Home Entertainment Bridgerton author Julia Quinn discusses the creation of Queen Charlotte

Bridgerton author Julia Quinn discusses the creation of Queen Charlotte


Usually, the book comes first.

Julia Quinn wrote Bridgerton, the best-selling novels. Shonda Rhimes turned them into “Bridgerton,” the blockbuster Netflix series. This time, though, the successful duo switched roles: Rhimes created “Queen Charlotte,” a “Bridgerton” prequel inspired by the real Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and “Mad” King George III’s marriage, for Netflix. The show began streaming Thursday. Julia Quinn took those scripts and, with Rhimes as co-author, turned them into the novel “Queen Charlotte,” which hits shelves Tuesday.

‘Queen Charlotte’ makes ‘Bridgerton’ better

In a video interview, Quinn talked about this unusual collaboration, how the novel differs from the Netflix series and the many barriers broken by both. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: How did this project come about?

A: Last year, Shonda called me and said Netflix was going to do a prequel series on Queen Charlotte. My husband immediately said, “You have to write the book with Shonda as your co-writer.” At the “Bridgerton” Season 2 premiere — the first time we ever met in person — I suggested this idea to Shonda. Luckily, she’d been thinking the same thing. I got the scripts from Shonda and learned to break down the architecture and rebuild them as a novel. We didn’t go back and forth. Once I had her scripts, it was my turn.

Q: You’ve said previously that readers enjoy romance novels like “Bridgerton” because they show a world in which anyone has the right to be happy. In “Queen Charlotte,” two men are in a romantic relationship. Can you talk about that storyline?

A: In the show, the romance between Brimsley and Reynolds comes as a bit of a surprise. I started with little hints and overall wanted to show the universality of romantic feelings. In the flirtation stage of a relationship, two men think the same way as a hetero couple. Brimsley also has my favorite line in the book. He’s just watched Charlotte have a gynecological exam and says, “It was not easy being a man who loved other men, but by God, it was better than being a woman.”

‘Bridgerton’ strays from the books, but readers won’t be disappointed

Q: Charlotte’s skin, described in the novel as “the color of a majestic oak,” is not a shock to King George or to her butler Brimsley. They declare her beautiful. Was there ever talk between you and Shonda to have the characters react differently?

A: I primarily tried to follow Shonda’s lead on race. What tone is the show taking? And how in depth are certain characters feeling about things? I did not shy away from peppering in more details but stayed with her tone. In the world that Shonda created, you have a non-White elite society. So George and Brimsley are used to seeing Black people in a parallel world.

Q: One theme that comes across strongly is soft power, particularly looking at what an aristocratic woman could do in the late 1700s. Women don’t have explicit power but are working behind the scenes and manipulating men into thinking that they came up with the good ideas.

A: For me, the way to do it is to strive for historical plausibility over historical accuracy. The period that I’m writing in is a generation or two before women could really start pushing their boundaries. These women are the ones pulling bricks out so that, later, women can tear down the wall.

Q: You’ve described the Bridgerton books and TV show as offering separate experiences as well as “one big experience” if taken together. How will it be different with “Queen Charlotte? Does reading the novel take away from watching the show because one knows too much?

A: A big difference is that unlike the novel “Queen Charlotte,” the show has dual timelines. It goes from what you see in the book to “Bridgerton” the series, present time. I didn’t think going back and forth was going to work in a book, and I wanted it to read as close to a romance novel as I could. You have incredible visuals with the TV show, but with the book, you have inner voices. A good example is the conversation between the king and queen at their wedding. You see them dancing on the show, but I get to write the conversation. That was great for the romance novelist in me because it’s people falling in love through words, not just the physical.

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Q: Why have romance novels grown so popular in the last few years? Is it because there’s a certain peace in knowing that you’re going to get a happy ending? Is it #booktok?

A: Romance has always been made popular by word of mouth. You didn’t used to see romance novelists on the “Today” show. With social media, you have new places and ways to talk about the books and recommend them.

I heard from a lot of people who watched the show asking, what else gives us that feeling? And romance novelists were like: “Hey! We have been doing this for years. We’re a massive genre giving these happy endings.” “Bridgerton” the show really celebrates the romance novel structure where you have a new couple the next season. That was revelatory in television because you don’t see shows structured that way.

Q: If you didn’t write romance, what would you write?

‘Bridgerton’ has two Queen Charlottes and they both rule

A: Middle-grade children’s books. One of my favorite books of all time is “The Wednesday Wars” by Gary D. Schmidt. Also, “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate,” by Jacqueline Kelly.

Q: Make the rest of us feel better and tell us you have bad writing habits.

A: I do! I take way too much time off between books. And I have so much trouble getting my butt in the chair to work. I don’t have a schedule. I am the least-disciplined writer you will ever meet. I don’t think I’m very prolific. I probably average one book a year or every 15 months, which isn’t fast in my genre.

Q: Then what’s the secret to your success?

Q: Now that you’ve done the simultaneous TV show and book premiere, would you do it again?

A: Definitely. This is me publicly asking Netflix to do another spinoff.

Karin Tanabe is the author of six novels, including “A Woman of Intelligence,” “The Gilded Years” and the forthcoming “The Sunset Crowd.”

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