It's been an exciting few weeks at Pixelberry! Spring is in full bloom, and with it, we've seen the release of the newest The Crown & The Flame book and Endless Summer's grand finale -- and yes, Endless Summer: Book 2 is currently in the works.
But that's not all we've got in store for you! We just released The Royal Romance, a thrilling whirlwind of love that doubles as a spin-off of Rules of Engagement. It's the first of several new books we're hoping to unveil throughout the spring and summer.
The Choices team is pretty much constantly hard at work on current and future books... but I did manage to snag the two writers from The Royal Romance for a quick chat:
Let's hit the basics first. What is The Royal Romance about?
Jennifer: 'The Royal Romance' is about a normal girl who has one magical night with a prince and makes the spontaneous decision to travel to his kingdom to try to win his heart. But will you end up with him or fall for someone else along the way?
Kara: We'll sometimes start off with a guideline, kind of like a one-line prompt. For Rules of Engagement, for example, our goal was something more dramatic than The Freshman and following four different characters. For The Royal Romance, our premise was to write a fish-out-of-water romance about a normal girl who gets swept into the world of royalty. We knew we wanted there to be some kind of competition element to it, so what we ended up with was something like a cross between The Bachelor and The Prince and Me--all of the thrill of falling in love with the adventure of traveling and trying to compete for the person you love.
It's always fun spotting the crossovers in different Choices books and seeing the universe grow. How did you settle on the idea of creating a Rules of Engagement spin-off?
Jennifer: We'd already started developing the kingdom of Cordonia for Rules of Engagement, and when we found out we'd be making a romantic, royalty-focused book, it seemed like a good opportunity to expand the world and dig deeper into what it's like there since you don't see it very much in Rules.
Kara: Technically, The Royal Romance is also a continuation of The Crown & The Flame, though that may be a little more subtly done! One of the characters, Olivia, is a descendant of Zenobia, who appears in book 2 of TC&TF. Readers can probably tell that we love crossovers. Part of that's because we all love seeing what the whole team is working on, so we play all the Choices books. But part of it's also because writers will switch books when we need to help out with something else. For example, Jennifer moved from The Freshman to help launch Rules of Engagement. The writers from Most Wanted are currently working on Endless Summer and #LoveHacks, as you might have figured out from all the mysteries and jokes! Braidwood Manor had a writer from The Freshman on it, which is why there's some cameos there.
Sometimes it can be hard when you work on a story for so long to then move on to start up another book. Leaving The Crown & The Flame to focus more on Rules and The Royal Romance was really difficult for me because I love those characters so much, but TC&TF was fortunate to have two other amazingly talented writers to keep it going. We're always excited to get the chance to tell new stories, tackle new genres, and experiment with new ideas, but I think we all also have so much love for the other characters and worlds we've created that it breaks our hearts to leave them behind. I think that's why we have so many crossovers in the whole game! It's our way of taking our worlds with us.
What do you personally love most about The Royal Romance? And what are you most excited for our readers to encounter?
Kara: One cool thing we really wanted to do was have people get to pick their prince. This is the first time we've let you customize a love interest! Another thing I'm excited for is that because we're using the same customizable character as #LoveHacks, we were able to get more skin tones and facial features so players have more options for how to customize their own character, too.
Jennifer: Also, we've had a lot of fun building up the characters around the Prince, and if dating a prince isn’t your cup of tea, it’s quite possible there are other lady and gentleman suitors for players to encounter.
All of our books have, to varying degrees, some romance in them. But this book is unabashedly about romance - it's in the title! What are your thoughts on romance as its own genre?
Jennifer: I love romance and reading romance! Whenever I talk to people about it, though, they usually bring it up in a guilty way like maybe it's something to be embarrassed over or perhaps because some don't really see it as real literature. It makes me sad when people feel like they need to be ashamed of what they like! It feels sometimes like certain genres are deemed less literary or worthy, and I feel like the genres that get called out are often ones that are loved by women or young adults. A certain genre might not be for everyone, but that doesn't make it less important to the people who care about it.
I think romance stories have a lot of heart, and that's something I love in storytelling. To me, ultimately, a good romance is about seeing how people relate to one another and find meaning in their life. Connecting with people--whether it's romantic or not--is a fundamental part of existing, and romance stories have the opportunity to explore that. And if you can find something real in what you're reading, then isn't that the point?
This book came together while you were simultaneously working on Rules of Engagement. That's taking multi-tasking to a whole new level. How do you do it? Just how much coffee do you drink in a day?
Kara: Sometimes it feels like we never stop working! When you love the stories and the characters as much as we do, it can be really hard to stop thinking about them, even in the middle of the night. Plus, Jennifer and I have been best friends since high school, so we spend a lot of time outside of the office together, and when we're excited about a project, we can't stop talking about it. On New Year's Eve this year, we were brainstorming The Royal Romance while everyone else was watching the ball drop.
At the end of the day, though, this isn't just a job to us, and I hope it shows in the stories Choices puts out. It's crazy how much we end up caring about the characters and the stories we're telling. I think that's the hardest part. We love writing and we want to do our best, tell the best story, and write something that will touch people. In most other forms of writing, you'd get a lot more time to agonize and revise, but we've got to hit weekly releases, so when Wednesday comes, time's up. There's a lot of pressure to write well, write fast, and, in this case, to build something new in a very short amount of time. The scariest thing is feeling like with so many things that go into every chapter and every book, and so many deadlines to hit, we might mess something up and let our fans down. But when it all goes right and we put out something that readers love, it makes it all worth it!
Finally... I've got to know. What's your favorite fairy tale princess story?
Kara: Sleeping Beauty! I was convinced after I heard that story that my parents would some day reveal that I was actually a princess in hiding...
Jennifer: Cinderella. I love it as a transformative rags-to-riches story and also as a tale that you can see told across many different cultures. I do tend to favor more modern interpretations though, like the novels Just Ella or Ella Enchanted which are two of my favorite books.
Thank you for taking the time to chat! And to all of you reading along, The Royal Romance is out now -- check into your game for a whirlwind of love, adventure, and more! Hope you love it just as much as we do.