The Atlantic

The Fan-Fiction Friendship That Fueled a Romance-Novel Empire

“We have two relationships. We have to talk about money, and then we have the friendship.”
Source: Wenjia Tang

Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.

This week she talks with a pair of romance authors who write under the combined pen name Christina Lauren. They met through Twilight fan-fiction forums and began their collaboration with a story written in response to a risqué prompt. Over the next six years, they published 22 romance novels, many of which have hit the New York Times best-seller list.

The Friends

Lauren Billings, A.K.A. “Lo,” 44, who lives in Orange County, California
Christina Hobbs, 42, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Julie Beck: Let’s start at the very beginning. When, and how, did you guys first meet?

Lauren Billings: We met in 2009. We met online before we ever saw each other in person. We were both writing fan fiction and reading each other’s stories. Christina had a really big story called The Office online at the time, and I was putting on a panel at San Diego Comic-Con on fan art, so I invited her to the panel. Back in the day, The Office was this big, exciting Twilight fan fiction that everybody was reading, so having her there was a huge draw. We had a totally full room.

That’s where we met in person, and we just really hit it off. We met in July, and in August we decided to try to write a little short story together, and it was so much fun that we decided maybe we could write a book together. It was basically a collaboration from the start.

: Tell me about that first in-person meeting. You hadn’t

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic2 min readPolitics
‘Don’t Go After Old Uncle Joe Too Fast’
Few Americans know what it’s like to stand onstage for a nationally televised presidential debate. And the few who do have strong partisan biases. With both of those things in mind, I listened Monday as Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Heads Into the G20 on Shaky Ground—And the World Knows It
The president will meet with a number of leaders in Japan. They’ve noticed that for all his bluster, he often folds.
The Atlantic6 min read
How Men and Women Spend Their Time
In one of my many failed schemes to introduce a more equitable division of labor into my home, I stuck lined Post-it Notes on the refrigerator. “Please write down the chores you do. At the end of the week, we’ll figure out if anything needs to change