The women behind Christina Lauren talk Love and Other Words


Celebrating their 20th published book together, the women behind the name Christina Lauren gave some insights into Love and Other Words.

New books arrive every Tuesday, and this Tuesday happens to mark the 20th book published under the name of Christina Lauren. It’s no secret, though, that this author is actually two authors: Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Both of them, however, jumped on a call with yours truly to talk about Love and Other Words.

Their experience lies more in YA and romance, while Love and Other Words is very clearly classified as women’s fiction. However, they wanted to emphasize that yes, this book has a happily ever after, so their romance readers shouldn’t worry.

“We came up with this story a long time ago,” Billings said, revealing that it started as a YA novel before they realized it would work better as women’s fiction and not just romance. “We knew we wanted there to be a happy ever after, because that’s just who we are […] but [writing women’s fiction] allowed us to focus a little bit more on Macy’s journey.”

That decision also influenced the multiple eras of time that appear through the book, divided generally into “then” and “now.”

“It felt like Macy’s story and her kind of origin story, if you will […] it was important to tell it from the perspective of a 13-year-old,” Billings explained. “You can’t really have the ‘now’ version without the ‘then.'” Hobbes also pointed out that “the timelines almost line up” in terms of what’ll pop up in one era, then arrive in the next.

One thing that comes into play in both eras is Macy’s mother’s list of rules and suggestions for her dad to follow when she was gone. Some of that is from real life. “There’s one thing on the list,” Billings said, referring to a line about Macy’s allowance, “that is a Christina. I totally remember Christina writing the line.” Both women spoke about their lives — and, in Hobbs’ case, her mother’s life as well  — providing some influence into what went on to this very key list. That doesn’t always work with the stories they write, but a lot of emotional qualities or personalities they encounter do come into what they create. “It won’t feel grounded to us” otherwise, Billings said.

However, that doesn’t mean that Elliot, the male lead, is left out in the cold when it comes to emotional relationships outside of the one he shares with Macy. His family also appears in the story, with his brother’s wedding anchoring the story.

“I think we wanted both of them,” Billings said, “to be loved outside of their connection to each other, so you could see that their connection […] was genuinely something special between the two of them.” Moreover, the two had the opportunity to contrast Macy’s smaller family with Elliot’s larger one, one they admitted they enjoyed.

The two main characters love to read, though, and that’s one place where the two of them had quite a bit of fun. For example, Ivanhoe came up because Hobbs “absolutely cannot” read it, saying she usually “[falls] asleep by page 3.” However, others, like Pay it Forward, appeared due to their content, as she called it “really sweet.” Finally, Macy’s enjoyment of Nicholas Sparks and showing Elliot there’s value to be had in modern fiction was also very much on purpose.

There’s a lot that goes into the process of creation of any book. How do two people come up with 20 books — and do it together?

“We are adaptable,” Hobbs said, comparing it to a marriage. However, they do have different ways of working. For example, Hobbs doesn’t usually listen to music while she writes. Billings picks certain songs and artists to develop moods for books — usually about “three or four songs, and I just play it on loop,” she explained.

“It’s mostly kind of mellower indie rock that I can listen to over and over again but isn’t obtrusive in any way.” She couldn’t remember exactly which songs worked for Love and Other Words, but she did name-check Lumineers, Vance Joy and Future Islands as artists.

What they do share, though, is some fandom. They started as fanfiction writers and met in the Twilight fandom — and yes, they referenced a certain other author who started out in Twilight. However, Billings worked in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias and The Hunger Games fandoms, while Hobbs “dabbled” in Harry Potter fic.

But enough of the past. What does the future hold for these two? There are two more Christina Lauren titles arriving this year: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating in September, and My Favorite Half-Night Stand in December.

“We’re already working on the stuff that comes out next year,” Hobbs said.

Yours truly simply said that it was “scary, but impressive.”

Next: Grey Sister, reviewed

Fortunately, Love and Other Words is not scary — and neither was talking to these two authors!