Like legions of other Elin Hilderbrand addicts, I panicked when I heard that Swan Song (Little, Brown, June 11) would be her last novel. The Kirkus critic, in a starred review, clearly shared our concern, reporting, “Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill our darlings with this otherwise delightful final installment, an afterword reassures us it’s just ‘for now.’”

This 54-year-old author has earned a sparkling string of stars and raves over the course of 30 island-inspired volumes: “Who needs Nantucket? It could hardly be more fun than this book.” “The people in her books may screw up, but Hilderbrand always gets it right.” “Print the bumper sticker—I’D RATHER BE LIVING IN AN ELIN HILDERBRAND NOVEL.” With 23 million copies of her books sold globally, and multiple TV deals in the works (more on that later), the praise seems to be universal.

I caught up with Hilderbrand on Zoom while she was being driven from a library event in Syracuse to a meeting with her publishers in New York City. Busy lady.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

So are you retiring or not? And if so, why?

I’m going to take a full year off from the business plan that I’ve been on, no contracts of any kind. Professionally, I feel myself coming to the end of my material. I’ve done all the holidays, all the traditions, every part of the island, and I feel like I’m going to start repeating myself. The level at which I was writing for The Perfect CoupleHotel NantucketThe Five-Star Weekend, and Swan Song—I just can’t sustain that, and I never want to be one of those authors who starts putting out books that are just not as good.

The other piece of it is my kids. Dawson is in college at the University of Miami, and Shelby will join him next year. This feels like my last chance to spend quality time with them before they become adults and go on to have their own families. So I’m moving to Miami this winter. I’ll get a place close to campus and be their errand girl, take them out, cook for them, let them come over and do their laundry. My oldest son, Max, works on Nantucket in the summer and travels in the winter, so he can come down and hang out, too.

I heard you and Shelby are working on a book together.

Yes, Shelby’s graduating from boarding school at St. George’s in Newport, Rhode Island. Ever since she got there sophomore year, I’ve been getting five or six phone calls a day telling me all the stuff that’s going on. And the stories are outrageous. I said, “We must write a novel”; she said, “Sure.”

We’re doing a two-part series; the first one is junior year, then we follow them as seniors. There are multiple points of view and many different storylines braided together. I’m writing the head of school and the teachers; we’re each doing some of the students. Her most important job is filling in all the details and providing the Gen Z voice and attitude. It’s almost done, and it’s so good—so juicy!

Do you know the title yet? When will we see it?

The Academy, fall of 2025.

Let’s talk about Swan Song. What inspired the plot?

I had this dream that I was going to be able to write a “long con” thriller, like an Anna Delvey story. I was going to focus it on a younger couple on the make. They come to Nantucket and hook up with this older wealthy couple, but the older couple is actually the one doing the grifting.

Unfortunately, it turns out, I can’t write a thriller. I’m not a plot-forward writer. But I was still intrigued by the idea of a couple nobody knows coming to Nantucket, because one of the annoying things about Nantucket is that everybody knows everybody. This couple appears out of nowhere and turns old-school Nantucket society on its head.

How do you decide which recurring characters are going to appear in a book?

I knew Ed Kapenash, the police chief, was going to retire, and his plotline would be wrapped up. I wanted Fast Eddie, the real estate agent/reformed pimp, because there’s a big real estate deal in the plot. I brought back the characters from The Castaways, favorites of mine from long ago, and Jennifer Quinn from the Winter Street series.

And Blond Sharon, who becomes a writer. Going meta there?

I invented Blond Sharon back when I wrote The Rumor. At that time, there was so much gossip going around Nantucket, and I was so annoyed by it, that I decided to write a novel called The Rumor, and everybody who gossips on Nantucket would be in it. I always say I don’t put real people in my books, but this was an exception.

Blond Sharon was based on a woman who is blond and whose name is not Sharon, but it’s close. If this woman’s not talking about someone, she’s not talking. Blond Sharon returned in other books, and in Hotel Nantucket I gave her a sister named Heather. Well, I have a sister named Heather. Blond Sharon and Heather appeared again in The Five-Star Weekend, and now in Swan Song Sharon decides to try her hand at writing. After gossiping about all these Nantucket people for so long, she realizes she should be writing it down. At this point, the original gossipy woman has been left behind, and she’s morphed into a version of me.

I remember hearing that you didn’t have a great experience at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Is that right?

My brand of fiction was not appreciated, you might say, and this is even before I started writing about Nantucket. Everybody else was very serious, very dark, very literary, and they looked at me as like this little chirping bird. I don’t know what they think now.

I think they’re green with jealousy. You have all kinds of TV stuff happening, right?

Well, Netflix has a gag on me for the main story. But I can tell you that The Perfect Couple, starring Nicole Kidman, Liev Schreiber, Dakota Fanning, and Eve Hewson, is in postproduction right now, and you should be seeing it in 2024.

Peacock is developing The Five-Star Weekend with writer Bekah Brunstetter, who just got nominated for a Tony for The Notebook.

The Winter Street series is in development with the same writer who did The Perfect Couple, Jenna Lamia; Summer of ’69 is with Sony 3000; Swan Song has been optioned as well, but I can’t say by whom since it hasn’t been announced.

Well, you’re about to dominate my TV, which is fine with me. Tell us a little about your podcast.

Books, Beach, and Beyond started last year, a little prematurely, since it was supposed to be after I retire, but my partner Tim Ehrenberg got excited about the idea and couldn’t wait. On Season 1, we had Colleen Hoover, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Ann Patchett, Jennifer Weiner, Kristin Hannah, Jodi Picoult, and Sunny Hostin, among others. Coming up is Emma Straub, Claire Lombardo, Liane Moriarty, Emily Henry, and Emily Giffin. What I found out is that people will not say no to me!

Marion Winik hosts the NPR podcast The Weekly Reader.