“The Idea of You” Author Robinne Lee's Love for Duran Duran Inspired the Novel: ‘I Was Obsessed’ (Exclusive)

The movie adaptation of ‘The Idea of You,’ starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, is streaming now

<p>Manoli Figetakis/WireImage; St. Martin

Manoli Figetakis/WireImage; St. Martin's Press

Robinne Lee and the movie tie-in cover of 'The Idea of You'
  • Robinne Lee's 2017 novel, The Idea of You, was a runaway hit during the pandemic and has been adapted into a new movie starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine

  • Speaking with PEOPLE, the author says that the novel was inspired by a conversation she had with her husband, as well as her love for pop rock band Duran Duran as a teenager

  • Lee also pulled from her experiences as an actress in Hollywood to write the book

According to Robinne Lee, author of the much-talked-about romance novel The Idea of You, the book practically wrote itself.

“I knew everything,” the author tells PEOPLE. “I knew how it was going to end. I knew how it was going to start. I could see my characters very specifically. I'd had all these experiences in my life leading up to this moment that I thought, ‘Oh, I could write this book, and I could do it really, really well.'”

That novel, which was originally published in 2017 and became a runaway hit for helping readers escape isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, follows gallery owner Solène, who begins a relationship with Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of her daughter’s favorite boy band. The movie adaptation starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine is now streaming on Prime Video.

The inspiration for The Idea of You, Lee says, came to her at an unlikely place: a political fundraiser interrupted by an earthquake.

<p>St. Martin's Press</p> The movie tie-in cover of 'The Idea of You'

St. Martin's Press

The movie tie-in cover of 'The Idea of You'

“I had been joking around with my husband and told him that I was going to run off and leave him and our two kids for a guy in a band who was half my age,” Lee says. “He laughed at me and was like, 'You are crazy...but that would make a great book.’ And as he said it, it just all came together.”

Within a month of that conversation, the author — who's also an actress and a producer — already had a chapter of the book ready to share with her writing group.

Related: The Idea of You: The Biggest Differences Between the Book and Movie Starring Anne Hathaway

“I felt like these characters were speaking to me the entire time I was writing,” she says. “They were in my head, they were living, breathing people.” It also helped that Lee could relate to many of her characters’ experiences: like the film version of Solène, she was 40, had a young daughter and understood the woes of loving a musician.

“When I was about 13, I was obsessed with Duran Duran, so I knew what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl, obsessed with a band, and thinking that if they can only see me, one day, they'll marry me,” Lee says. She also experienced music fandom up close while in college — Lee and a friend started a business managing singing groups, and a member of New Kids on the Block signed on to produce with them.

<p>Gregg DeGuire/WireImage</p> Robinne Lee in 2020

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Robinne Lee in 2020

“They were still kind of [at] the height of their fame,” Lee recalls of the "Step by Step" singers. “And so I knew what it was like to be around a boy band that was surrounded by this hysteria, and the chaos.”

Lee, whose acting credits include Hitch, Fifty Shades Freed and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also pulled from her experience in Hollywood for the book. Though she says that the two crafts are different, acting gave her a knack for writing dialogue, and helped her relate to Solène on topics like getting older within the industry.

Related: Anne Hathaway Wanted to ‘Tell the Story of a Woman Blooming’ in The Idea of You: ‘Incredibly Moved’ (Exclusive)

“I was seeing that my parts, the opportunities to play certain roles, were just fewer and farther between,” she says. “In my 20s and my 30s, I had tons of auditions. And at 40…there was much less...there weren't these multilayered, juicy roles.”

“I wanted to rail against that — the idea that we are less desirable as women and less valuable as women at a certain age because Hollywood assumed so,” the author adds. “I wanted to write stories for us because I knew what my friends who were in their 40s were doing, and how full their lives were…your body doesn't just shut down and die because you've had kids, or you've gotten married. You're still this living, vibrant, thriving human being.”

<p>Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty</p> Anne Hathaway (left) and Robinne Lee

Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty

Anne Hathaway (left) and Robinne Lee

The inspiration for Hayes is also a hotly debated topic. Though many fans surmise the fictional rocker is based on Harry Styles, Lee has previously said that the character was inspired by various people, including Prince Harry and Tom Hiddleston. She tells PEOPLE that the novel is also rooted in love — both fandom and romantic love.

“I knew what it was like to be that 13-year-old girl,” she says. “But I was also an adult, and I know what it is to be in love…I just kind of started building both of them at the same time.”

Related: Anne Hathaway Says Rom-Com The Idea of You Has Nothing to Do with Harry Styles

Lee has remained invested in her characters in a variety of ways. She penned the novel while listening to a 74-song playlist, inspired by music she thought Hayes and Solène would listen to (“There’s a lot of Ed Sheeran on there. There’s a lot of The Fray.”) The author also says that she “cried about Hayes Campbell for months” after finishing the book, and that finally seeing the couple come to life on the big screen has led to some complicated feelings.

“I’m trying to process it," she says. "But I've been in Hollywood for so long — I've been acting for 30 years — and I've learned not to get my hopes up about anything…because it can all go away very quickly.”

<p>Courtesy of Prime</p> Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in 'The Idea of You'

Courtesy of Prime

Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in 'The Idea of You'

As for more from the world of Hayes and Solène, Lee says she still isn’t sure if she will write a sequel. She recently finished writing her next book, but admits that following The Idea of You had its challenges.

Related: Nicholas Galitzine Says First Chemistry Read with Anne Hathaway for The Idea of You Was 'Transformative' (Exclusive)

“Part of me didn't want to be that invested again because it was so all-encompassing,” Lee says. “But at the same time, I realize the reason people respond to [The Idea of You], I think, is because so much of me is in there. And it was so real for me.”

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