Are you ready for some royal awesomeness? I'm not sure which is better, the book itself which I'm going to try to describe, the interview with the ladies who wrote it, or the chance to win a copy or two of your own!
Published: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 1455557102 / 978145555710
American Bex Porter was never one for fairy-tales. Her twin sister Lacey was always the romantic, the one who daydreamed of being a princess. But it's adventure-seeking Bex who goes to Oxford and meets dreamy Nick across the hall-and thus Bex who accidentally finds herself in love with the heir to the British throne. Nick is everything she could have imagined, but comes with unimaginable baggage: a thorny family, hysterical tabloids tracking his every move, and a public that expected its future king to marry a Brit. On the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex looks back on how much she's had to give up for true love... and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break.
Q&A with the authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
1. What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
JESSICA: Lots! We wanted to create our own world -- a very slightly alternate universe -- but we didn't want to get facts incorrect, either, and, most of all, we wanted that world to feel real. In January of 2014, we went to England on a research trip and tromped around Oxford, visited Buckingham Palace, and walked around the London neighborhoods that Bex would have lived in. And we read a lot of books -- both books about the current royal family, and ones like Kate Fox's WATCHING THE ENGLISH, which is a sociological take on British social customs, and a variety of etiquette books. The royals coverage in People magazine was inestimably helpful, and The Daily Mail, which is a bit of a villain in the book, was a hero to us in terms of logistical information. I wouldn't necessarily take the Mail's coverage of people's relationships as fact, but if you need information about, say, where Person X sat in Westminster Abbey when Wills and Kate got married, or what they did the night before wedding, The Mail is there for you. We both spent a lot of time looking up extinct titles and the proper use of fish forks and how to curtsey correctly, and all manner of tiny details. A British friend of ours read the book to check that our British characters didn't accidentally sound too American. We had a lot of research balls in the air. But then eventually there comes a point where you have to trust that you know that information and just write the book itself and hope the world-building feels real and right in the background.
HEATHER: There are some things we wrote off to artistic license. Like, our princes call the Queen "Gran," and not "Granny," or "Grandmother." We liked how Gran sounded, even though our source told us that was not a likely nickname from people so posh. The book is sold in the U.S. and Canada, and I think in those countries the word "Granny" sometimes connotes something different and LESS posh than it does overseas. It took me out if it whenever Nick called Eleanor "Granny," so we said, what the heck, "Gran" it is. We also had research help from my sister in creating our dynasty, and making sure our alternate timeline made sense with the existing British history on which we based it. That was probably the most work -- just getting names, and dates, and potential spouses that are partially realistic, and then of course having to ensure everyone's birthdays made them the appropriate age to marry and have children in particular eras. So much of that is work you don't really see in the book itself, but it had to be done so that the universe was completely real to us. The temptation is to make up wild stories about old relatives, without actually paying attention to WHEN those ancestors could logistically have existed, and having a family tree in place keeps that in check.
2. How did you come up with the idea for this novel? Are you both big fans of the royal family?
HEATHER: I don't know if I would call myself a fan, per se, although they ARE a spectator sport in a lot of ways. I don't think I have blinders on where they are concerned. I know what I HOPE to be true about them, I can see the warts and cracks in the veneer, I'm not deluded... but I root for them, because the UK is really important to me, and I think everyone wants their nation's public figures to represent with dignity and grace and the right touch of humor. The royals are inseparable from Britain for me. My father was British and I'm a dual citizen of the US and UK, so I grew up in the middle of Charles and Diana, and Andrew and Fergie, and they were always celebrities in my eyes -- and then as I got older, like characters in a really dishy and occasionally sad soap opera. I remember so well when William was a kid, and when Harry was born, and how those two were raised -- and then seeing them walk with their mother's coffin to her funeral, which I think made an entire generation or two of people the world over feel VERY protective of those boys and want them to be happy and healthy and whole. That indelible image is, I think, a huge part of what has ignited the frenzy about them now. Quite apart from considering oneself a "fan" of the royal family, people just want the best for them. That's also relevant to the book's origins, actually. We were interviewing potential new agents, and got into a long discussion about Kate Middleton with a woman named Brettne Bloom with whom we'd eventually be lucky enough to sign. We were digging into what a surreal experience this must be for Kate Middleton, and how her private life is probably so different than any of us imagine, and what it must have cost her to live the public life that she now does. And Brettne basically was like, "That's a book that needs to be written. Someone has to write it," and Jess and I effectively raised our hands and started salivating.The gaps in public and private life for royal family members seem like they must be larger than with a lot of other people. Being a movie star with a clean image is one thing, but being the sovereign of a nation and all that entails... that is a whole other kind of facade.
3. What was the hardest scene to write? The most effortless? (If you can tell us without spoilers, of course . . .)
JESSICA: I think endings and beginnings are always the most difficult part. You want to nail them both -- on one end, you want to grab the reader and draw them in, and on the other, you want to make the reader's final moments with the book as satisfying and as perfect as you possibly can. I don't think there is, for me, one overall scene that sticks out as being particularly difficult. But the book was originally 800 pages long, so in many ways, I think for us, the real challenge was to take this sprawling, epic story and make it manageable.
HEATHER: I really, really, really love writing crescendoing arguments, building to that final twist of the knife. The mic-drop moment, if you like. Whenever I'm driving alone in my car, my mind wanders to various potential annoying situations that are only even like 15 percent likely to happen, and boom, I have a whole mental argument with a person about it. I think it's because I loved soap operas growing up, so I'm a fairly melodramatic person in my own mind. The flip side of it is, you have to make sure those scenes don't drag on for fifteen pages. You have to pace it. Balance the melodrama.
4. What are the differences in writing Young Adult fiction, as you’ve done in the past, and a novel for adults? Did anything surprise you along the way?
HEATHER: There actually weren't too many differences. Young Adult books are, to me, classified that way chiefly because of the age of the protagonist. They deal with mature themes, and use wonderful, intelligent language -- I mean, if you try and dumb down your writing just because it's for teenagers, they can tell, and they quite rightly will not care for it -- and are often just as rewarding for adults as for teens. It shouldn't be dismissed as fluff, just as I don't think the word "" should be considered indicative of fluff. There are a lot of books about women that fall under that umbrella which are fantastically written, and worthwhile, and shouldn't be cast aside just because people don't think the subject matter is heavy enough to count as Real Serious Fiction. Ditto with YA. So we didn't pay much attention to what our genre was technically going to be. We just approached The Royal We the same way we did Spoiled: fleshed out our characters, tried to make sure they acted believably and that their emotions were clear, tried to root the humor and the parody in real heart. And yeah, when you have older characters, they might behave differently or reference the world differently than a teen protagonist might. But once you've done the character work, that stuff should flow naturally anyway. We do have more sex in this book, and a bit more language, but that wasn't because of a genre change; it was just because that didn't seem right for the Spoiled and Messy universe, but it did feel organic to this story.
5. Are you two planning to write another book soon? Would you ever think about writing a sequel?
JESSICA: We are absolutely going to write another book soon, although we haven't quite figured out what yet. I think we're still crawling out of our fictional Great Britain, since we lived there for over a year. As far as a sequel goes, we'd never rule anything out!
HEATHER: It's always the dream that people will love a book enough that they cry out for a continuation. My personal feeling is that we want these characters to live a bit more of their lives first, so that we have room to develop them as richly as possible. But definitely be fun to dive in with them again someday. We have other ideas in the works too, percolating away, but we did also want to devote our full attention to this one for a bit. I know people do concurrent projects all the time, but juggling the website and the book in 2014 knocked us flat. So unless anyone wants me to write a book about two authors who jacked up their backs and their knees and never left the house, I think I need a quick break for a creative refresh. Besides, I want enjoy the feeling of holding this baby that we spent so much time conceiving. Babies need cuddling.
I've always loved reading about women who've captured the interest of unusual men. There's nothing more out of the ordinary than the love story of someone who is the heir to a monarchy; they deal with a host of great burdens. Yet, they're still human and prone to all the foibles that come with that condition regardless of whose blood is flowing in their veins. The Royal We caught my attention for that very reason. I thought it'd be a funny and romantic tale, but it turned out to be thoughtful and insightful as well.
Bex Porter wasn't looking to land a prince, but she was looking for an adventure all her own when she left her twin and home behind for England. She was a wonderful character. She was down to Earth, friendly, funny, and a tomboy. She wasn't big on celebrities or fashion, but she was kind and caring. She was loyal to her friends and occasionally made mistakes, which we all do. I loved her first meeting with Prince Nicholas. It was irreverent and funny, especially since she didn't know who he was.
Prince Nicholas or Nick as he was known to his friends, was an interesting character. I liked him for the most part. There were moments when I wished he would have behaved differently, but then again Bex made some mistakes that ended up being costly as well, so I couldn't fault him too much. I think the fact this story was told from Bex's point of view made me much more sympathetic to her. Nick was able to retain most of his air of mystery.
I really liked how the book was laid out. When I first started reading I was a little worried about how Bex was going to handle whatever it was that was causing her such fear and panic. I immediately started guessing, but when I turned the page and Bex started from the beginning, I relaxed and settled in for the story. The tale might be fictional, but it has a realistic feel to it. It wasn't just the highs Bex faced, but the lows as well. I don't know if I'd be able to handle the pressure she felt from all sides, not just the royal family, but the press, and populace too. Bex also had to let go of great parts of what made her who she was and also the person Nick fell for, in order to be with him. That's a huge sacrifice and I liked that she didn't take it lightly.
The book was funny, romantic, sad, and just plain entertaining. You had characters like Lacey, Bex's sister who I sometimes wanted to hug and/or strangle. Freddie, Nick's brother was a surprise. He might have been seen by the public and his family as a devil-may-care lothario, but he really surprised me with his hidden depths. And I loved Bex and Lacey's parents. Those two were not only a wonderful couple, but the love and support they gave their children was immense. I admired them for that. Then you people like Richard, Nick and Freddie's father, and as much as I wanted him to be evil, and he could be, he had a side to him that was unexpected as well. All of the characters were well developed and complex. You never knew how they were going to surprise you.
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan have done a fantastic job at writing this story. It felt like I was reading a fairytale, which I love, but with all the ugly bits that are usually hidden or glossed over. There was none of that, and for that reason, The Royal We really stands out. I do hope the ladies aren't done writing about Nick and Bex yet, or if they are, perhaps they might move their attentions to Freddie, and if that's not on the cards, I can't wait to see what and who they write about next.
*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for them in any manner.*
About The Authors:
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are the creators of the Internet’s wittiest celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Youself, which draws millions of readers and made Entertainment Weekly’s Must List and The Guardian’s list of 50 Most Powerful Blogs. They are the authors of two young adult fiction novels, Spoiled and Messy, and have written for publications ranging from New York Magazine’s web site to VanityFair.com to Grazia UK. They both reside in Los Angeles.
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