'Beautiful Bastard' Authors Offer Sneak Peek at Long-Awaited Book (Exclusive)
The writing duo of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings discuss the print publication of the "Twilight" fan-fic hit "The Office," what makes a good sex scene and the one word that made their editor uncomfortable.
In advance of the Feb. 13 publication of Beautiful Bastard, the reworked version of the online fan-fiction hit "The Office," authors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings (writing under the pen name Christina Lauren) talked with The Hollywood Reporter about what's new in the print version, their partnership and how to write a good sex scene, among other topics.
THR also has an exclusive peek at the first chapter, which can be read here.
"The Office," which re-imagined the Edward Cullen-Bella Swan relationship as a steamy love/hate romance between a boss and his assistant, was one of the pioneers of the Twilight fan-fic genre, generating more than 2 million downloads before being taken offline by Hobbs, its original author, in 2009.
Hobbs and Billings, who met through the online fan-fic community and have been writing together since 2010, decided to revisit Hobbs' online hit last year as an adjunct to an original YA novel they were writing.
The result was Beautiful Bastard.
It's the story of the whip-smart Chloe Mills, an intern at a company who is about to earn her MBA and embark on a successful career but finds her herself caught up in a steamy love/hate relationship with her “exacting, blunt, inconsiderate” boss Bennett Ryan, who has just returned to Chicago from France to take an important role in his family's media empire.
Hobbs and Billings have the easy, winning chemistry of best friends: They finished each other's sentences, Lauren teased Christina with the nickname "PQ" (for Prom Queen), and they laughed easily as they told THR about the process of revising "The Office" for print.
"The original 'Office' was twice as long as Beautiful Bastard," says Hobbs, so the book has been considerably condensed. The biggest changes occur in the second half of the book, which Hobbs says is "all new” and improves the relationship tension and narrative pacing of the original. She promises they haven't cut out the little details beloved by fans of the original, from the destruction of a certain kind of expensive French underwear to the way the characters talk to each other.
Adds Billings, "There’s a lot of the iconic details of 'The Office' that we just could not change because we knew it would really anger the fan base." The result, she says, is a story that is at once familiar and new. Returning fans will "feel like they know the characters, but I think they’ll get a totally new view on the way they end up."
For newcomers, the pair pitch Beautiful Bastard as a fun and sexy romance. "If you’re looking for an erotica book that takes itself really seriously, this isn’t the book for you," says Billings. "The people who go into it looking for a really serious dynamic misunderstand Chloe and Bennett. They’re just meant to be over the top."
Adds Hobbs, "They have to be. You would never believe what’s going on if they weren’t so kind of hilarious and over the top."
Of course, one of the things that attracted fans to the story in the first place was the steamy sex scenes, so we asked Hobbs and Billings what makes a good sex scene.
"I think it’s a lot about the words that you choose, making it not so visceral in terms of a specific verb or noun but making it visceral in terms of the way they interact with each other, if that makes sense," says Hobbs. "So instead of using words like 'throbbing' and, you know, I don’t know, whatever all the horrible words are! It’s more about you don’t make the intensity from what their bodies are doing so much as what their minds are doing."
Billings finishes the thought: "Exactly. It’s not so much about A going into B. It’s about what’s going on in their heads. What they’re experiencing and also what they’re seeing in the other person."
The duo joke in the acknowledgments about how those erotic scenes sometimes put their male editor Adam Wilson in an awkward position, writing: "We promise we'll never use 'vulva.' "
Hobbs explains, "The copy editor suggested it. We had 'wet skin,' and she said, 'Did you mean vulva here?' And we were, 'NOOOO, we didn’t.' Adam wrote, 'If you use vulva, I quit.' And we thought, 'Oh my god, he is our people.' "
Billings jokes, "We seriously on several occasions have thought, 'Oh my word, are we ruining him?' "
But ultimately those exchanges formed a bond with Wilson that the pair found important. "Having a guy reading Bennett’s point of view and Max’s point of view, it gives us a little confidence that we’re actually describing things right," said Billings.
Beautiful Bastard goes on sale Feb. 12. A companion novel/sequel of sorts, Beautiful Stranger, focusing on Chloe's best friend, follows in May.
Read the opening chapter of Beautiful Bastard here.
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