Last Christmas, we all took a trip to glamorous, rivalrous Regency England. That’s because it was on that day that Bridgerton was first released on Netflix. The series, an instant phenomenon, was based on a series of books—each of which follows the romantic tribulations of a different sibling in the aristocratic Bridgerton family—written by Julia Quinn, a bestselling romance novelist based in the Pacific Northwest.
On November 9, the book The Wit and Wisdom of Bridgerton: Lady Whistledown’s Official Guide is being published. In it, Quinn has gathered the most romantic, moving and witty quotes from the eight Bridgerton siblings, along with biting commentary from the society chronicler who all of her characters fear, Lady Whistledown. What better way to bone up on all matters Bridgerton in preparation for season two, which Netflix is poised to release in 2022?
We caught up with Quinn to talk about her new projects, which she was more than happy to chat about—after a dip into her leftover Halloween candy.
I’ve enjoyed reading this book so much. What was it like to put together?
It was fun to go back and revisit those characters years later. The Duke and I, the first book in the series, came out in the beginning of 2000. Which means I would have written it in 1998. But also, because I am not a super visual author, I never really “see” them in my head. But now I do, because of all these great actors.
You felt that way about every single sibling?
I did! I am just in awe of the casting director. I could never be a casting director. I don’t know how she did it. She found people who just got it and now when I read these books, there is this new level of characterization that even I, the author, didn’t have. It doesn’t matter that in the books Simon has blue eyes. Now I see Regé-Jean Page. Of course, I think we all want to see Regé-Jean Page all the time, but that’s who I see now when I read about Simon. He’s perfect.
I’m sorry he won’t be in the next season of Bridgerton.
We’re all sorry about that. Maybe he will have a week where he’s not doing something, and he’ll call Shonda [Rhimes, an executive producer] and offer to do a cameo? But he’s going to be busy. I hope he’s the next James Bond. He’d be the best James Bond.
And what people may not realize is how my series works, how many romance series work. The story of Simon and Daphne is not continued and repeated throughout the books. We gave them their happy ending. We move on.
Did you like visiting the set of Bridgerton while they were filming it?
When I was on set, I was asked “Is this crazy to see your characters come to life?” And it is. But what I realized was even more incredible was the number of people working on it: the actors, crew, makeup people, a lot of people I never knew what they were doing. You realize this thing that began in your head as one person now has hundreds and hundreds of people involved. I couldn’t believe the costumes for Daphne. There was a wall with all these swatches. She had 104 dresses.
You wrote about a large family in this series. I read that you come from a large family yourself, was that the inspiration?
Not as big as the Bridgertons! I think it kind of developed over time. When I started with the first book, it was with this idea for a trilogy. It was this big family, but I was only going to do three books—one for Daphne, one for Anthony and one for Colin. If you read the first book, these are the three who get the most “screen time.”
The book series slowly developed, people were liking it, I had the whole Lady Whistledown mystery, and it became apparent that we should at least do Benedict. He popped in there, and then eventually I felt we should just do them all. And I think part of the reason they have such distinct personalities is I had a lot of time to do that. The sense of fullness you get for all the characters in the series, they didn’t have that completely in the first book.
The identity of Lady Whistledown wasn’t revealed in your first book in the series but in a later book. How did you feel about them giving it away in the first season?
They could have tried to keep it a secret, but we’re in the age of Google. Anyone could look it up. The original plan was to plant a red herring, and make the audience think it was someone else, and that’s what I read in the scripts. But they forgot to tell me they’d changed it, and so when I first saw the show I was as surprised as everyone else. I screamed in my seat.
Can you tell us anything about the next season?
Oh, no! But there is going to be a spinoff about Queen Charlotte. She’s wonderful. And she wasn’t even in my books.
What’s up next for your writing?
My next project is a graphic novel, Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron. It started with an over-the-top Gothic story the characters read to each other in It’s In Her Kiss. I had so much fun with it that I ended up including it in later books. Readers started asking me to write the whole Gothic story. I said, “You don’t want that kind of book from me, believe me.” But then it occurred to me that it could be a graphic novel, so I wrote it with my sister, who was an amazing cartoonist. Tragically, my sister and my father were killed by a drunk driver earlier this year. I’m finding some solace knowing that with Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, everyone will see her talent.
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