Jun 13 2017 12:00pm

Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren on Hate-Love Goals and Fangirling Over Each Other’s Books

The line between love and hate can be very fine, especially when you add in the extra complications of office rivalries! Christina Lauren recently released their office romance Dating You / Hating You and we're head over heels for it—but did you know they're also friends of another office romance author we're crushing on? Sally Thorne's debut, The Hating Game, landed on many Best of the Year lists, and has left us panting for more. Today, these authors are here to dish on all bookish things, love-hate, and office shenanigans. 

Meet you at the water cooler!

Writing often starts as a hobby—Christina and Lauren, even though you’ve been in the business for a while now, we know you’ve been working on this book longer than most people would guess. Can all three of you you tell us about the origin story for Dating You / Hating You and The Hating Game?

Christina Lauren: Dating You / Hating You was initially going to be a ‘standalone spinoff’ from the Beautiful Series, where two young professionals meet and hit it off the weekend before a job interview. They find themselves at the same office on Monday morning, and both meet Will Sumner from Beautiful Player, only to be told that he needs them both temporarily, and the permanent position will be opening at the end of the summer. Cue the competition.

But this outline didn’t last very long, and we adjusted it before we even began drafting in mid-2015.  We wanted the boss to be a bit of a villain, and that would never have worked with our beloved Will.

Incidentally, we’ve been friends with Sally for a number of years, and after she finished a draft called Hating Joshua Templeman she sent it to us to read. Only a few pages in we knew we wouldn’t be able to read it until we’d finished drafting because of the similar concept, but we hooked her up with Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary anyway, and the rest is history.

Sally Thorne: The Hating Game was a present for a friend’s birthday. I said I’d write her a short story and needed a prompt word to inspire me. The prompt word she gave me was ‘nemesis’ and it was a real lightning strike. I could see a man and a woman in a silent office, opposite each other, staring, a sense of tension and animosity between them. I started writing in every spare moment I could grab and couldn’t stop until The End, around six weeks later. It was my first manuscript that I got all the way to The End- everything else I ever started just fizzled out and are in the elephant graveyard in my computer marked ‘archive’ This story really wanted me to tell it- I just never imagined I’d ever publish it. I’m still in a state of shock.

You mentioned you’ve known each other for a long time, can you tell us about first impressions of one another?

CLo: We’ve known each other since 2009. We were all writing stories online and we became huge fans of Sally’s even back then. Not only did we love her writing, her twitter was hilarious. Sally always had something funny to say about Delia (her beloved pug), her haunted dollhouse, her Blythe dolls, or her love of Japanese skincare. Plus she and Christina would joke that the competitive rush they each feel when placing a bid on eBay is as close to organized sports as they’ll ever get. When Sally finished a draft of a book she was calling Hating Joshua Templeman and sent it to us to read, we DIED. Unfortunately, only a few pages in we knew we wouldn’t be able to read it until we’d finished drafting what we were then calling Intern Wars, because of the similar concept. Luckily we were able to hook her up with Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary anyway (we’re agent sisters!), and the rest is history. 

ST: I’ve known these ladies for a few years online and have always been in awe of Christina and Lauren’s talent, how well they work together and the characters and unforgettable moments they’ve created. Their fanbase is huge, vocal and well deserved. But anyone who knows them understands that what truly sets them apart is their support and generosity to other authors. They are such strong advocates for new voices- I should know, I am one. If they hadn’t introduced me to my agent, I really doubt there’d be a Hating Game. Other authors, less secure in themselves, may have guarded their resources and not offered to assist some wannabe nobody, but Christina and Lauren go through life with an open-hearted attitude that there’s enough room for us all: the world is a big place and there’s enough room for new stories, voices and success. Their belief in me has been instrumental in me achieving my dream.

At H&H, we’re totally addicted to the office romance trope—and we know you are too!—what do you think it is about it that dynamic that keeps us coming back from more and what is your favorite part of writing the dynamic?

ST: I think I wrote an office-based story because at the time I was working in a silent, dull office and I felt like it was a great setting for some great skirmishes. I think so many people respond to this trope because in an office, professionalism and propriety are required. There’s supposed to be no feelings and no sexual attraction. But let’s face it, in an office, you can spend more waking hours with colleagues than with friends or family, and it’s fun watching characters lose their professionalism as they fall harder and faster for each other. There’s also a lot of scope to have egos at play and real stakes: keeping a job, getting a promotion, achieving a goal- we can all relate to that. Plus, there’s something about a man in business attire!

CLo: The old adage “It’s business, not personal” is incredibly fun to write when business isinescapably personal.

Christina and Lauren—What is your favorite line or scene from The Hating Game?

CLo: That is an impossible question! The first one to come to mind is after Lucy has her sexy Josh dream (“I’m going to work you so fucking hard”) and then dresses a bit more scandalous than she normally would; the way it unravels Josh is just fantastic to witness. But, also, his brother’s wedding is amazing. The first time Lucy is at Josh’s apartment is amazing. When Lucy gets sick—also amazing. We are unable to pick a favorite here.

Sally, what about you, what’s your favorite line or scene from Dating You / Hating You?

There is a fabulous sequence of practical jokes getting out of hand. While I don’t want to spoil it, it culminates in Evie sabotaging Carter in a very impressive way. He’d carelessly mentioned his Achilles Heel earlier to her, and she uses it against him with sharpshooter accuracy—and the results are so funny I was laughing out loud. It’s so slapstick and visual and I would dearly love to see those scenes in a movie (are you hearing me, Hollywood?).

Christina and Lauren, what is the moment you fell in love with Josh?

“What is it, Lucinda?”  So, basically, the first time he speaks.

Sally, same question—when did you fall for Carter?

Oh, I’m easily won over—it was probably the second page he was on, when Evie meets him at a fancy dress party and he mentions he ships Harry and Hermione. I felt a big spark of surprise (and also smiled at the fandom reference). I sat up a little. Both Evie and I think at the same time: Hey, this guy is different and quirky and cute and sexy, I like him. And later he shows Evie a photograph of himself when he was a total teenage dweeb. I love a man who can make himself vulnerable and make fun of himself. She shows him a bad teenage pic in return, and he can’t understand what she finds embarrassing about it. He thinks it’s lovely. And then I was his.

 Also, can I just say: the first kiss is perfectly lovely. I think my heart flipped in my chest.

What’s something you learned from your debut that you have taken or want to take into future books? What surprised you the most?

CLo: We knew this from writing online, of course, but it hits home even more concretely when you put a book out in the “real world”: not everyone is going to love your work, and that’s okay. Beautiful Bastard has sold millions of copies around the world, but even so we realize some people really love it and some people really don’t. The important thing is that four years and seventeen books later, we’re still having a blast—and that’s also the greatest surprise. We knew we loved to write but neither of us realized how much fun it would be to do this together every single day.

ST: I was just surprised that anyone read The Hating Game at all! But they were. I’m not a great self-promoter so this brave little book was walking around out there doing all the hard work on its own. People were making their sister, mother and hairdresser read it. When it was mentioned in the Washington Post and People Magazine I started to pinch myself, but it was when readers told me they reread scenes when they needed a boost that I felt like I’d achieved everything I’d hoped for.

I think what I will take out of the debut is that I always need to write what I love best, and try to block out self-doubt. This second book is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted in my life because there are expectations now and in many ways I’m still a total beginner. I must keep remembering that readers respond to authenticity and if I love what I write, chances they will love it too.

The love-hate relationship with your couples is delicious—what other duos (from the page or screen) do you think have that same spark?

CLo: We’re all Austen fans here, and no one can deny that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are Hate-Love Goals. But more current favorites include Sarah Maclean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name, R.S. Grey’s Anything You Can Do, and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn.

ST: I feel like a total dork for even mentioning it, but there’s an amazing British kid’s TV show from the late eighties called Press Gang and it was my first exposure to the addictive thrill of a love/hate relationship. Spike and Linda worked together in a junior newspaper and were ready to strangle each other or kiss each other in every scene together. She despised him and he lusted after her. The actors were involved in real life and the chemistry is enough to short-circuit your television. They were breathtakingly cruel to each other, but Spike still admitted he’d drink her bathwater. Even as a kid, I was hooked.

My nomination for book characters—other than Evie and Carter of course—are Mac and Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s The Fever Series. The restrained lust and mutual dislike is legendary. The heat between those characters and how long it builds will make your heart pound in your ears.

What are two things your readers would be surprised to learn about you?

CLo: Probably everyone reading this knows that there are two of us, but without fail at every signing someone comes up to us and admits they had no idea we were co-authors. So, for those who already know this tidbit... let’s see...

1. We both loathe sweet pickles.

2. We are both married to other people but have had a couple’s massage. It was not even awkward.

ST: I’m horse crazy and I recently made another lifetime dream come true by buying myself a horse for Christmas. He was an impractical, expensive gift to myself, but I’m loving every minute of it, even when I’m shovelling endless piles of crap and being sneezed on. These days, I’m all about making dreams come true. 

I’m also addicted to toys and nostalgia—I collect a lot of dolls and toys from my childhood like My Little Ponies and Keypers. If it was mine when I was around seven years old, I am compelled to acquire it now. I also have a custom-made Victorian gothic dollhouse, with working lights, a coffin in the attic and tiny mouse holes in the skirting boards.

What was your best eBay or online purchase?

CLo: Sally is totally going to win this one because she’s way more interesting on EBay than we are.

Lo searches out more practical things like Lego’s for her kids or a great deal on shoes. Christina’s best deal was probably a box of old-timey Barbara Cartland paperbacks she got for $5. FIVE DOLLARS.

ST: Doll nerd alert! I bought a 1972 Kenner Blythe Doll for $20. These are fashion dolls with eyes that change colour with the pull of a string and were made for one year only (children found them creepy). They were then discontinued and they’re highly collectable now. They usually sell around $500-$600 so she was the kind of purchase all doll collectors dream about!

What’s the one thing you’re currently stalking?

CLo: Christina has gone deep down the K-pop rabbit hole.

ST: I really want a wicker handbag like Sophia Petrillo always carries in The Golden Girls. The hunt continues.

What are you all working on now?

CLo: We just finished edits on Roomies, which is out in early December. It’s a marriage-of-convenience meets Broadway romance, and was a ton of fun to write. Before that, we have Autoboyography in September, which is the story of Tanner Scott, a bisexual teen who moves from Palo Alto, California to Provo, Utah, and falls in love with the son of the local Mormon bishop. Christina used to work at a junior high school in Utah, and we are incredibly proud of and tender about this book. It’s our cherished book baby.

ST: My second book! At this rate I’ll be a runner up for Harper Lee, I know. People are always asking when it’s going to be ready. It’s just been taking some time to get used to the fact that anyone wants to read me at all! It’s still a tender, fragile WIP so I don’t want to share too much yet, but it involves an old house, kissing, sugar, a brother’s off-limits best friend and a set of twins ready to kill each other. I know what everyone loved about The Hating Game and I will do my best to deliver those same swoony feelings and adorable moments.

What was your first thought when you read each other’s books? 

CLo: As we mentioned, we had Sally’s book before she had even signed an agent, but couldn’t read it because we were working on something sort of similar (in the end, the books are night-and-day different, so we needn’t have been so careful). When we did—like most—we absolutely adored it. We’d read her stuff before but THG was so unlike that in voice and plot that we were convinced (as we are now) that Sally is some form of literary superhero and can do anything she sets her mind to.

ST: It was funny that we were working on office love/hate comedies at the exact same point in time. There must have been something in the air. I was really excited to read their take on it, because there are a million ways to interpret that set-up. We made sure not to read each other’s work at the time in case of cross-pollination. 

Now that I’ve finished reading Dating You / Hating You, what sticks with me is how genuine the characters are. They’re real. They’re alive. That’s incredibly difficult to achieve as a writer, and this is Christina and Lauren’s true strength, and the book just pulls you along effortlessly for the ride. The characters of Evie and Carter have full lives, backstories, things they love and loathe and buttons galore to be pressed by the right person. They have goals and weaknesses. They’re busy doing their thing, surviving this office merger and saving their jobs- and we’re just lucky enough to be let in at just the right moment to see their attraction spark.

There’s no two ways about it. I will not accept that they aren’t real people, walking around right now, arguing, and laughing, and kissing.

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

Everyone knows that all’s fair in love and war. But these two will learn that sabotage is a dish best served naked.

Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge—causing the pair to vie for the same position—all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals—so why can’t they act like it?

Can Carter stop trying to please everyone and see how their mutual boss is really playing the game? Can Evie put aside her competitive nature long enough to figure out what she really wants in life? Can their actor clients just be something close to human? Whether these two Hollywood love/hatebirds get the storybook Hollywood ending, or just a dramedy of epic proportions, you get to enjoy Christina Lauren’s heartfelt, hilarious story of romance in the modern world.

Learn more about or order a copy of Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren, available now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound

Buy at Kobo




The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Learn more about or order a copy of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, available now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at iTunes

Buy at IndieBound

Buy at Kobo




H&H Editor Picks:

First Look: Christina Lauren’s Dating You/Hating You

First Look: Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game

June 2017 Romance New Releases






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2. NotSurprised
I have read both of these books and I'm not at all surprised to learn that the authors of Dating You Hating You had previously been allowed to read The Hating Game because to me it felt like the same story.
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
@Kareni -- Glad you enjoyed! It was fun hearing some of their favorite moments in each other's books.

@NotSurprised -- To be fair, work-rivals-to-lovers has been around in romance forever. Sarah Mayberry's My Favorite Rival also has a similar setup. Personally, I love the trope and all these different takes on it.

What stood out to me in The Hating Game was how, as it turned out, Josh was way more interested in Lucy than he ever was in the job--Lucy just thought they were rivals. It was exquisite torture to see Lucy verrrrrry slowly put that all together. And as I read Dating You/Hating You (I'm about halfway through, so no spoilers, please!) I'm fascinated by how office politics have suddenly just derailed a relationship Evie and Carter both REALLY want. It's honestly one of the more realistic conflicts I've ever read, and I could picture myself reacting much the way Evie does in the book. I'm loving it.
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