How Author Julia Quinn Works Through Sex Scenes and Writer’s Malaise

From a Wall Street Journal story by Ellen Gamerman headlined “How ‘Bridgerton’ Author Julia Quinn Works Through Sex Scenes and Writer’s Malaise”:

All sex is bad sex if it doesn’t further the plot.

At least that’s how romance writer Julia Quinn sees the role of the steamy scenes in her “Bridgerton” novels. That’s why her characters are such chatterboxes in the bedroom.

“You need it so that if you pulled out the scene, the story wouldn’t make sense,” she said.

This week, she releases her first co-authored novel, “Queen Charlotte,” a prequel that tells the back story of the “Bridgerton” monarch who rules with a firm hand and an enormous wig. In this work of historical fiction, young Charlotte has her own love story to tell and, as a Black woman, a role to play in navigating race in late 18th-century British high society.

The author, 53, whose real name is Julie Pottinger, adapted the book from scripts by Shonda Rhimes, creator of the hit “Bridgerton” series on Netflix. The “Queen Charlotte” series is now on Netflix.

Ms. Pottinger has published 30 novels under her pen name. The mother of two lives in Seattle in a newly empty nest with her husband, Paul Pottinger, an infectious-disease expert and her college sweetheart. Here, she talks about whipped cream, infected wounds and whether artificial intelligence could do her job.

When you’re working, what time do you get up?

Around 8 or 8:30.

Do you have a coffee ritual?

If I’m going to be at home, I go make coffee. I use whipped cream in it, like a little spray thing, because that’s the perfect mix of milk and sugar.

And do you also spray the whipped cream directly into your mouth?

Every time.

Do you exercise?

My new thing is I have an exercise chart I made for myself and it really helps. It’s a weekly thing, I have to make weekly goals. Daily goals are just an exercise in frustration and feeling like you’re a failure. I gave myself four different things: I have cardio, strength training, stretching and a plank.

How do you write so fast?

In my little subgenre, I’m not especially prolific. I do maybe one book a year. I have friends who do two, sometimes three books a year. For me, it’s all about weekly goals, which I pretty much never make. Another secret—I know I have all the financial privilege that I can do this—I will go away a couple of times during the writing of a book, usually to Mexico, and be by myself to write. [People] will be like, “Why are you working in Mexico?” And I say, “I have to work somewhere, I might as well do it in Mexico where the weather is nice and people are bringing me guacamole and cleaning up after me.”

Can you share your weekly writing goal?

I’ve written all my books in Palatino [font size] 12, and I have certain margins, so I have a sense for what pages are. My goal is between 30 and 50 pages for the week. I almost never hit 50 unless I’m on one of my getaways.

Could a bot ever do what you do?

At least five years ago, maybe longer, somebody tried to have AI do a romance novel and it was awful. Everybody keeps telling me AI has gotten so much better. I just don’t even want to think about it.

What is in “Queen Charlotte” the book that’s not in the series?

The biggest things are the interior thoughts of the characters. There are a few bits of back story I was able to add in, there are a couple of spots in the show where maybe a few weeks have gone by, I was able to put in a scene. In the first episode, you see the king and queen dancing at their wedding. In the book, you get to hear what they’re saying to each other.

How did the idea for the new series start?

It was actually Ted Sarandos. His mother-in-law apparently came to him and said, “You need to do a show about Queen Charlotte.”

What’s it like to write a book with another author?

We very much took turns. Shonda wrote the scripts and then she handed them off to me, and I turned them into a novel. I think a lot of people have this vision of us holed up in a room somewhere figuring out the plot. It wasn’t that at all. She developed the television show and wrote the scripts and then I ran with it. In many ways, it was the reverse of what happened with “Bridgerton” the show.

Did you take your cues from Shonda while writing a Black heroine?

Absolutely. The first thing I did was really just follow her lead and look at, OK, what tone is she taking with these issues? What depth is she going into them?

Do you get writer’s block?

I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. I definitely get writer’s malaise, where you’re just like, ugh, I don’t feel like doing this. I definitely have moments where you can’t figure out how to get to the next thing. In that case I find the best thing is to just skip ahead.

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