By Maureen Lee Lenker
August 21, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Valerie Mosley

Casey McQuiston made history (huh) with her best-selling debut, new adult rom-com Red, White & Royal Blue.

The book made EW's top romances of 2019 list, where we called it "a fireworks in the sky, glitter in your hair joyous royal romance that you’ll want to fall head over heels in love with again and again."

Now McQuiston is back with another queer rom-com, which EW can exclusively reveal the cover for, and it's sure to make us squee just as hard as her first. Billed as a queer spin on Kate & Leopold, One Last Stop follows 23-year-old August who develops a crush on her subway encounter, Jane. There's only one problem — Jane is from 1970s Brooklyn and is trapped on New York City's Q train lost in time.

August, who is a practiced skeptic when it comes to just about everything, decides to do whatever she can to help Jane return to her own time — and try not to fall in love with her along the way. But it's a challenge when Jane's hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair are the thing August looks forward to seeing most on her subway commute every day.

"In my first book, there’s a lot of fantastical elements and this book has elements of wish fulfillment, but in the sense of finding a family and things like that," McQuiston teases. "It’s really much more centered on the experience of being broke in your twenties and working a s----y waitressing job and having too many roommates and eating half a bagel for breakfast. Most of my characters are working-class people, which is something I love to see in a rom-com, and it’s a bunch of 20-something queer people finding family and each other and community, and I pulled a lot from my own twenties for it."

One Last Stop hits shelves June 1, 2021. We called up McQuiston to get all the details on why she wanted to tell a love story out of time, why she chose the "Q" line, and which figure from the past she could see herself falling for. Check out the cover, designed by Kerri Resnick and illustrated by Monique Aimee, below and read on for more from McQuiston.

St. Martin's Griffin

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: One Last Stop has been pitched as a queer Kate & Leopold. Was that movie your inspiration or is that just a great marketing peg?

CASEY MCQUISTON: It’s kind of both. I remember loving Kate & Leopold as a kid — I was a '90s baby, so I definitely grew up on the Meg Ryan rom-coms. I’ve always loved love stories where one person is displaced in time or there’s some kind of time and space element of impossibility. There’s something so romantic about a love that is impossible and that persists anyway. I don’t think I sat down and was like, "I’m going to do a Kate & Leopold retelling." I had the idea of just an impossible love, and then I was like, "Well, what are some impossible love stories that I like?" Then I was like, "Oh yeah, Kate & Leopold, I love that movie, let me go watch it." By the way, watching it in 2020 is hilarious. Basically, any late '90s, early 2000s rom-com, it’s like, "Oh God, these leading men are not sexy anymore." The way they act is not attractive, except for Kate & Leopold because he’s Hugh Jackman acting like a Regency-era Hugh Jackman,

Of all the places for Jane to be from, why did you choose the 1970s? 

There are some plot-relevant reasons that I won’t reveal because that’s spoilers. But I was really into the idea of the '70s in New York, this post-Stonewall era where I loved the idea of a queer person who was a community activist and somebody who’s really involved in a lot of the movements that were happening in the '70s. If you’ve read Red, White & Royal Blue, you know I’m a history nerd. I love being able to sneak queer history into a queer rom-com and choosing somebody who was around for a lot of the gay liberation movement was really exciting for me because I knew I would get to sneak in all kinds of little history nuggets and things that would hopefully inspire people to go and read further about queer history. I love to think of it as a celebration of queer communities of the past and the present and what we can learn from the past and what we owe to each other.

When did you first have the idea for this story?  

I had taken a trip to New York a few years ago, and I’d been to New York a few times, but it was the first time I’d taken the subway a lot. There’s a million things to love about New York, but I was really taken with the idea of the subway. I live in New York now and I realize the subway is pretty mundane, but there is a certain level of magic to vanishing into the darkness with a bunch of strangers and reappearing somewhere else and you’ve all entered into this liminal space together and emerged together. I was really fascinated with that idea, and I was fascinated with the classic strangers on a train trope — the idea of a public transit crush. You see a beautiful stranger on a train and you fall in love for like half an hour and then you go your separate ways, but in your memory, they will always be crystallized on that train and you can never imagine them anywhere else. What if that was true? What if it was a story where you fall in love with somebody who only exists on this train, on your morning commute? It kind of spun out from there, just this idea of public transit magic. My first book was very fantastical and very high stakes, and I loved the idea of taking it down to the very small, mundane and making that into something that could be just as magical as anything else.   

The book is set specifically on the Q train. How did you choose that route?

When I was first researching it, there were a few lines I considered. Purely for aesthetics, I liked the Q line because Q for “queer." So I actually took a research trip to New York, and I was sitting on the train with a notebook and I would ride it from one end to the other. I would take notes on every stop, which stops were underground, which stops were above ground, what the trip between each stop was like. It’s really interesting to have a consistent setting in a book that moves. If they're between this stop and this stop, is there sun on their faces or are they underground? But I love the Q because it’s actually one of the longest lines and it has a very long stretch above ground and it goes from deep Manhattan all the way to Coney Island. So I loved the idea that there could be beautiful sunset moments. It crosses the Manhattan Bridge and the East River, so you get beautiful views from the train. I love to write cinematic moments where you zoom out and see the whole scenery of a scene and the Q gives you so many moments to do that.

You recently moved to NYC. Did that change your outlook or help shape the way you wrote about the city?

When I was first drafting and writing it, I was doing a lot of trips to New York. A lot of this book is about falling in love with not just a person, but also a city. [Like] my protagonist, I fell in love with the city and talked myself into moving here. There were a lot of reasons; it made sense for my career and everything. It’s very weird because it does seem like a one-to-one thing, but I swear I did not plan to move to New York when I came up with the idea of this book and started writing it. But yes, since I’ve lived here, there’s definitely been details added in copy edits. Any time I see that my research was correct, it’s very reassuring. Falling in love with a city is a very real thing and loving a city through good times and bad times, like in sickness and in health, is really real.

This cover is so lovely. It has a similar soft palette and illustrated approach to Red, White & Royal Blue. How did you end up with this final version?

So much of a love story is about specific moments and sense memories and how recalling a specific moment can unfold into a full-body experience of love and warmth and remembrance. I really wanted the cover to feel like a moment. We wanted it to have a very strong sense of place. We wanted it to feel like New York. We wanted it to feel like the subway, and that’s a really hard thing to do in a cover. Then there’s all these little details that I love that I think people will appreciate even more when they read the book, like the little buttons on Jane’s jacket and the scarf coming out of August’s bag. We really wanted it to feel just like this moment crystallized in time because that’s a lot of what the book is about. It’s about moments in time.  We also really wanted that moment of eye contact between August and Jane and that sense of yearning and impossibility of Jane looking at her from on the train while she’s outside the train. 

Jane is someone you created, but if there was any figure from the past you think you could fall in love with if they teleported here, who would it be?

Anne Bonny. She was a pirate and she was swashbuckling around the seas and taking on beautiful women as her lovers, and I feel like I’d really fall for an adventurer with a sword. I’m a sucker for a sword.

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