Princes, presidents and Austin, Texas make for an odd combination.
But in Casey McQuiston’s new book, “Red, White & Royal Blue,” weaving them together landed her the title of a New York Times best-selling author.
The novel tells the story of the first son of the United States and the Prince of Wales. After a photographed dispute between the two goes viral, they are forced into a friendship in order to save the reputations of their countries’ relationship and ultimately fall in love.
The Daily Texan spoke with McQuiston to discuss her hit debut novel.
The Daily Texan: What was the inspiration behind the story, and what was the writing process like?
Casey McQuiston: The story essentially came from my own fascination with high profile but intensely private worlds like the royal family and the White House. We see everything they do, but we also see nothing they do. I thought it’d be fun to step behind the curtain, and as it was early 2016 at the time and I was closely following the presidential election, it felt natural to set it during one. But the outcome of the 2016 election was definitely a huge roadblock for me. I didn’t expect it, and it meant that I needed to change my entire approach to the political world I was writing. I wasn’t sure I could push through it, and I shelved the manuscript for six months afterward, but ultimately, that time off and a well-timed trip abroad away from the news cycle gave me the mental and emotional space to get back into the story.
DT: You grew up in Louisiana. What made you decide to have Alex, the first son, grow up and live in Austin?
CM: The foundation of this book was the (fictional) president herself, who she was and where she was from, so it really came down to what type of politician I wanted to write about. As a red state progressive, I was fascinated by the idea of this Wendy Davis-esque badass Democrat from Texas running the country with a combination of folksiness and razor sharpness. So it all spun out from there — Alex is from Austin because it’s the capital where his mom worked but also because I wanted to write a story about progressives from red states. People forget we exist.
DT: What kind of research and preparation did you do about Austin?
CM: I spent a lot of time in Texas growing up and in college. One of my best friends lives in Austin. So it was a lifetime of unofficial research trips to absorb the culture, a lot of talking to friends who were born and raised in Texas and live in Austin, tons of firsthand food tasting. Some people in Louisiana might hate me for saying this, but Louisiana and Texas have a lot in common culturally. Texas has always felt very much like my secondary home state, so I’m proud to write about it.
DT: What is your opinion about the status of LGBTQ+ representation in literature right now?
CM: I think we’re in a great place, and I also think it’s just the beginning. I’m so excited about new and upcoming releases that are pushing queer characters into the center of stories, especially ones that go beyond the mainstream status quo of queerness. Every day I hear about more queer stories by trans authors, authors of color, authors writing from and on every part of the sexuality spectrum. I hope that we can all throw our weight behind those books and show publishers that there is a market for them and that they should be taking more chances on