Debut author Casey McQuiston shares why it was important to write about bisexuality in Red, White & Royal Blue, the book everyone is talking about.
When you were younger, what did you want to be?
A writer! Honestly, there was never much of a question of it for me. I was writing picture books in first grade. I just knew from day one that I wanted to write books.
Use 3 words to describe yourself…
Chaotic, determined, hopeful.
You’ve said that growing up in the swamps of Southern Louisiana you fell in love with stories that have big, beating hearts… do you remember an early novel that cultivated this?
Growing up in the south, it’d probably be To Kill a Mockingbird. That was one of the first books that made me look more closely at the world I grew up in and hope for progress.
Talk to me about the process of writing Red White & Royal Blue…
This book started for me in early 2016, when I was following the presidential election closely while reading a royal romcom and a dry political biography at the same time. I became obsessed with these two characters in my head: a misunderstood Prince Charming and a rebellious First Kid. And then I realized I could put them in the same story and make them fall in love. I chose the political backdrop because it really was where I was living mentally at the time – watching VEEP, keeping close tabs on the primaries, hoping for bright future for America.

And I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write a queer romcom, because as a queer person and a romcom fan, it’s so rare to feel totally seen and represented in the genre. I wanted to do some work to change that.

There were absolutely challenges – I had to tutor myself on everything from the royal collections to the layout of the senate offices. And then there was the biggest challenge of all; trying to figure out what this book needed to be and do after the results of the 2016 election. But the heart of the book – Alex and Henry’s relationship – came so readily to me that I knew it would be worth it to do all that work for their story.
Red White & Royal Blue is cultivating an enormous buzz pre-release, what do you think it is about the book that is capturing hearts?
It’s been so incredibly humbling and mind blowing to see the pre-release support for this book! I think that RW&RB represents a few things so many of us are hungry to see right now. People want to see queer and diverse love stories. They want to see queer people centered in romance. They want something a little outside of their usual box. We all want a shot of hope and joy right now in this nightmare political climate, and RW&RB tries to do that. And honestly… I think I owe a lot to that amazing cover!
Have there been any crazy moments in this journey to publication?
All of them? Honestly, every single day still feels surreal to me. My publishing journey happened at such a breakneck pace – I finished my first draft, queried, signed with an agent, and received an offer from a publisher in the space of four months, which is ridiculously lucky. I never stop thinking about how lucky I am. Also, the first time I visited my publisher inside the Flatiron Building in New York? Total dream.
Do you have any thoughts about the (slowly) increasing diversity in romance novels, and why they’re so important?
It makes me so, so happy to see romance centering people of colour, queer people, neurodiverse people, and beyond. I am absolutely loving the wave we’ve seen in the past year from authors like Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang, who are bringing something so needed to the romance table. It’s important because for so many of us, romance is escapism and wish fulfillment, and it’s hard to get that same emotional payoff when you don’t see anyone who looks or loves like you in the stories you read. Everybody should get a chance to feel that rush.
It makes me so, so happy to see romance centering people of colour, queer people, neurodiverse people, and beyond. I am absolutely loving the wave we’ve seen in the past year from authors like Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang, who are bringing something so needed to the romance table. It’s important because for so many of us, romance is escapism and wish fulfillment, and it’s hard to get that same emotional payoff when you don’t see anyone who looks or loves like you in the stories you read. Everybody should get a chance to feel that rush.

The future of romance is diverse as hell.

What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished the first draft of my second book! I can’t reveal too much right now, but I’ll tell you it’s another queer new adult romcom, this one with a much smaller and more specific world than RW&RB. It’s set in Brooklyn, and it centers on two girls finding each other and falling in love on the subway – but with a pretty huge twist.
As a debut author, do you have advice for aspiring authors?
Write! Write, write, write. No matter how intimidating the idea of writing a story is, having even one word on the page makes it less scary. The only thing a first draft has to do is exist, so just push through and write a terrible first draft, and then rewrite it, revise it, make it good. Make friends who are writers to trade drafts with. And if you’re trying to get into the industry, proceed with kindness.
What do you love the most about being a writer?
I love being a writer because it’s literally what I was born to do. I’m incredibly lucky to have known my whole life what my purpose and my dream is, and every day I get to live it feels so absolutely right. I love provoking emotion from readers. I love getting to mine my own feelings and experiences and find new ways to process and live them through stories. I love writing things that could make a difference. This is just exactly what my thing was always meant to be.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m just about to dig into We Set the Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia! There have already been so many queer books released in 2019, so it’s been a blast to follow along. I’ve heard such great things about this one. ♥
#blushmagazine #authorinterview #caseymcquiston #romancelandia

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