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Between Two Lockers With Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Get the dish from the Fug Girls on their YA selves, their secret powers and The Royal We, our February book club selection.

Between Two Lockers With Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

This month, members of the FYA Book Club are feeling like queens for a day thanks to The Royal We. Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, the architects of this fabulous romp, met us in the hallway of FYA HQ to share some insight on their novel and indulge in some scintillating girl talk.

THE ACTUALLY RELATED TO THE BOOK QUESTIONS:

Even though life in the spotlight can be rough, Bex gets to experience some things that made us waaaaay jealous. What were your favorite scenes to write in terms of living vicariously through your heroine? And were there any real-life events or scenarios that you knew you had to include, because they're just too fabulous?

JESSICA: I think, for us, we were really lucky in that William and Kate's actual romance had a lot of fun signposts that we could borrow for The Royal We. But for me, it wasn't as much events as it was PLACES that I really wanted to write about. (For so much of the book, Bex isn't a public part of Nick's life, so we didn't get to do anything like send them to Trooping the Colour, or any of the really classic Royals Events, which would certainly be fun to write about.) There were so many settings in the UK that we wanted to include, from Oxford, where they met and fall and love, to Windsor Castle, to Buckingham Palace, all of which we visited. It was really hard not to set basically every scene in a different royal residence, just because it's so fun for me to imagine and research those interiors. And we did a lot of research -- I have books with blueprints of basically every palace we use in the book because we wanted to make sure we got all the details right, and so we could check the notes we took after our research trip. But in terms of scenarios I love to write, I love all the fight scenes, the angst-y breakups and make-ups -- all the emotional stuff. Which, of course, is all made up, because...as we say in the book, who can truly know the truth of a relationship beyond the two people who are in it?

HEATHER: I also enjoy all the dramatic stuff -- I love to twist the knife. And the whole Oxford section was fun, because we got to immerse ourselves in this really pure affection and attraction as it grew into something unexpected. That part was just the story of two people finding each other, and it was the foundation for all the rest of it, so getting it down and finishing it and feeling like I was TOTALLY rooting for them was satisfying. It's like building a house, and being kind of stressy until that foundation is laid and you can sit back and think, "Okay, this is good, I like this house, it's going to work." And I know this from my extensive experience doing absolutely no house-building.

Your portrayal of the press, while delivered with a sense of humor, is a pretty unflinching look at how the media scrutinizes celebrities and sells gossip. As fashion critics and members of the online media, how do you balance your goal to entertain with a respect for the people you're discussing?

JESSICA: Yes, someone else writing about the book noted that it was, in many ways, as if we had made ourselves the villains of the piece. I liked that assessment of it. I think it’s a fine line, and I’m sure I’ve crossed it before and I will do again, unintentionally. For us, it’s not as difficult as it might be for others, because our beat is people’s clothing, not their personal lives. (In general, I think celebrities are probably less irked by people critiquing their pants, than they are by people trying to ferret out the intimate details of their marriage, for example. Although Bex isn’t wild about the blogs that critique her clothing, either -- and I think that’s only human of her, too.) I think, for us... you know, we try to be fair. We try to focus on the clothes, and what the clothes are saying about the celebrity who is wearing them, because so many celebrities (including the royal family) use public appearances to brand themselves, and those decisions are often made with a whole team of people. We try to ask, “What’s the celebrity trying to tell the public, and did they do it successfully?” (But sometimes, we just ask, “Dude, what are you thinking?!”) I think GFY in general tries to be a place that’s respectful and thoughtful, even if it’s not always positive, it that makes sense?

HEATHER: GFY does talk about all that other stuff, too, though. We're an informally gossipy site. Our beat is the clothes, but as Jess said, a celebrity’s image is just as much a part of their brand as their outfits; sometimes those things are curated carefully together, and sometimes life gets in the way and intrudes on what they’re trying to sell, and that's often a relevant-feeling discussion too. Of course, sometimes it's just frivolous, like whether Josh Jackson and Diane Kruger were together or apart. Seeing pictures of them was a popular thing on GFY, and so addressing the rumors felt relevant to our collective interpretation of their narrative. But sometimes, like with Gwen Stefani's or Miranda Lambert's post-divorce wardrobes, it's on-topic to project a little intent (and feelings) onto what they're wearing. Likewise, we’ll chat about how famous people are promoting a given project -- absently, overexcitedly, boredly -- and what that might mean. We also like to imagine dialogues sometimes. That’s all just fanciful, as are the affectionate digressions in the royals posts. We do TRY to pin them to the topic at hand; maybe we don’t always succeed, though, or maybe we even say, “This is gratuitous but can we please talk about the rumors that XYZ”? Honestly, in most cases, I don’t feel too bad discussing the public image stuff because the longer you study Hollywood, the more you realize just how many strings are being pulled even when it seems insane that it would be happening. But we do try to be respectful. We’ve tried to cut down on pregnancy speculation, for example, because even though our INTENTIONS are good -- we love babies, pregnancy is a happy thing for most couples, we like it when hot people procreate -- it is a very personal thing, and even good intentions can yield a bad result. You just don’t know what’s going on with a person or their body. Most women get those 12 weeks of privacy before they pass that particular miscarriage milestone, and of course celebrities should get that, too. And I also understand why a famous woman would think, “Dude, can I not just eat a cheeseburger without everyone telling me I look knocked up?!?” Bodies get bloated for a hundred reasons you cannot control. As Jess said, we’re going to mess up and cross the line, but we do our best. We sincerely do.

Okay, but seriously, are Josh and Diane really broken up because I CAN'T.

Many of the royals in this book seem to be inspired by the British monarchy, which you have followed and written about for years. When crafting your characters, were there certain traits you knew you wanted to include, i.e. specific characteristics that make the royals so compelling in real life?

JESSICA: Not as much as you might think -- I mean, for one thing, those characteristics are, to a certain extent, things we the public have projected onto the Royal Family, because we DON’T actually know them. But we did want to have, obviously, the charming rogue of a young brother -- we’d have invented Freddie, if there hadn’t been a Prince Harry to base him on (roughly). And I think that the Charles and Diana story -- the fairytale wedding that wasn’t a fairytale marriage -- makes people feel invested in and sympathetic towards Wills and Harry’s happiness, and it’s also very soap operatic. As you know, we didn’t handle that as it unfurled in real life, but obviously that was highly influential in how we created Nick’s and Freddie’s nuclear family, or lack thereof. 

HEATHER: We can’t escape that this book is based on the courtship and marriage of two real people. But it was essential that we get readers to believe in, and invest in, our two fictional versions of them. So if we threw in a bunch of cutesy, winky replicas of the actual royal family, it would take readers out of the story too often. We didn’t want people to be putting down the book every ten seconds and going, “Ooh, is that the Fergie character?” Or, “Oooh, is that Cressida Bonas?” The more you take people out, the less engaged they naturally are. We wanted people, by the end, to think of Will and Kate as being sorta like Bex and Nick rather than the other way around. That said, we did borrow a couple traits. Prince Edwin encompasses both Andrew’s and Edward’s pasts or traits at times, for example. Mostly the dumb stuff. Because that’s the fun stuff.

As her relationship with the prince becomes more public, Bex faces some harsh fashion judgement from the press. Looking back at your own college style, what do you think the paparazzi would say about your wardrobe and hair choices?

JESSICA: They would have been perfectly horrified by everything I ever did. The mid-90s were a dark time for fashion.

HEATHER: Right? I’m sure the paps NOW would be like, “What a lazy fool -- did she even OWN any accessories? Why are those jeans so shapeless?” But the paps then would have been like, “Just another girl in a flannel shirt in a midwestern winter.” I tend to think, within reason, everyone gets a pass for what they did the first time around. But Jess and I were just discussing how velvet chokers are starting to come back, and it’s like, “No. I did that once. Never again.” If I started copying right NOW everything I did in the 90s, THEN I think it’s super worthy of a side-eye, but looking back at those pictures I think, “Well, I was a teenager, and it was The Time, and I didn’t know any better.” Having said that, there is no excuse for all these damned naked dresses. I don’t care if it’s the first time you’ve done that, Young Celebrity. You should ALWAYS know better than a naked dress.

I am so with you on banning velvet chokers from EVER happening again.

Please tell us that Kate Middleton has read this book and somehow, she passed along word to you (via fancy royal stationary?) that she loved it.

JESSICA: IF ONLY! This is clearly our great dream. Wait, no. Our actual great dream is for her to go outside holding the book, with the title clearly visible. PLEASE DO THAT, KATE.

HEATHER: I feel like she would never publicly admit that, nor privately admit it in print. I’ve decided if she ever were to read it and want to tell us she liked it, we’d get a message someday from a dude in a trench and sunglasses who just said something like, “The gryphon only drinks blood when it rains,” and then leave, and we’d have to figure out that it was a coded message from Kate that meant, “Loved the book, and you’re right, Harry IS in love with me.”


Photo Credit: Kim Fox

THE YA QUESTIONS:

If your real life adolescence was a YA book…

What would you, the main character, be like?

JESSICA:  I would be the somewhat controlling co-president of the drama club.

HEATHER: I would be the insecure one who was too shy to be herself in front of anyone -- especially boys -- except her closest friends and/or guys to whom she was not attracted.

Who is your secret crush?

JESSICA: I went to an all girls school, so my adolescence was tragically widely secret crush-less (although I often tagged along with my best friend to her church group, despite being not particularly religious, to meet boys and had a secret crush on a different one of them every six weeks or so). I was also madly in love with Special Agent Dale Cooper, but that was no secret.

HEATHER: I’m sure it’s the jock who doesn’t know I’m alive, to whom I have never said more than one or two words. Both of which were lame.

What is your number #1 source of angst?

JESSICA: Sometimes, when you go to an all girls school, you spend a lot of time worrying about who the hell you’re going to go to prom with. (I ended up going with an awesome dude who I met at my BBF’s church group, and had a great time. Thanks, God!)

HEATHER: Said inability to form complete sentences in front of cute boys, and thus, never properly conveying my personality. Worrying that the day Cute Boy realizes I’m actually funny and worth hanging out with is never going to come because I am TOO LAME FOR WORDS. Etc.

At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?

JESSICA: I don’t know about the reader, but I personally pumped my own fist in victory when I played the role of Dylan McKay in my senior skit day play, in a Beverly Hills, 90212 parody I wrote with a friend. And I did so because I literally wrote in a fist pump of victory for McKay (it was part of a very lengthy high-five routine with the girl who played Brandon). It counts!

HEATHER: Hopefully the part where I relax and successfully inhabit my own skin. Also the kissing.

Definitely the kissing.

And who would play you in the film adaptation?

JESSICA: When Juno was in theaters, I had a real estate agent tell me that I look like “Ellen Page, except with way more gray hair.”

HEATHER: Back in the day, I would have hoped for Reese Witherspoon. Five years ago, I would have said Emma Stone. Now... well, actually, I would hope for a time machine to make Emma Stone or Shailene Woodley do it, because I don’t think we have an up and coming age-appropriate new version of them yet.

THE SLUMBER PARTY Qs:

What is your secret power?

JESSICA: I can fit my fist into my mouth. But I don’t do that in public anymore.

HEATHER: I can flare my nostrils very very quickly. I am also an excellent recorder player. Neither of these are as secret as they probably should be.

Plz send video.

What is your #1 favorite food?

JESSICA: I really love food, so this is a difficult question for me. I think I’m going to have to go with the mighty burrito, though. I love Mexican food.

HEATHER: Sandwiches made from Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Yes, I put stuffing and mashed potatoes on bread (which, in the case of my biscuit stuffing, is essentially bread-on-bread). Don’t knock it until you try it, because it’s transportive.

Tell me about your area of expertise.

JESSICA: I’m pretty good at identifying random C-list celebrities when I see them in the wild, which is actually a skill that’s useful for my job. I also know a lot about royal logistics, and the OJ Simpson trial. I’m also great at enabling other people’s purchases.

HEATHER: I’m a very good mimic of people’s voices and accents. I’m not an impressionist -- I don’t like to do it on cue, because there is nothing worse than, “DO YOUR JOAN RIVERS IMITATION COME ON IT’S SO GOOD DO IT,” and then you open your mouth and it’s not right -- but if I’m doing it in the flow of a story or a conversation, it tends to come out pretty correctly. I am an accomplished speller, too, I guess. Most of the time. And I’m useful with a Nintendo Wii.

If you could assemble your own Ocean’s 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?

JESSICA: Is this to actually pull off a heist? Or just to hang out with? Because those are two different skill sets! I’m going to answer this for a heist: Elizabeth Bennet, because she’d be fun to strategize with. Hermione Granger, of course, because she’ll be useful, if also possibly disapproving (depending on what we’re stealing). Neville Longbottom, because he grew up so hot AND he’s brave, which is a good combo. Gatsby, to bankroll our scheme (he can’t get mad at us for pulling a con; look at your own life, Jay!).  Blair Waldorf, because I am dying to see how she and Lizzy Bennet get along. Laurie from Little Women, because I plan to steal him from Amy freaking March once and for all (SHE DESERVES IT). Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones, because he’s hot and sensible, and I think Bennet will (clearly) like him. Trixie Belden, because she’s spunky and can save me if I get bit by a snake somehow during this heist. Empire’s Cookie Lyon, because I feel like that woman can teach me a lot about a variety of things, primarily among them general awesomeness. And, finally, Brad Pitt’s actual Ocean’s 11 character, because he knows his way around a heist, and he’ll have snacks.

HEATHER: I am confident I cannot answer that question any better than Jessica did. Maybe I’ll pick a Dirty Dozen-style gang of evils. Papa Pope and Sally Langston from Scandal.  He would annoy everyone with his CONSTANT NEVERENDING SPEECHES, and she would entertain us all with her insane over-the-top rants, but a) they’re also both decent evil strategists, b) the constant yammering will help get the group riled up, and c) they can just turn on each other when we’re sick of them yapping. The Six-Fingered Man from The Princess Bride. Dottie Underwood from TV’s Agent Carter, because she is ruthless and competent but also has great taste in clothes and lipstick, and I could learn from that. The White Witch, from the Narnia series, who was played by Tilda Swinton in the movie and I just want an excuse to roll with her. Miss Hannigan, because she knows how to make bathtub gin and is my path to Carol Burnett. Acheron and Aornis Hades from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, for their supernatural abilities and also how they’re real petty, which is handy for any group of villains. Hans Gruber, so that Alan Rickman can be with us always. Ursula the Sea Witch, because obviously. And Voldemort, because REALLY obviously, and he and Ursula might make a cute couple.

What is your best karaoke song?

JESSICA: I used to do an excellent “I Got You, Babe,” but I really REALLY really should never sing in public.

HEATHER: In high school it was “Eternal Flame,” by the Bangles.

Tell me something scandalous!

JESSICA: I sincerely have no scandals to tell!

HEATHER: I have never seen an episode of “The Brady Bunch.”

What is your favorite adult beverage?

JESSICA: Champagne

HEATHER: Diet Coke. I count this because kids, you should not be drinking Diet Coke. It’s real bad for you. (I love you Diet Coke. Never leave me.)

Jessica, I think you're my soul twin.

What book have you read the most number of times?

JESSICA: Probably Harry Potters 4-7.

HEATHER: Either the HP books or The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Which someone just asked me to describe, as a recommendation, and I did THE ABSOLUTE WORST JOB, so I obviously need to read it again.

Who is your “freebie”?

JESSICA: As a single woman, EVERYONE IS MY FREEBIE. It’s great! (If I have to pick just one, though, I think Chris Evans?)

HEATHER: Roger Federer. (This is news to my husband, though, as we have never had this conversation.)

YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?

JESSICA: It’s hard to choose! I know so many wonderful YA authors. THE ROYAL WE is an adult book, but given that Heather and I have written two YA books together, I obviously am going to give a BFF charm to her.

HEATHER: Yes, I can’t be giving away pieces of my heart to anyone else.

Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?

JESSICA: I thought about this a lot, and I think I want to be Cilla, from The Royal We.  She has a loving and extremely interesting family, she’s best friends with (and works for) Bex and so she gets a front row seat to all the royal events and shenanigans, but none of the criticism, and she has a spouse who is crazy in love with her, and she didn’t have to go through hell and back to make their relationship work.

HEATHER: I might want to be Molly from Spoiled and Messy, just because it’d be fun to go back and do high school with a crazy-ass half-sister who is the equivalent of a fraternal twin, and a great boyfriend. But right now, sitting in a hotel room in the middle of a week of travel in which I have eaten terribly AND having just polished off a massive bagel and cream cheese, I might pick Bex. I will take that criticism in exchange for a chef and personal trainer.

If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you’d bring?

JESSICA: It’s not a slumber party without Doritos, is my most dearly held principle, so I will bring a VARIETY of them. As for jammies, if it’s a slumber party, I want to do it up right, so my retro, monogrammed J Crew men’s style ones.

HEATHER: I’d be in plaid PJ pants and a Notre Dame t-shirt and my Ugg boots, which are basically my slippers. I would bring a copy of Soapdish and When Harry Met Sally and Center Stage, and chips and dip.

And now, a lively round of MASH!
As always, our subjects have supplied three responses for each category, to which we've added a fourth... less optimal option.

Jessica: MASH

Heather: MASH

SPOUSE

Jessica: Michel from Gilmore Girls, Chris Evans, Stephen Colbert, Prince Harry

Heather: Kirk from Gilmore Girls, Roger Federer, Stephen Colbert, Lin-Manuel Miranda

HONEYMOON

Jessica: Molasses Swamp, Paris, Hawaii, the moon (I always like to throw a wacky one into a game of MASH)

Heather: Fire Swamp, Iceland, Easter Island (my sister went there on hers and it looks AWESOME), Italy

# OF KIDS

Jessica: 10, 1, 3, 15

Heather: Triplets, 1, 2, 3 (I have but one birth canal and I refuse to go any higher)

JOB

Jessica: Skymall model, tightrope walker, President of the United States, candy inventor

Heather: Perm chemist, Creator of paint names, travel writer, opera singer

INCOME

Jessica: 100 lbs of glitter, $0, $10,000,000, paid only in candy

Heather: A thousand Mardi Gras beads, A million, a trillion, a bajillion (I am going to be REALLY GOOD at naming paint you guys)

HOMETOWN

Jessica: Roswell, London, Los Angeles, the bottom of the ocean

Heather: Area 51, London, New York, that place in Wales that’s impossible to pronounce

PET

Jessica: 101 dalmations, dog, tiger, a herd of goats

Heather: gargoyle, elephant who is being properly cared for in a sanctuary but whom I get to bathe occasionally on visits; rock; none

CAR

Jessica: Wienermobile, A Prius, a time-traveling DeLorean, a covered wagon

Heather: minivan, police cruiser, English taxi cab, Ghostbusters car

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).