Getting their start as fanfiction writers, author Christina Lauren (the pen name of writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) debuts today with her first published erotic romance, Beautiful Bastard. Filled with plenty of wit and humor, Beautiful Bastard tells the story of a stubborn, egotistical businessman who can't stand his young, MBA student employee, yet can't seem to get enough of her in the bedroom (or boardroom, or stairwell, or .... well, you get the idea). We asked the team about their transition to published authors, why high-profile, wealthy heroes are all the rage in erotic romance right now, the special fetish their hero and heroine share and much more.
You’re a writing duo who combined names to create one pseudonym. How did you two meet and cultivate the idea for Beautiful Bastard?
The original story, "The Office", was written [as Twilight fanfic] by tby789 (Christina). Lauren wasn’t involved until later chapters, when she came in as a beta reader. Lauren was also a fanfiction writer, who wrote more in the alternate-universe/canon world of vampires. We met through a panel Lo put together for San Diego Comic Con, and after this we decided to collaborate on a story. The collaboration was fun, well received, and made us want to write together even more.
Our original works have, to this point, been for the young adult audience. But when the opportunity to rework "The Office" came up, we decided to do it together.
“Bastard” really is the perfect word to describe businessman Bennett Ryan, but arrogant, successful erotic romance heroes seem to have an appeal. Why do you think these types of men are so popular with readers?
It likely has something to do with the idea of an arrogant, ambitious man also being capable. Women like the idea of being with someone who can get things done — in and out of the bedroom. With so much on our plates — jobs, kids, husbands, household, all kinds of life issues — there is something appealing about the fantasy of a given financial stability and a man who doesn’t need to be taken care of. Like, we can’t imagine Bennett coming down with a Man Cold.
But heroine Chloe Mills doesn’t just lay down (pardon the pun) and take verbal jabs from her boss. There’s a lot of sparring between the two. Why did you decide to create such a feisty heroine and what does her wit add to the story?
The more we edited the story, the feistier and more accomplished she became. We think that’s in part because Bennett really is a bastard, and needs someone strong to stand up to him. And, also, in part it’s because it’s who we are: we’ve taken on a lot this year and want to write about women who are self-sufficient and searching for career-life balance.
Some readers have a hard time relating to either of them because they’re such strong characters. Obviously, they’re both over the top. But what’s interesting is seeing some readers fall for Bennett and think Chloe is unreasonable, while others have the complete opposite reaction. Ultimately, the book is just meant to be a fun, wild read, and if a reader connects to one or both characters, that’s fantastic.
The two discover they share a very hot panty-ripping fetish, which causes Chloe to have to constantly replace her ruined luxury undergarments. Why did you pick this fetish for the couple, and what do you think the fetish adds to their relationship?
The two of us often joke that if a man were to rip a pair of our La Perla’s, we would kick him to the curb. Okay, actually, that’s not a joke. We would literally kick him to the curb. And the truth is, in the original fanfic, the panty-ripping kind of became it’s own thing. The readers loved it, and when we reworked the story for publication, we couldn’t possibly take out that aspect because it was synonymous with Beautiful Bastard, and had started this kind of fandom-wide panty-ripping fetish.
That said, at this point we just see it as part of the ridiculous charm of the book. Like many things about their romance, it’s over the top and fun. Panties aren’t actually that easy to rip. We imagine Bennett has very muscular hands...
The sex scenes in this book are hot and Chloe and Bennett get busy all over the place, from boardrooms to stairwells and beyond. Who are some of your favorite erotic romance writers, and what tips can you share for aspiring romance authors about writing sex scenes?
There are so many in this genre who just amaze us, but some recent favorites include Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series, Charlotte Stein (Sheltered, holy wow), Cara McKenna (Willing Victim), Maya Banks (anything!), Ruthie Knox (every word). And, to be honest, some of the best erotica we’ve ever read comes from the fanfic world. There’s something about writing fanfic; it’s secretive, and kind of hidden, and allows authors to take risks with prose and ideas that they might not do in original work (but absolutely should).
Speaking of fanfic, Beautiful Bastard originated as fan fiction and because of this you’ve received some backlash from this writer community. What are your feelings about fanfic writers selling their works to publishers?
It’s a complicated issue for many of us. Fanfiction is written for readers in a fandom, and a principal assumption is the readers are looking for more of the characters and world they love. Fanfiction is, by nature, different than original because it assumes that readers already know a lot about the characters. Because of this, and the need to separate it from the original work, fanfic can’t translate to original without significant reworking.
Beyond that, authors in fandom benefit from a community of experts, including beta editors, graphic artists, social media pros, and web designers. In a publishing house, those people are compensated for their efforts. In the fandom, that isn’t necessarily the case. For this reason, and others, it’s been a sticky issue for us.
That said, with the success of Fifty Shades, many of us realized that the model had been blown wide open, and many within the fandom wanted to see those stories succeed in the mainstream. More and more, publishing houses want books that have - in essence - been screened through a test market. Christina had been contacted for years about publishing "The Office". Given the change in the model, and the possibility of the concept being reworked by someone else, we decided that we wanted to be the ones to get the story out there. But the only way we were comfortable doing it was if we significantly improved it from the fanfiction version.
According to RT reviewer Elisa Verna, Lauren's breakout novel is "filled with plenty of hot sex and sizzling tension between boss Bennett and employee Chloe." If you're a fan of fun, sexy contemporary erotic romance, you can grab your copy of Beautiful Bastard, available in stores today. For more steamy romance visit our Everything Erotica Page.