Interviews Kiera Cass Lets Her Characters Take the Reins in 'The Betrothed' Kiera Cass, author of the internationally best-selling The Selection series, transports us once again with 'The Betrothed,' a royal love story dripping with Tudor-inspired intrigue. By Katie O'Connor stop mute max volume 00:00 16:32 repeat Update Required To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin. Note: Text has been edited and may not match audio exactly. KO: Hi listeners. I'm Audible Editor Katie O’Connor and I'm thrilled to be speaking with Kiera Cass, best-selling author of The Siren, The Selection series, and the recently released The Betrothed. Hi Kiera.KC: Hi.KO: Congratulations on the release of the instant best-seller The Betrothed. The Betrothed follows Lady Hollis Brite, girlfriend to King Jameson and likely future queen. But the future she can see so clearly is called into question when a young man from a neighboring country shows up at court and, quite literally, catches her eye. Now I remember a tweet of yours that said the setting of The Betrothed is evocative of the Tudor era. And I was curious what it was about that time period that was so alluring to you?KC: I have always been slightly fascinated with it, even the lead up to it, the War of the Roses, where it's two branches of the same family duking it out to see who gets the crown. And then going into the Tudor era, which it seems like they finally got it settled, but then there's still so much drama, like just intense drama. I'm super into the six wives of Henry VIII. I kind of love them. I was supposed to get to see Six on Broadway before everything shut down.KO: Oh no....my favorite part of writing is that first time getting it on paper. The one time where it's mine, nobody else has seen it, no one else has touched it. It's just me and what the characters have informed me of, and I've gotten their story out on paper. It's so precious to me.KC: My soul was crushed. It was a big time of intellectual growth, it was incredible arts, the fashion is on point, and just the rules and expectations—I just think it's all fascinating. I love all of it. I knew that I wanted to make my own world so that it had its own rules, but I definitely use that as a reference point when it came to the way they spoke or acted and what they're wearing at the time.KO: That's really cool. What other types of research did you do then to help try to create this world? Because it is so rich with the court drama and some of the intrigue.KC: Besides reading fiction about the time—because if you're going to write it, I think it's good to reference people who've already done it and done it well. I found a reference [book] that was like, "how to be a Tudor." It went through the day-to-day life—and not necessarily who was rich, but the day-to-day life of people talking about what was on the floor, even. If you were in a palace it was different than if you were in a wattle and daub house. But just going through what their clothing looked like, how many sets of clothings people had. What would be on a dinner table. So researching that and kind of trying to go from there. And even though a lot of it doesn't get referenced in the book, for me just having the mental state of it was super helpful. We're just so fortunate that we live in a time where we have so much that we can draw from.KO: Yeah. I think that's amazing. I think a lot of times readers and listeners don't understand truly how much research and background work goes into creating a work of fiction. You think that that's just for pieces of non-fiction, but if an author wants to make sure that the world that they're creating feels vivid and true, you need to do that work. And like you said, both with reading existing books that are out there or histories. So that's really cool.KC: I studied history in college, so I'm super in love with it. It's one of those things that I just love. And I remember having an author friend saying that she wanted to write a historical fiction, but she went to start and she was like, "I don't even know how to get her out of bed. I don't even know what bed she would be in. I don't know what she's wearing." She was just like, "It's too much work. I'm not doing it." I was like, "I can respect that." Because it was a lot of work to get this right.KO: Yeah, yeah. So this is the second time that you've written a series involving royalty. And obviously it adds to the escapism factor, but I was wondering what draws you into royal stories?KC: There's definitely some higher stakes when there's a crown or a country on the line. Honestly, we can look at what's happening now with the British royal family. How who you marry really affects everybody. Everybody. And for good and for bad. There's just so much that comes attached to a title and a crown. I love that everything matters that much more. So I keep going back. It's just sort of romantic, I think. Again with the Tudor era stuff, I loved watching how people made their alliances and how people fell in love and how it wasn't always simple. I love Queen Victoria. I think Elizabeth II, she is amazing. Everybody's stories. So yeah, it's just fun to have that much more added to it, I think.KO: Yeah, yeah. It definitely adds to, as you said, the drama and the stakes of it all. And speaking of escapism, your stories are such a wonderful escape for so many of us and I just finished re-listening to The Selection for, I cannot tell you what time.KC: That makes my heart happy.KO: Do you get that same sense of escape while you're writing?KC: I do. It's a nice place to go. So I have to tell you, my favorite part of writing is that first time getting it on paper. The one time where it's mine, nobody else has seen it, no one else has touched it. It's just me and what the characters have informed me of, and I've gotten their story out on paper. It's so precious to me. But I also—once a book is published, I never read it again, because I go into editorial mode and I think about everything I wish I would have done better. Even with the audiobooks, I don't listen to them because I know I would hear it and be like, "Nope. No, no, no, no, nope." So the most escape comes that first time through. And then every time after that, it's just trying to get it better and better and better to a nice, shiny, final story that everybody else can appreciate. Then it's yours.KO: When you're writing, are you a plotter or a pantser? Are you just getting that first draft done and then you're going back into editing or are you editing as you go along?KC: No, I have tried to plot before. We'll use The Selection as an example. Because I started writing the story not knowing where... I was waiting for her to tell me what happens next. And then we got to a point where she just wasn't telling me fast enough, so I made the decisions for her and I just started writing. By the time I got to the end of the book and I actually knew her and knew the decisions she was going to make, I was like, "I've got to go rewrite the whole thing." And that changed the entire trajectory of the trilogy because the ending was supposed to be much different based on the decisions that I was making for America. KO: Woah.KC: Yeah, no, we've talked about this in a couple of... If I go to signings, this comes up, that it was supposed to be a different ending, and people just fall apart when I say, "Yeah, Maxon was supposed to die."KO: Oh God. Don't say it.KC: But it's not what happened. Everything's fine. No, I can't plot for the life of me. I don't even try it. I wait for them to just tell me what happens, and sometimes I get pieces of it. I take that and then end up stringing it together. But my control level is actually pretty low when it comes to the storytelling. I just got to get it out. That's my job.KO: Yeah. That's really interesting. So I'm curious then since you've obviously done a series before, I know you're saying you just sort of get it out, but is there anything that you learned or took from in you already having done a series that you applied to the duology in the sense of pacing or conflict or the love story? I'm curious about planning beyond just the first book.KC: You definitely want to get to a point where you feel like there is a breath or a good place to take a pause. I will say that the two books in The Betrothed series, it does feel like one really long story that we had to cut in half. Because, I don't know if you've read or listened to it yet, I don't know if you know how it ends—KO: I'm... I'll stop. I'll stop.KC: Okay. So there's that. So it does feel like there's so much more to tell. I've seen a couple of critiques about Hollis, the way she speaks about certain things. And I'm like, "Yeah, of course she does. There's so much more growth that has to happen and you'll get that as things come to a conclusion. We're just not there yet." We got her to a different place than where she started. And I think that was important. Where she was trying to take a big leap. And then the rest of it is wrapping it all up. So yes and no, I think the big thing is just to try to find a point where you can pause, even if it's not always the kindest place to pause for everybody else. Sorry about that.KO: I know, it’s okay, I forgive you. I trust the process, I trust what's coming.KC: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.KO: Spoiler free-zone here. So I'm not going to say anything.KC: Yeah, too soon, too soon.KO: Too soon. So, you are a master at the love triangle, and I have to say when I was re-listening to The Selection—I'm team Maxon, but re-listening right now, though, all of a sudden I was like, "Am I? I feel like maybe I'm team Aspen." And my fellow editor, Emily, has always been team Aspen. And she's like, "Well, it's about time that you realized he's a better choice."KC: Yeah, I didn't want to make it easy.KO: Right. And now we have Jameson and Silas, and I'm curious who you start with. And if the person who's end game is the one that you sort of start with as a character, or if it's the person who's the foil. And if you ever root against the end game couple as you're writing.KC: I will say when it came to Eadlyn, she did not end up with my final pick. And I know, honestly—KO: Me neither.KC: I know, I know, but that was who she was supposed to be with. Again, my power level is really low and I got a lot of pushback and a lot of talk about it and I was like, "I know. I'm really sorry. This is just how it unfolded."...to be the place where people hang out and just take a break from life—that's all I ever wanted. And to know that that's what's happening? I'm thrilled. I'm so happy.KO: It works. It works.KC: Well, I appreciate that. I was a Henri girl. I was like, "He's too cute." I just adore him and he's so precious.KO: He is so precious.KC: He would have supported her endlessly, like just a little ray of sunshine right there.KO: The scene in the kitchen too, it's just so charming. It's so charming.KC: I know. My boy. But so, they're not always the person that I think they should be with, but again, I can't make decisions for my characters. It just never pans out well. I do know that sometimes when I realize that this is the person that they're supposed to be with, sometimes I rush. I’ll bypass the setting-up with the person who they thought they were supposed to be with. So I've had to take the time to really explore, "Why were you even excited about this person in the first place? Why did you think they were the one?" And give them time to explain why they were so torn in the first place. So that's the lesson for me. And I think that's probably going to be—I think as far as writing, it's always going to be an issue for me. I rush and I want to get to the part that I'm super excited about because I can tell they're excited about it. I'm still working on that one.KO: I love it. I love how connected you get to your characters. KC: I love them. They’re my babies.KO: That’s great. It shows through in your stories too. And I would be remiss if I didn't congratulate you on your very exciting movie news for The Selection.KC: Thank you.KO: Congratulations. I know that your fandom has been hungering for it and they were even cited in the announcement, which was incredible.KC: Yeah. I mean, bless their hearts, they've been waiting forever. The thing was, we've been through so many false starts. I know that they're just so ready. We had two pilots shot for TV. They didn't quite work out. And then we moved to Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers picked it out and we had a director and we thought we were good to go. And then it just sat there for a while. It turned out the people who were at Warner Brothers when we signed the contract, they'd moved to Netflix and they were still excited about it. And so behind the scenes, they were talking to pull it over. So it feels like we were finally at the right place. I'm super excited that it's finally going to be in their hands because the enthusiasm, literally worldwide, has just blown my socks off. I can post anything. Like I can say, "Hey guys, I've lost my socks." And they'll be like, "So when's the movie coming out? Do you have any movie news?" I'd be like, "Look at my cute dog." "Okay, but who's going to be Maxon?" That's all I ever get. So finally it's there, and they'll get some answers, which they have deserved for a very long time, a long time.KO: What's it like to have so many readers and listeners invested in your characters and your stories?KC: It's mind-blowing. I will tell you, every time anything good happens, I am genuinely shocked because I feel like there's no way that they can keep being this excited and this connected. We had a four-year break between The Crown and The Betrothed. And I was like, "I don't know if anybody still cares. Maybe not, we'll see." And to have it go to number one, to have people picking it up still, to be talking about it the same way that they talk about The Selection, sort of like, "I don't know how I feel about this, but I have a theory about this." Just to see it? Shocked. So surprised, and super thankful. Because I never set out to write very high fiction. I knew I wasn't writing anything that was going to win scholarly awards, but to be the place where people hang out and just take a break from life—that's all I ever wanted. And to know that that's what's happening? I'm thrilled. I'm so happy.KO: Well I'm one of those people and I thank you for it.KC: Anytime. I got you. I got you.KO: I'm like, "Should I put it in the interview that I will be calling out sick when the movie comes out?" Don't expect me at work that day. I think my boss would probably expect it. She might call in sick with me.KC: Yay, buddies. I like it. I like it. I support it. That's awesome... Again, I want to give a huge shout out to all the readers in whatever form they take it in. I was really excited, I think Jessica did a really good job on the audiobook and I just really appreciate it in all forms, so thank you guys.KO: Thank you, Kiera. And thank you listeners. 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