By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 18, 2020 at 09:00 AM EST
Grand Central Publishing; Moksha Bruno/Linc Imagery

In 2015, authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan gifted the world with The Royal We, a frothy, fun, engaging imagining of what would happen in an alternate universe where the Prince of Wales fell in love with and married an American. And this was a full year before Meghan Markle even went on a first date with Prince Harry!

Now, the dynamic duo, who also run witty fashion blog Go Fug Yourself, are back with a follow-up, The Heir Affair,and plenty more royal drama in store. The novel picks up where The Royal We left off, finding Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas in self-imposed exile after a scandalous secret derailed their fairy-tale wedding. Away from the prying eyes of the press and the angry royal family, the two strive to protect their fragile romance — until a new crisis forces them back to London. Now, the two have to face up to what they’ve wrought and the emotional fallout of their choices — with the Queen, the world, and Nick’s brother Freddie.

The book doesn’t hit shelves until July 7, but Cocks and Morgan sat down with EW for their first exclusive chat about what readers can expect, why the British royal family feels like the longest-running soap opera in history, and if this is the end of Bex and Nick’s story. They also try to promise us they’re not witches despite writing a story about an American princess and manifesting it into truth — but to be honest, we’re not convinced. Check out the cover for The Heir Affair and read more below.

Grand Central Publishing

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I guess the first question is when you wrote The Royal We, did you already have this sequel in mind or was this something that developed over time since as more has happened within the Royal Family?
HEATHER COCKS: We did not have a sequel in mind. When the book came out, and people were like cliffhanger, when’s the next one coming out? We were like, “The next one? What are you talking about?” Because we would joke to ourselves when we were trying to figure out how to end the book, if you’re trying to dot every “i” and cross every “t,” it becomes a logistical list of things. Our two central characters are a team, and they’re together and as long as they’re together, it’s going to be okay. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world has to say. We were like, “Okay, that’s a good ending.”
JESSICA MORGAN: One of the reasons it took us so long to get this book together was because if you write a romantic comedy or a romance in general, and you end with a happy ending — where do your people go from there? You don’t want to break them up, and this is why so many sequels to romances can be unsatisfying because it feels like what is our conflict, if it’s not will they or won’t they?
COCKS: Is it just breaking them up for the sake of something else having to reunite them again? I felt like that about the Sex and the City movies.
MORGAN: I felt that way about the second Bridget Jones movie. When we were writing this book, it took us a long time too to figure out what is our conflict going to be?

Did you talk about a sequel with a new protagonist, like Freddie’s book or something?
COCKS: We thought about it. There were a couple minor characters littered throughout that you could pull out if you wanted to, and we talked about it a little bit. But with Freddie, we felt like he’s the supporting character in your favorite show. You love him in the right doses. Sometimes if that person gets pulled out into the front, you’re like, “Oh, I liked him better in that smaller dose.” We didn’t want to burn the Freddie goodwill by leaning on him too heavily. We decided let’s keep it with our core two, which also afforded us the chance to look at this as it’s own universe and take a couple of steps further away from reality. We didn’t necessarily want the second book to feel like it’s tracing the line of what’s currently happening. This way that universe stands on it’s own a little bit more and they stand a bit more alone as characters. Even though there’s obviously going to be things where it feels inspired by [reality], but it’s not so much an analog.
COCKS: Now that we’ve made [Bex] be her own person, it’s good for us to keep going in that direction.
MORGAN: You’re going to see a lot more of the Queen in this book — Queen Eleanor. She’s not like Queen Elizabeth at all. As far as we know. Because obviously so much of this is just you projecting on people anyway.

What was it like seeing Meghan Markle become part of the royal family? Weird? Exciting?
COCKS: It was extremely trippy. This sort of leaped off the page, more or less in real life. A lot of people were like, “This is great material for your sequel!” and we’re like, “No, we already did it.” Surreal is the only real world I can think of. It’s the second time that’s happened to us. When we wrote Spoiled, which is our first Young Adult novel — it’s about a 16-year-old girl who finds out when her mother dies that her birth father whom she’s never known is the most famous action movie star in the world. About a month-ish before that came out, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child was revealed and people were like, “Did you know?!” It just comes back to maybe we’re psychic in really unproductive ways.

So much has been unfolding with Harry and Meghan — were you tempted to include that or now to write another book focused on that?
COCKS: We made a really conscious and long, reasoned choice not to have a Meghan Markle in the book, and a really big part of that was when we were trying to decide what to do about the book, we were like, “Well how do we want to tackle Meghan?” Someone on Twitter had said, “If you’re a writer, specifically a white writer, if there’s a story you want to write, sit down and really ask yourself why are you the person to write that story.” Here’s the thing, why are we the people to write the Meghan Markle story?
MORGAN: We’re not.
COCKS: If you’re writing outside your own cultural experience, you have to stick the landing on all the nuance and we’re two white ladies. We don’t have the lived-in, necessary perspective to make that a rich story and to write a novel that includes her or her likeness in it — to include a woman of color marrying into the royal family.
MORGAN: Especially as a protagonist.
COCKS: Then, could we really shunt that person off as a secondary character? I don’t think that would really do that story justice either, so we would have to be iron-clad positive that we could nail that and neither of us felt like we wanted to present ourselves as the almighty mouthpieces of what that experience is like because it’s not an experience we’ve lived. It just felt arrogant and irresponsible to tell that story from the outside. That’s someone else’s to tell, and I hope someone else tells it.
MORGAN: A Meghan Markle novel would be amazing, and I hope someone writes it immediately. I would like to read it.

There are so many scandalous secrets the blurb could be referring to, but the book is called The Heir Affair, so are there questions of fidelity here? That’s not an unheard-of problem in the history of the royal family.
COCKS: It’s meant to be multi-layered. Once you read the book, you might look back and think the title works on a couple different levels.
MORGAN: I will say the main narrative thrust does not involve infidelity.

Your fascination with the royals in a public forum started sartorially with Go Fug Yourself — what is it about them you find so compelling? Why do you think readers are so obsessed with royalty — real or fictional?
MORGAN: First of all, it’s interesting to think about what it would be like to be born into a family that’s got so much history and is so rich and is so complicated.
COCKS: And you’re born a celebrity.
MORGAN: Just being thrust into it without any choice of your own is a very interesting, fertile ground. But also I think for Americans, the British royal family isn’t politicized the way it is in the U.K. My taxes don’t go to pay for them. The way they’re taught in schools and covered in the media here is it’s the longest-running soap opera any of us have ever followed. Going back to Henry VIII and his many wives — we are taught as consumers of culture in America to view them as a soap opera, and they are pretty dramatic.
COCKS: We’ve been following these real people a long time. There are going to be people in 40 years who look back like, “I remember when Prince George was a baby, I just want the best for him.”
MORGAN: It’s like a daytime soap. I started re-watching General Hospital recently, and you turn it on and you’re like, “Oh my god, this guy is still up to these shenanigans.” You can dip in and dip out.

Because you write a fashion blog, how important are the clothes when you’re writing? Can you tease your favorite look you’ve invented in The Heir Affair?
MORGAN: We try not to get too deep into clothes because there was a period of time where every young adult book and every chick-lit book, including our young adult books, would really describe what people were wearing in brand-oriented detail. It didn’t age that well. You want to be a little vague…. We have a tendency to put Bex in stuff that Kate has worn previously, just as a little wink. This new book is a little more interior than the first one. So they’re not out as much. They’re inside dealing with their s—, and Bex is a casual person.

Brexit has happened since the last book — does that enter into this universe at all?
COCKS: I can’t remember when the original Scotland referendum was — I think it was before The Royal We came out because we talked about it and we were like, “Is our book instantly dated?” Maybe in our book, it didn’t happen.
MORGAN: We don’t mention Brexit. I don’t know that it necessarily did not happen.
COCKS: It doesn’t come up, and I think probably one of the reasons was it’s been such a drawn-out process, we don’t really understand what it means yet. So that would be the other concern there, if we tried to put on our wizard hats and tried to predict how that was going to look, and we really whiffed it, that would take [readers] right out it.
MORGAN: Adding in too much real-world news, to write it as it’s actually happening, into an alternate universe, just feels like it’s going to become a disaster.

Do you know if anyone in the royal family or adjacent to it has read The Royal We? Is that something you’d want?
MORGAN: I heard from a Go Fug Yourself reader who works at Kensington Palace, at the museum, that she has seen someone who works there reading it. She wasn’t super specific…. We have to think, and this is just a theory, if you’re Meghan Markle and you start dating Prince Harry, one of your friends gave you that book as a joke. For sure. I don’t know that she’s read it, I wouldn’t expect her to have at all, but I think someone gave it to her as a gag. I just would like her to go outside holding it. Or Kate. Or both of them together. They could reunite for book club, holding the book, reading the book in the park.

You didn’t initially plan a sequel, but what about now? Are you closing the book on Bex and Nick for good?
COCKS: Right now I feel the same way as I did when we finished The Royal We, which is I’m good with how we ended it, let them all live for a little while, and then we’ll figure it out. I think there’s always something. Never say never.
MORGAN: If not everyone is dead at the end of the book, there’s always somewhere you can go. And spoiler, not everyone is dead at the end of the book.

This conversation has been condensed and edited.

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