Writer Profile: Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

 We had the chance to ask Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, authors of the best-selling romance The Royal We, a few questions about their co-authoring process, novel writing, their go-to playlists, and a few other fun topics sprinkled in between. We love their candor, their teamwork, and their willingness to take risks and chase ideas. Enjoy!

Credit: Kim Fox

Credit: Kim Fox

What is the co-authoring process like? We’ve read novels that have been co-written before, but they’ve typically been from different perspectives, each author writing one. What is the rhythm of your co-writing process?

JESSICA: Yeah, we don't do it that way, obviously! We start out by writing a very detailed outline and then basically trade the manuscript back and forth -- one of us will write a big chunk, the other will edit or write-through that chunk, then add her own new chunk. And then the cycle starts again.

HEATHER: We feel like it's important for each of us to understand the tone and rhythms of every character too, and working this way really enables that. It's not splitting the book up and each writing half; it's each of us writing the whole thing, really.

How did y’all negotiate who wrote what?

JESSICA: It doesn't really work that way! We just write the section we're at in the outline when it's our turn to tackle the manuscript. But essentially, we both have written everything in the book. Sometimes the section you write gets left mostly untouched, but generally we dig into the other person's work. So there isn't any negotiation -- this isn't a competition!

HEATHER: If we're ever not sure whose turn it is to start something, we'll check to see if either of us has an idea, and if not, we flip a coin. Seriously. The way we work, we each get a crack at everything eventually anyway.

How did you decide to co-author a novel together?

JESSICA: Well, we've written together as co-authors for a long time -- we've been working on GFY together since 2004, which we write separately, but we've done a TON of freelance writing as a pair. So it was natural for us, when we branched out into fiction, to do that together as well.

HEATHER: And we love it, because there are essentially no dead days on the project. When I am done working and need a break, I don't just put it down -- I get to give it to Jessica, and she picks it up and works through it, and adds to it, so the project is always moving forward with ONE of us but the other still gets the much-needed rest.

If you could go back and tell yourselves something before starting your first novel, what would it be?

JESSICA: Stand up from your desk more often.

HEATHER: That's a big one. I have, and this is not an exaggeration, ruined my circulation.

What songs are your go-to writing songs?

JESSICA: I usually actually have sports on in the background when I work. I had a playlist that I listened to for The Royal We, but it was more specific to that book than to "writing" in general.

HEATHER: I don't like listening to music when I write. I also am usually watching sports, or maybe a TV show or movie. Never music.

What made you decide to write together rather than separately?

JESSICA: Well, we do write our own posts on the website -- so we kind of get the best of both worlds!

HEATHER: We've been a writing duo for a long time, and we really like it -- we have a built-in beta reader, if you will; built-in feedback from someone we already like and admire. Plus, writing can feel like a very solitary endeavor and this is a very nice way to make it a team sport.

How long have you each been writing? And how long have you been writing together?

JESSICA: I have been a writer all my life. Even when I was a kid, I was writing this and that. But we've been working together since 2004.

HEATHER: I wrote a couple stories here and there for school, but never considered myself a writer until much later. I was a journalist beginning in college and that was the track I was sure I was meant to be on, until a couple years into my career, when I realized I hated the reporting but loved the writing. I picked up some creative freelance work -- Jessica and I both wrote for the first TV recap site, Television Without Pity, and that led to some work crafting stories for reality TV. That's when I really started to have fun with the act of writing and think of myself as a writer.

What are each of your favorite genres to write?

JESSICA: We've written YA novels, and then The Royal We and our upcoming sequel, The Heir Affair, are women's contemporary fiction. (Sometimes people think they're YA -- they definitely are not.) I enjoyed writing both, frankly, although I find the latter easier because I don't need to try to figure out What The Kids Are Into These Days, which is tough! But all of our books have a through-line of telling stories about smart women in unusual circumstances.

HEATHER: We haven't jumped genres much; it feels natural to us right now to be writing contemporary fiction (even when we wrote YA, it was set in current times). Having said that... I guess you never say never. If I woke up with an awesome idea for a horror novel, it would be RANDOM, for sure, but I'd still probably call Jessica and be like, "WE HAVE TO TRY, RIGHT?" The idea is where it all starts.

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are the best-selling authors of royal romance The Royal We, and the young adult novels Spoiled and Messy. They are the editors-in-chief and co-founders of the long-running, popular celebrity-fashion website Go Fug Yourself. They both reside in Los Angeles.   

Ashton Ray