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 Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Exclusive: Kushner Firm Built the Coronavirus Website Trump Promised
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them ab
The Atlantic7 min readPsychology
Dear Therapist Writes to Herself in Her Grief
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at dear.therapist@theatlantic.com. Dear Therapist, I know that everyone is going through loss during the corona
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Conservative Campaign Against Safety
How did we get to the point where ministers, the president, many Republican politicians, and a variety of media outlets are calling for people to risk death to save the economy?