Lauren Billings, THE GLOSS BOOK CLUB

Lauren Billings, THE GLOSS BOOK CLUB

Zibby was joined by Lauren Billings, one half of the internationally bestselling writing duo Christina Lauren, for a Bookcation conversation with The Gloss Book Club. The two talked about how Lauren and her writing partner Christina Hobbs began working together, how they feel about the way others tend to view romance novels, and what she likes to read in her spare time. Lauren also shares what the two are currently working on and why she loves working with a co-author.


Zibby Owens: Hi, everybody. My name is Zibby Owens. I am so excited to be at The Gloss Book Club today for this Bookcation, which is an amazing term that I will steal — not steal — use, I will use freely now because I love it. I am delighted to be here with Lauren Billings. On the screen, you can see our bios. Just as top highlights so you know who I am, I host a daily literary podcast called “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” If you are interested in hearing from an author 365 days a year, tune into my podcast. I also am an author myself. I have a book called Bookends coming out in two weeks, A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature, and a children’s book, Princess Charming. I also started a publishing company called Zibby Books. We have a content site we’re launching called Moms Don’t Have Time To. That’s all you need to know about me. Basically, I love interviewing authors. That is what I love to do more than anything else, aside from reading, which is also my great love.

Lauren is half of the New York Times best-selling duo Christina Lauren. That is a pen name, if anybody didn’t know. Sadly, Christina cannot be here today, but Lauren is representing for both of them. They are the New York Times, USA Today, and number-one internationally best-selling authors of the Beautiful and Wild 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, and The Soulmate Equation. Lauren also goes by Lo. She has a PhD in neuroscience. Before she made writing her full-time job, she spent her days doing nerdy research-type things — this is her judgement, not mine — in a lab coat and goggles. She is a silly mommy to two littles, wife to one mountain-biking, homebrewing scientist, and an unabashed lover of YA and romance. I feel like they didn’t have some of the books on the website in your bio. There are other books, including, Something Wilder and The Soulmate Equation are the two most recent books. That is where we’ll start. Welcome.

Lauren Billings: Amazing. Thank you. Thank you for having me. This is so fun.

Zibby: This is so fun. First of all, where are you zooming from today? Where in the world are you?

Lauren: I live in California. I live in Southern California specifically. Christina lives in Salt Lake, just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s recuperating from surgery. She sends her regrets. She really wishes she could be here today.

Zibby: I live in New York, but I am currently in Nashville, Tennessee. If you hear loud groups of bachelorettes screaming, which is basically all over the city, that’s what’s going on. This is not my home. I’m at a lovely hotel called the Thompson, which I highly recommend. Anyway, let’s talk books. Your latest book, Something Wilder, let’s start with that. What is that book about? What inspired you to write it?

Lauren: Something Wilder, it’s sort of our homage to Romancing the Stone.

Zibby: Which I loved, by the way. Huge Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas fan. I’ve watched that movie about a hundred times. Go on.

Lauren: It’s so fun. It’s seriously so fun. Christina and I grew up on movies like Indian Jones and The Goonies and National Treasure and, obviously, Romancing the Stone. We really wanted to write a romance novel that embraced some of that action/adventure. Something Wilder is the story of Leo Grady — he’s our hero — and Lily Wilder. That is the nod to Joan Wilder from Romancing the Stone. They’re former lovers. They’ve been split apart from circumstances that you’ll learn in the book. They’re thrown back together when Leo’s group of guy friends books an expedition with Lily’s adventure company. She hates what she does, but that’ll make sense in the book. She has to rely on her father’s maps that take tourists out on these fake treasure hunts in the Canyonlands of Utah. Everything kind of goes sideways. They realize that there might actually be real treasure out there. They have to decide if they trust each other to go after it.

Zibby: Interesting. I love how you talk about Lily’s reluctance to lead groups with Prada shoe , big city folks who try to come out to the wilderness to relax or whatever it is they’re doing.

Lauren: Exactly. Lily, at her heart, she wants to own a ranch and have horses and have people come and stay at the ranch. Her father was never there. He was this really big treasure hunter who loved going out into the desert and trying to find relics. It was what he was famous for, but she always resented it. It’s sort of a bummer for her that now she has to make her living using his maps. It’s a romance, so everything is happily ever after. It’s a fun one. It’s a really fun one.

Zibby: Can we go back a little bit and hear about how you got your start writing and how you became this power duo, how you linked up with Christina, the whole story?

Lauren: Yes. I’ve written my whole life just for fun. I was writing fan fiction before I knew that it was fan fiction. I would watch Days of Our Lives and then write stories about the characters that they weren’t giving us on screen. I did that for Buffy and Alias. Eventually, I was writing in the Twilight fandom just for fun. Christina had this really popular story there. She had millions of readers. I invited her out in the summer of 2009 to San Diego Comic-Con where I was putting on a panel on fan art and fan works. We met in person. We were like, let’s write a story. We wrote a little one-shot fan fiction together. It was really fun. Then we just thought, let’s write a book together. That’s the obvious next step. We were so naïve. We had no idea what it took to write a book. We were like, let’s do it. Now twenty-eight books later, here we are.

Zibby: Twenty-eight books. What process — I’m assuming it’s changed over time as technology has shifted. How did you start out collaborating? How do you do it now? Or has it not changed?

Lauren: It’s changed somewhat. We initially were using Google Docs. The thing with Google Docs is when we were first using it, there wasn’t a very good collaboration feature, so there was no way to track changes. We always outline in person. We usually alternate chapters, but it sort of depends, too, on how much else we have going on. If we have a lot of stuff that we’re juggling, one of us will take over drafting. The other one jumps in and edits. We draft, usually, alternating chapters. We create a document as we go. We try not to edit it too much at first because we know the first draft is just going to be messy. Once we have a draft, we dive in. We really go through it a lot so that each one of us has touched literally every sentence. We don’t want it to feel like it’s been written by two people. We want it to feel really cohesive. I think the magic for us comes in revisions.

Zibby: Wow. How do you pick what your next project will be? All these projects to date, how did you decide? Were you just on the same page about topics and everything?

Lauren: I’m really lucky that I met her. She’s the perfect partner for me. Our working relationship came first, but we’re very, very close now. She is my best friend. She’s almost like my sister or spouse. I don’t know. It’s a combination of the two. I think we’re really lucky to be on the same page a lot. The conversations that we have about the ideas are very fun. It’s throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks and just building the stories from there. We usually have a handful of ideas that we’ve been tinkering with in our minds for a year or two before we really dig in, write it. 2013, we had six books out. Then we had four, four, three. Initially, it was just so many books that it was almost like we were starting to scrape the bowl trying to get ideas. We’ve slowed down now, which has been nice in terms of mental health. Also, it means now we have so many ideas. We want to get to them really fast. You either are exhausted mentally or you feel like you want to move faster. That’s sort of where we’re at right now.

Zibby: What does the mental health exhaustion and all of that look like when you’re trying to launch all these books? Part of launching books are things like this and having to be on and having to meet people and talk about the book. If you’re so busy writing all the books, how do you keep that together and have kids? What does that look like? What does a bad day look like and a good day look like?

Lauren: We only have mostly good days now because we really have slowed down to about one book a year. That has been a huge change. In 2013, I had a three and a five-year-old. I was working full time as a scientist. We had six books out. It just felt like nothing was getting a hundred percent. A bad day would be the day where we beat ourselves up. It’s usually the mom side where we’re like, I’m not giving my kids what they need. I’m not doing what my family needs, whatever. That’s usually what a bad day looks like for me. It’s just a lot of guilt.

Zibby: How did you even end up with six books coming out in a single year? That’s unheard of.

Lauren: I think what happened was — I’ll try and do the CliffsNotes version of this. Fifty Shades came out in 2012. That was a story that had been in the Twilight fandom. Erika had reworked that and published it as Fifty Shades of Grey. It was initially a story called Master of the Universe. What happened after that published was every publisher wanted their own Fifty Shades of Grey, and so they started coming to fandom writers and being like, what stories do you have that we can very quickly rework and publish? We were working on other things at the same time. Christina had taken her fic called The Office and just shelved it. It was the first thing she ever wrote. She was like, ugh. We found out that a couple people, actually, were trying to sell that fan fiction to a publisher as their own because Christina had written it under a pen name. We, with our agent, were like, let’s just rework it and post it online. When we reworked it, we rewrote it almost entirely. Very little is similar to the fic. Our agent sent it out to a few editors. It sold in twelve hours. Our other book had been on submission for six months. We were like, oh, okay, I guess we’re going to do this. That was Beautiful Bastard. Then the thing was, in 2012, the market was moving so fast in romance. There were so many people self-publishing. There were so many books coming out. We just wanted to dive in and build a backlist and build a following. It was so much. We didn’t feel tired then. Writing was just this creative excitement. I think that both the momentum of the genre, the pressure we had to get this story out, and then also the excitement of it meant that we were able to write really fast. I know that was a really long answer. I’m sorry.

Zibby: The whole point is to hear from you. I would be happy if you talked the whole time. Go ahead.

Lauren: I just think that time was really exciting for romance. There was so much going on. Now we have stories that came from fandom. Ali Hazelwood’s book, The Love Hypothesis, had been a Reylo fic. There are other stories that had been fic. It was sort of not talked about back then. It was this weird thing that people weren’t sure they were comfortable with. Now it’s been so interesting to see the genre evolve in that way.

Zibby: Wow. Tell me about the romance part. Are you a romantic at heart? Where is this coming from for you? I know the market was sort of requesting it, but you picked that ball up and ran with it. Here you still are going. What fuels that for you?

Lauren: Christina and I have always been romance readers in our own spaces. Obviously, we didn’t meet until we were adults. Her mom had this garage full of Harlequins. She wasn’t supposed to read them, but she would sneak out and read these books. I had very intellectual parents. I grew up in Berkeley. They were UC Berkeley alums. They were very much like, “You will read literature. You will read literary fiction.” I would take my allowance and go to these bookstores and buy Danielle Steel. I just wanted to read what I wanted to read. I think there’s so much value in that now. I have so much to say about the way romance is treated in fiction in general. All I can say is that I just have always gravitated to love stories, whether it’s in film, whether it’s in books, whether it’s watching people and being like, oh, they’re so cute together. What if they’re in love? I think if you’re a romantic at heart, it’s sort of just the way that you see the world. These are the stories that we wanted to tell. We just really love writing love stories. It’s so fun.

Zibby: What did you mean that you could talk a long time about the way romance is treated? You have to give us that. You can’t just throw that out there.

Lauren: Pretty much every romance author, when they tell somebody what they write, there’s always that internal bracing where you’re not sure how somebody’s going to react. There’s a lot of little aggressive things people can say that they don’t necessarily mean to be insulting. It’s like, “Oh, like with the Fabio covers? Are you writing your fantasies?” We’ve been asked things in interviews like, what do our husbands think of what we do? Did we ever let our fathers read our books? which, for me, is just a very patriarchal view of it. Why would it matter if my dad reads my books? He could read my books if he wants to. That kind of thing. Also, my husband is just proud of me. I wouldn’t marry a man that had opinions about what I was writing. All the way to meeting somebody at a soccer game that’s like, “You write romance? Oh, my gosh, I just love trashy books.” It’s that kind of stuff. I think people, they have this image of what romance is when, in fact, it’s an incredibly empowering genre of fiction to read. It’s written primarily by women, primarily for women. It’s a really progressive space to live in. I think one thing people don’t realize is that publishing exists because of romance. It’s the highest-selling genre in all of fiction, I think because it publishes so quickly. What I was saying about 2013 and having so many books out that year, that’s not uncommon. Romance authors are very prolific. Because of that and because we care about having these really important cultural conversations, we’re able to move the conversation forward in a way that a lot of other genres maybe aren’t.

Zibby: Do you feel like there’s a blurry line — because I kind of do — between what’s a regular novel, women’s fiction, even literary fiction, that has a love story? What is the defining separating line between a romance novel and a love story that’s not a romance novel?

Lauren: The only contract that we as romance authors make with our reader is that there’s a happily ever after. If there’s no happily ever after, it’s not a romance. There can be a story that is a sci-fi/fantasy novel that has a romance in it, but if the romance arc is not the primary story, if it’s not the A story, then it’s not considered a romance. There are love stories everywhere. We have so many love stories in all of our favorites. Games of Thrones even has a bunch of love stories. They’re very tragic, but they have them. There’s a lot of really popular fantasy novels that have a love story, but that tends to not be the primary story arc. Romance promises that the romance is the primary arc and there’s a happily ever after. Women’s fiction does not promise a happily ever after, but women’s fiction does center the female as the primary arc. Her story is considered — that is the main story. There might also be a love story.

Zibby: Interesting. I never knew that. Learn something new every day. When you read, do you still gravitate to reading romance yourself? What are some of the types of books that you like to read or books you’ve read lately that you’ve loved or your habits in general?

Lauren: I tend to read nonfiction for fun. I am continually amazed, as is the cliché, that truth is stranger than fiction. There’s some stuff in nonfiction that you cannot believe that it exists. Narrative nonfiction, for me, is really a joy. I would say my favorite nonfiction author is Mary Roach. If people haven’t read Mary Roach, she is a delight. I do read a ton of romance. I think my relationship has changed with it somewhat since we first published because we get sent a lot of books now to read, as I’m sure you do. I’m sure, Zibby, you get books every single day.

Zibby: I do.

Lauren: Which is wonderful. It is one of those embarrassment of riches things, but it does change your relationship to it when you read it for work. I do, I read romance. I have romance authors like Sarah MacLean and Ali Hazelwood and Sally Thorne and Rebekah Weatherspoon and Sonali Dev. There are certain authors that I read. I just get so excited to have them in my hands.

Zibby: That’s excellent. Do you feel like your life so far has had a happy ending?

Lauren: Oh, yeah. I’m very lucky. I have a very good marriage. The man I married, he was my crush in graduate school. I saw him my first week in grad school. I called him my boyfriend for a year before I was able to work up the nerve to talk to him. I would just be like, hey, there’s my boyfriend. We played softball together. We ended up just really hitting it off. I’m super lucky. Christina married her high school sweetheart. They’ve been together since she was fifteen.

Zibby: Wow, that’s impressive. Have you and Christina ever had — has there ever been a thought of each of you going off on your own, or you’re like, “This is the secret sauce? We’re going to keep doing this”?

Lauren: I think if there was something that one of us wanted to write that the other wasn’t interested in, we would be our biggest cheerleader for each other. She’s always wanted to write a thriller. I’m like, go write your thriller. That would be amazing. I love the idea of writing fantasy. I’m sure she would be super excited for me. The thing is that we really love doing this together. It still, even almost thirteen years later, doesn’t feel real that we get to do this for a living now. I don’t know that there’s any joy for me to be found in a different situation. There’s joy to be found, but there’s no more joy to be found, I should say.

Zibby: It’s interesting to me, too, that you are a neuroscientist and yet focus your career on love, which is a neuroscientific phenomenon, but one that perhaps can’t be explained. Maybe you have some insight or science knowledge that makes it less of an unknown mystery and more of some sort of a fact-based something that maybe the layperson doesn’t know. Can you talk about that?

Lauren: Objectively, there are a lot of different arms of research that are involved in looking at love responses, attraction responses, emotional responses that create that early infatuation stage and how that morphs over time and what your systems are doing to express that kind of feeling. I think that area’s really interesting. I was not a person that was studying emotion for research. I think that would’ve not been fun for me. I don’t know why. Maybe it would’ve taken a little bit of the mystery out. My research was always in movement disorders and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration. I love the idea of studying emotion, but I think I want to study it more from the fangirl side where I’m just gazing fondly at people falling in love.

Zibby: What are some of your favorite love story movies?

Lauren: Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time. I find it so funny and romantic. I can watch that every day. One movie I think was great is The Proposal. The thing I found really interesting about that is — when Christina and I were first getting ready to adapt our book Roomies for the screen, we were reading a bunch of different rom-com scripts. I felt like the screenplay for The Proposal wasn’t that amazing, but there was something about the characters when they came together and did the lines for each other and they were there acting it out that just completely transformed it for me. That was such a revelation, that the words on the page and — what a skill acting is, that it isn’t just reading lines. I love Always Be My Maybe. I think that’s adorable. I would say those are probably my favorites.

Zibby: I was struck on your Instagram account, how you were saying that you both try to engage in everything that’s going on. How?

Lauren: I’m not on Twitter anymore. I find Twitter to not be a useful space for me. It just ends up getting me riled up. I get really irritated, either with people — I don’t know. Twitter is just a mess for me, but Christina’s very good. She’ll post our stuff over there. We’re both on Instagram. That’s a place we really enjoy being. I think every author has a medium where they’re most comfortable. That works for us, but it’s not a ton. Honestly, every author who has an Instagram account is doing it. We’re actually doing the half the work because there’s two of us. It’s nice. We get to share.

Zibby: I happen to love Instagram. I’m like, this is so bad, but I do. I set a little timer that more than an hour a day. Then I’m like, okay, I had an hour.

Lauren: I know. I love it. I know a lot of people are getting sucked into TikTok. I get it. That’s not my place. I love when people send us stuff and all that, but we’re not going to be on TikTok. Nobody needs to see Christina Lauren on TikTok.

Zibby: Don’t look at my TikTok. I think I have to delete it. I’m so embarrassed by everything. I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t. I do cohost a podcast called “SexTok with Zibby and Tracey.” It’s three anonymously sourced relationship and sex questions. She’s a sex expert. I’m just a layperson asking her the questions that come in through our website. I don’t even know why I’m talking about that.

Lauren: TikTok. I’m going to go see now because you’re adorable. That’s adorable.

Zibby: Oh, yeah, TikTok. It did kind of go viral for a little bit on TikTok because my social media manager put these huge letters on top of my head. I can’t even say it. I shouldn’t even say it on this. “Why can’t I…? My husband cheated on me.” People were talking to my husband. “I can’t believe you would do that.” I was like, oh, my gosh, this is not me. You can’t do that. Anyway, it was mortifying, but that was the only success. It was not even mine. It was very reluctant.

Lauren: Oh, my gosh. That’s actually so funny.

Zibby: You could check it out — I can’t even remember what it’s called, @withzibbyandtracey or something — if you want to see how I mortified myself. In fact, even my son, who’s now fifteen, his friend from boarding school was like, “You showed up on my ‘For You’ page on TikTok.” I was like, oh, my gosh. Terrible. It’s so terrible. I don’t even know what to do with myself. Such is life.

Lauren: I love it.

Zibby: I know we’re going to have a lot of time for questions. Some are already in the chat. Oh, maybe they’re not questions. If anybody has questions, put them in the chat. We can integrate them into our conversation. Don’t be shy. Ask whatever your heart desires, which is great. What are your next few projects that are coming up?

Lauren: Something Wilder just came out in May. Then anyone who read The Soulmate Equation last year, there was a best friend character named Fizzy. We actually had never planned to write her own book, but when we were doing the book tour for that last year, every single event, without fail, somebody would say, is Fizzy going to get her own book? We were like, maybe. Then in the fall, we had this idea. It was just this little brain bubble. We got so excited to write it. We just finished Fizzy’s book. That will be coming out next year. I don’t have a release date for it yet. We’re hoping to write two more this year. We just started another one that we’re hoping to finish by September. Then we have a book that we’re insanely excited about. It’s got Unhoneymooners vibes, but it’s totally different. We’re writing that one at the end of the year. I can’t wait.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, so busy. Some have come in in the Q&A feature. You’ve basically talked about this, but Carly wanted to know what it’s like writing a book with another person. Maybe you could just say something in general about that maybe that you haven’t shared prior to this.

Lauren: I know most authors write alone. I honestly don’t know how you do that because writing can be very isolating. It can be lonely. No matter who you are, you get to a point in a book where you’re like, is anyone going to read this? Is anyone going to care about this story? It’s really nice to have that other brain in there. At the very least, I can write this book for one person. If I make one person love these things that I’m writing, then I’m happy. I think there’s something really wonderful about that relationship. When you are drafting, you’re just in this little private space. Also, it’s nice to always have somebody who’s feeling everything that you’re feeling too. Even if they don’t experience it exactly the same way, you have somebody you can call who knows why you’re stressed or knows why you’re excited. They want to talk about it as much as you do because writers love to talk about their stuff. Sometimes I’m sure our significant others are like, oh, my god. That’s really nice too, is just the companionship going through it.

Zibby: That’s great. Hillary would like to know, is it a challenge to keep a consistent voice alternating writing chapters, or do you always feel in sync? Do you ever have drastically different opinions on what should happen next in your books?

Lauren: I had been writing fic, as I mentioned, for a long time. Christina, the first time she ever wrote was fan fiction. All of that to say, we really learned how to be writers together. When we’re talking about how we make it sound like one author, it’s because we learned how to write a book together. Neither of us was doing it solo before. We didn’t know what we were doing when we started out, and so we’ve learned how to do it as a pair. We’ve either learned how to mimic each other or we’ve just spent a lot of time going through to make sure that it sounds consistent. That part isn’t hard. That part is fun. People ask us a lot if we fight. I know that’s not what this question is, but that’s a very common question that we get. Do you guys fight? If you fight, what happens? The truth is, if we have different opinions about something, we usually just talk it out. Our disagreements are very rarely about the books. By the time we start writing them, we’ve been noodling on the idea for so long that we both have a general sense of what it is. I have stronger feelings than she does, generally. If she feels really strongly about it, I’m like, okay, you’re pushing back. This is a big deal. I’ll listen. It’s not really an issue.

Zibby: Have you ever disagreed — this is basically what you just said — on a plot storyline? How do you resolve any differences you have with a book?

Lauren: She would say this. This would be Christina’s answer. If there is something that we disagree on or one of us gets wrong, she’ll say it’s usually because she wasn’t paying attention or she forgot something. I wouldn’t say that’s true because she is incredibly smart and pays attention to everything. I think sometimes I’m much more detailed oriented than she is. Sometimes there are little things that we will talk about, and I get super, super, super in the weeds. She’s just not in that space. Usually if there’s a detail that I feel really strongly about, it’s just because I’ve been obsessing about it in a way that she hasn’t. We will always talk stuff out. Honestly, it’s just not a thing. We go with what’s best for the story. I think that’s the other thing that’s good about having a coauthor. We’re Christina Lauren. We’re not Christina and Lauren. There’s no Lauren ego. I want the book to be good. I don’t care who gets it to be good.

Zibby: I love that. Do you have a favorite book you’ve written?

Lauren: It’s really hard to say that because for every book that we’re writing, the one that we’re working on has to sort of be the favorite. Otherwise, readers would never fall in love with it the way that we do. My answer is usually that I’m obsessed with whatever we’re working on. I’m still really obsessed with the Fizzy book we just finished. Before that, I was really obsessed, really obsessed with Something Wilder. Something Wilder was very fun for us because we started it at the beginning of 2021. California was back on a very strict lockdown. I had kids in virtual school. My husband was working from home. I didn’t want to write a book that took place inside. I wanted to get outside and just have an adventure. It was really fun for us to be able to be like, let’s do something bonkers that nobody would expect from us. When you look at reviews, there are a lot of people who are like, this is not what I expected. That’s fine. I think if people go into it without any expectation, those are the people who really love it. They’re like, wow, I was not expecting that. That was super fun. I’m really proud of Something Wilder right now. I’m going to give that as my answer.

Zibby: For Something Wilder, too, you mentioned in your author’s note that you had done tons of research and gone to look at all these places. In the end, you’re like, but actually, then we just made it up.

Lauren: We totally did. Christina was so stressed. Christina loves doing the research part. We had hired this guide who used to take groups out. He was a location scout for movies. He would take all these people out into the desert and do these crazy trips with them and make them feel like they were going to die. Then it’s like survived it. They were amazing. He gave us all of this information. We just were like, thank you. Sometimes fiction has to take over. You have to make it interesting.

Zibby: You’re so funny. You’re like, don’t go following our path or you will die.

Lauren: You will die.

Zibby: I love that. I was like, I love this writing team so much. How can you not really enjoy starting on an expedition with a hilarious ?

Lauren: It’s meant to be funny but also for real.

Zibby: I know. That’s what’s funny about it. Desiree — I think I’m pronouncing that right, but who knows — asks, can you share a story about one of your most memorable writing moments with Christina?

Lauren: I have so many. I am going to say — I don’t know why this one popped into my head. I’m sure there are so many better ones than this. We were on a trip. We were on book tour in Texas. We had to turn in Dirty Rowdy Thing, which is the second book in the Wild Season series. We got to the hotel. We were staying at The Driskill, which is this really cool, old, haunted hotel in Texas. Is it in Austin? Dallas? Somebody help me. Anyway, we were in Texas somewhere.

Zibby: Can’t help you.

Lauren: Okay. We’re staying at The Driskill. It was amazing. They have this crazy bar. Everything’s covered in cowhide. I just remember sitting across from her. We’re both on our laptops. She’s having a Red Bull. I’m having a Red Bull. That’s our editing drink when we’re on deadline. We have this book event later. I just remember it was so much fun. I look up, and she’s reading this thing that I sent. She has this giant smile on her face. I’m reading this thing that she sent. I’m having so much fun. I just remember thinking, this is the best job.

Zibby: Awesome. Carly would like to know, did you always know what was going to happen to Terry in Something Wilder?

Lauren: Yeah. Having that happen to Terry was one of the initial ideas sparked for the turning point that changes the momentum of the story. We didn’t know who Terry was then. Initially, the very first version of the book, Lily was the city girl. She had put her life on hold to take care of her little sister after their mother died. She worked for this boss who was kind of like Nine to Five. He was a gross human. She and her group of female coworkers and this boss went on a team-building thing to Utah where they met Leo, her ex-boyfriend, now a cowboy taking these people out on trips. The boss was the one that experienced what Terry experiences. That changes everything and the momentum of the book. When we first started writing, I was like, I cannot write a woman who has put her life on hold for somebody. I cannot write a book inside. I cannot write a woman who has put her life on hold. We gender-swapped it. Then we had to figure out who Terry was. That was really fun.

Zibby: Is there any other genre other than romance that you would write a book about or in?

Lauren: We have a couple paranormal books in YA. I don’t know if they’re our strongest book, but they were fun to write. I think I would like to write a fantasy novel. I just think that kind of world-building, making something completely your own — the whole globe of it is yours and comes from your brain. I think there’s something really ambitious and wonderful about that. Writing contemporary romance, it’s really fun. It’s really hard because it’s the genre that everybody knows how it ends, so you have to still make it engrossing and exciting. There’s a challenge in fantasy that I think I’d really love.

Zibby: This is a great question from Desiree again. If you had to pick one of your books’ love interests to be your book boyfriend, who would it be?

Lauren: I will answer for Christina first. Then I will answer for myself. Christina loves a cocky, flirty boy. She just loves charismatic flirts. She would probably choose Ansel from Sweet Filthy Boy or Ethan from The Unhoneymooners. I love me a nerd. I love me a very sweet nerd, so I’m going to go with Elliot from Love and Other Words or Leo from Something Wilder.

Zibby: Those were all the questions so far.

Lauren: Those are great questions.

Zibby: Those were great questions. I know. Keep them coming, you guys. This is wonderful. Really exciting. No open questions right now. When you were getting your start writing, I know you mentioned Danielle Steel, but did you have a model for success in terms of being an author and having the career of an author? It’s not just the books. It’s that you have to manage so much else when you are a full-time author. Did you have a model for that? How did you learn to do it well? What surprised you about it? What was really hard for you to learn?

Lauren: I had a very successful science career before I published. We only left once we had a number of books out and we could support ourselves with that. I knew going in that supporting yourself as a writer is very hard to do. It should not be the plan A because making a living as a writer, it’s hard to make ends meet. Most writers have day jobs. I never had a mental model for, okay, this is what it looks like to be a full-time author because that just was never an expectation I had. Even once we started publishing, I didn’t plan to quit my job. It was almost like that decision was forced upon me. Now looking back, I’m so grateful. At the time, it was very stressful because I didn’t want to leave science. I didn’t have a model in terms of how to be a career author. I did have a model in terms of the kinds of books I wanted to write and the way I wanted to make readers feel.

The moment that I read — I had always loved to write. When it crystalized for me that I wanted to write romance, it was when I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, even though that’s a YA novel. A lot of our stuff is much steamier than that. It was just the way it made me feel, that swoon, the way your heart swoops, and the excitement. You don’t want to stop. I was like, this is what I want to do. What I found to be hard about writing was, the industry is really hard to navigate. There’s a lot of inside tricks that you don’t know if you’re coming from the outside. I don’t know how anyone did it before the internet, I really don’t, before there were websites that could tell us how to write a query letter and how to find an agent and before there were podcasts talking about how authors started, how they got started, how they pushed through hard times. What do they do when they get stuck? How do they find beta readers? There’s so many things that make the journey really challenging, but it’s so worth it too.

Zibby: When you’re not busy writing and marketing your books and doing all the stuff, what are some of the things you love to do on the side?

Lauren: I love to cook. I really love to cook. I’m trying to like to garden. I want to be better at it because I like being outside in my garden, but it’s ugly if I don’t do anything with it. My sister and Christina are both amazing gardeners, so I’m trying to learn from them. I love to travel. That was one of the things that I think was — this is a very privileged way to reframe the pandemic, but it was hard not being able to travel. I just like being with my family. My daughter is a very avid equestrian. We got her a project horse last year, which sounds very fancy. This horse needs a lot of work, but she’s very sweet. I love going down to the barn and watching my daughter ride her. It’s really fun.

Zibby: One more question popped in. Colleen Hoover has mentioned that she buys herself a new pair of socks anytime she starts a new project. Do you have any writing rituals?

Lauren: That’s actually so funny that Colleen buys herself socks. Colleen could buy herself a new car every time she writes a book. I basically clean my office between book projects. My office does not have a closet. I’m in this little alcove. My desk faces a wall that has all these drawings and stuff that make me happy when I look at them. The space that I’m in — it’s this little cove — was the closet. The whole rest of my office is just space. There’s no place to put anything. I don’t deal with stuff while I’m drafting. I just make piles over there. After I finish a book, I’m like, okay, I have to clean out my office. I make everything organized. I put it all away. I think that’s the only ritual I have.

Zibby: That counts. Maybe this is our last question. Biggest piece of advice for someone who wants to write a book.

Lauren: There’s a lot of advice to be given. It depends on who you are and the kinds of things that motivate you. The one that I would always say to anybody is if you want to write a book, you want to write it because you love writing, not because you want to be an author, not because you want to have a best-seller, not because you want to make a million dollars. You need to approach writing a book because there’s something that you want to say, whether it’s in a story or a memoir or nonfiction, that you just can’t not say. It’s not a selfish thing to write a book. It’s not about, I have some things I need to say, so I’m going to write a book. You have a story inside you. If you have a story inside you, that is enough. That is enough to get you started. Then just to remember that it is hard at a different point for everybody. Just because it feels hard at some point doesn’t mean that you’re not supposed to be doing it. You are absolutely supposed to be doing it. It is hard for all of us. Even if we have twenty-eight books done, it is still hard sometimes. You have to find a way through. Sometimes finding the way through those hard spots is just leaving it alone for a little while and writing whatever scene you’re excited to write. Make the writing fun again. Then go back to it and write it later.

Zibby: That’s a good piece of advice. I like it. Awesome. If there are no other questions, thank you so much to The Gloss for having us on this Bookcation, my favorite travel experience lately without having to go anywhere. Although, I actually am traveling. Thank you to everybody and Erin Woodward for having us.

Lauren: Yes, thank you so much for hosting. Thanks for moderating, Zibby. This was so fun. It was so nice to see you face to face finally. I’ve been following you for so long.

Zibby: Yay, I’m so glad to hear that. Thank you.

Erin Woodward: Thank you so much, ladies, for joining us. Everybody should go out and grab these books. I’ve read both of them. I’ve read Something Wilder and Bookends, both fabulous, fabulous reads. I really, really recommend them. We have a lot of people at home that will be watching this because we are a global book club, and our time zone doesn’t work for everyone. We really do appreciate your time, ladies. Thank you again so much. We’re going to do a giveaway now, but I will let you get back to your lives. We appreciate you.

Lauren: Amazing. Thank you, everybody.

Zibby: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Lauren: Bye.

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