How Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan Sit Down & Write

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are back with 'The Heir Affair,' the highly anticipated sequel to their debut novel 'The Royal We.'

Five years after their beloved debut novel The Royal We hit shelves, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are back with the highly anticipated sequel The Heir Affair. Loosely based on the courtship of Kate Middleton and Prince William, They Royal We left readers wanting more of Bex and Nick’s complicated royal fairytale. In The Heir Affair, readers will finally find out what happens after 'happily ever after.’

Following the scandal that ruined their royal wedding, Nick and Bex are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world's judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they'd placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick's brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten—nor forgiven.


The Heir Affair (and it’s predecessor The Royal We) is perfect for fans of Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory, and American Royals by Katherine McGee.


We spoke with Heather and Jessica about pulling inspiration from headlines and their own favorite romance novels.

We got our ARCs of The Heir Affair last night, a milestone in every book’s life that is always always a thrill. It never feels like an actual book until I see it literally in book format. It’s a weird time to have a book coming out - well, it’s a weird time to be alive, full stop. I hope you’ll think it was worth the wait! (Cover once again by the brilliant @estokescreative)
April 23, 2020

Q: Where and when do you like to write the most?

JESSICA: I am truly not precious about this. Heather and I used to cover Fashion Week, first for New York magazine and then for Cosmo, and we had to file after almost every show. I have written a story in the back of a cab, on the subway, sitting on the floor of an airport, in a park—any number of places. I do most of my work now on my living room sofa, as opposed to my office desk—and sometimes from my bed—but I think in order to be productive, I have trained myself to do it when I can, where I can.

HEATHER: I prefer to do it at my proper desk, for sure, but there are also days when I'm sitting in my bed with my laptop, or on the couch watching something with half an eye. Sometimes my circulation needs me to stretch my legs OUT, you know? It's great that we're used to catch-as-catch-can, because I find that the fewer obstacles I can put in my own way, the better; I can't cleave too hard to needing specific ideal writing circumstances or else said writing will never happen. There's a bonus Freddie chapter at the end of the Royal We paperback, and I had to do all my work on that while in bed because of a nasty ear infection. Adapting is key. 

Q: When it comes to drafting, do you prefer writing on a computer or freehand?

JESSICA: I have huge respect for people who draft by hand, but my hand would fall off. I could not write a book freehand, from a literal physical perspective.

HEATHER: We've tried notecards, and stuff, and inevitably it all falls to the side in favor of talking everything out via online chat. When I watched the new Little Women and Jo was sitting there meticulously writing, I just thought, "I would waste so much paper. I edit way, way too much for that."

Q: Are you more of a plotter or pantser?

JESSICA: As a writing duo, we always write from a very specific outline—we need to know where the story is going, and we need to agree on the direction, or the book would take forever and be a mess. You do not want to get back a chapter from your writing partner and find out that she's killed off a character you had big plans for later. I totally respect that a lot of people don't work this way—and our outline definitely does shift and change in the process of writing the book, often by quite a lot—but we need to start from an agreed-upon basic plot, or we'd never get anything written!

HEATHER: In a sense, we're both, though! We absolutely need that road map, but we have also never made an outline we didn't have to deviate from dramatically, either because it was way too long (The Royal We) or because we realized we'd mispaced and misplaced some emotional beats that needed to come much sooner (The Heir Affair). I think The Heir Affair was the closest to being a pantser we've ever been, and neither of us cared for it AT ALL. But those early pacing changes threw a lot of stuff up into the air and we didn't have time to stop and rebuild. We just had to press ahead and check in with each other a LOT to make sure we still had the same vague destination in mind.

Q: Stephen King has a great line in On Writing that says “the scariest moment is always right before you start. After that, things can only get better.” That scary pre-start moment often inspires procrastination in writers. Suddenly, you have to clean your entire house, do the laundry and play Candy Crush for an hour before you can actually start writing. Is there anything you need to do before you can actually sit down and work?

JESSICA: I've never been a habitual procrastinator with my work. Even as a student, I always just came home and did my homework. This is not because I am more highly evolved or anything—it's just my genetic make-up and has always been my personality. Having said that, I certainly am no stranger to screwing around, but it's usually (and I actually think this is what a lot of procrastination is at its heart) when I am trying to figure something out, like how to fix something that's wrong with a story. So it's not before I start, it's usually when I hit a roadblock. My bad habit is scrolling around on the internet. I have been known to unplug my WiFi when I am on deadline to keep myself from wasting time on Twitter or whatever.

HEATHER: I feel very seen by that quote, and yet also, I think there are plenty of scary moments along the way when you realize you may not know where you're GOING. I am completely a procrastinator when a project is making me anxious, as The Heir Affair very much did. The problem is, I also often work better when I am under pressure—it's like something FINALLY unlocks—so I've internalized the fact that I can procrastinate a little and the sky won't fall. It's so unhealthy, though. I need to break that habit. And to be sure, I don't always do it. Sometimes, the inspiration is there and I'm excited to get to it. But if a project is making me queasy, you bet I will find a hundred other things I need to do first.

Q: What's the writing process like when you're co-authoring a book? 

JESSICA: Well, it's basically a lot of back-and-forth. First, we figure out a very detailed outline—it takes a lot of time, usually, to hammer this out—and then we just trade the manuscript back and forth. We each edit each other's work (sometimes very aggressively!) and then write our own piece and send the whole chunk back.

HEATHER: It's really lovely, actually. Because it means the book is always moving along. We each get built-in brain breaks, which makes us more likely to spot the kind of stuff you can only see from a distance, and I'm excited to get it back and see what one of my favorite writers did with it.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give an aspiring author?

JESSICA: I mean, my advice has always actually been the name of this newsletter, because you just have to sit down and do the work. There is no hack. It's simple. It's not EASY, but it is SIMPLE. But my other advice is that other authors are the greatest resource you have, and you need to see them as friends and support and not as competition.

HEATHER: Along with that, I'd say, read the acknowledgments. When you finish a book, or even before you start, don't skip that part. See how many people this takes. Writing can feel very solitary, and it can feel like you and you alone have to fix everything. But in reality, every writer has a support network, and often, that network includes a lot of editors and beta readers and fellow authors who help them crack tricky plot points. It's like with parenting, honestly: Asking for help when you need it will never, ever make this any less your baby. 

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Q: How did you decide it was time to revisit these characters and write a sequel to The Royal We?

JESSICA:  Well, it was always something that our publisher was open to, and that I think readers were very kindly open to as well, and we knew that after the book was published. But, to be honest, it took us a very long time to figure out what a sequel would ever be about. We didn't want to write a sequel just for the sake of writing a sequel. It took us a long time to get there. It wasn't so much, "Now is the time!" as much as it was, "Oh, maybe now we know what this might be."

HEATHER: We had also toyed with writing a Kindle Single about Freddie around the time of Harry and Meghan's wedding—nothing overly specific, but just hinting at a future for him after the events of the last book. Once we fiddled with that, we realized it felt good to be with those people again, so when our agent nudged us again toward doing a full sequel instead, we felt ready. The pump was primed. Sometimes you do need a push, and I personally was so nervous about somehow unraveling people's affection for the first book that it was holding us back from even trying. 

Q: When you come back to your characters after a few years away from them, especially when you're writing in the first person, how do you seamlessly slip back into their voices and stories?

JESSICA: It wasn't really that hard, to be honest, for me. The best way to do it, I think, for most writers is to re-read their first book. But we spent a LOT of time with these people in writing the first book AND we didn't write another book in between these two. So even a few years later, once we got rolling, their voices kind of just came right back to me.

Q: There are certainly some parallels between the royal lives of Bex, Nick and Freddie, and that of Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. In The Royal We, obviously, an American marries the Prince of England. Was it surreal to see something so similar to your novel play out in real life?

JESSICA: Yes, very very much so. We truly did not think this was something that was likely to happen in real life, so it was extremely surreal when it did. 

HEATHER: It's funny—when we decided to base a novel on William's and Kate's courtship, mostly to explore the side effects of falling in love with someone whose life is THAT extra, we made Bex American because we thought the first-person aspects of the book would feel more authentic that way given that we too are American. It felt like a way to root ourselves in a story that obviously is not one we have personally lived. But we thought, "Will people think that is a bridge too far, that he marries an American?" We even have Bea say that in the book: "He will never marry an American." When it then happened a year or so later with Harry and Meghan, we were gobsmacked. And delighted!

Q: How do you balance those tantalizing, pulled-from-the-headlines in real-life plot points with the fictional aspect of Bex's story?

JESSICA: So, for us, in The Royal We, basically we used a lot of the tentpole events of William and Kate's relationship as a structure and a starting point, and we went from there. But it was important for us as writers to remember that although obviously Nick and Bex are loosely based on Wills and Kate, they are NOT those real people and that we should not be hamstrung by that.  After a while, those big event moments—getting found out by the paparazzi, their break-up, and so forth—were more of a structural guide for the plot than anything else. And The Heir Affair strays very, very far away from real life. 

HEATHER: There will always be some similarities, accidental or otherwise, though. Sometimes we do make good guesses. But yes, after doing the world-building in The Royal We, the idea was for The Heir Affair to stand on its own a bit more. 

Q: It's clear from both The Royal We and The Heir Affair that a lot of research went into crafting your fictional version of the British Royal Family. Did you find inspiration for these characters anywhere else, such as books/tv shows/movies, etc?

JESSICA: I think there are probably a lot of subconscious influences at work, for sure. Freddie is named Freddie in part because of the floppy-haired younger brother Freddie that Rupert Graves plays in A Room With a View, which is one of my favorite movies. (He was originally named Peter and it just wasn't working.) We have a character in the upcoming book who was inspired by Chidi on The Good Place. I will say that when we were working on The Royal We, in particular, I basically only watched movies and TV shows with British people in them, so that I could keep the rhythm of their speaking patterns in my head. 

HEATHER: The new book touches on the Queen's sister Georgina a bit, and in crafting the nuances of their relationship, we landed on some aspects that aren't dissimilar to Elizabeth and Margaret. It wasn't intentional, but in a sense it was logical that we landed there. We'd already defined Eleanor a certain way, so the way we framed Georgina felt like a natural choice that reflected what seems to be a bit of a natural tendency in the royal family. The heir and the spare is a catchy phrase, but it does often mean that one side of that equation is pushed in a certain direction and the other side isn't pushed at all. That sometimes provides more freedom to be a charismatic charmer, but it comes with side effects of feeling rudderless.

Q: There are so many fun and lovable side characters in your ensemble. Are you especially fond of any of them? If so, why?

JESSICA: Thank you! Well, I think I love all of them—or, at least, I think I understand all of them, which is sort of the key. Obviously, I'm very fond of Gaz, Bex and Nick's most loveable (I think) and emotional friend. But I also love Bea, their meanest and bossiest friend. 

HEATHER: I got quite attached to Marta, the Queen Mother, in this one.

Q: Is there any possibility you will revisit Bex and the gang again in the future?

JESSICA: You never know! There is nothing on the docket at the moment, but life is unpredictable. 

HEATHER: It worked out that we waited a few years between books here, because the characters needed time to live and breathe, and that would be true for me with any future novels, as well. 

Q: What's one romance novel you'd recommend to all your readers? 

JESSICA: Just one?!?! This is an impossible choice. Right now, I'd highly recommend Jasmine Guillory's Party of Two, and Kennedy Ryan's Queen Move.

HEATHER: I've been gobbling up Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series—there are five; I hope there will be more—and I loved Talia Hibbert's Get a Life, Chloe Brown, so I'm thrilled that her new book Take a Hint, Dani Brown is finally here.


Grab your copy of The Heir Affair from IndieboundBookshop.org, or Barnes & Noble. Happy reading!


Sit Down and Write is brought to you by Emily Lee and Cassie Stossel. For more author interviews like this one straight to your inbox, subscribe below!