything," she tells "It's not this death sentence. You are no less viable than you were... You are no less of a desirable human being, a sexual being, a fully complex, multi-layered woman."

Solène Marchand, the book's main character, celebrates her 40th birthday during the book. Rather than a mid-life crisis, she has a mid-life awakening, taking the form of a romance with Hayes Campbell, a member of her tween daughter's favorite boy band August Moon.

The book, with all of its convention-defying plot lines, was a way for Lee to explore the boxes she felt she was slotted into as a wife and mother — and what it might mean to break out of them.

"After I got married, then after I had kids, you get put in a box," she says. "I was still all the things inside that I'd been up until getting married and having kids. I wanted to be able to pursue those things and feel that it was OK to own that and that I wasn't going to shut down one part of my identity because I'd gained a new part. I wanted to expand my identity. I wanted women to know that that was an absolutely worthy and valuable desire to have and goal to go after."

This was written for women who are coming into their own in their mid-to-late 30s, approaching 40 and thinking of it as this huge milestone that changes everything — only to realize it doesn't have to change everything.

Robinne lee on the inspiration for 'The idea of you'

Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that she started writing “The Idea of You” while her husband was away and her children were asleep.

A professional actor, Lee's book draws from her proximity to the limelight and world of celebrity — but with the sexual liberation that the Hollywood scripts Lee read seemed impossible for women at 40.

Lee summarized roles available her like this: “Jessica. 40. Was once a beauty but has seen better days.”

"At this point that you're 40, shut down all those roles and forget about anything sexy or attractive or powerful, she says. "Now you're shifting into this role where you're just kind of like backup material."

If Soléne was the embodiment of Lee's own experiences, Hayes was more like a fantasy. He was based on an "amalgamation" of people and influences — including, yes, Harry Styles, but not only.

"There's certain names and things that we put out there for clickbait and I think people kind of really latch on to that," she says, including Eddie Redmayne, Michael Hawkins, Duran Duran and the "posh schoolboy from London" vibe she was "enamored" with growing up.

She also was inspired by her favorite type of romances: The unhappy kind.

Lee, who has lost track of the times she's watched "Titanic," always knew her main leads would not end up together.

"Two people can be incredibly in love and the stars just don't align. There are just other factors working against them. That doesn't mean that they might not end up together sometime down the line. But the way I'd written the book was that it wasn't going to happen then and there," she says.

The movie alters the ending to give Soléne and Hayes the closure they don't get in the book.

"I think it's an American movie. I wrote a French book with a French protagonist," she says. "I think America likes a rom-com. I think I wrote more of a romantic drama."

For Lee, it was more important to explore the tethers Soléne feels to her daughter, Isabelle. In the book, Isabelle is 12 years old and obsessed with August Moon, and her impulse to hearing about her mom's relationship with the pop star is a defiant, "I love him."

In the film, Isabelle is aged up to a high schooler who considers August Moon "so seventh grade." Her heartbreak then is less about the relationship and more about her mom's secrecy.

But in both the book and the film, Soléne ends her relationship with Hayes partly for Isabelle's sake.

“I wanted to say something about the fact that women are always putting others' happiness before their own. Like in the book, Soléne is putting her daughter’s happiness before own,” she says.

Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in "The Idea of You."
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in "The Idea of You."Amazon Prime

Lee came to terms with Hayes and Soléne parting at the end of the book — but that doesn't mean their ending didn't pain her.

"I knew how they were going to end and that was very emotional for me. I cried I want to say every night for months after the book was done. Just crying for them," she says.

The book inspired a similar response in readers. As the book gained word-of-mouth steam, Lee — a debut author — decided to convene her readers in a private Facebook group. There, discussion abounds about the book and the wrenching, lingering, emotional consequences for readers.

As the sole administrator of the group, she alone has the power to allow people in and moderate conversation. "I'm on there all the time making sure conversation runs smoothly and there are no big eruptions," she says.

Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in "The Idea of You."
Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine in "The Idea of You."Alisha Wetherill / Amazon Prime

Though it's unusual for a creator to be so intertwined with fans, Lee says she feels "very close" to her readers.

"Some of them have been in the group since it started, almost seven years now. I know their names. I know their lives. We've had a couple of people name their babies after Hayes. It's kind of crazy," she says.

"My husband's like, 'When are you going to give that away?' I'm like, 'No one's going to do it as well as I do it.' But it does take time away from other things — like writing the next book."

Ah: The next book. Will Lee ever return to her characters? Fans are still holding out hope for an "Idea of You" sequel — a desire that will likely be intensified by the movie's ending, which fast forwards five years in the future.

Lee knows the hunger is out there. She says she's not quite ready to sate it, though. Currently, she's doing rewrites of her second book, which is not about Hayes and Soléne.

But that doesn't mean she hasn't tried to continue their story.

"I have multiple files of multiple stories and characters written down and story ideas. Some of them I fleshed out a lot. I have documents of hundreds of pages of the next book, if it's going to be a book," she says. "I really need to finish this one first and know what I've said in it... So I know what part of my story is left to say and know which character I can use to say it."

Remembering the nights she spent weeping for Hayes and Soléne, she says she needs to "recover" from "The Idea of You" before she can write its sequel.

“When the book came out and people said, ‘Sequel!’ I was like, ‘Do you understand what I have been through?’"