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Christina Lauren’s ‘Something Wilder’ is a thrilling romp through love and the Canyonlands

The pen name of Christina Lauren is a portmanteau of writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings.
Lori Brystan
Gallery Books
The pen name of Christina Lauren is a portmanteau of writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings.

Deep in a remote cave in Canyonlands National Park lies a treasure left by Old West outlaws. And somehow, Lily Wilder’s ex-boyfriend and his friends have convinced her to crack the code that will lead them to it.

That is the premise of the new book “Something Wilder.” It follows Lily – an adventure tour guide in Southeast Utah – on a wild (and swoon-worthy) goose chase.

It’s the work of author Christina Lauren –– a portmanteau of writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Hobbs is based in Provo, Utah and Billings lives in California.

They said the COVID-19 pandemic had a big influence on the kind of story they chose for this book.

“We really wanted to break outdoors and do something kind of wild and adventurous,” said Billings. “And so I think when we made that decision the story really unrolled from there.”The pair will discuss Something Wilder at The King’s English Bookshop this Wednesday, May 25, 2022, at 6 p.m.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Lauren Billings: The pandemic for us in terms of work habits was very similar because we've always worked remotely. Christina's in Utah and I'm in California. But we realized when we started writing this book — it was early 2021 — that we did not want to write a book that took place in an office or in a bar or in a coffee shop or any indoor setting. We really wanted to break outdoors and do something kind of wild and adventurous.

Caroline Ballard: No one dreams of going to an office when they're stuck at home during a pandemic.

LB: Exactly. No one's dreaming of writing a romance where you're doing virtual homeschool and cooking lunch for everybody every day.

CB: The story takes place in southeast Utah, specifically in Canyonlands National Park. I loved your author's note at the beginning of the book where you say verbatim, "If you follow our route, you will die, lol." What was it like to research this book?

LB: We stayed in St. George while we were outlining this book, and I mean, just the views that we had from where we were were beautiful.

Christina Hobbs: So I live in Utah, but I don't spend a ton of time out there [in the wild]. So we actually found somebody that this was their job. He was a movie scout, so he was really helpful. He actually drew us a map of like where they would take this trip. And the reason that we say not to follow it is because in fiction, you know, we had to shave a few days off. But he told us what they would have in their backpacks, what they would eat every day, what their schedule would be like. And that was really important because you want to believe anything that Lily says.

CB: Christina, you live in Provo. This is your third book set in Utah. Why keep coming back here?

CH: I think we just really love the places where we live. But also, nothing makes me love a book more than when I really feel like I'm in that place. You can learn a ton on research, but I mean, it's just comforting to write the places that we know.

CB: The two of you started off writing Twilight fan fiction, and you're often categorized as romance. Those genres come with very enthusiastic fan bases and a lot of haters. We're starting to see some shifting, I think, in the cultural cachet of both of those things. With Book Talk, Outlander and Bridgerton. What do you think is changing?

CH: Romance is like a third of all fiction sales, and I think particularly with bookstores, there tended to be this thing of like, "let's put the romance in the back" or "we don't carry it." But I think they're discovering that if you put those books out, people will buy them. And so a lot of people who are like, "oh, I don't really read romance." They read something and they'll go, "Oh my, that was amazing," because they don't realize so many of the stories we love have love stories at heart. A romance is just essentially a love story that ends in a happily ever after, whether it's all of the story or just a portion of it.

CB: I think there's also a tendency from some authors to say, "Oh, but this isn't romance." In the same way that I think some people say, "Well, I don't read romance." How do you see yourselves fitting into it? And do you embrace that title?

LB: Listen, we love being romance authors. I mean, that is our identity. That is our promise to our readers. I will say that for a lot of romance authors, there is a lot of internalized misogyny. And we are really taught as a society to elevate stories of pain above stories of joy, almost like there's more intellectual value in stories that are about surviving pain or getting through difficulty. And I think we don't do enough celebration of stories that are about joy and being joyful and hopeful. And so we as women will tend to internalize that and feel like our stories are less important if they don't reflect surviving pain. We are here as authors to sort of crash through that stereotype, because there is nothing better than the feeling of a reader coming up to us at a signing and saying, "You got me through the hardest time in my life." So there is something very powerful about that. And I think the more we talk about it, the more that we will break down that stereotype.

Corrected: May 26, 2022 at 3:55 PM MDT
This page has been updated to correct a mispelling of Christina Hobbs' name.
Caroline is the Assistant News Director
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