Julia Quinn returns to the Bridgerton franchise with the prequel, Queen Charlotte (Avon/HarperCollins, May 9), co-written with Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the hit Netflix series. In this novel—with a companion series now available on the streaming service—the bestselling author and the television visionary explore the epic romance between fan favorites Queen Charlotte and King George III, chronicling Charlotte’s discovery of love and the skills needed to rule. We spoke with Quinn over Zoom about the co-writing process, grief, and her gratitude to Rhimes; our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired you to focus on Queen Charlotte?

Actually, it was Netflix’s idea. They wanted to do a prequel series about Queen Charlotte, and then Shonda called me to say, “We’re going to do this,” and I thought it was amazing and said, “Why don’t I write a book?” So the idea came from the television side.

And what was it like working with Shonda Rhimes?

It was amazing, although I think a lot of people thought we were holed up in a room somewhere, but it wasn’t like that. We took turns and focused on our areas of expertise. She wrote six scripts that were turned into the six-episode series, and then the scripts came to me. I had to figure out how to turn them into a novel, which was just a fascinating experience and a completely different writing experience than I’d ever had before.

For one, the plot was written. Usually, I have a complete blank slate, or computer screen, or whatever you want to call it, and now I had this whole framework—but the framework was written as a television show, which means you have many short scenes. You never actually go into somebody’s head. You’re never really in one person’s point of view. I had to then break down the architecture of a screenplay and figure out how to write it as a novel, which was fascinating. I’m somebody who loves puzzles, and it was kind of a puzzle in many ways.

Would you turn a script into a novel again?

Yeah! While I was waiting for the scripts to come in, I started trying to research “What makes a novelization?’” and there’s nothing out there with any information. Finally, I decided people could say I did it badly, but nobody could say I did it wrong because it doesn’t exist quite like this.

On the television show, Queen Charlotte is known for her wit, intelligence, and strength. How did you maintain these traits in the prequel story?

I really did take my cues from Shonda and what came through the scripts because Queen Charlotte as a character didn’t exist in the original book series. Of all the main characters on the Bridgerton television show, she’s really the only one who was brought in new, so it’s actually kind of funny that she’s the one who got her spinoff. I think that’s in large part due to the amazing writing on the show but also Golda Rosheuvel’s incredible performance.

Obviously, it’s not a history lesson. Things [in the novel] aren’t exactly the way it was [in real life], but I wanted to bring in—and Shonda also wanted to bring in—some of these historical events and how they affected Queen Charlotte. For example—this is history, and it’s in the show this way—she comes to England and meets the king and marries him within hours in a country she’s never been to before. She’s really a pawn and has no say about what’s happening to her. Then you look at this incredibly dynamic, forceful, and powerful woman that you’ve got in Bridgerton. Let’s try to imagine the type of person who could grow into that.

Were there any fears you had about writing about this character that you didn’t have experience with?

She is a woman of color; that was going to be something new for me, and that was something I feel very strongly that I wanted to be very respectful and make sure that I didn’t perpetuate some type of stereotype that I may not even know about. I don’t know that I would have taken it on without having Shonda as my co-author, because she brings knowledge and life experience that I simply don’t have, so I really was following her lead and her cue. Again, I had the script as a framework. While she wasn’t showing the things that are going on in these characters’ heads, I could look to what she had put on paper as guidance. What kind of tone are we going to use to deal with these serious issues? How deeply are we going to go into it? How big a part of the story is it going to be? I really let her guide that aspect of the story.

This is the first Bridgerton book you’ve written since the success of the Netflix series. What was it like revisiting this world?

It was interesting, because it was really kind of working within the world of the TV series, not the book series. There are some differences, obviously, and so it wasn’t kind of revisiting. It was really more doing something new but with little flashes of the past.

The biggest thing for me was that it had been a while since I’d done some writing. I had some personal tragedy in my life in 2021: Family members were killed by a drunk driver. I hadn’t really wanted to do any work. I’m not apologizing for it—it was hard. And so for me, the biggest thing wasn’t so much revisiting these characters as remembering why I like to write, and that was really nice. That’s something I said to Shonda at some point—how grateful I was for this project because it kind of got me back into writing again after a time when I just didn’t want to do it. It’ll always be special to me for that reason.

Do you have plans for any further spinoffs?

I’ve had lots of ideas, but I’m always hesitant to say anything, because then the readers are going to latch on to it and be like, She said she’s doing this, so I’m a little scared about that. I doubt that whatever my next book is, it will be an entirely new world. I think it will exist in the world we know, and there’ll be somebody we already know and love.

Costa B. Pappas is an editorial intern.