By Rachel Epstein published
Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A; author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadWithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. In January, we're reading My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren. If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in MarieClaire.com's new interactive monthly book club here.
Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings love a good romance story. The New York Times best-selling authors have been co-writing sharp, witty romance novels together under the pen name Christina Lauren for almost a decade since meeting at a Comic-Con fanfiction panel in 2009. "We got along so well," says Hobbs. "We had so much fun that we were like, 'Why don’t we write a book together?'"
Despite living in two different states (Hobbs is in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Billings resides in Orange County, California), the friends went on to write more than 15 novels together. The partners start an in-depth outlining process together in-person, then individually write alternating chapters and upload their drafts in Dropbox to make sure their storylines align. It's been working: Their canon includes the 10-book Beautiful series, Roomies (soon to be a rom-com created by Jenna Dewan's production company, Everheart Productions), and their latest, My Favorite Half-Night Stand—a hilarious yet completely realistic recounting of a UC Santa Barbara professor's experience when she swipes right to find a date for the university's black tie gala and winds up in a less-than-ideal situation.
Here, Hobbs and Billings share a thing or two they've learned about online dating throughout their writing process, and the universal reality of being strong, feminine, and independent...and still emotionally kind of a mess sometimes.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write My Favorite Half-Night Stand?
Lauren Billings: We really like writing about groups of friends, and I think the characters kind of came to us first. A lot of them are single and in their late twenties or early thirties. We had never really written a story that had anything to do with online dating, which felt a little bit like we were ignoring a huge part of reality. Both Christina and I met our husbands a long time ago, and online dating wasn’t so much a thing back then. I mean, certainly it was there, but nothing like it is now. So we had to do a lot of research, and we got really excited about the idea of writing about a modern relationship.
We asked our Facebook group friends to fill out a questionnaire and give any input on online dating, and we got a ton of responses—some really great stories. It was really fun getting to know our readers a little more and understand what really goes on out there—the good and the bad.
One thing I noticed when I was reading through the answers was everybody has to go through the communication process at their own pace. Some people are really comfortable sharing a lot of information up front and they’ll be the first person to talk about their day, and some people need a lot more time interacting before they’re comfortable doing that. I feel like there’s somebody that might match with that level of caution, no matter who you are, so don’t let the apps make you feel pressured to totally get out of your comfort zone. It needs to fit you and your needs.
MC: Why should people read this book?
LB: These characters in My Favorite Half-Night Stand are a group of people who, for all intents and purposes, should be able to meet somebody easily. They are a faculty at a big university, they have a large group of colleagues, and yet...they’re still single. That's a very real thing for people in their late twenties, and especially for people in their thirties.
People are meeting online, they’re communicating with people they’ve never seen before, and in some ways that’s really lovely because it allows you to have a vulnerability that you might not have. But it also means that you can show what you want to show. And sometimes you might think you know the person, but you don’t actually know them at all. It's an interesting problem we’re facing in this world right now.
MC: If you could be one character in the book, who would you be?
LB: I would want to be an Alex, but I am definitely a Chris.
Christina Hobbs: Ed is super fun. When we were writing, I was also finding a lot of things in common with Millie that I didn’t really want to have in common with her. I was like, this is a little too real sometimes. When we’re reading books, we expect women to have their shit together. Of course, we want them to be strong, feminine, and independent, but you can still be all of those things and emotionally kind of a mess. That's Millie. She has a lot of work to do. It's been really nice for readers to say, it felt really good to be seen and know I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
MC: Who would play the main characters in a movie? Cast your protagonist and antagonist.
LB: Christina and I might have different opinions, but I’m going to say Matthew Goode would play Reid and Emma Stone would play Millie.
CH: I don’t even know. It’s so weird, like, when we’re writing, I know who the character is, but they’re sort of faceless to me. Sometimes Lo and I will point out certain models so we’re on the same page about what they look like, but I don’t know if I can pick anyone.
MC: What's currently on your nightstand?
LB: I have an enormous stack of books that I cannot wait to dive into during the holidays. I don’t know where I’m going to start, but I just finished The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, which comes out in May 2019. It’s awesome.
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Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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