Is Firefly Lane based on a true story and were best friends Kate and Tully inspired by real people?

If you're wondering 'Is Firefly Lane based on a true story?' you're probably not alone as the finale rounded off the show with ALL the emotions

Is Firefly Lane based on a true story? Seen here are Kate and Tully in Firefly Lane season 2
(Image credit: Netflix)

“Is Firefly Lane based on a true story?” might be the question on many fans’ minds since being taken on a heart-wrenching trip back down memory lane with Kate and Tully in the final season. 

With moments that can’t help but make you laugh hysterically, cry equally as hysterically and be swept away by the sheer power of friendship, Firefly Lane has always been a rollercoaster of a ride emotionally for fans. Focusing on the life-long friendship of Kate (Sarah Chalke) and Tully (Katherine Heigl) throughout their teenage first meeting in the 70s to the 2000s, flashbacks and flashforwards tell the tale of their bond throughout the decades. 

Now the Firefly Lane season 2 ending has drawn a line under their story for the final time. But even if you’ve yet to dive into the final episodes after watching Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 1, you might be intrigued to know how much of the show is fictional. 

Here we reveal whether Firefly Lane is based on a true story and if everyone’s favorite best friends Kate and Tully are inspired by real people… 

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Sarah Chalke as Kate, Katherine Heigl as Tully in episode 216 of Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Cr. Diyah Pera/Netflix © 2023)

Is Firefly Lane based on a true story?

Firefly Lane has certainly kept us guessing and asking questions since it first landed in 2021 - from what Tully did to Kate that meant that stopped speaking to where Firefly Lane was filmed. Some viewers might have also been asking themselves the all-important question -  “Is Firefly Lane based on a true story?” - but the answer is no, Firefly Lane isn’t based on real-life. The Netflix show is instead adapted from the Firefly Lane book which was published in 2008 and which is in turn inspired by some of the author’s real experiences. 

Firefly Lane season 2 starring Sarah Chalke as Kate, Katherine Heigl as Tully in episode 206 of Firefly Lane


Although there have been several Firefly Lane book vs show differences ranging from Kate and Johnny divorcing in the show to the reason for her falling out with Tully, the Netflix series generally stays pretty faithful to the overall direction of the novel. The ending is the same as the Firefly Lane book ending and Firefly Lane season 2 also draws in aspects of the Firefly Lane book sequel titled Fly Away to fully round-off the storyline in an emotional but satisfying way.

It was apparently showrunner Maggie Friedman’s desire to adapt both stories before Firefly Lane reached its end that inspired the decision to extend the episode number in season 2. She told Glamour, that originally it was only supposed to be 10 episodes long like season 1.

“I was talking to one of the Netflix executives who’s been such a great champion of the show and said, ‘I know where the end of the story is. I know exactly what I want it to be. I just want to make sure that we get there and don’t end on a cliff-hanger and then something happens and we don’t complete it.’ I wanted to make sure that I got to tell the full story,” she explained.

Netflix’s VP of Drama, Jinny Howe also shared that Maggie wanted to tell the “story in the two books”. But whilst Firefly Lane isn’t based directly on a true story and is inspired by two novels, the author’s experiences did shape the overall story of both books and the adaption.

Who wrote Firefly Lane? 

The author who wrote Firefly Lane and the sequel to Firefly Lane, Fly Away, is American writer and former attorney Kristin Hannah. She is an award-winning author with more than 20 novels to her name including The Nightingale which won the People’s Choice Award for Best Fiction in 2015. Given how impactful Kristin’s writing is and how successful Netflix’s Firefly Lane adaptation has been it’s perhaps no surprise that this novel is also in production with sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning set to appear. According to Kristin’s author bio on her website she lives in the Pacific Northwest which is where both the Firefly Lane book and series was set. 

Roan Curtis as Young Kate, Ali Skovbye as Young Tully in episode 216 of Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023)

Firefly Lane real-life inspiration explained 

Perhaps the reason Firefly Lane feels so familiar to so many viewers and had us wondering ‘Is Firefly Lane based on a true story?” is because of the way it captures that sense of nostalgia. In an enlightening Behind the Book post on her website, Kristin Hannah explained how she returned to her own past via Firefly Lane. She also incorporated many personal details including her love for the Pacific Northwest so even if the book and show aren’t directly based on a specific personal story, they do have some roots in reality. 

Kate and Tully in Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Netflix)

“In these pages, I was able to return to my youth, the disco era, and drink Boone’s Farm with my heroine…and tease my hair and dance to Madonna…and jump into my fictional suburban world and run carpool one more time,” she wrote. “Not only does the story follow the friendship between two women, it also tracks the ever changing face of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Seattle-set novel the show is based on is thought to be partly inspired by Kristin’s time growing up in the 1970s, as well as her experiences at the University of Washington. She shared that the clothing in particular has “correlations” to her own past wardrobe choices.

Kate and Tully in Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Netflix)

She disclosed, “This novel hits really close to home on a lot of levels, so there are plenty of correlations to my own life. First and foremost-the clothes. Yes, I remember wearing them all-elephant leg bell bottoms, tie-dyed T shirts, Earth shoes, shoulder pads, stirrup pants, leg warmers, and last but not least-polyester. And how about those hairstyles? Each one named after and forever immortalized by the celebrity who made it famous.” 

Kristin also disclosed how a few of the Firefly Lane locations that appear in the book actually exist in real life and she used them after remembering them from her time at university.

Tully and Kate in Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Netflix)

“Since I went to the University of Washington, I remember a lot of locations used in the book,” she wrote. “Anyone interested in a Firefly Lane memory lane tour should try: The Last Exit coffee house (is it even still there?), Kels pub in Pioneer Square, which is still a great time, Starbucks in the Public Market, a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Goldies tavern in the U District, Greek row at the University of Washington (I’m sure you can still find a ton of parties happening there on Saturday nights), and the view of Seattle at night from Rockaway Beach.”

So although Firefly Lane isn’t based on a true story completely, there are plenty of subtle details which mean so much to Kristin Hannah and which were connected to her life.

Are Kate and Tully inspired by real people? 

Whilst many of the Firefly Lane locations and clothing and pop culture references are inspired by Kristin Hannah’s real life experiences, Kate and Tully are fictional characters. It’s understood that Kristin didn’t base the best friends on any two specific people, though it’s certainly a testament to the realism of the setting and period details that they seem utterly believable.

Kate and Tully in Firefly Lane

(Image credit: Netflix)

The friendship of Kate and Tully is also something that is universally relatable as all friendships have ups and downs, especially long-time ones. Although their specific stories might not be something everyone experienced, having a friend who’s always there for you is something many fans will be able to connect with.

Some of Kate and Tully’s experiences in Firefly Lane are also things that Kristin Hannah did go through herself or which people close to her went through. She majored in communication like Tully did and her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer like Kate was in Firefly Lane season 2. 

Kate and Tully in Firefly Lane

(Image credit: DIYAH PERA/NETFLIX)

As revealed previously by the University of Washington magazine the moment Cloud and Tully relocate in a VR to Firefly Lane is similar to Kristin’s family relocating to the Pacific Northwest during her childhood. Kate and Tully might never have really existed as Kate and Tully, but as characters they evolved out of real personal experiences and universal experiences.

Firefly Lane seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch now via Netflix.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!