The fabulous duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, better known as Christina Lauren, have had quite the meteoric rise from their early days writing fan fiction. They are the authors of the NY Times Bestselling Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, they recently published their first stand-alone romance Dating You / Hating You, and will soon publish Autoboyography, which is already receiving a lot of hype.
They are also rather awesome people and I’m super psyched to have them for an interview.
Nathan: Let’s cut to the chase. How did you two decide to start writing together?
Christina Lauren: We met in 2009, while both of us were writing fanfiction! Christina had a popular fic at the time, and Lo organized a panel for San Diego Comic Con on Fanfic and Fan art, and invited Christina out. We hit it off, and decided to write a short fic together. That process was so fun, we said – hey, let’s write a book.
Little did we know it wasn’t nearly that easy…
How do you actually go about the mechanics of co-writing? How do you find a way to complement each other?
Early on, when we were just getting started, we split things 50/50 for every project. We would outline together, and because most of our books are alternating POV, it was easy to split the drafting workload so that we each took a character. But—wonderfully—our books sold well, and our schedule got busier, which meant that sometimes we had a book to draft, one to edit, another to read pass pages for, and another one to promote on our socials.
We had to learn to be fluid in our process. So now, we tackle whatever is in front of us. One of us might be doing revisions on a project while the other begins drafting a new book, then we trade. It just depends on what we have on our plate, but it’s fair to say that by the time a book comes out, we’ve both had our hands in it equally.
You started in the world of fandom, which is, well, an interesting place to be to say the least. What did you learn from that world that you’re now applying to your books?
We learned very quickly that having our roots in fandom was very good for us—we call it Fandom Bootcamp. Not only did we meet a wonderful community of other writers, and find our voice as romance authors, but we learned to not be precious about criticism. People don’t mince words online, and when you post fic—especially when you’re first starting, and are writing something ridiculous, assuming no one will ever read it—readers are blunt about how much you’re doing wrong. Dialogue tags? Coming in and out of tenses? Using words incorrectly? Too much exposition? It’s trial by fire in the reviews, and early on we developed a thick skin about it.
But it also helps that we came from the Twilight fandom where everyone was, to some extent, a bit bewildered about how we ended up there. We were an enormous collection of educated women, with careers and families and lives outside of this strange obsession, and somehow we got swept up writing fic about teenage vampires. In that way, it was hard to take ourselves too seriously or to have an ego about anything. That’s been a good thing for us as we’ve moved into publishing. We never forget that we started doing this for the pure joy of it.
So much is demanded of authors these days, especially in a world where the conventional wisdom is that genre novels need to be cranked out at a fast clip to maximize revenue. And then on top of that there are demands for marketing and tours and five million other things. How do you keep up?
It helps that there are two of us; as we mentioned, one of us can focus on organizing the promo while the other is editing, or drafting. The fact that we draft quickly helps, too.
But even so, we have had to work to find balance. When Beautiful Bastard came out in 2013—and five books followed it that same year—every experience was still new and exciting. In hindsight 2012-2015 is a total blur. We said yes to every opportunity—every interview, every signing, every blurb, every blog post. But it meant that some nights we got no sleep, and eventually we weren’t taking very good care of ourselves.
Over time we’ve learned what we can manage, and what we can’t, but it’s true that for a new author starting out, the temptation is to say yes to every opportunity. It’s natural to do that until you find your own rhythm and balance, but if you know your limits right away, good on you. It took us a bit longer to figure out that it really is okay to say no to things. The most important thing is to write the best book we can.
This year marks a bit of a transition time, if I can call it that, where you’re publishing your first standalone romance as well as a YA novel about two boys falling in love. What’s it like to change gears when you have a pretty rabid pre-existing fan base?
The wonderful thing about working with our agent Holly Root and our editors at Simon and Schuster is that we’ve been able to write whatever story our hearts and brains want to tell. We realize how lucky we are to have never heard, No, that’s not on-brand for you. Dating You / Hating You is our first standalone romance, and it was really fun to not be constricted by existing locations, characters, and expectations. It’s a femme-power, sexy romp, and we had a blast writing it.
Autoboyography is an even better example of the flexibility we’ve had: it’s a story that has been living inside of us for years, and in early 2016, it finally took shape in our heads with 18-19 year old protagonists. S&S read the proposal and trusted us to make it the book we’d pitched.
It’s true that most of our readers are adult romance fans, and want to read the steamier romance from us. But we have a good proportion who come along for whatever we’re doing—and we are so grateful. To us, Autoboyography is more standalone fiction than it is specifically YA. We think it will resonate very deeply with our romance readers as well as with teens.
What advice would you give to an author who is trying to take their writing to the next level?
There are so many resources we’ve turned to in our own writing career, and one of the reasons we’re so honored to be doing an interview here is that your site has been the most useful resource we’ve ever encountered. So, simply put, we’d encourage writers to scour your posts and trust your advice—it’s served us and others well.
But on a more personal level? We have two bits of advice we share often:
- Run your own race. Don’t worry about what anyone else is writing, how fast they write, how clean their draft is, how many followers they have, or who’s publishing them. It’s true that comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s also an unnecessary stress-creator. Who needs that? Certainly not you, while you’re trying to write your book. Write your book, get feedback, make it better.
- Tell the story you’re obsessed with. It’s more than the adage Don’t write to a trend—it’s bigger than that. Write the book that keeps you up at night, banging at the door to be let out.
Anything else you’d like to say? The floor is yours!
Well . . . we want to thank you! So many people come to your site for information, but we wonder how many of those people know what a truly awesome person you are, and what a deep advocate you continue to be for authors. You’ve been a steady source of information, reassurance, and advice to us for the past decade, and to be here talking about our books still feels surreal. So, thank you for inviting us to do this Q&A, and thank you for a million ways that you’ve been a resource and champion for writers!
I’m blushing, thanks guys!!
Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of longtime writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the New York Times, USA TODAY, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beautiful and Wild Seasons series, Dating You/ Hating You, Sublime, The House, and the upcoming Autoboyography and Roomies.