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Christina Hobbs (left) and Lauren Billings (right)Brystan Studios/Lori Brystan

Two best friends, 32 books, 6 million copies: Inside the world of Christina Lauren

The women behind the romance novel empire open up about what keeps their 15-year partnership going.

Most of us are happy to leave group projects behind in high school – but not Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Better known by their pen name Christina Lauren, the duo has turned their creative partnership into a romance novel empire.

“There are still people who are surprised when they find out there’s two of us,” Billings tells on a sunny spring day in New York City.

After writing over 30 books, including their latest “The Paradise Problem,” out May 12, and selling millions of copies, their success is undeniable.

And their partnership, it seems, is unstoppable. Despite living in separate states, which they say is one of the biggest challenges of their working relationship, the two stay in constant contact.

“When we hit a point where we’re stuck, or we aren’t sure what to do next, or we just feel overwhelmed with deadlines, we can’t just get together and like, go out to lunch and talk about it,” Billings says.

Billings lives in California and Hobbs is in Utah — so how do they make it work?

“It takes a very specific mix of personalities,” Hobbs says. Billings describes herself as “very intense and organized and neurotic,” which she says complements Hobbs' laidback and easy-going demeanor. That’s not to say that one half of the bestselling duo is more dedicated than the other.

“She works her butt off,” Billings emphasizes.

Love at first sight

There are a number of reasons why the unit that is Christina Lauren works so well, but it starts from square one.

“We both came in at the exact same level of like, just idiocy,” Billings jokes. 

The two met at a ComicCon convention held in San Diego, California in 2009. They had been writing Twilight fan-fiction online and connected immediately. Billings, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and Hobbs, who was working as a junior high school counselor, decided to try their hand at writing a book together.

“When we started writing the book, we were figuring out not only who the other person was, and what our relationship was, but also we were learning how to write a book. And so there was sort of this immediate trust because we were both a little naive and bumbling,” says Billings.

Their first attempt, a young adult paranormal thriller, has never seen the light of day, but it led them to write their “Beautiful” series, featuring 10 novels that started as as a "Twilight" fanfic.

In February 2013, their first book, an erotic romance novel titled “Beautiful Bastard,” was published, followed by the first five sequel novels which were released between May and November of that same year.

"Beautiful Bastards" book cover.
The cover of "Beautiful Bastard" by Christina LaurenAmazon

“It was bonkers. We really just wanted to write and do what we were doing. We had no plans to leave our jobs. It just got to the point where we weren’t really doing anything perfectly anymore,” Billings adds. 

“We don’t remember that year,” Hobbs adds.

It would be easy to call Billings and Hobbs an overnight success. After all, they published six books in one year. But they estimate that they queried about 40 literary agents before signing with Holly Root, owner of Root Literary, who also represents bestselling authors Jasmine Guillory and Rachel Hawkins.

“It was very stressful. It took about 10 months, but in the end, it was so worth the work that we put in,” Billings says.

Although hindsight might make the answer obvious, Billings and Hobbs say that they had to deliberate over whether or not to leave their full-time jobs to pursue writing.

But we all know how the next chapter unfolded. Christina Lauren went on to publish 19 New York Times bestselling novels including “The Unhoneymooners,” “Autoboyography,” “Love and Other Words” and “The True Love Experiment,” and have sold over six million copies of their beach read-friendly books worldwide.

"We loved it, but we had no idea that it would end up doing as well as it did," says Billings.

They've been together for the peaks and valleys of their career, which they say makes their success all the more rewarding.

“There’s always somebody to celebrate with. We always have somebody to talk to. Those moments at a signing, I just think how lucky we are — we get to travel with our best friend and do this with our best friend,” Hobbs says.

Finding their happily ever after

Their process has evolved since they started writing together.

At first, Billings and Hobbs wrote from alternating viewpoints. After all, it seems like the obvious way that two authors would tackle writing one romance novel. But they soon found that each writer sticking to one character didn’t work. 

“We learned over time that we couldn’t be so rigid,” says Billings.

It took understanding each other’s strengths to find the best way forward. Today, Billings tends to write the first draft and Hobbs prefers to revise them. By the time it's finished, their voices become one.

“I’m a very, very slow drafter and second guess myself the entire time. But revising, the puzzle pieces are in front of you. Now you just have to put it together and move stuff around. I love it,” Hobbs says.

Of course, life happens, which means that sometimes Hobbs drafts and Billings takes on revisions. And because they’re Christina Lauren, they’re rarely working on just one book at a time.

“I like that we’re willing to try different things. We’re constantly revisiting our process to say like, our lives are different now. Our kids are older, we have this travel coming up, we have this going on. How can we best write this book together?” says Billings.

Billings and Hobbs say the content of their book has evolved, too, as has the romance genre.

“The genre has changed a lot in that it’s so much more inclusive. It needs to be more inclusive,” Hobbs says. 

The authors experienced a humbling moment when a reader pointed out that one of their books, which was set in New York, featured only white characters.

“While there are stories that are not ours to tell, we want our books to look like the world around us. And we want every single one of our readers to be able to see themselves in a Christina Lauren happily ever after. That’s very important to us,” Hobbs says.

’Til books do them part

The unconventional co-authorship can also lead to some blunt questions about their working relationship.

“People always want to know if we fight. We're like, ‘Of course we do.’ You don’t want to be in a relationship with somebody that you don’t fight with,” says Hobbs. The key is to bounce back.

While their relationship with each other may resemble a marriage, both Hobbs and Billings are separately married and have children of their own. 

“It is kind of like having a sister relationship and also a spouse,” Billings says. One perk of this duality is better Christmas presents.

Hobbs recalls the time Billings' husband asked her if he should buy his wife pens for book signings as a gift.

“I was like, ‘No, no. Bless your heart,'" Hobbs says.

On Christmas Day, Billings was surprised to open a present containing her favorite eyeliner, an idea Hobbs inspired. 

On island time

Their newest book, “The Paradise Problem,” is aptly titled. The palm fronds and hibiscus petals on the cover may look like a vacation, but the authors say that it was one of their most challenging projects ever. 

“We tried to write it a few times and kept having to throw away like, a third or half the book,” says Billings, who notes that the original tone of the book was “sad and heavy.”

Eventually, they decided to give their lead characters new names and new circumstances, which helped them sail to smoother waters. Readers are introduced to protagonists Anna Green, a pink-haired struggling artist, and her husband Liam "West" Weston, but it's not a story of newlywed bliss. For starters, Anna doesn't know that she's still married.

Three years after Anna thought she signed divorce papers, West shows up on her doorstep with one question — will she pretend to be his wife all to convince his family that she still is?

"The Paradise Problem" book cover.

It’s proof that two is sometimes better than one.

“Our friendship has evolved right along with our co-authorship, which is, I think, why this works. Nobody cares what Christina is doing or what Lauren is doing. It’s all Christina Lauren,” says Hobbs.