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Bestselling Author Duo Christina Lauren Talk About Their New Book ‘Tangled Up In You’ + How They Sold Their First Romance Novel in 12 Hours

With more than 20 bestselling novels published in over 30 languages, Christina Lauren is a bonafide New York Times bestselling international author. The fun plot twist? Christina Lauren is actually the combined pen name of romance writing duo and best friends Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Before they became storytellers, Billings received a Ph.D. in neuroscience and Hobbs spent her days in a junior high office counseling teens. Since 2009, the two have penned dozens of bestselling novels including The Unhoneymooners, Love And Other Words and Beautiful Bastard. Known for their romantic swoon-worthy plots and chemistry-filled scenes, their popularity reaches beyond bestseller lists into #BookTok and beyond. (Right now, Christina Lauren yields 13.1 million posts on TikTok and 140,000 posts and counting on Instagram!) Their latest novel, Tangled Up In You, out now, is a retelling of their favorite Disney movie — and it’s something they’ve always dreamed of writing. Here, we caught up with the beloved author duo to discuss their new book, how they met and why they feel ‘protective’ of the romance genre at large. Keep reading to find out more about Christina Lauren’s new book!

Tangled Up In You by Christina Lauren is a modern retelling of the Disney film Tangled — which is a Rapunzel-inspired tale. The story follows Ren Gylden, who grew up sheltered with no technology. She finally gets her first taste of freedom when she attends her dream school, Corona College. She soon meets the handsome Fitz, who has his whole life planned out ahead of him. But an assignment in their immunology seminar leads to the pair taking an unexpected road trip — and a big leap of faith.

tangled up in you book cover: new christina lauren book
Hyperion Avenue

First for Women: How did you two meet and become authors? What inspired you to write romance?

Christina Lauren: We actually met while writing fanfiction. We were both reading each other’s stories, emailing and talking back and forth on Twitter in 2009. And then Lo (Lauren) was putting on a panel at San Diego Comic Con and I had a popular story out at that time so she invited me to be on the panel! It was the first time we met in person and we got along really well. So well, in fact, that we were like “Hey, do you want to write something together?”

As soon as we started writing things we wanted to read and we let go of these expectations about what authors should be like, we wrote a Young Adult (YA) book that we found delightful. It took a couple years to find an agent and then sell a book, but here we are.

FFW: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience writing and selling your first book?

CL: Well, the first book we wrote was a YA novel. We were reading a lot of YA at the time — authors like Steph Perkins, Laini Taylor and Jandy Nelson. We just loved swoony books. While we were waiting for it to be published, Christina had this really popular fanfiction, and she had taken it offline. Then we heard through the publishing grapevine that somebody tried to publish her fanfiction as their own book because it wasn’t attached to her legal name. It was just a pen name. So our agent said, ‘Why don’t you both edit it so that you’re comfortable just posting it online with your name.’ Then once we spent time editing it, we realized it wasn’t very similar to the original fanfiction at all. So our agent was like ‘This is great. Can I show it to a few agents and a few editors?’ We said ‘sure’ — and then the book sold in 12 hours. We had been on submission with our YA novel for about six months and the romance sold immediately. (Their first novel was Beautiful Bastard.)

FFW: Where do you find inspiration for each novel?

CL: We both have ideas. I’ll just text Lauren in the morning and be like, ‘Hey, I have this idea’ and we’ll make a note of it. We get ideas from everywhere. Sometimes a movie sparks an idea and sometimes it’s moments you see in real life. One time Lauren and I were in London in a car and we were sitting in traffic and I was like, ‘Hey, look at that outside’ and there was this girl walking with this boy that had a cello on his back and he was walking backward while talking to this girl. And you just find yourself wondering what their story is. So we really get ideas from everything.

FFW: We love retellings — and it feels like they are very big right now! What drew you to the idea of writing this retelling?

CL: We’ve always loved Tangled, which is a Rapunzel retelling. So we told our agent if something ever comes across their desk from Disney, where they want some sort of Tangled tie-in or a retelling, just call us first. Then, a couple years later, she calls and says ‘Hey, guess what? Disney is doing this Meant To Be book series and they want you to write the Tangled one.’

We were so excited. It took a little while for us to land on the right way to do the retelling, but once we started, it was just so fun. It was like writing the book we wanted to read — which is always the advice we give people when they’re starting out. We always say, ‘write the book you want to read. Write what you’re not finding on the shelf.’ So it was sort of perfect because our roots are from fandom and this was a little bit like writing corporate-approved fanfiction.

FFW: Why do you think romance readers — or readers in general — enjoy retellings so much?

CL: I think we all love retellings because most of us were raised on these stories. We grew up with Snow White and Cinderella and my daughter’s growing up with Tangled, Frozen and Moana. These stories have so many universal lessons and relatable plots.

For romance readers in particular, we really love our tropes and our familiar stories. I mean, think about how many Pride and Prejudice retellings there are! This was really fun because I definitely think you could feel the connections to Tangled in Tangled Up In You, only our retelling is contemporary.

FFW: We know you are both huge Disney fans! How did that impact the outlining and writing process for this story?

CL: Definitely! Like we said, Tangled is one of our favorite movies and one of our favorite things to do is go to Disneyland or Disney World. We’ve even outlined books together while waiting in line at Disney. It’s just this place where you can go and be silly. There’s this magic there. So writing this was extra special and fun.

Lauren Billings with a copy of 'Tangled up in You' new christina lauren book

FFW: Do you have any routines or rituals surrounding writing a novel? We’d love to hear a little bit about your process.

CL: We always outline together because we always write the books together. We want to make sure we’re in the same room bantering around the idea — it’s just more fun to do it that way. But I live in California and she lives in Utah, so then afterward we go to our respective homes to write.

Honestly, our process is sort of no process. Over time we’ve learned that every book is going to turn out to be a Christina Lauren book, whether one of us drafts and the other edits, whether we write alternating chapters or whether we each take a character and each write one point of view. Any way that a book can be co-written, we’ve done it at this point!

FFW: What are one or two things you would like readers to take away from Tangled Up In You? What do you love about the characters of Ren and Fitz?

CL: I’m so struck by how much I love Ren’s wide-eyed optimism. These two people — Ren and Fitz — are sort of damaged in totally different ways, but they heal each other.

Their dynamic works because they’re young and Ren is so optimistic and everything is new to her. She looks at everything like an adventure and the chance to have an experience. But Fitz looks at everything suspiciously. He’s constantly wrapping himself in things to protect himself. So he teaches her that the world is bigger and she teaches him that sometimes it’s worth it to be vulnerable and possibly get hurt. And I don’t think that’s something I thought we would get as we were writing it. But during this book tour, I was listening to it and I found my face hurting because of how much I was smiling. It is exactly the book I want to read.

Christina Lauren on their book tour
Christina Lauren on their book tour@christinalauren/Instagram

FFW: What sets Ren and Fitz apart from other couples you’ve written? What do you think readers will love most about them?

CL: Ren certainly has an innocence that we’ve never written before and it took a little bit of work to get her to sound like a 20-something, but also very naive. We didn’t want to infantilize her or make her feel too young to be in a romance novel. We wanted to find a balance between everything in the world feeling new to her mixed with her innate wisdom. So that was really fun to create her in that way. It was also really great writing a male character like Fitz who’s protective of himself and weary of the world but is also just completely smitten with her.

FFW: Okay we always love to ask…what romances are you reading and loving lately?

Lauren: I mean, we love Nikki Payne‘s books — she has actually a Jane Austen retelling series called Pride and Protest — but she just has the most vibrant amazing voice.

Christina: I’m currently reading Not Another Love Song by Julie Soto. I don’t usually gravitate to books about very specific musicians, but she does it so well that I’m so engrossed in it. Lauren and I always joke and say that we love ‘competence porn,’ which is when somebody writes about something and you can tell they really know what they’re talking about. I’m loving this book so far.

FFW: What do you want people to know about the romance genre? Or, why do you think this genre is so important to readers?

CL: I think one thing most people are surprised to hear is that romance is about 65% of all fiction sales. The next highest selling genre is thriller, and I think it’s nearly half of what romance does in sales every year. And that’s impressive!

People don’t always realize how much economic power the romance genre has. And when you think about that in terms of it being primarily an audience of women who are celebrating the building of community, female joy and pleasure, I think that’s a really powerful economic statement. As a society we have traditionally put a lot of emphasis on stories of war, struggle, overcoming adversity and pain, and we see those somehow as more intellectually valuable than stories of joy and unity. And I think that’s something we want to make sure we’re talking about. Why are we giving more intellectual weight to stories of suffering when stories of joy and celebration and community are just as valuable?

Sometimes there’s this discussion where people will be like ‘Oh, romance doesn’t have to have a happily ever after.’ And we are like, ‘No it does. I mean, yeah, it can be fluffy and fun and silly, but the reasons we can tackle so many serious life subjects within romance is because we do all this — we show the reader we can do hard things, while also promising the reader they’re going to be safe in their happily ever after. It’s hopeful. So we’re really protective of that aspect in this genre. We have this unwritten contract with readers that we may take you down these roads, but we are always going to get you to this safe place.

FFW: Last but not least, any plans yet for what you’re working on next? Anything you can share—even if it’s a hint?!

CL: We’re currently working on the revisions for our 2025 book. It’s more similar to Love In Other Words. It’s like a childhood rivals to lovers to strangers to lovers again book, but that’s all we can say for now!

Check out Christina Lauren’s latest book Tangled Up In You, available now.

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