In this week’s episode, we spoke with New York Times, USA Today and #1 internationally bestselling author, Christina Lauren – which is the pen name of two authors, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings! We are here to highlight their latest release – The True Love Experiment, available now – and to learn more about their amazing writing career.
Christina and Lauren tell us about how they got started writing together, how they collaborate for each book, how their collaborative style developed, the importance of fandom, and more. We also got a great list of recommended romance reads, and received some great advice for those writers looking to collaborate with others. If you ever wondered what successful collaboration looks like in the writing world, look no further! Christina and Lauren are just one of many amazing success stories when it comes to collaborative writing. This episode is a must-listen for fans of their work and aspiring romance writers alike.
In this episode:
- We hear how Christina and Lauren got started on their collaborative writing career – and learn how it all began with fanfiction!
- We learn about their collaborative style, how it differs for each book, how it has changed and grown over the years, and how they developed the Christina Lauren voice
- They give some great advice for finding your idea collaborator, and offer some encouragement for writers looking to collaborate with other writers
- We chat about The True Love Experiment and learn more about the plot, the characters, and what to look forward to when you read
- We ask about what inspired Christina and Lauren to write The True Love Experiment – from science to reality TV shows and more
- Christina and Lauren share their favourite hero archetypes, romance tropes, and talk about romance as a whole – and how the reception and representation of the genre has changed over the years
- We hear about what Christina and Lauren love to see from their readers, and how much they appreciate the comments, reactions and excitement people share regarding their books
- We talk about the power and importance of fandom and community, in particular fangirls, and the ups and downs of the representation of women who are expressing their love of their interests
- Christina and Lauren talk about adaptations of their work, and how that process plays out
- And much more!
Christina Lauren on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook
The True Love Experiment (Kobo)
The True Love Experiment (Simon & Schuster)
Christina Lauren’s books on Kobo
Mentioned in this episode:
Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Córdova
Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera
An Island Princess Starts a Scandal by Adriana Herrera
Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour, Ph.D.
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and #1 internationally bestselling authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, Dating You / Hating You, Autoboyography, Love and Other Words, Roomies, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, My Favorite Half-Night Stand, The Unhoneymooners, Twice in a Blue Moon, The Soulmate Equation, Something Wilder, and The True Love Experiment. You can find them online at ChristinaLaurenBooks.com and @ChristinaLauren on Instagram or Twitter.
Christina (left), Lauren (right). Photo credit: Brystan Studios/Lori Brystan.
Christina Hobbs (but you’ll always hear Lo call her PQ) used to spend her days in a junior high counseling office surrounded by teenagers. These days you can find her at her desk, writing, or watching BTS videos. She lives in Utah with her husband and daughter, thinks she’s the luckiest person in the world to write books with her best friend, and is an unapologetic lover of boy bands and glitter.
Lauren Billings (but everyone calls her Lo) received her doctorate in neuroscience from UC Irvine, and before she started living the dream as a full-time writer, spent her days researching neurodegeneration in aging. She lives in California with two cuddly dogs, two less-cuddly teenagers, and one mountain biking, homebrewing scientist husband.
Transcription by www.speechpad.com
Rachel: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the Kobo Writing Life Podcast where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Rachel, Promotion Specialist for Kobo Writing Life.
Laura: And I’m Laura, Kobo Writing Life’s Author Engagement Manager.
Rachel: On today’s episode of the podcast, we spoke to Christina Lauren. Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The number one international bestselling co-author duo writes both young adult and adult fiction and together has produced 18 New York Times bestselling novels.
Laura: We spoke to Christina and Lauren about their journey as co-authors, their start as fan fiction writers, specifically “Twilight” fan fiction, and their inspiration for their new release, “The True Love Experiment.” We also got into a really great conversation about the power of fandom and fangirls. This was a really fun episode and I think you’re all going to enjoy listening.
Rachel: Okay. We are so excited today to be joined by Christina and Lauren who write together as Christina Lauren. Guys, thank you so much for being with us today.
Lauren: Thank you for having us. This is so exciting.
Rachel: Now just to kind of kick things off, can you give our listeners, who are unfamiliar with you and your work, a little bit about yourselves?
Christina: I’m Christina. Hello. There are two of us. Surprise.
Christina: I live in Utah, Lo lives in Orange County, California. We have been writing together since 2010…
Christina: Nine. We have 18 New York Times bestsellers. Our 29th book called “The True Love Experiment” comes out May 16th, and we are so happy to be here. Thank you for having us.
Rachel: Oh, it is extremely our pleasure. We were so excited when you guys agreed to come hang out with us for a little bit. So, as you mentioned, you have been writing together for a while. Would you be able to kind of give us a little bit of insight as to how you both started your writing journey as individuals and how you came together to write together?
Lauren: Absolutely. So this is Lauren. I have a little bit of a cold, so I’m sorry I sound a little stuffed up. But we, like Christina said, we met in 2009, and we actually met at San Diego Comic-Con because we were both writing fan fiction online at the time, and we were writing in the “Twilight” fandom. And so we met because we were reading each other’s stories, and it was sort of love at first sight when we met in person. She had a really big story online at the time that a bunch of people were reading. I mean, like, millions of hits. And I have a really good friend in programming at Comic-Con and he said, “You know, I know you’re really into fanfic. Would you wanna do a fan fiction panel?” And I was like, “Heck yeah.” So, I invited Christina and a number of other bigger fan fiction authors out to have a discussion on fan fiction, and fan art, and fan works, and it was really fun.
And after that, we decided that we wanted to try and write a little one-shot together. So for people who don’t know fan fiction, that’s kind of like just doing a little chapter, a little outtake of a story together. And it was really good. It was like the super easy collaboration and we really liked each other’s styles. And so, of course, we thought, like, the next obvious step is just, like, jump in and write a book together. I mean we had known each other for a month and a half when we decided to write a book together. And I think, like, I really attribute a lot of our current success to our past naivete because, like, we just didn’t know what we were in for. And I think had we known, we might not have just done all of that, but we thought, like, “Well, we can do this.” Like, “Why not try?” And yeah, so that’s when we started writing together.
Rachel: Okay. I love this. As somebody who has delved deeply into the world of fan fiction, as a reader, not a writer, how was that jump though going from writing in somebody else’s universe into creating your own?
Christina: So the thing about fan fiction, and I think this is why it works so well for us and perhaps has not for some of our other friends who have tried to do it, is that we didn’t have, like, writing careers before. We were just writing for fun. And fandom is so collaborative that everybody just sort of, like, does everything to, like, get the thing done. And so, you know, we were sort of like silly. We were both writing like my story was more like sexy, smutty, funny. Lo’s was more like heart clenchy, angsty, just gorgeous. And so, we had sort of like different stories going, but we were gonna come together to write this one-shot. Because in fandom there’ll be like these little, I guess we call them contests, but, like, what do you win? So, like, there’ll be a theme and then everybody writes it, and we wrote this, like, super, like, a ridiculous prompt but it ended up being this, like, really great, fun, interesting, lovely story. So, we had so much fun so that we were like, you know, “Let’s write a book together.”
And so, because we thought we were gonna be like serious writers, and people tended to think that fanfic was not serious, we thought we needed to be serious. So, we, like, started plotting and outlining this, like, very angsty, kind of depressing book about this man who, like, loses his wife and, you know. And it just wasn’t… A couple of chapters in, it just was not very fun. So, we were like, you know, “What do we do?” And as soon as we started writing something that was kind of like swoony and about skinny dipping, and kissing, and all the things, we were reading a lot of like YA paranormal at the time, that felt more like that, it suddenly was so fun. Like, just so fun.
Very different from writing fic, obviously, because, you know, when you write a chapter of fic, you post it and you get instant feedback. But this is sort of similar because, you know, I was writing for Lo, she was writing for me. So, it’s so exciting to, like, get her chapters and see what she’s done, and everything. So, similar but also, you know, very different. We didn’t realize, I don’t think, at the time how hard it would be to query, and you know, when anybody was querying, you think as soon as you get your agent, like, that’s it. “Whew, I did it. It’s easy street from here on out,” not realizing that, you know, you still have to go on submission, you see, you know, you still have… It’s like you finish one step only to find another step. So, we were just, like, so lucky to have each other to go through. I totally understand why sometimes writers are a little nuts because it’s a very hard, stressful process.
Laura: So, you mentioned that your writing is kind of more of like the steamy, the romcom, whereas Lauren’s is more of like the heartfelt. How does that work for your co-writing process? Because you guys have so many books, but how has that process kind of changed over the years, and do you write certain kinds of scenes because your writing kind of gears more that way or how does that work?
Lauren: I don’t think actually that that style has followed us outside of fandom as much because one of the reasons my stories were so angsty was because that was sort of like how I read a lot of, like, Edward and Bella’s stuff. They were just so intense about each other. So, I really think it was more pulling from the voice of the canon. But I mean, we both write comedy now. Like, you know, I write just as much comedy as she does. And so I think in a lot of ways, like, our voices are very complimentary and we can write similar styles of stuff and play off each other. And so that’s kind of how it works. But, you know, we’ve really had to learn how to sound like each other and how to sound cohesive because one of the reasons why we chose the name Christina Lauren versus Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings as a pen name on books is we personally did not ever pick up books that were co-written because we both had a couple of experiences where we would read one and it felt very disjointed. And so we didn’t want readers to go into it thinking, “Oh, this isn’t gonna be a cohesive book because it’s written by two people.” So we sort of very carefully, like, created this voice together where it feels like even though there’s two of us, it’s written by one person. And so that aspect of it has taken a lot of work where over time we’ve had to sort of figure out what does Christina Lauren sound like versus what does Christina sound like and what does Lauren sound like?
Rachel: And when it comes down to, like, the physical writing process, how do you guys tackle a book? Is it chapter by chapter or is the entire thing collaborative?
Christina: It’s different for every book depending on what we have. This year has been bananas. We always outline together. It’s just more fun and just, you know, something magic happens when we’re in the same room talking about, you know, what’s going to happen. Ideally, we would draft with alternating chapters, whether that be, you know, a different point of view or just chapters or however it goes. But sometimes you just have to, like, divide and conquer, and so somebody will draft while somebody works on something else. So, like right now, Lo is drafting, and then I will do… I’m coming in behind her, and we’ll do the, like…when the, like, revisions for the thing that we just finished come in, I’ll, like, work on those so she can focus on drafting. But it just depends on what’s going on. You know, our lives change with every book, so we just… I mean, it’s kind of a superpower to have two of us.
Lauren: I don’t think we could have done that early on, actually. Like, when I’m hearing you talk about how our process really has shifted over time, I don’t think in our first five or 10 books we could have had one of us write and the other edit because we would never have found that common voice, you know?
Christina: I agree.
Lauren: Whereas I think now, we can do that because we basically both know how our books sound, and so, whether it’s you drafting or me drafting, we know what the book is gonna be, and then it’s kind of like we have two brains working on one thing, if that makes sense. So, that’s something we’ve really worked hard on, I think.
Laura: I love that you called it a superpower you’re writing together because it really kind of has to be to be together for this long and have it be working so well. Does the process change at all depending on, like, I guess, if you’re writing standalone romance, or a series, or if you’re doing YA? Does that affect it at all?
Lauren: I mean, we haven’t written YA. So, “Autoboyography” was our last one that came out September of 2017, and so we haven’t written YA since, like, 2016, but the process really was the same for that. Generally, we outline and we split it up and we kind of write in tandem where it’s like I’ll do, like, one, three, five, seven, nine, you know, and she’ll do two, four six, eight, and we build it as we go. But like she said, sometimes we have to do the divide and conquer approach. And so I think whether it’s for the early series, and those were, like, 2012 through 2015, ’16, and that’s sort of what I mean is when we were, like, learning how to write together. You know, I think the process generally was the same, but we weren’t as good at it yet, you know? Like, we didn’t know kind of how to balance everything really well, and plus we were publishing so much faster then. Like in 2013, we had six books out. 2014, I think we had four. I think same for 2015. Plus, like, all of 2013, we both had full-time jobs. So, it really took us, like, a good five, six years to learn how to balance the workload, and how to say no, and how to only take on the things that we really knew we could slay, you know? And so, I think we’re at a really good place now. We kind of have found this, like, this groove. We’re in a groove. I mean, as soon as I’ve said that now, it’s all gonna fall apart, and so everybody knock on wood.
Christina: Also, Lo, you know, we were talking, we were just together in New York last week and one of the things we were saying is, like, we both have things that we’re better at, and also the Christina Lauren thing is, like, so much bigger, there’s so much stuff going on, and so if one person’s doing one thing, then the other person just automatically does something else. And I think that’s taken us a while to, like, figure out.
Rachel: Now, obviously, this collaboration and finding your groove has taken time and it’s taken work and I imagine a little bit of trial and error, but do you have any advice for those pairs of best friends out there who are like, “We should write a book together”?
Lauren: Yeah, I mean I think one of the things that worked really well for Christina and I is sort of hard to replicate, which is that we didn’t know each other that well when we started writing. And so, the collaboration and the friendship grew together, and we learned how to be friends and business partners at the same time. And I think one of the things that can be tricky for friends who want to write together is, as Christina and I know, you’re gonna have different strengths, one of you is gonna be a stronger writer, one of you is gonna be a stronger editor, one of you is gonna be faster, one of you is gonna be slower, one of you is gonna be this or that. And so navigating those differences and not having the ego issues. I think we’ve been really lucky that we haven’t had a lot of that because we’ve sort of learned how to be writers together.
So, first of all, if you do wanna write with a friend, I totally recommend it because it’s really great. Writing can be very isolating, and it’s a weird combination of, like, insecurity and ego to, like, write something, be like, “People will want to read this thing that I wanna say.” And so you have to be confident, but it’s also sort of a vulnerable place to send that out. So, first of all, find somebody that you can trust to share your early messy words with because it rarely comes out perfectly the first time unless you’re like Kate Clayborn. But, you know, find somebody that you can trust. Find somebody that will, you know, give you the feedback the way that you need to hear it. Some people like a compliment sandwich. Some people like feedback to be really brutal and kind of “Just give it to me straight.” So, you know, that’s another piece of trust.
And then decide, like, what everybody is going to do. Are you gonna write it together? Is one person going to write and the other person going to edit? You know, for us that process really grew organically, and, again, like I said, it’s because we just were sort of dummies back in the day. We didn’t know how serious this thing was that we were starting. We just wanted to write. So, in some ways, I almost wanna recommend to people, like, just don’t Google that much. Just do it, you know, because the more you look into the industry, the more daunting I think it can feel. And if you wanna write a book, just write the book. Don’t let the internet tell you how to write a book.
Christina: Yeah. Also, it’s gotta be somebody you trust because we are literally in every aspect of each other’s lives. And maybe ours…I think ours might be a little different because, like Lo said, our friendship grew along with it. And so our friendship is equally as important to us as Christina Lauren. But I mean, like, we did, like, CeeLo Christmas together. Like, I’m gonna have her kids this summer for a little bit while she goes on a trip, and we just, like, we’re texting each other’s kids and each other’s husbands, and we just are in so much of each other’s lives. So you wanna make sure, number one, that you like this person. You can imagine. You know, obviously, not every partnership will be quite so big, but also you have to trust them and that you have similar values when it comes to money because money is, like, part of it. And it’s funny because Lo and I, we will have discussions and, like, kind of arguments about money sometimes, but it is never what people think. It is always, “No, no, no, no. I owe you for this. I’m sending you money,” and then Lo will say…
Lauren: “Don’t you send that money back, you jerk. You’re gonna leave that in your Venmo. I’m not taking that money.”
Christina: Lo will send it right back to me with, like, “No,” or, you know, “You paid last time, I’m paying this…” You know, that kind of thing. It’s always that. It’s never like, “Oh, I’m being cheated” or something. It’s like “No, no, no, I owe you this.” So, you just have to make sure you’re cool talking about all of these things and just cool about communicating and being open and vulnerable, and you know, it’s really important.
Laura: Yeah. It almost seems like it’s something you can’t really replicate, but it’s really great to see that it’s been working so well for you guys for so long. So, we’re really excited to talk to you about your upcoming novel, which is “The True Love Experiment.” So, first, can you tell us a little bit about the series itself and then about this book?
Lauren: Yeah, so this book, the main character is Fizzy Chen, Felicity Chen, and you first meet her in “The Soulmate Equation,” which was our first hardcover that came out in 2021. And “The Soulmate Equation” is a story of a single mom statistician named Jess whose best friend Fizzy, who is a romance novelist, convinces her to go to this new startup and do this DNA testing for this DNA matchmaking service that is like this groundbreaking technology that has been pioneered by this man named River Pena. And Jess and River meet in the process, it’s sort of not important to the synopsis, but they meet in this coffee shop they go to, and they do not like each other, but, of course, when Jess reluctantly takes this DNA matchmaking test, she and River are the founder of the technology match at, like, an unprecedented level of compatibility. And so the company basically hires Jess to date River to see if the compatibility is there, but also because it’s great PR to have the founder of the company have the highest matching score ever. And so they sort of do it for PR but, of course, in the process they fall in love.
And so that book was very fun to write, and when we went on book tour for that, virtual book tour, literally every event, and I’m not exaggerating, like, every single event for the whole rest of the year, one or more people would ask us, “When is Fizzy getting her own book?” And we had never planned to make it into, like, a companion series or anything. We wrote this book and it was really fun. But Fizzy is a romance author, she’s very bubbly, she dates a lot, she’s really funny. And as the side character in “The Soulmate Equation,” she was very easy to write, but the prospect of writing Fizzy as a main character was a little bit more daunting for us because it’s one thing to have a comedic side character, it’s another to give that person all these sort of dimensional vulnerabilities and make them feel like a real person.
And we didn’t have a good idea for Fizzy until around October of that year, I think, where just the light bulb went on over our heads and we were like, “Oh my gosh, what if there’s a dating show that is based on River’s technology?” And the question is whether the audience or the technology, so whether people watching people fall in love have a better sense of who’s good for each other, and whether they can predict what this DNA matchmaking service says. So, like, who is Fizzy’s perfect match, and can the audience vote on that just based on what they see? And so we decided to have Fizzy be the romance author that sort of is cast in the show, but instead of one of the heroes on the show, the dating show, being the hero of the book, we actually have Fizzy falling in love with the producer.
And the producer is this guy named Connor Prince Jr. or Connor Prince III. And he is the producer who makes, like, marine mammal documentaries, and he’s just like a single dad. He’s loves what he does, he sort of has this quiet life where he gets to work in television but also is near his daughter and his ex-wife. And his ex-wife is a big fan of Fizzy’s books. And so he sees… He’s basically tasked by his boss, like, “If you wanna keep your job, you must create a reality show.” And so it kind of all goes from there. He comes up with the idea for this show with the technology and casts Fizzy, and it is like one of the most romantic books I think we’ve ever written. Despite my meandering synopsis, it’s very, very fun.
Christina: You described two books. Well done.
Rachel: So, the concept behind both of these books is so wholly original, and I’m so curious where that inspiration came from, both for the DNA technology for compatibility, but also the reality show. And a quick follow up, do you both watch a lot of reality dating shows?
Lauren: Sorry, I’m gonna be talking again just because the science is sort of my wheelhouse. But, like, the idea for the DNA thing came because at the time I had been, and Christina too, very obsessed with the Theranos scandal, which, if anybody out there doesn’t know, just very briefly, it’s this sort of…it’s a blood testing company that said we can test for hundreds of biomarkers in your blood with just a simple pin prick instead of having to go to a lab to get blood drawn. And scientists who have worked in the field know that this is a very, very, very difficult thing to accomplish. But they said they had it, they had crazy investors, they had all these really big names on their board, like, it was just… And it turned out that they just couldn’t do what they said that they were doing. And anyway, Elizabeth Holmes has been on trial and is whatever, she’s got her prison time coming up.
But we were so fascinated with it, and also in just the ways that, like, money gets poured into these technologies. And so, some of it sounds impossible, but, like, what if something like this was possible and DNA matchmaking, people have tried to do it, but they look at, like, one gene, and they look at compatibility across, like, a histocompatibility complex, or they’ll look at a pheromone gene, and they’re like, “Okay, we’re gonna match make.”But, like, we have 25,000 genes. So, it’s like imagine answering a dating survey of 25,000 questions and they’re matching you with somebody based on one question. So, I think the idea of the genetic matchmaking is really complicated, and plus you don’t want it to be about similarities because this isn’t eugenics, you know what I mean? You want it to be about compatibility across lots of different things that have to do with your emotions and, like, your goals and your culture, and all of these things that you are sort of very enmeshed in. So, it was really fun to imagine, like, building an actual company based on some of these big dreams. And so that’s sort of where it came from. Forgot the second question.
Christina: Do we watch a lot of reality TV? My answer is no because it tends to stress me out. There’s just, like, something, anything could happen, and these people are usually semi-terrible, and so I don’t trust them. So, the reality TV I really watch is, like, “Survivor,” but I mean, I’ve watched a handful of seasons, and then I watched, like, “Bling Empire,” but even that just ends up making me so, like, frustrated and anxious, and they’re all morons and gossipy brats and, you know. But Lo is pretty good. She watches more than I do, but I don’t even think she’s watched many dating shows. I think she watched…
Lauren: I mean, of course, I did for the book.
Christina: Yeah, for the show, for this.
Lauren: You watched a ton for the book. I got sucked into some of them and the most recent one that was really fun was “Perfect Match” on Netflix. That was just, like, so addicting. But I think one of the things that was really fun about writing Fizzy’s show, and we, of course, don’t focus too much on the show because the real love story is behind the camera. But I think what was fun is this idea that everybody there was actually quite decent, and that you can have this group of people who genuinely respect and admire each other, and the question is, like, who is best for this really great person? And the idea of kind of staying in that world and being able to see some of those heroes, again, I think is sort of tempting for me and Christina because there are some heroes on the show that are just, like, good guys, you know? And it would be fun to write their stories.
Laura: On the show, Fizzy requests that the men fit into certain hero archetypes, which was so fun to read them all, like, walking in as she meets them with, like, their name tags on. It was so great. But what are your favorite hero archetypes to write and read?
Christina: I have a very specific clear type of hero that I love and it is the sort of, I guess I would say cinnamon roll-ish because I really…I am more the, like, beta male, the one that’s, like, what he wants is what is best for her, you know, to have a happy life, to be successful, all of these things. But that very kind of sarcastic, funny, flirty, dry hero is, like, my jam. I’m not sure how that would fit on a name tag.
Lauren: It’d be cinnamon roll. Yeah, yeah.
Christina: Cinnamon roll, I suppose. But I didn’t even know what that meant for a while. Somebody had to explain it to me. I was like, “Oh, okay.” So, like a nice guy.
Lauren: I think I’m always here for the, like, stiff upper lip, emotionally repressed, you know, but, like, deep down he would, like, die for this person. Like, he falls first, he falls hard, she’s it for him. It’s like all he lives for, but none of that shows on his face. That is like my crack. I love that so much.
Christina: And what’s funny is that, like, if we knew we were going to be writing Fizzy, like, we made her sort of silly in some ways, you know. She, like, always has a notebook, and she’s, like, always writing these ridiculous things, or she makes Jess…you know, like, she handcuffs her to her bed to, like, see if she can get out of it, so it makes sense in her book or, you know, whatever it is. But then when we started writing it, you know, romance gets a lot of crap and so we didn’t really want to play into that. But in some ways, having, like, the male contestants, all of the heroes, was sort of leaning into that, in sort of this, like, fun, very Fizzy way, and it just turned out so much better. I woke up one morning thinking, like, “What if they really made this into a show?” It was like I had a dream, and then I had to remind myself, like, “Oh, Christina, that technology isn’t actually real.”
Lauren: We don’t actually have the piece that comes before all of that.
Christina: Yeah. The actual point of the show, we don’t really have.
Rachel: Not yet. We don’t know. Elizabeth Holmes might come up with a great idea in prison. Who knows?
Christina: This might be the one that hits for her.
Lauren: Exactly. I’m pulling for you.
Christina: I mean, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, because both Lo and her husband are scientists and that has been super fascinating to me, but, you know, when we were writing “The Soulmate Equation,” I am not the science person, but, like, my helpful part in that was, like, “Okay, the average person does not know what this means,” or “You know what? We have to back off.” But it has been so fascinating. So, in a lot of ways, there were some parts that Lo was like, “Okay, but this is impossible.” And we had to kind of get the science as close to, like… Like how he gets his research and all this, it would take a lifetime to kind of…
Lauren: It would take decades.
Christina: …gather, yeah, the amount of research he has. So, we had to kind of do it in a way that was like, “If this was possible, how would you get it done?” like, “What is just the limit of what is believable?” And so watching, like, her and her husband, and hearing some of their conversations and stuff, I found the entire thing just, like, so fascinating. All the money that goes into these companies and how really one small company could be on the verge of, like, changing the whole world. Like, if this company existed, dating and relationships as we know it would completely change. So, I hope somebody does it and we get a cut.
Rachel: I hope somebody does it too for not at all strictly personal reasons, but… However, continuing kind of on your, like, favorite hero archetype, do you have a favorite romance trope to read or write? Is there one that just, like, really calls to you?
Lauren: I love a brother’s best friend or, like, sister’s best friend, but brother’s best friend for me has, like, just the perfect sweet spot because it has a little bit of the childhood crush, it has a little bit of the forbidden romance, it has a little bit of, like, the protective male, and there’s something about that. Like, for me, if there’s a heroine who’s been pining for this guy for years, like, back when she was, like, dorky and had braces and, you know, all that stuff to, like, now. And she steps out of the elevator and he’s standing there, he’s like, “What are you doing here?” And she’s just, like, hair flowing and, like, looks amazing. There’s just something that’s just so fun about that to me. And I think one of the things I really love about romance, in general, is just the way that we lean into these comfort cliches and we don’t explain them away. We don’t, you know, feel defensive about them. Like, we’ve embraced them. And so some of those I think are really fun for me and that’s my favorite.
Christina: I love enemies to lovers because I tend to really love books that are funny, and as we always say, it’s easy to be funny when you can be just a little bit mean. But, like, I remember when, like, Lo and I were writing the very first book we ever wrote that hasn’t been published, it’s just still sitting on our computers, is this sort of, like, hard exterior, sort of wounded guy that once he falls, he is just so gone. And we got to do that recently for something that we haven’t announced yet, and it was so much fun. And then also there was this we GIF we saw when were writing really early on that was, like, these two people, it was clear somebody had, like, snuck into a bedroom at night and they’re together, but it says, like, just friends with, like, a question mark, and this idea of these two people who, like, hook up continuously but it’s a secret. I’m really here for that as well.
Rachel: I am wholeheartedly intrigued by this first book that is just sitting on a computer somewhere.
Lauren: Yeah. It’s funny that we’ve never… We keep talking about doing something with it because it is the first book we ever wrote together, and it’s really swoony and we have friends who’ve read it who are like, “I still think about this book.” But when we go back and read it, we’re like, “Wow, this is actually not very good.” Like, we would have to rewrite it. And, like, the idea is there, and the characters are there, but the writing is very simple, and, like, it just would need to be redone and we just haven’t had time.
Christina: It just feels very much of, like, of its time, you know, like, when it was written. But yeah, it would be really fun to publish it under a different name or a different…
Lauren: We just need someone else to just be like, “Surprise.” Just like send it to somebody we trust and be like, “Can you rewrite this book and we’ll give you some of the…we’ll sell it together?”
Christina: It’s a book that got us our agent. It just…she was very honest with us upfront. “There’s a 50% chance I can sell this because of where the market is right now.” But the great thing is that everything that was old is new again at some point.
Laura: One thing I really loved about the book was Fizzy and Connor’s banter, which really came alive in the transcripts of the confessionals from the show. What made you decide to use that format of the confessionals?
Christina: I don’t even remember.
Lauren: That’s a good question. I probably could answer any question about the book except for that one. I mean, I think, you know, well, I think what happened was we had referred to them and one of our early editors was like, “I wanna see these moments,” because you’re referring to this and it’s like a way to show their dynamic that the audience is able to see because otherwise the audience doesn’t see them together, and we really need the audience to see them together in order for the rest of the book to work. So, I think that those kind of came in after we had finished a first draft and we realized we needed to see some more of those, and yeah, they were really fun. I think they were four and she wrote two and I wrote two or there’s three… Whatever. But it was just, like, those are so playful and they come so fast, you know what I mean?
Christina: It’s also a really good way to see her processing stuff that happened on the dates without actually having to live through the dates because do people really want to? Yeah, those are some of the best. Lo wrote the one that happens at the end, and I, still to this day, say it’s like our best ending yet. Like, I cried reading it. It was just so insanely sweet.
Rachel: One thing I really loved about the book, and we’ve kind of touched on fandom a little bit, and I just absolutely loved how much Fizzy and Nat live in the mindset that there’s no such thing as a guilty, and I’m using air quotes here, pleasure, that we should be proud of the things that we love. And do you think there’s been a shift in the romance landscape recently in that, like, romance readers are now proudly wearing that moniker rather than hiding their harlequin novel inside the book jacket of something else on the subway?
Lauren: I think so. I mean, I think with anything, it’s two steps forward, one step back, and you know, when we first started publishing back in 2013, our first book came out and I remember so clearly, I was at one of my son’s soccer games, and one of the other moms had recently found out that I’d published and so she leaned over and told her mother-in-law, she’s like, you know, “Lauren recently published a romance novel.” And this older woman was like, “Oh my goodness, is it trashy? I just love trashy books.” And I was so insulted because she didn’t mean it in a way where she was coming from within the community. She was speaking as somebody who, like, clearly wasn’t a romance reader. And so, sort of that judgment of it felt really uncomfortable to me. But we don’t hear that much anymore. And even if we did, I think I would be much more comfortable being like, “We don’t call it that.” You know? Which is like, that’s not how we talk about romance.
I just think that there has been a shift and part of that is romance writers and romance readers really embracing the fact that this genre is responsible for publishing being alive today. You know, romance is the highest-selling genre in all of fiction. It outsells crime by, like, nearly double. I think thrillers have come up a bit in the last five, six years. But romance is still the biggest selling genre. And because of that and because of the speed at which we publish, I think as a genre, it really has the ability to have these important and hard conversations about what our culture looks like, who deserves a happily ever after, you know, what we call things, how we approach relationships, how do we have some of these hard conversations, what does a happily ever after look like, how does a community get involved in that?
And I think these are things that we as a society need to think about, such as identity and racial equality and religious freedom and all those things. But we are able to put those things on a page and have those conversations almost in real time because the industry of romance moves so quickly. So, I think just talking about that widely and having that pride be really out there and having these conversations makes readers feel proud too of the books that they’re picking up, so that when they go out and they’re carrying a Kate Clayborn book, or a Kresley Cole book, or a Sally Thorne book, or a Alisha Rai book, that they know that they are contributing to a big important conversation, right? And they’re not thinking like “This is something I need to be embarrassed by.” There’s a pride there when you know that all of these women, predominantly women in the genre, are, like, carrying a huge industry on their shoulders. That’s badass, you know. Sorry, that was a soapbox moment, but that was like, I wanted to, like, totally get into this.
Laura: No. That’s perfect. I have no follow-up questions to that. It was great. So, one of our colleagues, Tiana, read “The True Love Experiment” on NetGalley and had a very insightful question. So we stole it from her and are giving her credit. She said, “So many of the things that we tend to find joy in are so often devalued and this book so effortlessly captures how you shouldn’t have to justify what makes you happy as a woman,” which you kind of mentioned. “I felt as though Fizzy’s fans really helped inspire her in that respect with romance writing. And I’m wondering how your fans continue to inspire you.”
Christina: We are huge, like, proponents that, like, find the thing that makes you crazy, stupid, happy, and protect it, and love it, and don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. And so, yeah, for Fizzy, like, when she’s not writing books, a lot of the things that are bringing her joy are, like, her readers and getting to do these signings even though they’re a little bit of stress because she doesn’t have a book and she doesn’t have the answers they want, but seeing them and seeing their reactions to her books are kind of the things that, like, give her joy and kind of keep her going. And for us, like, you can be having, like, the worst day and then you go on Instagram or something and somebody has sent you a DM that’s like, “I was in such a terrible place,” you know, “My dad was in the hospital,” or “I lost my job,” or “I’m a mom and struggling with, like, finding myself again,” or whatever. “And this book gave me three hours of, like, escape from the world and, like, let me be happy in those, like, three hours.”
And if somebody tells us that, we have completely done our job. Like, that is why we write these books. And so seeing people like…especially TikTok, because TikTok is like a completely new thing where we get to see people, like… You know, there’s always been, like, BookTube and Instagram and stuff, but TikTok has sort of changed that where suddenly you’re just seeing people reading these books in, like, real-time and having a reaction and actually, like, changing the market with it. And I think that’s sort of powerful that predominantly it’s like girls doing this and changing, like, an entire industry. So, getting to see all of that has been crazy, especially when you think about, like, how publishing was like 10 years ago. When we first started, it was like Twitter and reviews, and that’s, like, pretty much all we saw. And so I feel like now we have such access to our readers and they have such access to us that it just…it’s so crazy. Like, right now we’re organizing our tour and we’re, like, organizing a way… We did it last year and we’re doing it again for, like, readers who don’t wanna go to events alone to, like, find each other and, like, make a new friend and go together. And, like, Fizzy would 1000% be here for that. She would just love it. So, yeah, it’s been really great.
Lauren: And I think one of the things I love the most is when a reader comes up to us at a signing and they’re like, “I got a tattoo of this line from your book.” And I’m like, “I have a tattoo from a line from a book too.” And it’s like we’re the same, you know. We are all just fangirls. We’re just fangirls for different things. So, when people come up and they’re like… I mean, this happens not just at our signings, it happens at any author signings where a reader will come up and feel overcome and they’ll cry. It’s like I had the same experience when I was at the Tucson book festival and I went to meet Mary Roach who’s a non-fiction author I just am obsessed with, and I walked up and I was so excited to see her, and I don’t know where it came from but I just started crying. I was so happy. And so I think when I see people having the same reactions that I have, and they see me understanding their reaction, there’s this moment where it’s like we are the same. Like, I am feeding something that you need, but you are also giving me something I need, which is to see your joy from my book. And so it’s such a symbiotic relationship. I don’t know, like, I really missed seeing readers in person during the pandemic. That’s just such an important relationship.
Rachel: And this might be kind of a big picture question, so I apologize. But you’ve talked about fangirls and just, like, how passionate we are as a species because if there is one driving force in a market, it’s fangirls. But do you think that we’ve made any progress in acknowledging this, or do you think female fandom still kind of remains underfed?
Lauren: I think it’s both. Like I said, I think everything is two steps forward, one step back. But I also think in this case, it might be like a parallel progress where it’s like one step forward and half a step back all the time. Because, like, the way that we talk about fangirls in the media, I think it changes somewhat. And then there’s always that article that comes out that just has those digs, right? So, I’m gonna use BTS as an example because that is a very huge fandom. We are part of it. It is a group of Korean musicians and dancers, and they are amazing, they’re huge worldwide, and they have a gigantic international fandom. Predominantly women, not just women and girls, there’s a lot of male fans as well. But the way that the media writes about their fans can be so condescending.
And so, I think, on the one hand, the world can’t help but acknowledge the financial impact of this group of men, right? We see their impact, they’ve spoken to the UN, they are ambassadors for giant luxury brands, they are a certain percentage of their nation’s GDP. Like, this is a band that when they come to your town, you see a boost in the amount of money that is, like, in that city significantly, right? So, there’s a financial impact. And I think to the extent that the media sees that and can acknowledge that, there is sort of power given to the fandom from that financial impact. But there’s always the dig somewhere buried or sometimes varying, like, upfront in the article about these sort of hysterical fangirls, girls crying. You know, they’ll show a picture of girls in, like, all of their merchant stuff with some sort of sneering caption, and it’s like we’re never really talking about the guys that have painted their chests blue with a lion at a Detroit football game, right? These behaviors are very similar, but somehow when we see it on men it looks like the way that we sort of see U.S. patriotism sometimes. Like, there’s this sort of like…
Lauren: There’s a loyalty there. You know, there’s a value in how far I’m willing to go for this thing I love. But we don’t give the same value when girls express that kind of love. I mean, all of that, of course, is rooted in the patriarchy and we’re fighting that all the time. But I do think, like, from, you know, a perspective of a person who’s been a fan her whole life, it’s definitely better than when I was younger, but it still exists, right?
Christina: I mean, there was an article yesterday I saw tweeted, it was in NPR, and it was written by this woman who was basically, like, “The thing that people don’t realize about fandoms is that, like, I have met people being…” she was BTS army, “that have become my best friends.” When people say, like, “Oh, internet friends aren’t real friends,” like, look at Lo and I, we met in “Twilight” fandom. We were just talking this morning, there was a picture of half of BTS and Harry Styles, and those are both fandoms that we have been so heavily involved in, and I was like, “If somebody was wearing a ‘New Moon’ shirt in this picture, it would just be like us, like, right here.” And they have to know when they posted that picture that there is like such crossover of people, it was just going to absolutely make their life.
And Lo and I have such close friends, and we are total grownups with, like, professional jobs and stuff, who are going across the country to concerts and spending money. I mean when we were in Vegas and BTS was there, the entire city was purple because that’s sort of like BTS’ color. They’re not doing that for 12-year-olds, you know what I mean? They’re not changing all of Vegas and having special meals at, you know, Michelin star restaurants and all of these things. And it’s fine if you’re 12. That’s just as valid. But it was really great to see this article yesterday of this woman who, like, writes for NPR, talking about how fandom and being a fangirl and stuff has brought her joy and changed her life and brought so many people into her life that are there, you know, for long term. And I don’t remember being a fangirl when I was in “Twilight” fandom being quite so accepted. So, just like Lo said, it’s like forward and then back again. We’ll just wait for the back steps. But I’ll be happy today that we saw BTS and Harry Styles. Yes.
Rachel: And never underestimate the power of internet friendship.
Lauren: Oh, yeah.
Christina: Oh, absolutely.
Rachel: Yeah. Some of my best friends are from the “Supernatural” fandom. So just to put myself on…
Lauren: It’s where you find your people.
Lauren: This is the thing about fandom. It’s a safe space because you feel, like, so passionate about something that you seek out more of it online, and then you find other people who are doing the same thing. So immediately you have a safety. Day one, you have that safety. We are both here searching out this thing that we love. What else do we have in common? Maybe nothing, but sometimes that’s enough, you know.
Christina: Also, those internet fan friends are… You’re so honest. It’s like you see somebody you know in real life and they’re like, “How are you?” And you’re like, “Fine.” And then you talk to your online friend and you’re like, “Oh my God, you wouldn’t even believe this. I’m behind on rent and I have to do this, and my stomach has been doing this thing.” It’s like you wouldn’t say this. Your fandom friends, like, know you.
Laura: That’s so true. And I think with TikTok too, there’s this, like, resurgence in, like, how open everyone has been about everything. And it’s really funny to see that kind of, like, honesty grow. And the other thing I was thinking about fangirls too is people kind of like undersell, like, how smart these girls are. Like, these are people, like, coding websites, like, finding everything they need to know online. Like, they’re very resourceful and very smart. So, yeah, there’s definitely something to be said about that as well.
Christina: And Lo especially, a PhD, in neuroscience.
Laura: Yes. Exactly.
Christina: She’s not what people imagine as, like, the typical BTS fan.
Lauren: But this is true for so many fans. I mean, there are people who created a whole Bangtan Academy that’s teaching people Korean, you know, and they have a Discord server set up and all of that. There’s somebody who’s getting her PhD in BTS basically and is showing, like, she’s created these live maps of people tweeting and talking about BTS to show how the fandom has grown over time. There are people who have legal aid. They, you know, matched the Black Lives Matter contribution in 24 hours. There’s all kinds of things that the fandom is doing. It’s just super, super organized. It’s like, it’s something to behold.
Christina: There’s, like, a bunch of attorneys that are, like, gathering information and data and stuff from, like, the Ticketmaster sales that are, like, gonna take it to Congress. Fangirls get it done.
Laura: Yep. That should be like the title of the episode. “Fangirls get it done.”
Lauren: There we go.
Laura: One of the things I wanted to touch on too is we’re seeing a lot of adaptations of romance novels lately with, like, “Bridgerton,” “Virgin River.” So we know some of your books have been optioned. Do you have any news to share about that? And can you tell us a bit more about how that process works? Because I feel like a lot of people don’t understand, like, how difficult and challenging it can be. They just see, like, the news article that says, like, this is optioned and maybe it doesn’t mean anything’s gonna happen with it eventually.
Lauren: So, most of the time, it actually doesn’t mean anything is gonna happen. So, you know, in publishing when you sell a book to a publisher, 99.9% of the time, that book gets written, it gets formatted, it gets released, it goes on shelves. The opposite odds are there in Hollywood. Most of the time that something gets optioned, it doesn’t actually get adapted into something. And that’s because there are so many ideas and there’s so much IP out there, but you really need somebody to be a huge champion of the project. And then you need the wallets to open for the project to be financed, and they’re expensive. So, we have had a number of things optioned and the farthest along right now is “The Unhoneymooners.” That has actually been financed. And so, we’re hoping to have good news about that to share soon. And then “Roomies” is another one. We actually wrote the screenplay for that. That project was bought by Village Roadshow, and so that is also financed. And then we have a number of other things that are in different stages, post option.
So, a little bit about how that process works. When we release a book, either before it comes out or after it comes out, we have a film agent who handles all of the interest coming in from studios about that project. And a studio can be a large studio such as like Sony or Fox, but you can also have smaller production companies, which is like maybe just a producer, somebody who, like, organizes teams and pulls together directors and actors and whatever, express interest in the project. And so they might come to our film agent and say, “Hey, I would really love to make this Christina Lauren book into a movie.” And so, we’ll hop on the phone with them. If we vibe and we like them, they will make an offer to option the material. And what that means is they have exclusive access to our book and the material for a term that’s usually 12 to 18 months. And then it includes the option to extend that period, another 12 to 18 months. If that 12- or 24- to 36-month period passes and they don’t do anything with it, the rights revert back to us. And so a lot of times, that’s what happened. But you have people who are super passionate about something and they’re really trying to get something made, but either the team isn’t coming together, or the money doesn’t come together, or they get as far as having a script written and they just can’t get the financing. And so sometimes there’s just a million ways things fall apart and there’s so far fewer ways that things actually happen.
But getting something optioned is great because it means that you have, you know, somebody interested in your work from a different perspective, not just book perspective. And in our case, even though we have optioned a lot of things and some of them have come back to us, it has also introduced us to a lot of really wonderful people in the industry who we then are working with on other projects or, you know, they come to us if they have certain things they want us to do. So, it’s a slow process, but I am very hopeful that some of the things we’ve been working on for a really long time are going to come to fruition pretty soon. So, it just requires patience.
Rachel: So, outside of potential upcoming adaptations, can you guys give us any sneak peaks on what you are working on next?
Christina: So, we’re drafting our book that comes out in 2024 right now. But there are actually two other things that are mostly done that haven’t been announced yet that hopefully we’ll hear about soon. I don’t know how much we wanna say about our book that we’re working on now.
Rachel: That’s fair. You don’t have to give any spoilers.
Christina: It’s amazing. That’s all I’m gonna say. It’s book of the year.
Laura: We can’t wait. Can I ask you guys for some romance recommendations while I have you here? What kind of books are you reading right now, and are there any that you would recommend to listeners?
Lauren: As soon as somebody asks that, I, like, literally have never read a book ever.
Laura: No, sorry to put you on the spot.
Lauren: No, the worst thing is we know we were coming here, so it’s like, “Why don’t I have this already planned?” You talk.
Christina: I’m currently reading “Things We Never Got Over.” I think it’s by Lucy Score, I think. And then after that, my next book will be “Kiss the Girl” by Zoraida Cordova. It’s one of the, meant to be, like, Disney retellings and hers is the Ariel one. Lo started that and she said that it was so…it was like she just got a couple pages in, but she said it was really cute. And then we have a copy of Ali Hazelwood who we, like, adore her next book. We just haven’t had a chance… I always say we like as we’re one person…
Lauren: We basically are.
Christina: And then Denise Williams, we just got a copy of her next book and I cannot remember the title. I know it’s the last one in the series, so I’m very excited to read that.
Lauren: So, I had to open my library because I was like, “What am I actually reading right now?” So, I’m a dummy because I actually just started reading “The Worst Best Man” by Mia Sosa because we were having this conversation this last weekend with some author friends about, like, “What is a romcom in book form?” Because we’re calling everything a romcom but, like, a lot of these books that we’re calling romcoms just have a cute illustrated cover, but they’re not actually funny. And so this friend, Adriana Herrera, who also has a book coming soon…
Christina: Oh, we just got hers too. Yeah.
Lauren: Yeah. She’s amazing. She wrote a historical called “A Caribbean Heiress in Paris,” and it’s amazing. And so we have the second book in that…
Christina: It’s called “An Island Princess” or something.
Lauren: Yes. But she was saying, you know, Mia Sosa is writing romcoms, she’s writing funny situations where, like, madcap stuff happens and it feels like a romcom movie. And so, I picked that one up for that reason. And so, I’m really enjoying that. I’m also reading “Hester.” I don’t know if you guys have read “Hester,” but it’s by Laurie Lico Albanese. So, it’s kind of like a retelling of “The Scarlet Letter.”
Rachel: Oh. So not romance.
Lauren: So not romance. And then I’m also reading “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers” because I have a 13-year-old girl and this book is my go-to for Xanax.
Rachel: Well, we’ll include links to all of those recommendations in our show notes. And before we let you guys go, can you tell our listeners where they can find you online?
Christina: We’re mostly on Instagram. That’s the best place to find us. And we’re just Christina Lauren on Instagram. We’re also Christina Lauren, I think on Twitter. Our website is christinalaurenbooks.com. And we just announced our tour yesterday, so be sure to check that out. And then are we anywhere else, Lo? We have TikTok.
Lauren: Yeah. We’re not on TikTok though, but if you are, if you live in Massachusetts, New York, Tampa, Nashville, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Ames, Iowa, Fort Collins, Colorado, or Austin, Texas, you can catch us…
Christina: Did you just remember those off the top of your head? Oh, okay.
Rachel: I was going to be so impressed.
Lauren: Oh, my gosh, that would be amazing.
Christina: It would not be surprising though. It is in the realm of possibility that she would remember those. Yes.
Rachel: Well, Christina and Lauren, thank you so much for chatting with us today. This has been an absolute delight.
Lauren: Thank you. This was really fun. Thanks for having us on.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the Kobo Writing Life podcast. If you are interested in picking up Christina Lauren’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com and be sure you are following us on socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Laura: This episode was hosted by Laura Granger and Rachel Wharton with production by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker. And thanks to Christina and Lauren for being our guests today. If you’re ready to start your publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.