Bridgerton creator reveals bonus
"Oh. My. God …" author Julia Quinn gushes, when we mention the Duke.
Seems she, just like 82 million households the world over, is swooning over British actor Rege-Jean Page who plays the devastatingly handsome and troubled Duke of Hastings in the Netflix adaptation of the first in her series of truly delicious romance novels.
"I can tell you that Rege is absolutely as mesmerising in person as he is on the screen," she says, with a giggle, as we chatdown the line from her home in Seattle. "I have a picture of the two of us together and every now and again some friend of mine will be like 'Oh My God The Duke' and I will send the picture to them to basically be like 'and I have been in his presence'."
For those of you who have been living under a rock or are yet to dip your toes into the phenomenon, Quinn's stories follow the lives of the Bridgerton clan - as a Stylist article says "a sort of Regency-era Von Trapp family, except they trade wittybarbs and bon most rather than gather around the guitar for singalongs". Over the course of eight books, published by HarperCollins Australia, she charts the romanticfates of the Bridgertons in the extremely competitive London marriage market.
(There are two more books coming soon - scroll down for details.)
However, where her novels depart from your standard regency fare is that they are sexy. Very, very sexy. In between the requisiteswooning we are treated to plenty of consensual ravishings of debutantes and dashing breeches-clad rakes ushering women into, well ahem, joy again … and again … and again.
MAKING IT VISCOUNT
Quinn spent more time on set with Jonathan Bailey, who plays one of those breeches-clad rakes, Lord Anthony - the eldest son of the Bridgerton family. Netflix has confirmed a season two will start shooting in London soon. It will follow his story, detailed in the second book The Viscount Who Loved Me - which Quinn says is a really fun book.
"I got a chance to talk to Johnny more than Rege but they are both absolutely lovely in real life," she says. "The funny thing is Johnny is like the polar opposite to (brooding) Anthony."
The book is largely centred on Anthony who decides to take a wife, while determined not to fall in love with his bride due to a trauma that leads him to firmly believe he will die young. But rest assured, sex-mad couple Daphne and her Duke will still appear. Quinn, who is a consultant on the period drama, has said she wants to see more of them in the second season, after their passionate love story captivated viewers in season one.
"I hope so. They do show up in the book. The series doesn't follow the book word for word - and I don't think it should. The story of each book plays out in a season, but it's not the only story. So I hope so, for no other reason than Daphne has the right to interfere with Anthony's life. To deny her that chance would be criminal. I think it would be lovely to see."
And while Julia hasn't read the proposed scripts for season two yet, she is confident fans will get to see Anthony "taken down so many pegs".
While The Duke and Lord Anthony - and the many, many strong feminist women such as Daphne, Eloise, Penelope, she has created - are much loved, Quinn cannot narrow down an absolute favourite.
What she can reveal is who she would like be when "she grows up": the enigmatic Lady Danbury.
"People can read into that whatever they want," Quinn says, rather enigmatically herself.
People have certainly been flocking to read her books since they were first released, so Quinn was confident her sexy, escapist period romance would find an eager TV audience. What she didn't anticipate was how the series would explode, let alone into the pantheon of Netflix's top five debuts. Bridgerton is Netflix's most-watched series after 82 million households tuned infollowing its release in December.
"It's amazing. The entire world is just a dumpster fire at the moment and then there's this crazy dichotomy that there is this area of my life that is really good. And that area is amazing, just every single day something good happens. I just tell people it's like, you know, when you are smiling so hard that you have to start to laugh because you just can't help it. I feel like I have those moments every single day."
While many have fears when beloved books are adapted for screen, Quinn is not among those. Especially with revered TV creator Shonda Rhimes on the case.
"Shondaland, I mean, they are simply the best people in TV - I'm certainly not going to tell Shonda Rhimes how to make television. And it's not even just about the finished product, as a company they align with all my values. I really wasn't worried at all. I also think there's the fact I am very passionate about my characters, but when I shut the book, I shut the book. I don't live and breathe the characters all the time. I'm able to give myself a certain degree of separation that other authors have some degree of difficulty in doing."
STORIES FROM THE SET
Quinn was entranced on set, not just seeing her creation spring to life, but also the behind-the-scenes action.
"Everybody kept asking me what it was like to see my characters come to life, and it was amazing, but the part that struck me more was seeing just how many people were working on it. That was the craziest part.
"When a novel starts it's just me and that's it. Then slowly my editor comes in and they own a piece of it too. It's really very solitary. But then you get to set and there's hundreds and hundreds of people working on this production. There's the director and the costume people and even the lovely guy who makes you a latte.
"There's so many people - I couldn't even tell you what they were all doing. But they were all doing it so well and all seemedso happy to be there. It seems to be a very joyous working environment.
"The other thing that was fun, and weird at the same time - was that by the time I got there, they'd been working together for months and they had formed this really lovely family and knew each other so well.
"And it was a little sad for me because I wasn't part of that family. So I was a bit like 'I hope you all love me?' "
Speaking of family, how has her own reacted to her work basically becoming part of the Shondaland Zeitgeist alongside smash-hits such as Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal? "I think for a while I was just Mum - but I think Netflix has now pushedme into a realm of coolness they can't deny," Quinn laughs.
As we chat she was gearing up for her son's 16th birthday the next day, trying to decide on a cake to celebrate the occasion. Quinn, along with much of the globe, has spent much more time in the past 12 months with her children than usual. She jokes that instead of the travel she had planned - from a family trip to Botswana, work trips to book festivals in Europe and more publicity for Bridgerton - she has basically been in her bedroom.
She also has a unique insight into the very real toll of the pandemic. Her husband Paul Pottinger is an infectious disease specialist.
"It's been really rough," Quinn says. "We have a very up close view on the toll it takes on our health care professionals. He is exhausted in every possible way a human being can be exhausted.
"I spent a lot of time trying to focus on my family as opposed to doing work, I really haven't been writing too much.
"Apart from PR stuff, I just focused on how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to do that."
EVEN MORE GRAPHIC
In a slight departure from her usual work, Quinn has a graphic novel coming out in August - Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron. It's still in the vein of her Bridgerton books.
In her seventh book - It's In His Kiss - about Hyacinth, the eighth (and youngest) child who visits Lady Danbury once a week and is often reading to her from a gothic novel with the aforementioned title. Fans have been clamouring for Quinn to actually write the novel.
"I can't do that - it's fun to do a paragraph of it here or there," she says. "It occurred to me that it would make a really fun graphic novel and my younger sister is a cartoonist.
"So we did it together - it's been really fun, She's quite a bit younger than I am so we didn't grow up together much. It has really brought us closer."
Quinn has also started putting ideas in her head for the next novel. She's slowly getting back to it. "I definitely struggle to come up with the right idea - I wouldn't say I've ever run out but I have some friends that will say I've got this in mindand this.
"I'm all 'Oh my gosh I can barely figure out what I'm going to do next week'. I'm so jealous."
But then again … she's met The Duke.
Bridgerton is now streaming on Netflix - and you can find all the Bridgerton novels, including the forthcoming novella Happily Ever After.
Originally published as Bridgerton creator reveals bonus